In 2018, I decided I wanted to lose 10 pounds.
So I did what any reasonable person would do.
I went to more yoga classes and ate less sugar.
Three months later, the scale had moved! …
In the wrong direction.
Yes, I gained weight.
So after I sobbed over half a pint of full fat, full sugar, mint chocolate-chip ice cream, I scheduled a consultation with a nutritionist I knew.
Huddled together in her bright, cheery office, I told her what I was trying to achieve and what had happened. She reassured me that she saw this happen all the time in her line of work, and that she could help — and we could see results quickly if I put in the effort. I all but threw my money at her.
We started our sessions just a few days later.
First, we defined my goal: Lose 10 pounds in under six months.
Second, she asked me a million questions to understand exactly where I was at — my health situation, my daily/weekly food and workout routines, what my daily life was like, etc.
Third, we came up with a plan of attack. We set specific targets for fat, carbohydrates and protein, and created a workout plan that made sense with my hectic schedule. She got me set up with an app that would help me track everything, and that would give her access to my data so she could monitor how things were working for me.
Fourth, she provided me with recipes for healthy versions of the foods my husband and I made most often in our household, and ideas for healthier alternatives to the food we liked to order from restaurants we frequented. As an added bonus, she encouraged me to text her whenever I needed a healthy alternative on the fly.
Fifth and finally, we had a weekly meeting to discuss how the plan was working for me, talk through any challenges, and measure my progress.
Three months later, the scale moved again …
The 10 pounds were gone!
Along with another two pounds, actually.
So what went wrong when I was trying to do this on my own?
It Was a Classic Case of Tactics and No Strategy
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu
The tactics I had tried weren’t bad. But separate from a strategy that took into consideration where I was starting from and what I had to work with, they weren’t effective.
Tactics alone didn’t get me the results I was after.
I see this all the time with my clients, too.
They come to me asking for a specific content asset — a white paper, a series of emails, whatever it is they think they need. I ask all my usual questions about the scope of the project, and then I ask the questions most content writers don’t ask:
- What is the goal of this asset?
- Who is the target audience, and why is this the right asset for them? (I.e. why will they care about this?)
- Who in the company will be using it, and for what purposes?
- Do you have an in-house designer who will be doing the design work? If yes, are they working from a template? If yes, can you share the template with me so I can grasp any character limitations and visualize how the copy will lay out?
- Where is this content asset going to “live?” (e.g. on the website, in Outreach email software, in the sale’s team’s content management app)
- How is this content going to be promoted?
- How are you going to nurture the leads that come in through this content?
- If it’s a standalone asset, will you also need landing page copy to “sell” it and an email sequence to nurture the lead?
Sometimes, a client is absolutely stumped by these questions.
Someone just told them they needed an e-book, so they wanted to hire me to write it for them.
That’s all well and good — I can write an awesome content asset.
But for that asset to do the job of driving revenue and improving customer experience — for it to result in any kind of ROI — it has to be backed by a strategic plan. And that strategic plan has to be rooted in the reality of the company’s current situation and geared toward helping them achieve a specific goal.
Otherwise … the content is a gamble.
And frankly, I don’t like to gamble with my clients’ businesses.
The questions I ask beyond the scope of work are designed to help me understand where the asset fits in the strategy.
When a client can’t answer them, it’s likely there’s no strategic plan.
It’s like if I had gone to my nutritionist and said, “Give me healthy recipes so I can lose weight.” She could have done that for me — but without understanding my health situation, goals, and lifestyle, and without creating a strategic plan with nutrition targets to help me lose a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time, the tactic of cooking healthier food wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.
Plus, I wouldn’t have known what was working and what wasn’t if we weren’t regularly checking in on progress and adjusting the plan as necessary.
If you’re trying to hit a goal — any goal — you must:
- Understand where you’re starting from, what you’re working with, and where you want to go.
- Take that information and make a strategic plan.
- Implement that plan and measure the results.
Miss even one of those steps and it’s either going to take you substantially longer to hit your goal — or you’re not going to hit your goal at all.
The 3 Parts of a Content Marketing Program That Delivers ROI
A successful content marketing program (meaning one that drives revenue and improves the customer experience) requires:
- Diagnostics — Deep discovery of where you’re starting from, what (and who) you’re working with, and what the gaps and opportunities are, followed by a decision on where you want to go.
- Strategic planning — Selecting the top 1-3 opportunities, putting baseline metrics and KPIs to them, and building a comprehensive plan of action.
- Excellent execution — Gathering the right team, implementing the strategy with both your customers and your company in mind (i.e. putting out quality work that genuinely helps customers while brilliantly representing your brand), and measuring at planned intervals.
For many organizations — especially in fast-changing arenas like technology — this has to be an ongoing process. You can’t just do it once. You can’t “set it and forget it.” The market (and your customers) are changing at too quick a pace for that.
With one of my clients, we change strategies at designated points in the year. For three quarters of the year, the strategy revolves around capturing leads with webinars and nurturing those leads with email and targeted content (like white papers) until they’re qualified to pass along to the business development team. And for one quarter of the year, the strategy revolves around putting on a world-class live event, then using email to follow up with attendees and nurture them as leads.
A year ago, another one of my clients threw out their buyer personas entirely. We started from scratch, talking to customers directly, surveying customers, and gathering all the insight we could on who their best customers were now. Then they let that new information lead the way in an updated content marketing strategy that involved more helpful e-books and more conversational marketing and sales emails.
Awesome Content Isn’t Always Awesome for ROI
One piece of content isn’t going to save your company. Even if that content is magazine-level quality. Even if that content goes viral. It has to be backed by a strategic plan complete with promotion tactics and nurture activities, and that strategic plan has to be rooted in reality.
If you want to lose weight, you’ve got to pick a plan that works with your current reality, do the plan, and measure your results so you can tweak the plan as necessary. If you want to grow your revenue with content marketing — yup, same deal.
If you’re creating content that isn’t getting results — or you want to make sure you’re creating the right content to meet your organization’s goals — fill out our pre-meeting questionnaire so I can take a look at your unique situation and get a call scheduled to discuss.