By Kath Walters

Compared to buying space for advertisements in media mastheads, content marketing is an incredibly cheap way of getting your message to the people who matter to you. For less money, you get way more value, too, because as consumers, we never really like being “sold to” anyway.

But content marketing isn’t free. And the bar is getting higher – as more brands adopt content marketing, quality and quantity is increasing (yay!). You need writers, editors, subeditors, production staff, technology, and IT geeks, and someone to control all that stuff. Or, alternatively, a content-marketing agency.

Of course, the more resources you invest in your CM program, the better your content will be … with one exception.

Without a content marketing strategy, your wonderful, timely, relevant and trusted content will be a waste of money!

You will be a philanthropist, not a content marketer.

Personally, I think philanthropy is a beautiful thing, but I’m guessing your company’s chief financial officer will not be so delighted.

A bit of data about that

Remarkably, just 52% of Australian marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, according to a recent report by the US Content Marketing Institute and local marketing peak body, ADMA.

Only 33% of marketers thought their content marketing was effective. Uh-oh!

However, having a written content marketing strategy is the defining difference between effective and ineffective content marketing programs, the research clearly found: 55% of those who rate themselves effective have a written strategy compared to 13% of those who feel their content marketing is mostly or totally ineffective.

Not another bloody strategy

Yeah, I know: strategy shm-ategy. But actually, it doesn’t have to be that hard. For one thing, there are lots of really cool FREE guides to creating a strategy on the web. My favourite is this one by Skyword: Seven Steps to Kick Start Your Content Marketing.

Recently though, I saw this little beauty – The One-Page Content Marketing Plan – which is an attractive proposition, although, in fact, they have much in common.

Knock these two big problems on the head – now!

The two most common mistakes I see companies make with the content marketing programs are these (you’re not going to believe this):

1.     It’s really hard to sign up to the e-newsletter. Either the sign-up box is hidden or it requires too much information, or it doesn’t work, or there is no reward for signing up, like a nice juicy e-book.

I get that corralling the IT department into changing the website is super hard – which is why so many marketers set up micro-sites for their CM so they can easily control such matters themselves. But it’s got to be top priority.

2.     The powers that be are not using the right metrics to measure success. The killer metric for the success of a content marketing campaign is sign-ups to your e-newsletter (as I have written before on this blog). Once you have those emails, it’s up to the sales and marketing folks to convert the leads. You are building brand profile, trust, loyalty and retaining your lovely existing customers, yes. But your primary metric is bringing new leads in the door.

I’ve just finished reading the absolute classic Rich Dad Poor Dad (15 years too late!), so I will end with some wisdom from its author, Robert Kiyosaki.

The difference, he says, between the rich and the poor (in which he includes the middle class) is that the rich invest in assets, while the rest of us spend money. Enough said.