As more and more companies jump on the content marketing bandwagon, expectations often are mismatched with reality. Most of the people I work with are CEOs of technology companies and professional services firms - they expect to see results fast. That shouldn't be surprising. They wouldn't be where they were if they didn't push hard for results.
But the reality of content marketing is that it takes a long time to achieve overnight success. You can't publish a few blog posts and see an immediate increase in site visits and leads. But if you are consistent in producing high quality content that is relevant to your target audience, you will see results.
In 2014, an MIT Sloan MBA research study on the ROI of using HubSpot's marketing software found the following lead generation results.
You will note that while there is some increase in lead generation in the first 6 months, the real payoff comes 1 or 2 years down the road. The question for most business managers is one of commitment - are you willing to invest both time and money in a quality content marketing effort?
Here are some observations to help you understand what you should expect from your business blog.
Consistency is more important then frequency
Many businesses start off their blogging efforts with a bang and then come to a crashing halt. Have you seen blogs where the last post was published 6 months ago? When I see that, I ask myself if the company is still in business.
If you're going to implement content marketing, commit for the long-term. While it's true that there is a linear relationship between blogging frequency and website traffic (e.g. - more posts = more traffic), it's also true that there is a point where quantity overtakes quality.
So how frequently should you blog? John McTigue, EVP and owner of enterprise inbound marketing agency Kuno Creative, puts it like this, "4-8 high quality posts per month for B2B is about right. We shoot for that range and encourage our clients to pitch in 2-4 themselves." That translates into 1 or 2 blog posts per week.
From the perspective of Kuno's enterprise clients, they outsource most of the content creation to their agency. However, it's important to note that Kuno encourages their clients to contribute their own content. No one can tell your story like you can. As a business executive, you probably don't have the bandwidth to write 2 high-quality blog posts per week.
But you can relate a client story or your take on the state of your industry once a month. And you can also find other people in your company to contribute as well. The key is to find good outsourced content creators and mix their work with internally produced content. A good editor will pull all of that content together in an integrated fashion to put a unique voice to your company's content.
As my friend and content marketing black belt Barry Feldman puts it: "The difference between content marketing success and failure is simply commitment."
Content promotion - it's not going to sell itself
Another misconception new content marketers often have is that once a blog post is written, visitors will somehow magically flock to your website. Promoting your content is at least as important as creating it.
Consistency in content marketing is a wonderful thing. Over time, you will create 'evergreen' content that produces website traffic and leads long after it's been published. In my case, the blog article that produced the most traffic to my website in 2014 (over 5,000 pageviews) was published on June 13, 2013. Over the past month or two, it's been surpassed by another post that was written on December 9, 2013. On a day-to-day basis, these two posts are driving consistent traffic to my website in 2015.
But I've been blogging since 2012. What about those who are just starting? You need to promote your blog. If you're looking for a quick sugar rush, here are 2 ways to drive traffic to your blog quickly:
Social media advertising - pay to get your content featured in your target audience's social feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. For B2B companies, I recommend LinkedIn sponsored updates.
Search engine advertising - use Google Adwords or Bing's advertising platform to buy search engine hits.
To build a more stable, long-term audience for your blog, try these promotion tactics:
Promote your blog on your social media networks and encourage your employees to do the same on their social networks.
Reach out to partners, vendors and other business associates and encourage them to promote your content. And don't forget to return the favor!
Where appropriate, use your content to answer questions in forums like LinkedIn Groups and Quora. Be very careful - read the guidelines of each forum to avoid being labeled a spammer.
- Train your sales team to use your content to educate customers and prospects.
So let's go back to the original premise of this article - what should you expect from your business blog? The answer depends on the level of commitment you make. If you commit to consistently producing high-quality content over the long haul, you can expect more website traffic, leads and customers. You can also expect to increase your reputation as a trusted advisor in your industry. If you're not willing to commit for the long-term, what should you expect? Failure. So be in it to win it.