When you think of content marketing success stories…
You might think of startups like Mint, the personal finance app that achieved its first million users leveraging landing pages, infographics and a blog with unique articles.
Mint helped push the movement that has inspired thousands of companies to invest in content to get more leads, customers, and revenue.
And today, content marketing and its partner – inbound sales – have proven their efficiency as scalable customer acquisition channels. Content is a key part of any good marketing strategy.
Reporting on Your Marketing Efforts
Until recently any attempt to report real metrics used to be a pain…
Gathering proof that the marketing budget had a positive impact on the company’s revenues meant going through expensive closed-loop processes, user sample surveys or control groups.
And they leave no questions: you can see the number of generated, qualified and converted leads, conversion rates, closed deals and new revenue.
Marketing budget is not treated like a simple cost anymore, it’s directly proportioned to the bottom line.
More than ever, content managers can prove the results of their work and influence the company decisions.
That calls for a celebration, right?
Well, it should be a celebration… but that’s not what’s happening right now, is it?
Instead of feeling happy or relieved by this new reality, most content managers are left feeling something very different than that: they feel overwhelmed.
According to the B2B Content Marketing Survey, 70% of content marketers say they’re not happy with the results of their strategies.
Why is that?
That happened because the bonus of an effective content machine came along with the bonus of building it, maintaining it alive and functioning.
Is Your Content Machine a Content Monster?
A content marketer to do list looks like this:
- Publishing weekly blog updates to attract new visitors and keep them engaged,
- Creating rich content materials to collect emails,
- Sending nurturing email cycles to walk leads through the customer’s journey,
- Keeping up with social media and other distribution tactics to spread content reach… and so on.
It may sound like a piece of cake from the point of view of an outsider. But this is a time-consuming monster system that involves intensive email exchange, disconnected spreadsheets, publishing schedulers, calendars and sometimes up to 12 different tools to manage it all!
And that’s just considering the starting point of a content plan. Most growing companies go way beyond that, including growth hacking tactics, free tool development, co-marketing partnerships and on.
To combat this monster on a daily basis, marketing managers got to have super powers!
How to Become a Content Hero
Content marketers might not have as many gadgets as Batman, nor the ability to fly like Superman, but they too are heroes.
After observing these content heroes in over 300 growing companies my team and I have learned a lot about how to develop an efficient content marketing framework.
Here’s an example from a small agency that was able to triple the content production capacity without increasing their team, simply by organizing its processes. Even with small teams and tight budgets, these content managers thrive and achieve their goals month after month.
We wondered: do the ones who stand out have anything in common?
To be honest, it wasn’t a surprise when we noticed that there were a few rules these heroes seem to follow. In total, we identified four techniques they mastered and put into practice in order to succeed.
Let’s check each one of them now:
1. Content Marketing Heroes Start With a Plan
Content marketing is a combination of creativity, strategy and data.
Creativity is necessary to be unique and stand out from your competition.
A content marketing strategy is important to reach the goals you set for your company and understand how to get there.
Data is the way to measure the results of your work and optimize. In fact according to the B2B Content Marketing Survey, 53% of the most effective marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.
But where to start?
For a minimum viable plan, content marketing heroes usually start with these three steps:
A) Buyer Persona
Starting with a buyer persona brings up to five times more results in website traffic attraction and lead conversion, according to MLT Creative. The process of identifying who you are talking to will help you deliver more useful content, answer questions being asked by your avatar, and be generally more effective with every article, ebook or post you create.
The process of building your buyer persona involves interviewing target-customers, developing their decision-making journeys and registering archetypes to represent them.
According to ITSMA research, only 44% of companies use this resource. If you’re not creating content based on your company’s buyer persona, developing a couple high-quality interviews with customers or users is the first step to get there.
Don’t yet have your buyer persona written down in one place and posted up on your wall? Here’s our free buyer persona template. Go get it done now!
B) Business Goals
Having clear goals is crucial to creating content that will generate business results.
What content heroes do best is make sure they’re always aiming in the same direction as the entire business for each month, quarter and year.
It might seem pretty basic, but there are many challenges involved in making it happen. Is your goal to attract new leads? Or is it to convert the leads you already have in SQLs (sales qualified leads) and customers? What looks like a nuance may change your tactics completely: not only the KPIs you’ll follow, but the actions you take on a daily basis.
If you’re aiming to attract new leads, you’d need to push top of the funnel materials, work a lot on social media and close partnerships.
But if you need to convert leads in SQLs and customers, you’d work more on rich content for the middle of the funnel, email nutrition and segmentation, along with technical pieces to feed the bottom of the funnel and help your colleagues from the sales department on follow ups.
