Like any other part of business strategy, content marketing is an ever-changing dialogue. In fact, part of the task of a freelance marketing wordsmith is to ebb with the flows and provide smart tactics for responding to current events.
Clients rely on these experts to send out critical messaging in a stressful time, creating new ways to reach their goals via content, and remaining on their customer’s radar in a meaningful way. This year has proven — time and time again — that flexibility is paramount. And it’s given content marketers a runway to become an instrumental member of the team.
As copywriter and content strategist Mary Tindall puts it, the pandemic has amplified the need for content marketers exponentially, and it’s forced many to become more agile. “We’ve had to embrace uncertainty, recalibrate our messaging and balance crisis response with long-term strategic planning, all without knowing what’s around the corner,” she explains.
Should you adapt your content marketing plan?
Now, as we approach the last quarter of the year, it’s likely content strategies created in early March need a makeover. Here, gurus share their best advice on reasons to adapt your content plan (and one reason you should leave it as it is):
Your content marketing plan should be a living, breathing document.
To remain relevant to clients’ needs and struggles, a content marketer should always have a pulse on their industry. Though this is always true, Tindall says it’s especially important as we move further into the pandemic. This means thinking long-term, but also reassessing these plans at close intervals to track progress, and ensure that strategies align appropriately with the social climate.
Right now, she urges content marketers to snap into a proactive mode to find avenues for clients to own relevant conversations in their market:
“We can leverage data about our customers’ and prospects’ changing needs to inform our content marketing plans. We need to speak to where they are in the present and acknowledge the massive shifts we’ve collectively experienced in 2020.”
Expand your strategy to cover more than inbound marketing goals.
Several years ago, content marketing was limited to a handful of components on a client’s website and collateral materials. However, as digital strategy has evolved and become a more significant part of nearly all businesses, a content marketer can do much more than merely craft copy that leads to website traffic.
Rather than being in response mode, the co-founder of Hubstaff.com, Dave Nevogt, encourages content marketers to expand their offerings to current and potential clients. This will help them see the benefit of your services, regardless of whether there’s a pandemic:
“As you learn more about what types of content get a good response from your audience, you can and should broaden your strategy to target specific results such as better conversion rates or more media attention.”
A holistic content marketing strategy can do the following, according to Nevogt:
- Attract new customers
- Encourage repeat sales
- Help nurture leads
- Gather recommendations and reviews from real customers
- Build your social media communities
- Collect user-generated content
- Attract new talent
- Build your brand’s reputation and authority
- Help you find new business partnerships
Switch from survival to strategy.
As Nicole Bonito, marketing expert and the president and co-founder of Bear in The Hall puts it, this year has prevented a unique situation where everyone in the world had the same exact thing on their mind. When COVID-19 initially spread, causing businesses to shutter their doors seemingly overnight, it instantly took over all conversations, creating a massive shift in routine, goals, and approach. Content marketers suddenly had to think differently about how they talked about, well, anything.
“For brands that wanted to continue putting out content and messages to people during these times, it was more important than ever that those messages were relevant and took on the tone of what the world was going through. It became a fine line between people thinking, ‘this brand is using a tough time to get my money’ vs. ‘I see how this brand is helping,’ or ‘I see how this brand’s product of services can help me during a time like this.'”
Now, with many months of social-distancing and quarantining under our belts, Bonito says it’s time to make the conversation less about surviving the pandemic, and more about creating a sustainable strategy that can take clients through the next months and year.
“People were looking to social media in particular to get ideas on how to adapt and how others were adapting during this time, creating unique opportunities for brands to come in with the answers offering value in exchange for engagement,” she adds.
Encourage clients to stick with it for the long run.
Though many brands were already thinking about their digital footprint and internet presence, it became necessary once the pandemic started in March. Particularly for those in the retail or food industry who suddenly had to discover new ways to connect with their customers. During this fact-paced transition period, content marketers likely saw a significant uptick in leads, since they needed someone to take over their messaging in a high-pressure time.
As Nevogt explains, many businesses pivoted to focus on e-commerce, realized their strategies were out of date and hired a specialist to take on the task. Now that they’re caught up, there’s a chance they could start the need for a continued contract. It’s up to content marketers to prove them wrong, says Nevogt:
“Developing a content marketing strategy takes time and effort, and the most powerful effects are long-term. This isn’t like traditional lead generation ads where you can turn them on when you need a quick influx in traffic. Success in content marketing takes consistent effort over a long period of time, and once you start seeing results, it’s unwise to stop. That means you need to stay informed and continue to evolve your strategy based on the data you collect. Otherwise, you’ll waste time and effort you put in, and results will dwindle.”
Consider if you’re commenting because it’s relevant — or because it’s trendy.
One smart way to begin the conversation around adapting your content marketing plan is asking yourself these questions, according to Alyea Harris, the owner of Flourish Marketing:
- Am I commenting on this trend because it’s relevant? Or because it’s trendy?
- Am I adding anything of value to the conversation?
- Will I seem like I’m trying to take advantage of a social event to boost sales? Or do I have a genuine experience to share?
While a content marketing plan is a fluid framework that needs to reflect your ideal customer’s changing needs, you shouldn’t put your clients in the tricky situation of trying to stay ‘in the loop’ so much that you lose touch of their own brand and values.
When you do this, you could put your business and your own fortune at risk, says Harris:
“You could damage your reputation and make financial recovery more difficult. You could fail to capture the attention of new clients who are seeking to make a change from competitors whose messages are not resonating, too.”
If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it.
While there are plenty of indicators, you should change your content marketing approach, there’s also a pretty straightforward reason you shouldn’t: it’s working. Though it may seem like a no-brainer, Tindall says sometimes content marketers try to make shifts to prove their value to their client, but sometimes, it’s okay to keep the engine running with minor tweaks:
“If your content marketing plan is performing well and connecting with your customers and prospects effectively, you may not need to overhaul your plan, but you may need to contemporize a few areas.”
It’s all industry and client-specific, so make sure to think critically on an individual basis with every plan.