When HubSpot asked marketers about the greatest challenges they’re facing in 2021, generating traffic and leads topped all other concerns by a wide margin. And because content marketing is a prime lead-generation strategy, a lot of content managers and in-house writers are finding themselves in the hot seat.
If you’re in that seat, you’re probably feeling the heat for several reasons. We can classify them broadly into the domains of quality and quantity. By quality, I mean the characteristics or type of content you create. If you work for a large or established enterprise, you may already have a content framework based on traditional marketing funnel or customer journey stages. But if your organization is a start-up or a small business, you might not have the messaging or budgets in place to flesh out all the pillars or touchpoints. You may be asked to plan content around specific opportunities, such as product launches and tradeshows. In the planning phase, you’re beset by questions like, “Does this warrant an eBook, a white paper, or maybe a solution brief?” “Should it be downloadable or online only?” And the real doozy: “Which content assets do we gate in order to collect lead info?”
Then there’s the overwhelming quantity. If you’re a conspicuously competent and enthusiastic content creator, you’re probably drinking from a firehose of requests for assets, many of which should have been done last week. You feel the implicit pressure to be agile, a software development paradigm that has pervaded nearly every area of organizational activity. But in content creation, more often than not, agility is a euphemism for heroic feats of wordsmithing and creative effort under impossible deadlines.
So much for outing the obvious. The question is what can you do about it? Here are three sanity-saving tips:
1. You already know the most important thing about your audience: They are human. So, even if you don’t have solid personas and stats on previous content conversion rates, you can decide on content form and length based on the touchpoints where your content will be delivered. For example, in cold outbound emails and trade show environments where you are begging for a slice of your audience’s attention, you want to offer short, scannable content, such as infographics, single-page solution sheets, or short videos. On the other hand, at customer-initiated touchpoints, such as websites, you can assume greater engagement time and offer longer-form interactive content and downloadable assets.
2. Shorter timelines dictate simpler messaging. This is not just because you are human and can’t be expected to research, write, and edit an in-depth white paper by yourself over the weekend. It’s also because complex ideas that are worthy of your customers’ attention require subject matter experts, in collaboration with communicators like you, who can help them articulate their thoughts. Complex assets also require more in-depth peer review and revision, all of which take time. So, while white papers and other higher-value content are more likely to entice downloaders to provide their contact information, such assets can’t be done adequately in a crunch.
3. There will always be another content asset. If you produce the best asset you can given the constraints you face, it’s probably good enough. Delivering a single powerful message to a narrow audience is almost always better than spraying an all-encompassing manifesto to the market at large. And no single content asset is your only opportunity to influence the target segment. In fact, the more risk that is involved in adopting your solution and the longer the sales cycle, the more assets you’ll need in order to elaborate and reinforce your messages.
Having worked for years as an in-house writer, as well as a freelancer, before moving to the agency side, I understand the insatiable content appetite of the lead-generation apparatus and the intractable nature of launch deadlines and opportunities for market exposure. You can feel in over your head. But as you gain more experience and exposure to your content requesters, you will gain their increasing respect and hopefully also their cooperation in creating high quality content within reasonable timeframes. In the meantime, take a deep breath and remind yourself:
Short timelines mean simple messaging.
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