Most of the time you have to do all of this simultaneously, which becomes resource heavy and mentally stressful. And that is exactly why you need to clearly define your business goals and have a plan of action. Here’s a free (no email required) download of a business goal pyramid from SplashOPM.
Content marketing heroes don’t invest time on content creation before they’re sure it will bring them the results they want. So, for you, a good starting point might be chatting with business development and sales VPs to align your goals with their expectations.
C) Company Purpose
It’s true that content marketing heroes have their eyes zeroed in on the results they have to deliver. But in the back of their minds no content is created, no email sent or landing page launched without translating the values of the business.
They have perfectly defined their:
- Core value
- Marketplace differentiation
- Company culture
Do you have questions about one of these topics? Do you see your content translating these aspects on a daily basis? Here’s an article that brings more information on how to set your primary and secondary messages.
2. Content Marketing Heroes Build Intelligent Workflows
If you still deal with a serious amount of different versions of the same content, if you spend precious minutes sending articles and e-books back and forth between reviewing, editing and designing… You may shiver in fear, for your content marketing monster is strong and alive.
Content marketing heroes tame the monster by organizing the process and managing it as a continuous project. It goes beyond defining steps that need to be taken to create content. It’s a combination of:
- Designing the process
- Defining what each stage is about and what outcome you expect from it
- Assigning functions and responsibilities for all people involved
- Establishing clear deadlines
You can start by pushing out a few email reminders and notifications for every stage of production and every content type. At the end of the day, content heroes do everything they can to become more productive.
3. Content Marketing Heroes Engage Their Teams
Like Batman counts on Robin and Alfred, every content marketing hero needs support from their team. A content marketing team is complete with the participation of the following members:
- Leader (CMO): who elaborates the plan and guarantees the goals will be achieved. Approves budgets, special publishing and campaigns.
- Writers: who create content according to the plan and contribute with new topic ideas.
- Editor: refines content pieces, checks optimization, publishes, keeps the content calendar going.
- (web)Designer: guarantees the user experience, creates visual impact for blog, infographics, videos and optimizes landing pages.
- Distributor or growth hacker: applies online marketing, developing and SEO skills to guarantee that the right content will be delivered to the right people.
Small companies and startups that are at the beginning of their content marketing efforts usually don’t have all these elements. In these cases, the content marketing hero wears multiple hats. The important thing is that you know when you need to participate in each one of the steps. As more and more results come, the budget may grow to accommodate all of these members to create content and share new ideas.
Consider involving more people outside the marketing team . We have seen great experiences from content marketing heroes who leverage from the Sales and Customer Support teams to create more and more useful content. As it turns out, support tickets and questions sent by SQLs on the purchase decision stage can be a great source for new content!
4. Content Marketing Heroes Love Their Editorial Calendars
Frequent publishing and distribution is a must for effective content strategies. According to Hubspot, companies that publish more than 400 blog posts in total double in traffic comparing to companies that published between 301 and 400 blog posts. Though the amount of content it takes to get the best results is what makes the content monster look so big and terrifying from afar!
Well, it may be if you don’t plan ahead. But for content marketing heroes, an editorial calendar is the perfect way to keep the monster under control — and make the entire team stronger to fight inefficiency.
To work, an editorial calendar must contain more than just content dates and titles. This tool’s first function is to organize the plan and actions, helping you avoid wasting time with pieces that don’t add to the strategic goals.
When creating your editorial calendar, make sure to include for each content:
- Topic (the suggested title)
- Production status
- Who’s assigned to each status of the workflow
- Specific date and time the production should be approved and published
After all, every piece of content is part of a strategy. A well-designed plan needs to walk readers through each step of the buyer’s journey. If you work with multiple content types, like blog posts, ebooks, guides, social posts and videos (as most content marketing heroes do), you’ll feel the almost immediate need to put everything into context. Using an editorial calendar and planning weeks ahead is an intuitive way to plan, manage and monitor your content streams.
A content machine that works is one that helps you and your team deliver useful content — to answers current and future customer’s questions, provide valuable information and inspire them to do better.
In order to become a content marketing hero, you need a streamlined process, a unified set of tools, and (lots of) discipline. You can start by focusing on:
- Doing a buyer persona survey and following your users or customers main questions, every time your team creates new content;
- Setting your processes into a workflow, making sure all steps connected (as well as minimizing email exchanges, spreadsheets updates and approval flows);
- Engage your team, including people from outside marketing to contribute with content ideas (Engineers, Sales Reps and Customer Success Reps can be great resources!);
- Keep everyone on the same page using an editorial calendar to plan ahead, including approvals and distribution.
Using these tactics will help you to become a content marketing hero, too. What’s your secret to content marketing or content creation? Let me know what you think, and your experience in content marketing, in the comments below.