Don’t Put Fancy Before Fundamentals

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I like simple content marketing campaigns because people often get caught up in, and overwhelmed by, all the fancy techno-babble out there about conversion rates, email frequency, web hits, SEO, etc., etc., etc. Don’t put these fancier principles before the fundamentals. Otherwise it’s like someone who thinks they’re ready to go on a picnic because they have all the fancy place settings but they don’t have any food.

A fundamental campaign entails having a viable website and blog set up and running with at least a clear idea of the content to be published on a regular basis, if not the content itself. It also entails an email campaign to publicize the site. Follow that with Twitter, Facebook and other appropriate social networking accounts. A formal, written content strategy tends to be more successful than a more casual “watercooler” strategy, but in a small business content is often driven by the company’s mission statement and administered by a scant few people, so a good campaign can be launched without it. In other words, there’s no real reason to wait around for the strategy to be formalized in order to start putting the fundamentals in place.

You can pull the trigger on a domain name, establish a free WordPress.com account, pick out and register a Twitter handle, establish a Facebook page and take out a trial membership in Constant Contact. WordPress.com templates can usually provide you with a professional and functional (enough) site to start getting your message out there. You can begin tweeting immediately, particularly any new content you upload to your new site. The same goes for Facebook. Finally, you can upload up to 100 names into your Constant Contact trial membership and start playing with email templates.

I’m often struck by some of the things my clients worry about early in their campaigns, akin to craving expensive new running shoes while they’re still crawling. “How do I increase my click-through rate? Only three people read my blog last week.” I recently answered a client, “You only mailed to twenty people, so three readers is pretty good. It’s your first blog post.” As long as the email format is clean and follows some fundamental rules like being free of typos and using proper casing in the subject line (not all upper- or lowercase, in other words), there’s not much we can do until we have a larger email list because twenty people is simply not a statistically significant sample size. So our first focus would need to be on building the email list before we start testing different graphics, button placements, headlines, etc.

The beauty of the Internet is that we can change just about any aspect of the campaign at any time. Nothing is written in stone. The prime exception being that it is very hard to retrieve a sent email, so you do want to be reasonably careful before scheduling those blasts, but you can change text, layout and graphics at any time. In fact, you should test multiple options in order to maximize traffic and engagement. But doing a deep analysis usually doesn’t make any sense until you have some traffic to analyze. I’ve been asked why a Google Analytics report on a particular landing page was so thin and the answer was simple: “Because we’re not driving anyone to that page.” In that specific case, the client, a newbie to content marketing, had gotten so wrapped up in activating the highly-touted Analytics that they’d neglected to reference the page in advertising. Unless a meaningful amount of traffic is being generated such reporting tools will only be useful at a superficial level. I usually save them for later in the campaign when we have our legs under us, so to speak.

Finally, nothing beats consistency. In lieu of all the concepts, theories and best practices, posting and emailing relevant, original content at regular intervals keeps your name in front of your leads, prospects and customers and almost invariably translates to higher revenue. That’s fundamental.

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