A quick guide to getting you started on the journey to an effective and sustainable content marketing initiative.
Content marketing is like anything else you do as a marketer. You need a vision, a strategy that supports it and the resources to make it happen. Today, marketers are being asked to break through a tremendous amount of noise. Every person with a smartphone fashions themselves a blogger, photographer, filmmaker, news source and entrepreneur. The best marketers set a strategy and apply methods to scale that strategy so they can stay top-of-mind and in front of the eyes of their prospects and customers.
Below are a few simple steps to take to help you and your marketing organization start on the right path.
1. Set Measurable Goals & Objectives: What Are You Trying to Accomplish?
There may be a variety of reasons why you're undertaking a content marketing approach. A good one is... well, you'll be irrelevant if you don't. The facts don't lie, video will account for 80% of internet traffic by 2019, 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing and 70% of marketers can demonstrate how content marketing increase engagement and leads. Glad we got that out of the way. Before you create another piece of content (put the camera down) make sure you set some goals. An example would be: Increase Social Media Engagement by 25%. I love it when companies realize there is more value in an engaged following than in the number of followers. I would much rather have a great conversation with two friends over an IPA than have a house full of people who ignore me at a dinner party.
Another measurable goal that your CEO and Sales Teams would like to see: Increase Pipeline Opportunities by $2 Million. You're not going to immediately drive demand for your products or services with an infographic or an Instagram post, or even a white paper necessarily. However, the consistent creation and distribution of relevant content in a variety of formats and on various platforms (Social, Web, Email etc) will help your brand awareness and if you target your prospects effectively lead to more successful at bats.
2. Research & Gather Data
Valuable information is all around us. We just have to look and be in listening mode. Before jumping head first into content marketing, it's important to make sure you've assessed your internal capabilities and also taken a peek (OK maybe more than just a peek) at what your competitors are doing. Even of more critical importance, make sure you understand your customer/prospect, their pain points, what solutions they need and their buying behavior. This data gathering phase is very important as it helps you better understand where to invest your time and focuses your strategy.
What content have we created previously? How was it received? Do we have a team in place that can create engaging video content on a consistent basis? If someone mentions a cousin or nephew who dabbles in video production run for the hills! These are quantifiable questions you can ask yourself and your team. You can even implement a company-wide survey to see what your employees thought was interesting content that you've created in the past. Feedback is important.
Follow you competitors on their social channels. I know, sounds crazy. However, you'll not only get inspired by some of their work, you'll find ways to leapfrog them and identify gaps in areas where they fall short and take advantage. Don't copy and paste or plagiarize, but if you see that their infographics are receiving a lot of engagement on topics you're well versed in, by all means, put that in your plan.
This can be time consuming, but likely the most important effort your company can undertake. Who are your buyers? Identifying your core demographics and demographics you're trying to penetrate will be of great importance in terms of the type of content and message you put out, where you promote that content and how quickly you'll see results. If your buyers are all 18-25 year old female athletes, you better have an influencer strategy and going hard on Instagram and Facebook paid advertising. This is the key to the content targeting play within your content marketing strategy.
3. Resource Validation & Content Team Creation
You're now getting to the exciting phase. There is nothing more powerful than doing the upfront work required to have a successful strategy. You now have a case to go to management: defined goals, the data to support it, competitive and gap analysis and buyer behavior data. It's time you crunch some numbers and put together a proposed budget for discussion and approval. According to the Content Marketing Institute the most successful marketing teams spend approximately 40% of their marketing budget on content marketing. However, you may need to do a proof of concept over a quarter or half year period. Don't do a shorter test period as you'll ultimately fail by not having enough data to support your case. Remember, content marketing is not a few posts and then BOOM a sale. It's storytelling, lead nurturing, account based marketing and targeting all in one. It takes time.
This is also the time when you should begin allocating internal resources to helping create content. This includes your entire marketing team, product managers, technical experts, human resources and anyone in your company that can add value and content. At the same time, you'll need a creative team that is well versed in creating engaging digital content. 47% of B2B marketers outsource content marketing activities such as content creation as it's entirely too difficult to create the sheer number of assets and have the skills required to create cinema-quality video content regularly. When selecting a team, don't go for the people who blind email you with a "we charge $197 a video" message. It's a sad practice, but someone has to do it. These small time players, usually overseas vendors or folks with @gmail accounts are just trying to prey on your weakness. How can they scope a project they don't even know about? Better yet, why are they quoting you a price during the first interaction.
Lastly, if they are so good at content marketing why are they jumping right into a transaction and not using content marketing tactics to reel you in? I recommend you meet with a few vendors and work with a team that will focus their time and attention on making you successful. It will be pretty clear, especially if they come prepared with knowledge or some understanding of what you might be trying to accomplish.
4. Create a Content Creation & Execution Calendar
Working with your new content partner, set some attainable goals of the type of content you'll want to create and how and when you'll execute. These are typically work-back schedules and you should leave room for creating ad-hoc content in response to trends, breaking news stories and other changes that might occur throughout the year. I would recommend having a solid 8 week rolling schedule that is pretty specific and gets more general after those initial 8 weeks. Good content takes time initially, but an effective content partner will help you scale and become agile, time is money and content is currency.
I hope you've found these tips helpful and feel a little more prepared to success in your content marketing en devours. In future posts I'll describe the most effective types of content marketing and how storytelling can set you and your brand apart.
Oh yeah... one more thing. HAVE FUN. Creating content is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a marketer. You're telling stories. Evolving brands. You're creating art.
Enjoy the journey.