By Kath Walters

Just because we are all doing content marketing doesn’t mean we should not think about whether or not it is the right strategy.

My thoughts about what is effective, and how to make it more effective have changed a lot in the past couple of years.

What hasn’t changed is my view that content is a very valuable marketing tool. But my experience tells me that most practitioners of the art are missing its full potential.

Quality and trust

Without quality, your content will not be read. But there is more to it than that. Three elements underpin quality content – timeliness, relevance and trust – and of these, trust is the most important. Should your customers or potential customers get even a whiff of manipulation, or even self-aggrandisement, and they will leave you. Marketing has evolved. Your customers don’t need you.

Permission is king

When you get your hands on a person’s email, it’s so tempting to simply sign them up to your newsletter without them opting in. You can turn off the confirmation feature on your mail service; you can still buy mailing lists. I have been sorely tempted in my dark moments, but it is just not the point.

Subscriptions are the most important measure of successful content marketing, I believe, but they are won the quality of our content, and ability to engage. This is what turns content into customers.

Calls to action – they are everywhere (or should be)

Every piece of content offers greater engagement: a call to action. Subscribe to our newsletter, download our e-book, follow us on Twitter, email this newsletter to a colleague. I’m still not a fan of pop-up requests to subscribe, but the research says they work. If you do it, make sure you give readers more than 30 seconds – I reckon a minute at least – before the pop-up activates.

Lots of content types

White papers, e-books, infographics, webinars, podcasts, e-newsletters and more – test ’em out. Whatever your readers like best, do more of that. (It’s hard for me to admit it’s not all about features and case studies).

Use marketing automation

This is not about content; this is about marketing. To get a return on your effort and investment, you need to do more than email to a list. Using MA software you can follow up in detail what happens to your leads – who clicks, where they go, who accepts a second offer, what they accept, what they look at, what kinds of content attracts the most leads. MA software means you effortlessly segment your subscribers to create specialist content and offers. I’m no techhead, but I know you are throwing away opportunities if you are not using marketing automation software such as Genius (free), Marketo, Hubspot, InfusionSoft and Pardot.

Yep, content marketing is all good.

But make sure to get all the juice from it.