If you get any uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach every time you see a yet another blog post about content marketing, don’t worry. We’re not going to tell you how wrong and behind you are, and this isn’t another simple post extolling all of the virtues of content and why you need it now.
We all “know” that content is great. It’s a must-have for consistent lead generation and nurturing. But it seems most writing on the issue simply calls attention to problems with content, rather than offering solutions.
A lot of businesses get an initial rush of content marketing excitement, but after a few months it falls by the wayside. Think of how many company blogs you’ve seen that feature months-old posts on the front page. Better yet, look for the correlation to a new business starting out and the massive amount of con tent they churn out in the early days – only to find that as soon as they get busy the novelty of frequent content falls by the wayside. The only way to prevent this is to respect the enormous amount of time creating great content takes and to create a solid process around it.
Before we start let’s agree on one thing — creating engaging content is hard. Content is not a commodity. If you believe it is, please stop reading here.
Still with us? Awesome. If dreams of great content are dancing through your head, here are five solid steps to get you there.
Create clearly defined roles
Don’t get caught in the infinite “it’s not my job” loop. Nobody likes that guy/gal. Moving past yourself, also know that content creation sounds “fun” and while a lot of people in your company may signal some interest, ultimately you may find that not everyone is in for the long haul. Writing is an art form, not a brute force effort. Respect it.
This isn’t to say that if you’re not a writer, you aren’t welcome. Many people are great writers that simply haven’t exercised that muscle. Let’s give them the chance to shine — in a way that starts off firmly based in reality. Make the process easier, identify and clearly assign team members to handle each step of the production process. It helps to think of your content like a factory assembly line. You’ll want to define roles that are clear and matched to process, such as writing or designing the content, posting and distribution. Another often-overlooked step is who creates the follow-up funnel sequences in your marketing automation system. Content should never be just be a “one-and-done” type of thing.
Once you’ve built this process let your “noobs” start feeding that ravenous beast. At LeadMD, we’ve set up an “Ideas” process. You can simply email a designated email address or tag our content channel in Slack and voila, you have joined the process. Give us a few blurbs or a fully fleshed out first draft and the machine takes over. If we get a frequent contributor, we may choose to promote them to a featured author, which leads us into our next tip.
Open up the kimono
You’ve spent the time and effort to build and oil the machine. Are you setting the team up for failure by also placing them as the sole brains behind content subject matter? Don’t let this happen. The best content ideas come from the people who are interfacing with customers and prospects. Open your door to your entire company. Through an ideation process similar to what we described above, you can ensure your content actually means something to the readers you hope to engage.
Our best ideas come from the ground level, in the trenches of sales and services. These folks know what hard questions customers ask, what they are struggling with, what they love about your offering. We’ve given the tip to marketers to spend a day with sales time and time again. Guess what? The same hold true for content marketing — even more so.
Figure out how to manage outside help
It’s very important that you have a plan in place for this aspect of content creation. Especially if you have a small team or are on a tight budget. It’s always best to have a single person responsible for sourcing freelancers, working with them, reviewing their work and generally managing the relationship as a whole.
As someone who has worked on this side in the past, trust me when I say that it’s very difficult for freelancers to have to deal with several people within your organization, rather than just one point of contact. Also, providing as much detail and outlining upfront as you can will save you from getting stuck in revision hell.
The takeaway here is to try your best to keep this streamlined – which is often easier said than done. The best thing you can do is anticipate the inevitable revision cycles and plan accordingly. It’s never a good idea to farm out things that are on tight deadline. Oh, and a process without a trusted system in not a process. Period. Get something other than email in place to manage this process even if you currently create all content in house.
With the rise of content marketing in the past five or so years, there are so many sophisticated solutions out there for managing content workflow. See which one fits your needs and take the plunge. At LeadMD, we use Kapost. One of the cool things about Kapost is that there’s an idea hub where people can contribute ideas, and the content manager can review and approve the ones that work.
Make a plan, man
Create an editorial calendar that details when, where and how content will be published and distributed. Be sure to track the results along the way. As I said earlier, content should never be treated as a “one off” thing where you put it out there, then wait to see what happens. A demand gen blast is always a solid tactic, and never forget your social following. That almost merits a post in and of itself.
If you’re a total beginner, Twitter (follow us here!) is a safe bet for most marketers. Building a legitimate Facebook audience has become almost impossible for all but the most dedicated marketers, so most B2B teams can skip that to start. The sure bet? LinkedIn. Don’t even think twice — do it.
Don’t share just once or over the course of a few days and then move on to something else. Content has a much longer lifespan that that. Use tools like Tweetdeck to schedule out tweets weeks and months from the publish date.
Above all, engage your team. It must be a top-down edict that employees should create time to share content — not even just the organization’s content, but also other helpful content they find interesting and valuable to their contacts. Every member of your team is a brand ambassador on social media — act accordingly.
Take a moment here to push your chair back and take a look at the people around you. There is a sea of content just waiting to be published. If you’re reading this, that means it’s up to you to work with your team to get it out there. Often, people get hung up on the fact that writing is “hard” and they could never contribute to a blog post. Be their champion.
Creating a culture of content will be a huge positive change for your company. Suddenly, the interesting little things you talk about with coworkers become ideas for an awesome infographic. A random comment from the CEO could inspire a highly-shareable blog post. Tracking the most consistent questions from customers might make a good whitepaper. You never know when inspiration might strike. So, don’t just encourage people to contribute ideas, but give them an outlet and some all-important encouragement. More importantly, give them easy access to a singular content repository. Ask your team to associate relevant content in their signature lines, in customer communications and incorporate it to the sales process. Leverage your investment. That old piece of content sitting on the shelf — it’s new to someone.
To sum things up, great content doesn’t have to be a nightmare. And it doesn’t have to cost millions of dollars. If you internalize the steps above, and realize that the payoff of creating great content consistently will vastly outpace any headaches you may encounter along the way, you’ll be well on the way to make your content marketing dreams a reality.