When I first started working for myself, I was convinced that if treated my business like I would a client's and developed a solid marketing strategy, I'd always have a steady stream of income. Broadly speaking, that sentiment has proven true. However, in predicting these patterns for my business, I forgot one of the most important factors that's completely outside of my control: seasonality.
But this isn't something that just small business owners face. Brands and bigger businesses also experience seasonality, not only in terms of sales but throughout the marketing funnel, which means that the effectiveness of your content can vary throughout the year. However, slumps aren't necessarily a bad thing for a company. While downtime may not always feel welcome, it gives us the opportunity to reflect on what works (and what doesn't), study our current analytics and practices, and adjust marketing strategy plans moving forward.
Don't Let the Slumps Sneak Up on You
The first step to season-proofing your content strategy is to identify when potential slumps may occur. In B2B, the summer time and holiday season generally mean a lull in both content consumption and content creation. Why? This is when people are most likely to take vacations from work and attempt to disconnect from the digital landscape-taking their eyes off our content.
The time frame for these kinds of lower engagement periods can vary across different industries. For example, accounting firms may experience a decline in views shortly after tax season completes. Then, toward the end of the year, readership will pick up significantly, as their target audience starts rushing to get their bookkeeping completed for the year. Real estate, retail, travel, and many other industries face issues with seasonality and must adjust their marketing plans accordingly.
However, that doesn't mean your brand's downtime will be as obviously identifiable as the industries listed above. In order to figure out when the slump regularly occurs, you may have to do some digging into your audience behavior. Analyze site traffic trends year over year to find patterns in content consumption, and examine reports from search agencies to benchmark your findings. Learning how site performance varies throughout the year can inform your publishing cadence, your topic selection, and even your mix of evergreen versus seasonal content.
Use Your Downtime to Plan, Not Procrastinate
If you know views will be down at a specific point in time, you may be tempted to book your own tropical vacation and spend those days on a beach somewhere warm with your toes in the sand, a good book on your lap, and a melting-cold drink in your hand.
Image attribution: Al Garcia
While that scenario is certainly tempting, a slump is definitely not the time to be sitting back and waiting for traffic to pick up again. If anything, this is when you should dig your heels in and get to work by studying your brand's larger performance trends. If you've followed strategy best practices, you've created an editorial calendar that will cover you throughout the year, and you've hired competent and qualified writers to take the reins. Even better, you may have an editing team prepping their work for publication. This allows you to stress less about pumping out new work for a smaller audience and gives you time to take on those big picture tasks that often get pushed to the bottom of your team's priority list when they're rushing to meet upcoming deadlines.
Now's your chance to dig into your recent and older analytics to see what kind of trends you notice and update your current strategy accordingly. Make decisions about how to proceed with anything you've planned for publication that may no longer align with your current brand values. And, if executives start to get anxious about a slow content season, remind them that you've planned for moments like this. They'll be happy to know you're thinking ahead and have already adjusted your schedule to dedicate this time to administrative and planning work that will serve to make your future creative efforts even more efficient.
Audit Those Analytics
Once you've gone through all of your reporting, it's time to ask yourself two simple questions: What's working for you, and what isn't?
So often these strategic evaluations go ignored while other demands of the job vie for your attention. The only way to know for sure that your initiatives are on track is to jump into the data and weigh how the results influence your current strategy. Don't simply audit your website analytics, either. There are tons of available marketing and sales data to help you better understand how your content is working for you. Here are a small sampling of some KPIs to study:
Website and Social Analytics
- average time on page
- pageviews per session
- unique visitors
- referral traffic
- bounce rate
- keyword performance
- web traffic concentration
- content download performance
- click-through rates
- follower stats
- email list growth
- email list unsubscribes
Marketing and Sales Analytics
- new leads generated
- customer attrition
- dormancy rates
- customer acquisition costs
- customer lifetime value
- response rates
- customer experience surveys
- end action rate
Sit Down with Your Strategy
Now that you know how your content is performing, what needs addressing, and what content you should be developing more of, it's time to implement these discoveries in your content marketing strategy. After finally having the time to focus on reviewing all the work you've created so far, you may find holes where content is missing or be excited to develop new topics similar to what's already performing well. Did you release an e-book with original research that is blowing away other items in your sales funnel? If so, you may want to slot some time in to do more research and produce additional ebooks on similar subjects, or to create more up-funnel assets that point to the research you've already done. Are you writing content that mostly falls into one or two categories on your blog? Stop neglecting any left-behind categories if they're performing well, and create assignments based on topics that would fit there.
Here's the most important part: Don't simply add to your strategy-trim away the parts that aren't working.
Image attribution: NeONBRAND
Sometimes subtraction is just as important-if not more so-than addition. Your collected data will also inform you as to what efforts are no longer serving you well.
When content isn't moving your overall vision forward, it's a loss of money and efforts. Recognizing this means you can now stop devoting your resources to these loss areas and redirect them to something new. Similarly, you may want to remove or re-optimize some of the previously published low-performing content that is no longer working for your brand's vision.
The next time you seem to be facing a slow period, remember: Seasonality doesn't have to be a bad thing. Don't get stuck in the slump, and use the time wisely to audit and adjust your content marketing strategies for when things pick up again.
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Featured image attribution: Tim Mossholder