The base intent behind content marketing isn't to sell, at least not directly. Instead, the goal is to create content that your customer finds valuable, whether or not that has anything specific to do with your product. This value drives them to your site, and this hopefully carries them down the funnel and results in sales. The way you provide that value is through making your content informative and helpful. They should be able to take the information you give them and go and actually do something with it. This doesn't just happen. It needs to be planned and intentional. To achieve this you need to have a clearly defined goal for each and every piece of content.
Yes. Every single one.
As with a lot of things in content development, having a goal is one of those places where it sounds really easy and obvious, but the execution is where the difference is made. Having a clear goal can skyrocket the quality of your content, but only if you create the goal first, and then create the content around the goals. Don't try to shoehorn goals into content you've already created unless you are committed to rewriting a good portion of it. Here are some guidelines on how to create a specific goal for your content.
Make the goal actionable.
Goals are all about action. You reach a goal by doing. Didn't we already say that the point of doing content marketing is helping your customers perform some action? That action is the goal of your piece of contact. Put another way, a goal is the specific thing that your customer should be able to do when they're done reading or watching your piece. You know you've chosen a good, actionable goal if it can be measured. We obviously don't create tests at the end of marketing pieces like you would for a training piece, but ask yourself if you could potentially create a test at the end of your piece covering the content. If you can't, then they haven't learned anything and you need to choose a more actionable goal.
Let's say, for example, you run a website where you sell home decor items online. You might want to create a piece of content about the color wheel. The goal of this piece is NOT to increase the sales of related accessory items. That may be your goal, but it is not the goal of your customers. That would be like a salesman walking up to a customer in a store and saying, "So, would you like to help me make enough commission to take my wife to Cancun?"
Here the goal could be for the customer to be able to "explain the color wheel." But that isn't very good. Having the goal be "explain" or "tell" is kind of a cop out. Now, I do it too, but don't let it be a habit. Aim for something more. Instead, our home decor purveyor could create a piece on how to use the color wheel to pick a color pallet.
It sounds like semantics but it's not. This really guides the way you build your content. As we'll discuss in future posts, the goal drives everything. You put different information into a piece where you just tell about a concept than you would into a piece designed to help you apply the information.
There is only one goal and only one goal shall there be.
Repeat after me: "Everything I make has a single targeted goal." You can't get in the car and go to both Chicago and New York. If you attempt to do too many things for your content you won't end up getting anywhere.
There are two main reasons you might (incorrectly) have more than one goal in a piece of content. The first and most common is simply attempting to do too much in a single piece. Many a good piece of content has been killed by the phrase "but I'd also." For example, our marketer for the online home decor store might say, "I am going to write a piece on the color wheel and color balancing, but I'd also like to cover using the proper size for accessories, because I have a deal on accessories this week."
No! Bad marketer! #handslap
It is not a question of whether you could "make it work" or if you "have a story." Your piece should have one goal. If you have multiple goals then you won't be able to really accomplish anything very effectively. Instead, you will have an overview because you won't have enough time to really accomplish what you set out to accomplish. Also, it just changes the way you approach the piece. This kind of divided focus will make your content feel obvious and shallow rather than insightful and helpful. Nothing worse than content telling you everything you already know.
The second common reason you might think you need multiple goals is because you're actually thinking of objectives, not goals. An objective is a single step or task that helps you reach your goal. Let's go back again to the online home decor site. Let's say you wanted to have a piece of content that covered color matching, pattern coordination, accessory sizing, and cloth types. Now of course you could separate it into four different blogs on your blog, but what if you're wanting to write something longer like an ebook? That's a piece of content. It needs a goal. If you think you are having multiple goals, what you really have is four different objectives working towards a single goal that should be your eBook.
If you run into this, look at what all of those "goals"/objectives are working towards. Now, beware that sometimes you will have both of the reasons I've mentioned working together. In other words, you may have multiple objectives, but they aren't all working towards a single goal. This is why defining your goal should happen early in the process. What if you are halfway through creating this piece when you decided that you needed to identify your goal. You may have some great content for one of these objectives, but they don't align to the goal you have chosen. For example, you may look at those objectives and say that the goal really should be how to choose great linens, because that goes with most of the objectives you wanted to include. Anything you have written about the sizes of different accessories would probably not wind up in the ebook. However, if it happens to you, don't fret. Just put it in your ideas folder for next time. You do have an ideas folder, right?
There is probably a lot more that I could say about goals, but then, that would fall outside the scope of my goal for this piece. ;-)
Next time, we'll look at how to take this goal and continue down the development process. Until then, if you found this information valuable, I'd appreciate it if you would share it. Also, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Comment below, or you can reach me on just about every social media platform there is!