How to Avoid Becoming Hamsters On Wheels: 3 Questions That Will Simplify Your Content Marketing

3 Questions That Will Simplify Your Content Marketing

I can remember sitting in a digital marketing conference workshop just a couple of years ago. The topic was optimizing performance and we began a discussion about how to simplify your content marketing. The facilitator kicked us off by saying: “So you all are doing content marketing in your organization. How is that going for you?” The response was sort of a collective groan.

Hamster On A Wheel
Hamster On A Wheel – By Doenertier82 at the German language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The general sentiment was that content marketing can be a ton of work. More so, it’s hard to prove value to the business. Multiple people used the analogy of feeling like a hamster on a wheel. Leaving that workshop, I started to look at what content we were offering those feeling like content marketing had become a slog.

What I found was that there is quite a bit of material out there on:

These are all valuable topics, however, they can seem overwhelming to those that are struggling under the weight of too much to do.

When trying to simplify your content strategy, here are three simple questions to ask:

  1. What is one thing we can change tomorrow?
  2. Are there pieces of content we have already created that more of our audience should see?
  3. Could we be clearer in what we ask our audience to do after reading our content?

What is one thing we can change tomorrow?

Often we get paralyzed with inaction when staring down the face of a large project. Launching a new content project is no different. An essential truth of project management is that planning is an essential activity, but plans are obsolete as soon as they are finished. You will never be able to keep up with all of the changes in your business and the digital marketing industry while expecting your plans to remain unchanged. Your team needs to be prepared to adapt to change and look for incremental ways to measure value delivered to your business partners.

A question I often like to ask teams that know they need to make a change to their strategy is: “what is one thing we can change tomorrow?” This forces them to prioritize and make a choice. Once they make one small change, be it a copy change on a key web page, or the call to action in a customer email nurture, they will realize that they have the power to make bigger changes over time.

Are there pieces of content we have already created that more of our audience should see?

When someone joins your audience today, there is a strong possibility that everything you produced up until now will be new to them. To that end, your team can extract value from existing blog posts that explain a core issue for your business or on boarding emails that explained how to make the most of your product. You do not need a fancy marketing automation platform to obtain these gains, either (although they can sometimes help); having a simple report of your web pages and emails with the most consistent performance over time can help here.

Note that this phenomenon also plays out in the social media space. Those who have mastered communicating on Twitter will tell you that it’s a game of repetition. Because people tend to check their feeds consistently at the same time each day, you may miss them if you are not broadcasting your posts at numerous intervals. Tools such as the wonderful MeetEdgar help take the work out of posting your content at a schedule custom to your audience.

Could we be clearer in what we ask our audience to do after reading our content?

Do your blog posts get quite a few views but fail to keep people engaged on your website? How about your emails? Do you drop in a boatload of sections chocked full of links and then wonder why your emails with high open rates just don’t convert?

It is possible you are either, not clearly presenting your audience with a call to action (CTA), or doing it in a very ineffective way. You should always have a CTA in your content, even if you just want to drive the reader to another important article that you think they will find relevant.

Keep your CTA’s short and to the point. Use simple and clear language, present them boldly and let your reader see the benefit.

There are lots of great resources on the web for optimizing your calls-to-action. Here is one of my favorites about Designing Great CTA Buttons by Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media Studios.

Prioritize to optimize

For years I was coaching software teams on how to adopt agile software development practices. We used to tell our clients: you need to slow down before you can speed up. Similarly, I think that if we want to avoid becoming hamsters on wheels of our own design, we need to think about doing less content, better.

I hope that these suggestions can help you find some small wins to harvest right away. Our teams can often use that little bit of confidence before they move on to bigger goals. 

Keep on doing great work.

Also published on Medium.