How to Get Your Association Content to Perform

Certainly creating great content is key, but alone it is not enough. It comes down to what you need to be doing before, during and after you create your content.

BEFORE you create content you need a content strategy and you need to know your audience. 

Before: Content strategy. 

content marketing demands a strategyCreating a content strategy, among other things, is defining your why. 

If you don’t know your why then you can’t identify your how.
If you can’t identify the how, then you can’t develop specific goals. 
If you can’t develop specific goals, then you can’t measure performance. 
If you can’t measure performance, then you can’t improve your efficiency. 
If you can’t improve your efficiency, then you can’t meet the demands. 
If you can’t meet the demands then you won’t be able to get results.
If you can’t demonstrate results, then why are you creating a content?

Remember, it all starts with why. 

There’s a why for your organization but it is not the why for your content. The org does not exist to drive conference attendance but some of your content exists for just that purpose. Likely on a cyclical basis you have microgoals – again, like attendance – and you will also have content with a less micro-level goal, but both are measurable. Both must be measurable. And with a content strategy guiding you, you will be able to identify the appropriate roi for all of your content.

So, does your team know their why? If they would describe their why as meeting deadlines, corralling SMEs into delivering solid content, and rolling out the editorial plan, then they are confusing their why with their how. The why looks something like this: drive more attendance to chapter meeting by international, mid-career bench-level chemists. And for another content campaign, the why may be to increase consumption of the resources on the online learning site.

So that’s the why and the how. And you can see that if those are not in place it’s hard to identify what to measure beyond vanity metrics (like positive readership feedback on a survey or clicks/time on page). Those are nice to have, but they are so much nicer when they correlate to a plan that you created to attain a specific desired outcome.

For each each goal, you will determine which content will support this goal, where it will be distributed and which metrics you will look for to determine roi.

Before: Know your audience

Think sprinter at the blocks, a swimmer at the starting platform. They know the start matters, they practice it, they put effort into improving their start; that’s how much it matters. 

Your knowledge of your audience’s perceptions is your start. Do you know their perceptions surrounding buying, or not buying, from you? I am sure you know a lot, you likely have a database full of info and then there’s the anecdotal history floating around your org – be careful there, those stories are about yesterday, not tomorrow and they may not even be accurate. Do you have the data about critical perceptions about what they are looking for that will serve to provide you with actionable info for your content marketing? That’s what you need and that isn’t always part of even an extensive database on your members.

Knowing your buyers perceptions will also help you attract the audience beyond your buyers, your future buyers/members/attendees. Compiling this specific data about your buyers is called creating a Buyer Persona: a marketing tool that is a data-driven profile of your content marketing target/s. It is derived from research; it is not a creative writing exercise.

What is needed to know about your buyers is why did they buy from you, and you won’t get that from a survey. Nor will it come from a one-on-one conversation from the organization directly to the buyer. (We want to be nice people and so whether we realize it or not the nice answers will float to the top.) And there is more you need to understand about your buyers, like what do they expect now that they have bought from you, aka joined, registered. And what was the journey that led them to searching for a solution that led to you.  

So how do you get the right info to create powerful buyer personas? Well, it is not through using a simple template. Beware of those. You are not going to have a sharp tool if it is made in one hour. Buyer personas take time and they are worthy of it, and more. The approach we believe in is one-on-one unscripted conversations with your audience in which confidentiality is guaranteed. These conversations are between the audience member and a well-trained person who is not part of your organization.

DURING your content marketing process you need make space for creativity.

“You don’t plan creativity, you plan for it.” Arianna Huffington said that in a conference keynote last year. I knew right then I would steal that great line.

The relevance of it is that if all of your minutes in your day are overfilling with to do’s then there is no room to be present in real time and think about what you are doing that is working. Or not working. This is important stuff to consider and figuring it out three months later is not useful. At today’s hyper-speed business pace, you need to figure out in as close to real time as possible.

And innovation is demanded – we all are sick and tired of hearing about it, no doubt, but it is true. Doing things the same way, even with continuous improvement, doesn’t get you as far as it used to. That used to be a business model unto itself with sauce on top that tasted like: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Today is not that world, now by the time you figure out that it is broken, it may be too late to fix it. Creativity is demanded in your content marketing assets as well in your process, team roles and productivity and other technologies.

Sound overly dramatic? Maybe. But I don’t think so. To compete at today’s pace you need to make the room to look at what you’re doing in real time.

All of this speaks to process. And team roles. Your processes better be efficient, and constantly questioned. Is this the best way for us today? And your results better be measurable, which speaks to using the right tools.

If you’re doing things the way you did them five years ago, then you need to take a long hard look at your processes, team roles and technologies.

AFTER you create content you need to measure, measure, measure the performance. 

You are not content marketing to educate. You are creating educational content as a service model to keep membership and attendance dollars coming in the door.

You are not doing research and sharing it in reports with your members to be helpful. You are doing it because your organization wants to be seen as the leader in benchmarks and stats for its niche.

Content marketing is about goals and measuring how well you achieve them. If you have a content strategy then you know what your goals are which makes it easier to identify what to measure. And if you know what to measure than you can tell what is working.

How to measure, you ask?
1. Have a content strategy
2. Have a high conversion website (your site is your 24-7 marketing machine, it better measurably performing.)
3. Use the right technologies to close the loop on your marketing

Right now I need to go wrap up a task for a client. We helped them create an ebook and a few weeks before it goes live we are sending it as a gift to their subscribers who have indicated that they have an interest in the topic. But they also need to meet these criteria:
– they have also donated at least once
– are opening the organization’s enewsletters, and
– have clicked on a link in the enewsletter at least once in the last month.
Segmenting an audience like that and creating a minicampaign like this should be fast and easy. And delighting your audience like this is priceless.

Can you do that? Is it fast and easy? Can you close the loop on your marketing and get the stats – also quickly and easily? If you can’t, you need to change it because your business is all about getting results using your content as your marketing tool.

Now we have offered some tips on what to do before, during and after your content marketing. I think there’s a lot more to consider, but these are the basics and while getting them into place is no easy task, these fundamentals will provide you with big results. Death to vague goals, focusing on vanity metrics, fuzzy stats that offer no insight on what works. Long live measurable goals.

By Monica Bussolati
@bussolati

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