I’ve just seen a very apt comment in response to a LinkedIn post that read:

‘There’s nothing “insta” about Content Marketing. This is crock pot cooking – nothing microwavable here’.

Pure marketing poetry if ever I saw it.

Desperate for a bigger slice of next year’s budget, all marketing functions have to prove their worth and therefore seek out the silver bullet or easy win to prove success. However, if you have just started your journey into content marketing or inbound marketing, it can be difficult to justify the investment if results aren’t as dramatic or immediate as you’d hoped, and that may leave you disappointed if you’re hoping for that all important bonus or promotion sometime soon.

Unlike a more instant approach to marketing, be it PPC or display advertising, like a slow cooker, content/inbound marketing keeps on giving but it will take time to produce the results. Some content should clearly be timely but much of what is produced will be ever green content – the stuff that has no sell by date. It’s as useful to your audience now as it will be next year and if you’ve done your research, it will keep delivering visitors over a long period of time.

Here at Browser Media, we produced a shortish blog post about alternatives to Google’s Discussion Search Filter when it was canned by the company back in August last year.

Six months on, it remains one of our top performing posts month on month. The digital snowball effect is very much at play here: the post itself went live just at the right moment, was well optimised and began to rank in its own right. The traffic that arrived on site stayed for a considerable length of time and shared the content, highlighting to Google that this is exactly what they were looking for, which in turn boosted both rankings and visitors for the post again.

I’ve seen a lot of journalist requests recently about whether brands aren’t seeing value from their content marketing but simply creating the content isn’t going to make a difference on its own. Similarly, having good ingredients a dinner party does not maketh – it’s knowing what to do with them that matters. Whilst a launch strategy for every piece of content sounds dramatic, if you think in those terms, you won’t waste time drafting content that doesn’t have a home. If you can’t think of anywhere online where your customers are hanging out and where you can imagine them liking, sharing, or commenting on your content, then it may be better to ditch the idea as it’s not going to have much reach.

A sound way to create a good content plan is to look for clues in discussions or forums (be our guest and use the search filters above) as that will give you an idea of the questions your target audience need answering. We saw a huge spike in chat around the Google Discussion issue above which is how the piece came about in the first place.

There are loads of different types of content but one of the most effective from a lead generation point of view is the problem/answer scenario. Solve an issue, give the reader more options or choices than they thought they’d got, highlight new possibilities and they’ll love you for it – most probably with a visit to your site, follow, like or share. Does that count as a win from the marketing director’s point of view? Possibly but probably not from the sales director’s. And therein lies the rub…

The sales funnel is too big a discussion to have here but once your content creation & promotion wheel is turning smoothly, some thought needs to be given to the customer journey. Where do you want that new site visitor to go after reading their first piece of content? Do you show them other similar content with clear pathways to relevant products or services? It might not be the content that’s not delivering the goods – it might be that you haven’t thought about other factors surrounding that content. The content has actually served its purpose and done it’s job, ensuring return visits or conversions is a different brief altogether. For more information on some good practices for content aesthetics-wise, have a read of Content Marketing Conversion Rate Optimisation.

As my man above said, there’s nothing microwavable here. Digital is growing up and it’s extremely rare to find any sector or industry that’s not embracing online marketing in one way or another. With that competition must come a more realistic vision of what content or inbound marketing can deliver. Huge successes are very much possible but not overnight. If you’re in it for quick fix, there are other more immediate types of marketing that might float your boat and prevent you from having to back peddle to justify spend on the inbound stuff.

However if you crave juicier results that last, then content or inbound marketing might be more to your taste. But do ensure you’re evaluating success fairly – perhaps your content is delivering and it’s your usability or CRO team that aren’t? Ensure users come back for seconds, and that sweet conversion, by considering how your content is being served.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts – do you think organisations are integrating or isolating their content marketing?