The first time I heard Mackenzie Fogelson say “It starts with goals” at MozCon 2013, I wondered if all of the SEOs in the room were muttering “Ugh … Here we go with this feel-good stuff again,” collectively under their breath.
After all, every content marketer knows you have to have goals in place before you can begin the inbound marketing journey, right?
I’m no techie, but I myself was in this camp until recently. “I care about conversions. That’s what matters,” I was fond of saying. “Goals? Pfft … That’s a given. What company doesn’t have a clear idea of what their goals are?”
Content Marketing Goals Set The Table For What Follows
I couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, an alarming number of companies, large and small, have no idea what their overall content marketing goals are.
Even fewer are spending the time to consider what their goals should be.
In my book, these are not hard and fast goals. While those statements might suffice as goals today, they are really nothing more than thoughts. Thoughts without much planning, in fact.
I remember reading an interview with former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, who was quoted as saying, “It’s a dream until you write it down. Then it’s a goal.”
It’s the same way with content marketing goals.
Effective Content Marketing Starts With Goals
I used to think this was a small to midsize company problem. Not anymore.
Even some of the larger brands lack a clear idea of who (truly) comprises their core audience, how to reach them, where to reach them or what messaging they are most receptive to.
Without such information, how is it even possible to establish content marketing goals?
I am shocked and appalled weekly at reading emails from companies who need content help, then, when reached via phone, say, “We need some blogs.”
If I ask about re-doing website copy or website design, I can sense the angst in their voices, before they shoot back with “We just need a proposal for four blogs a month.”
Honestly, that’s as far as the conversation used to extend. You need blogs? I’m a writer. I’ll write blogs for you.
Recently, however, I started inquiring about audience, messaging and analytics, and it was as though I was speaking gibberish.
Not only did they have none of that information, but that information was of little consequence for a company that “just needs some blogs.”
You want to pay me for just blogs, but I’m supposed to discern who your audience is, what message will resonate with them and what they are looking for from your business?
I’m sorry, I don’t just do blogs.
And as such, every content marketing effort you choose to undertake should have goals as its guiding force.
If you’re unsure where to start, these four points, “appropriated” from Fogelson, will point you in the right direction.
1. The Three M’s of Goal-Setting
- Measurable: I’m fond of the saying that what gets measured, gets managed. Take that to heart. Whatever your goals are, ensure they are identifiably measurable.
- Manageable: There is little use creating a list of goals that are not attainable in the timeframe set forth.
- Meaningful: From the beginning, make certain that the goals you adopt have meaning, resonance with all invested parties. Better still, the goals should be as meaningful at the end of the allotted timeframe as when you began.
2. Be Strategic
- Place members of your team in roles where they can best showcase their skill.
- Establish early on that silos will not be tolerated.
- Spend time looking at what the competition is doing well, in addition to ascertaining areas of weakness.
- Pay close attention to those areas where the team can have early success, which can buoy your efforts and inspire innovation.
- Celebrate small wins, but energize members of the team to stretch themselves and be willing to take a chance for a big, noticeable client.
- While team members should have the leeway to change course if needed, be mindful that what’s being measured might change as well in such cases.
- Even if the plan is for 90 days, meet regularly and establish 30-, 60- and 90-day goals.
- Make a habit of praising slow, steady success to keep team members motivated.
- As the plan nears completion, pull the team together to flesh out expectations.
- Be brutally honest in evaluating what worked and what did not.
- Look for areas of replicable success, in addition to areas where future success might not come so easily.
- Debrief the team, seeing what could have been done differently, better and where energies might better be spent in the future.
- Refuse to be beholden to past successes if a different approach would work better.
- Express to the team that this project is one of many.
You’ll notice that I did not mention specific types, pieces of content. That’s the easy part once you have content marketing goals in place and a team fully committed and aware of what is expected of them.
The approach outlined above is one I’d love to see more companies heeding. Do you agree?