I have loved language all my life—from the day I first sounded out the word “vicinity” off the cover of my parent’s phone book and composed a small yet riveting masterpiece of stapled notecards (aptly titled The Best Book) about the fascinating people who inhabited said vicinity.
The problem was, once I found my passion for writing, reading, and all things word-y, I quickly cast the world of numbers aside. So I never quite learned my basic math skills. Like, oh, adding and subtracting. To say nothing of the mysterious worlds of multiplication and division. And don’t even get me started on fractions.
So, as you can imagine, my numbers-averse brain sees the task of yearly taxes as a painful and horrendous chore.
But this year, it struck me that good old words—with whom I now spend much of my life—and mean old numbers might actually have a few things in common. Let’s take your marketing content and that pesky tax return as an example. Turns out, they’re more alike than you think.
Here are some common lessons that apply to both:
Be a Little Smart, Get a Lot More Bang for Your Buck
In many cases, those of us who are in business for ourselves know a little more about the tax code than those who receive a W-2. Why? Because as business owners, we need to file different paperwork and make different payments—and we can write off different expenses than full-time employees. The more we know, the more we save. But if we’re not clear on what to track going in, we’ll end up with missed opportunities and larger tax bills.
So what do we do? We learn as much as we can up front, do what we know is best, and keep paying attention as time goes on—getting smarter and smarter every year.
The same approach applies to your content strategy: if you own your own business, or take ownership of your company’s marketing program, you’ll yield better returns on each marketing dollar if you take some time to understand your marketplace and opportunities, then pay attention and keep learning as you go.
First, get to know your audience and map their goals back to your product or solution, so you can define a clear and powerful value proposition. Then, use your content to speak to those audience goals. And stay on message.
As you do this, pay attention to what resonates by watching site stats, conducting surveys, and collecting insights from prospect- and customer-facing employees. Keep learning, stay agile, and make continuous improvements.
Investing Too Much Too Early Only Feels Cool for a Minute
Plenty of us have done it before (particularly those of us, ahem, who aren’t so clever with the numbers): we pull way too much out for withholding at the beginning of the year, and come tax time, the government ends up owing us a healthy chunk of change.
But as fun as it feels to get a big check at tax time, when we look at how much more we could have made if we’d invested that money wisely rather than leaving it with the government for a year’s time, we stop feeling quite so cool.
Same goes for your content-marketing spend. Anyone can dump a bunch of money into SEO and SEM before establishing a strong platform of relevant content that engages your target audience at various stages in the buying cycle. But the initial traffic surge you see won’t result in any revenue uptick if you’re (a) not hitting the right audience or (b) not giving your target audience information they genuinely need.
So plan smart from the get-go, watch the numbers as you get started, and invest smart dollars in smart content rather than throwing cash into searchland and hoping for a big return one day.
Deadlines: Annoying but Necessary
As springtime blooms on and April 15th ticks closer, I find myself begrudging the work that must be done to prepare for that filing deadline. And yet, the work must indeed be done. And let’s be honest: if the deadline didn’t exist, I’d put it off indefinitely.
Your content calendar might have a similar effect on you—and on your team of content contributors. You see your blog-post deadline looming. Perhaps you even lament the preparation you’ll need to make, the time you’ll have to spend cranking your post out. But because you know what’s expected and when, you’re much more likely to create your content on schedule (or at least close to it). Not true of the good old asap deadline.
So create a content calendar that’s relentlessly deadline driven: set hard dates, track actual publication against those targets, and reward those who submit content on time.
Experts Get Expert Help
I tried to do my own taxes. Once. When I was fresh out of college and thinking I could do anything and everything myself.
I was wrong.
Most of us get help on our tax returns because we know that CPAs live and breathe tax code—and that we do not. We hire them for their expertise, and then we go back to focusing on what we do best.
If you haven’t already, think about taking the same approach to your content development. Hire a content strategist to help you design and implement a smart, market-driven content-development program that will support your marketing goals going forward. Or hire a content developer to help you craft those blog posts within deadline. The process of collaborating on these efforts will free up your time and begin an ongoing learning process that will support all your marketing efforts going forward.
And one more thing: if you’ve procrastinated like me, think about avoiding any blog-post deadlines this coming Monday. You might have some other work to do that afternoon…