How to add a zero to your content marketing

Add a zero content marketing‘Add a zero’ marketing is an established term that can help ambitious brands take a larger share of their market. The principle is to ‘add a zero’ to the brand’s current performance (£100k into £1m, for example), and it has exciting applications to content marketing.

Let’s say your current content strategy is generating five leads and two sales per month. The ‘add a zero’ approach would see your brand aim to get these numbers to 50 leads and 20 sales.

Do you need 10 x more content?

We’ll start with the amount of content you’re producing. Of course, pushing out 10 times as many pieces as you are now won’t necessarily correlate to 10 times the results, especially if the quality takes a nosedive as a result of unrealistic scheduling.

That said, upping the volume of content you produce does tend to give you more exposure and more opportunities to generate leads (IF a workable editorial plan is in place).

One of the easiest ways to publish more frequent content is to integrate a blog with your website. Here are some of the results that brands can typically expect by increasing their output of blog pieces:

  • Smaller brands with up to 10 employees are the biggest beneficiaries of more frequent blogging: they can double their sales leads by increasing the number of blog posts they publish from 3-5 to 6-8 per month (HubSpot)
  • Adding between 21 and 51 blog posts to your site boosts traffic by up to 30%
  • … And, when you’ve added at least 52 blog posts, your traffic increases by 77% (TrafficGenerationCafe)
  • Businesses that blog more than 15 times per month generate 5 times more traffic than those that don’t blog at all (HubSpot)

However…

Having said all that, here’s a more sobering stat for you:

A recent study carried out by BuzzSumo and Moz revealed that over 75% of all content produced gets a big fat ZERO links and shares. Nada. And, that’s before we even address the question of whether Google is taking any notice of this content.

This raises two issues: the first is the quality of the content you’re producing; the second is your distribution strategy.

If your brand’s content is to be part of the 25% that actually performs, it needs to be more reliable, better-written and more informative than anything else out there – and you’ve got to place it where people can see it.

Creating your add a zero content marketing strategy

So, to succeed at add a zero content marketing, you need to:

  • Produce more content
  • Benchmark and improve the quality of your content
  • Ramp up your distribution strategy

Let’s explore how you can make this happen, in 5 steps.

Step 1: Carry out a content audit

Deciding to add a zero to the volume of content you’re producing doesn’t have to be as complicated as you might think. The first step is to carry out a full audit of your existing content and identify evergreen pieces that can be reformatted for other channels. Keep a particular eye out for long-form content, such as guides and detailed blog articles, as these are often ripe for recycling.

For example, you could repurpose a white paper into a selection of blog pieces (on-site and guest blogs), a Slideshare presentation, or an email autoresponder series. Perhaps you could pull statistics, quotes and other information from existing articles for use in Tweets and social media updates. There are endless options – you don’t always have to create a new piece of content from scratch to increase your output.

Where new content is needed, this should be meticulously scoped out and scheduled as part of a rigorous editorial planning process (see Step 3!).

Step 2: Benchmark your competitors’ content

To add a zero to any aspect of your content marketing, you’re going to have to outperform the competition – ideally by a factor of 10! This means you need an effective method of benchmarking what you and your competitors are currently achieving.

Curate a selection of content from your brand, and from each of your key competitors, before running the following analysis:

  • First and foremost, is the writing good? Does the author sound like they’ve put original thought into the piece, and have they made their argument easy to read? Generic content is the quickest route into the 75% of pieces that are completely ignored by their intended readers, because it adds nothing to the existing conversation around a topic. Your content needs to convey unique insight into its subject matter if it is to succeed.
  • Does the content actually answer the concerns of its primary audience? Lots of brands create content that echoes their ‘key messages’ and ‘brand values’, when really what they need is content that solves their intended readers’ problems. If your competitors have fallen into this trap, you have cause to celebrate: your brand has a great opportunity to cut through the noise with some genuinely helpful content!
  • What level of detail does the information provide – is it lacking in any way? In the age of ‘click bait’, there’s plenty of lazy content out there that stops making an effort as soon as the impression or click has been achieved. Brands should always aim to produce content that offers value from start to finish, irrespective of its length.
  • Are sources cited and what is the quality of these sources; are they reputable? This is often the difference between average and excellent pieces, because writers of excellent pieces know that backing up their points with reputable research adds weight to their arguments. Writers of average pieces, on the other hand, just want to hit the required word count in the shortest possible timeframe, so they present their arguments without evidence or research.
  • Does the content look good? Has care been taken with formatting and visuals? Formatting matters, especially for long form content. Imagine trying to read this piece without the sub-sections, breakout quotes and bullet points: it would be an un-navigable block of text. Imagery likewise helps to break up the text and can increase page views by 94% (Jeff Bullas).

