No matter how good your content marketing strategy is, you’ll need to change it at some point.

A content pivot – small or large – can ensure your content marketing stays relevant as customer behavior shifts. Executing a smooth pivot without losing your audience requires work.

What is a content pivot?

A content pivot changes the direction of your content strategy. It’s usually triggered by a shift in your target audience and/or its behavior. They may have been impacted by local or global events, an algorithm shift on a social media platform, or even an adjustment in your business strategy.

A #content pivot often is prompted by a shift in the target audience and/or its behavior, says Grace Lau of @dialpad via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Your content should be timely, high-quality, and valuable to your audience. When that isn’t the case, it’s probably time for a change. But how do you know when your content isn’t delivering?

In general, look for these red flags:

  • Decline in engagement
  • Lower rankings on search engine results pages
  • Plateau in web traffic
  • Drops in conversions
  • Low monthly search volume for target keywords

While these metrics are general indicators, you have to dive deeper to determine if a pivot is really necessary. Conduct a content audit. Look at how well your content assets perform. Does the content still align with your business goals? Could disappointing metrics be caused by factors other than the content itself? Is the content too long or not long enough? Are SEO best practices used? Are you posting enough content? Too much?

If you conclude that the content – how well it resonates with the audience and the business – is the problem, it’s time to pivot by following these steps.

TIP: You may want to pivot even if your audience is the same and your content is producing desired results. A new feature on an existing platform could prompt a pivot. For example, TikTok recently launched TikTok Now, which prompts users to share images or 10-second videos when they get the “Now” notification. If that’s relevant to your brand, a small pivot might be helpful.

How to implement a content pivot

Each content pivot has different motivations, financial requirements, and expectations. It’s helpful to know those parameters as early as possible, so you and the team have a clear understanding of the goals, timeline, and budget.

1. Document the start

Create a baseline, so you know if the content pivot is yielding results. Detail the performance of past content – engagement, traffic, conversions, etc. – that you want the content pivot to improve.

Begin to think about:

  • What do you want to improve? Consider the potential KPIs, such as traffic, conversions, brand awareness, etc.
  • How often will you assess progress?
  • Which channels are involved?

With those thoughts in mind, you’re ready for the next step.

2. Reassess your current strategy

Look at how your target audience’s behavior, preferences, and pain points have changed. For example, your keyword search reports may show a shift in them using the phrase “local calling in Canada” to “international calling from Canada” in search. If that’s the case, you can make a small pivot in your content marketing strategy.

Know where (and how) your target audience turns today for information about your industry. For instance, is their interest in a social media platform still the same? Are they obtaining the information on different devices?

Analytics tools like Google Analytics can help find the answers. You also could also send out surveys or hold focus groups to hear directly from your customers. Or talk to your colleagues in sales and customers for their insight.

TIP: Create a customer empathy map to understand what content will speak to them and resonate with their interests and issues.

Of course, changes in how the audience behaves aren’t the only reason to pivot. Your business strategy may have changed so the previous target audience isn’t the current target. A shift like that often requires a content pivot.

A change in business strategy may prompt the need for a #content pivot, says Grace Lau of @dialpad via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

A pivot by your competitors may present a great opportunity to learn about your potential pivot. What prompted their change? Do you know the results? What went well? What didn’t? These insights can inform your pivot plan.

3. Set a measurable goal

You need to set a measurable goal and KPI to track your pivot’s progress.

The best goals are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. For example: “To increase organic traffic to our website by 20% over the next year.”

Ensure the goals align with your desired audience behavior and your business strategy.

4. Create the pivot plan

If you’re making a small pivot, like introducing a new blog topic or adding a digital brochure, you can weave the pivot into your existing plan. If you’re planning a large pivot, such as overhauling your website content or branding, you need to start from scratch.

An effective pivot plan specifies the following:

  • Timeline – Include a start date and don’t forget factors that could affect the timeline, such as seasonality or product launches.
  • Evaluation points – Detail check-in frequency and results will be communicated.
  • Hypothesis – Create a testable hypothesis based on your audience research. For instance, “If we do X, we expect organic traffic to increase by Y.”
  • Target audience – Include any new audiences you want to reach.
  • Testing – Document how you plan to assess your pivot, such as A/B or user testing and who oversees it.
  • Implementation and tracking – State who’s in charge of the implementation and tracking of your strategy.

A #content pivot plan should test a hypothesis based on your audience research, says Grace Lau of @dialpad via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

A clear pivot plan will keep you and your team focused and help you secure buy-in from your colleagues and stakeholders.

5. Launch your pivot

You are ready to roll out the content pivot. If it’s a major change, you may want to do a trial with a pilot group with loyal customers to gauge their reaction.

Once the pivot is implemented and success is experienced, you should optimize or remove old content that doesn’t work in the new pivot. If you’ve given the pivot time to bear fruit and are disappointed with the results, don’t be afraid to make changes.

Move forward cautiously

The changes accompanying a content pivot can be unnerving or unsettling for the existing audience and even business leadership:

  • Keep your customers informed. Tell them what you’re doing and why, and listen to their feedback. Otherwise, you could alienate them.
  • Pace the pivot. If you change your brand overnight, you risk confusing and frustrating your customers. Instead, take the long view, and don’t let your short-term changes compromise your brand’s identity.

Content pivoting is an important skill that helps content marketers keep up with the times and stay relevant to their audience. To effectively pivot your content strategy, you need a clear goal, a detailed plan, and a KPI to track its success.

Sometimes, though, pivots still don’t go as planned. If that happens, don’t panic. Failure is a valuable learning opportunity. You can use them to revise your pivot or help shape future pivot strategies when your content strategy plan shifts.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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