Five habits of highly effective content marketers

Content marketing is a constantly evolving, highly competitive space, where you need to be at the top of your game for your brand to stand out and achieve great results.

With that in mind, you should always be thinking about how you work and how you might be able to do things differently to get better outcomes. Here are five positive habits that could make a big difference to your marketing:

Habit 1: Data-driven content strategies

The most effective content marketers have advanced content strategies in place. These strategies are driven by data that informs the development of buyer personas. In a B2B context, prospects complete a large portion of their buying cycle before they make themselves known to vendors, so marketers use personas to develop relevant content to resonate with their prospects in these early, anonymous stages.

You need to make use of multiple data sources when developing your personas and informing your content strategy, as your existing analytics won’t tell you what you need to know about the people you’re not yet engaging.

There’s a temptation when looking at data and creating buyer personas to get hung up on minutiae. You don’t necessarily need to have multiple meetings to discuss the names of your personas or debate whether or not they have a dog. Yes, personas should “humanise” the behavioural model, but extra characteristics are only relevant if they affect whether or not someone will perform the actions you want them to perform when engaging with your content.

Habit 2: Write things down

Content strategies have to be written down. If you don’t do this, you can’t convey your mission to your teams and stakeholders, which means you’ll struggle to get buy-in and budget, and you’ll have difficulty forecasting and measuring success.

In fact, successful content marketers write more in general. You don’t necessarily have to be a good content creator to be effective at content marketing, but it helps. So keep your writing skills fresh and immerse yourself in your industry by writing for your company blog, external sites and social media platforms.

Habit 3: Give the people what they want… right?

While buyers and personas need to be at the centre of content strategies, this doesn’t necessarily mean giving them exactly what they want all the time.

What you should do is innovate to surprise and delight your audience. If you only tick the boxes of things your audience asked for, you risk a competitor coming along and sweeping them off their feet by giving them something better – something unexpected that delights and surprises.

The enemy of innovation is doing something “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”.

The best content marketers take an agile approach that allows them to innovate constantly. Look at your audience – observe closely how their behaviour changes and look critically at the message you’re trying to convey. Is your strategy still fit for purpose?

Innovation requires content marketers to tap into both their left and right brains – data working with creativity. It’s all about balancing exciting ideas with cold, hard facts, or coming up with an innovative content campaign inspired by delving deep into your analytics.

Habit 4: Be selective

One of the secrets to successful marketing is not being afraid to say no to:

  • Bad ideas
  • Content for the sake of content
  • Being on all social networks “because we have to be”
  • Doing things the way they’ve always been done

Competent content marketers can be bold and decisive, because their choices are driven by a deep knowledge of their buyer personas and overall objectives.

They also select really good teams. David Ogilvy famously said that the way to build a company of giants is for managers to hire people who are bigger than they are. That means saying goodbye to ego and understanding that no individual can be an expert at everything, so you need to find the best people or service providers for each element of your content marketing.

To build a strong team, you need to have:

  • Clear but flexible processes to guide actions
  • A culture of content that extends beyond the marketing department to become an ingrained part of the organisation
  • Confidence that anything you outsource is entrusted to a service provider who specialises in content marketing, has a good track record, and offers you lots of choice and flexibility

Habit 5: Be Money-minded (aka but what’s the ROI?)

Content marketers should understand that, in the end, it’s all about return on investment, so you must be able to prove your value.

You do this through measurement and reporting in a way that explains the value of results like social shares and traffic in business terms, and as a contribution to overall company objectives.

Numbers remain the best way to shut down any excuses or arguments about budget and resources. Technology already helps marketers a lot in this regard, and this is also where you’re likely to spend a lot of your hard-won budgets.

Marketing is a long game – a marathon not a sprint. But by cultivating good habits and sticking to them, the journey to your ultimate goals will be significantly easier.