The point here is competitive advantage. Identifying the holes in your competitors’ strategies reveals the opportunities for your brand to swoop in and provide the target reader with the content they desire, but are not currently receiving.

“But what if my competitors’ content is awesome?”
Well, it probably isn’t as great as you think (remember that 75% failure rate). But if it is, you’re going to have to work extra hard to add value.

Fortunately, the add a zero approach comes in handy here too. If your competitor has published a really popular ‘Top 10’ tips piece, you might need to go the whole hog and launch a comprehensive ‘101 Guide’. When it comes to content marketing, fortune favours the bold, so go big!

Never be tempted to rehash a successful piece from the competition – this adds nothing to the existing conversation, and there is no reason for it to be well-received by either readers or Google.

Step 3: Create an editorial plan

If you have been thorough in carrying out the first two steps, you should now have a good idea of the raw material available to you and the content gaps that need to be filled.

The next stage is to put a robust schedule in place so that everybody involved in content production and distribution knows what needs to happen and when.

Your schedule should also keep track of the workflow process, so that any bottlenecks can be identified and removed.

Depending on the amount of content you’re planning to create, a monthly plan is usually best. This is long enough to avoid the disruption of daily or weekly planning, but short enough to take stock of feedback and results, and to adjust future schedules.

Where possible, it’s a good idea to plan the actual topics in advance as well as the schedule of activity, as this saves stress down the line when deadlines are looming and inspiration is hard to come by. This approach also lends itself to a more structured approach to the overall themes of the content strategy: for example, you may decide to publish a series of related pieces, or you may wish to provide a regular feature in a particular timeslot.

Step 4: Write amazing content

To get any sort of result from your content, it doesn’t just need to be good; it needs to be awesome. Your blog can’t just be a bit better than your competitor’s blog; it needs to be 10 x better. The same goes for your white papers, your product pages, your online help section: you need to add a zero to all of it.

This may sound intimidating, but really it’s just about identifying the problems your audience is experiencing, and providing the solution in a way that actually helps the reader and doesn’t just plug your products and services (an all-too-common error in many content strategies!).

Step 5: Nail your distribution strategy

There is more competition than ever before to get your content noticed: indeed, the amount of information on the web is expected to increase by 500% over the next 5 years. A content distribution strategy is therefore absolutely essential for brands aiming to add a zero to their content marketing, because if no-one sees your content, you’ve wasted your time producing it.

Think of distribution as the difference between putting your content out on your doorstep and hoping people will swing by your house to collect it, versus hand-delivering it to your audience wherever they are.

Yes, following SEO best practice when writing your content may point a few more people in your direction, but the days of hitting the appropriate keyword-density and watching your piece magically appear on Page 1 are over. You need to take your content directly to the people you hope will read it.

Broadly, there are 3 types of content distribution: owned, earned and paid:

  • Owned
    Content you push out on your own channels, such as your social media platforms and your email list – both powerful ways to engage your existing audience.
  • Earned
    Other people voluntarily promoting your content. This could be via links, social media shares, or PR opportunities.
  • Paid
    Self-explanatory! There are countless options for brands willing to pay to put their content out there, such as social promotion, native advertising and content discovery platforms.

Ideally, your add a zero content marketing strategy would comprise a mixture of the above, because each kind of distribution offers clear advantages. Owned media is your digital property, and should be treated as a valuable resource that will lead to earned media (the advantages of the latter are obvious).

Smaller brands that do not yet have sizeable communities of customers and social media followers should give some serious consideration to paid content promotion: as long as the budget is kept under control, this can be a very cost-effective way to multiply the reach of your content.

Why add a zero content marketing can yield real results

Adding a zero to your content marketing is certainly no easy feat, but it can be a very rewarding approach if you’re one of the 51% of marketers who deem their current content marketing efforts to be only somewhat effective.

Traditional content strategy = useless metrics

Effective content marketing requires clear metrics for success, and this is where most traditional content marketing strategies fall down, because marketers choose metrics that are easy to understand but that don’t actually tell them anything about how people feel about their content.

Over 60% of B2B marketers use web traffic as the key indicator of content success, for example. This is too abstract to be a useful metric, unless further analysis is undertaken to determine whether there are any prospective clients within this traffic (how long are they spending on the landing page?/ did they subsequently sign up to your email list, or follow you on Twitter?).

The other major problem is that metrics, if they are set at all, are set only to measure the result of the content effort, not the standard to which the content is created in the first place – which of course has a major impact on the result.

Add a zero content strategy = practical metrics

By contrast, add a zero content marketing forces brands to set more granular, tangible metrics at every stage of the content marketing process – from initial ideas and planning through to publishing and promoting.

Measurable goals for the content’s scope, scale, quality and reach must be set, accomplished and exceeded to achieve a 10 x result.

Game on, and good luck!