Hot Water and a Content Strategy

In that weird time between Christmas and New Year’s of 2023/2024, our water heater died. Since I’ve been learning about climate change, and particularly about how homeowners can make their houses more efficient, I’ve wanted to begin making choices about repairs and such with efficiency and lowering our carbon footprint as things come up. Things like a broken water heater. 

It’s pretty common for companies to approach content marketing in the same way: deal with things as they come up. Releasing a new product? Organize a quick campaign to promote it. Sales flagging in a particular area? Put together some content for that audience? And on and on.  

This strategy isn’t working well for my home, and it doesn’t work well for  businesses, either. 

image of the side of a house. You can see a stone chimney and two small windows. Most of the wall is covered in natural-edge wooden siding, but some is white asbestos siding. Only one side of the roof has trim. You can see a bit of a maroon metal roof. Trees are in the background.
My house is always going to be a work-in-progress

Back to the water heater story: The first thing I researched was heat pump water heaters, which are really interesting, and, as it turns out, still pretty pricey. The next thing I looked at were the super efficient, small water heaters that heat the water as it flows through so that you’re not keeping a big tank of water hot all the time. This option looked comparable in price, and like a potentially more efficient upgrade. 

This is the stage of the content strategy where someone says, “Hey, why don’t we put together a white paper, and a few blog posts? Post ‘em up on the socials?” Seems like a quick, efficient solution to a problem.

Once we decided the small, efficient tankless heaters were the way to go, we realized that the device would need to be located near where the water would be used, and maybe even have one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom. It would also need to be inside the house, rather than in our currently unfinished addition. And, we would need to run a dedicated electrical line for it. 

Strategy issues! They just crop up everywhere, don’t they? Once you have your white paper, you have to figure out who needs it, and how will you get it to them. If you make it gated content, you create barriers, but isn’t that how white papers are supposed to be used? 

As we were making decisions about the water heater, we didn’t have hot water. If it had been July, we probably could have taken our time and had cold showers. But it was late December. Even here in Tennessee where it doesn’t get terribly cold, no hot water was pretty inconvenient. I was heating water for baths on the stove—certainly not efficient, but at least we still had running water.  

Upgrading the kitchen was a huge project.

If your sales are drooping, and you need to do something quick to hit your KPIs, you’re in a similar situation. Following a predetermined strategy is probably the farthest thing from your mind. Marketing exists to improve sales! Make it happen now!

Eventually, we decided the best thing to do at that moment was to get another water heater like the one that had died. It was electric, so that was a point in favor of this course of action. The old one had lasted nearly 20 years, too, so that was also favorable. Finally, our contractor (my brilliant and talented cousin) knew exactly what to do to install that particular model since he put the old one in, too.

Our house is old, drafty, and pretty darn inefficient. Eventually, we’d like for it to be airtight, temperature controlled, comfortable with excellent indoor air quality, and efficient. If you think of that in the way you think of a company’s business objective, you might be able to see clearly why both my family and your business both need good strategies.

My plan to address issues as they come up isn’t going to get us where we want to be in a timely or cost-efficient way. And, if your marketing plan is to create content when you need it, you’re not going to hit your business goals quickly or on-budget either. Being reactive is rarely the best course of action to reach goals.

Same stove, redesigned space.

Building a Strategy

I wish that now I could tell you the story of how I realized that we aren’t going to meet our goal of a comfortable, efficient home and so we created a better strategy and are on track now. {siiiiggghhh} I can’t do that, but I can give you some tips on carefully tying your content strategy to your business objectives, and identifying the metrics to track to make sure you’re staying on track.

Begin with your business goals

Don’t start with your goal for a particular piece of content. That’s like making your goal to have hot water when your water heater dies. Start with the big business goals: increase revenue, build authority, grow your audience, get the new product or service to the market.

Without even considering content, list those big goals. Then assign metrics to measure your progress toward those goals: increase revenue by 15%, speak at conference ABC, increase newsletter subscriptions by 20%, and so on. Figure out what success looks like for each one of those big goals.

Assess your current status

Before you can measure your progress, you have to pinpoint your location. What does increasing revenue by 15% mean in dollars? How many new subscribers do you need to increase by 20%?

What content do you have now that might be deployed to meet those goals? What are your most popular pieces of content? What are your top-searched keywords? Where did most of your newsletter subscribers come from originally? What platforms are you using successfully? 

Survey the competitive landscape

You’re not looking to see what your competitors are doing that you might also do; you’re looking to see what they are missing. Identify gaps in your competitors’ marketing that you can fill. Maybe your nearest competitor is on the top of the paid ads game. Instead of trying to get there too, could you build some organic traffic on social media?

Create a plan 

Once you have some information in hand, you can put together a content plan designed to reach specific business goals. You can decide topics, distribution channels, and timing without the pressure of needing it RIGHT NOW. 

Now, if I could just figure out my house as neatly.

Comments 1

  1. Great practical tips. It took me two years to complete my home alterations, and I wasn’t even working on the structure. Our gas stove dropped our electricity consumption in half.

    Over the past 3 years in South Africa, solar systems are down to 50% of their pre-pandemic cost, because new service providers came onto the market. The more people demand energy efficiency, the better the economies of scale, and competition keeps prices down. When there was just one huge supplier (government supported), they had no incentive!

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