Two Strategic Decisions That Will Make or Break Your Content Marketing Plan
“The short answer is that we really can’t afford content that doesn’t perform. We need every pound or dollar that we spend on our content marketing to be as effective as it can be,” said Nick Mason, founder and CTO at Turtl during a panel discussion last year.
The other marketers on the panel agreed and had some important best practices to share.
So, what impacts your company’s content marketing success most? According to our panel of experts, it’s two things:
- Who in your organization owns and sets the strategic direction of your content marketing strongly influences your content marketing program.
- Your ability to refine your content creation process is key to getting results from your content (and flat-out avoiding content that bombs).
In this article, we’re going to share some insights from our panel discussion on these two important strategic decisions to help you get the best results from your content marketing.
Decision #1: Who Owns Content Marketing?
First up, who in your company decides the strategies for your content marketing? Is it the CMO, the product manager, or product marketer? Or maybe it’s a content strategist, a content committee, or something entirely different.
We polled our community earlier this year to find out who’s in charge of setting strategies for content marketing.
Most companies said that their CMO was responsible for the content marketing strategy, followed by product marketers/product managers and named content strategists, whose entire job it is to steer the content strategy. The rest indicated content strategy is led by a kind of content committee.
Here are some things to consider in each of these scenarios.
Product Marketer as Chief Content Strategist
If the content marketing strategy stems from the product marketer, high-performing teams have established processes to validate the strategy with top leadership, to work with product management to ensure alignment of goals and finally to coordinate with the demand marketing team to build out the actual plan.
For companies where the product marketer takes the lead on content marketing strategy, the content team is often grouped by areas that make sense for the business—by product lines, industry verticals, regions, etc. Because content strategies led by the product marketer are more focused, your company may have multiple content teams consisting of 1-2 people each.
CMO as Chief Content Strategist
When the CMO is taking the role of Chief Content Strategist, companies that are most nimble in their content strategy (meaning they can make decisions and refine quickly) report that even though the CMO makes the ultimate decision, the process is quite collaborative.
For example, a product manager is able to bring ideas, key benefits and excitement about the product or service to the table. The CMO’s role, then, is to filter that, translate it, ask questions, compare it to what he or she knows about the market, and then ultimately they have the decision about what goes out. So the process is collaborative with the CMO making the final decision.
Content Committee or Team as Chief Content Strategist
Other (usually larger) companies take a committee approach to setting the content strategy.
Scott Logan from MetTel describes the process at his company. “For a given product set or vertical, we bring a whole team to the table. It usually includes the head sales person, the demand generation person, the regional vice president of marketing, and then we typically have the graphic designer in there to kind of bring some creative ideas on how to present it. We definitely take a collaborative approach, and I’m surprised to see that more companies don’t use this approach.”
For Ellen Gomes, senior content marketing manager at Marketo, the process is similar.
“My team puts together a strategy and we present it to a content committee to vet our strategy against our business objectives, and then internal priorities. And that content committee is made up of the different stakeholders within marketing and sales. And then our team is actually relatively lean. We have varied in size over the time that I’ve been here—between one content marketer and three, and so we also use a lot of freelance resources, and agencies when we need them.”
Decision #2: Do You Have A Solid Content Creation Process?
After your strategic direction is set, how do you make sure that the content you create –whether it’s internally or externally created—is good and will get you the results you seek?
The answer: have a solid content creation process and know when to produce it internally vs. externally.
Here are our top curated tips for developing a content creation process that keeps you working efficiently and producing content with a higher degree of confidence that it will work.
- Be Agile. Aim to prove the case for each piece of content before you invest too much in it. To do that, prove it in market. Take a single piece that focuses on a particular area, a particular angle, or a particular trend that you think might be interesting to a certain audience. Share that with a limited subset and measure the reaction. You will see what’s working and build on those results. Before you know it, you will have several pieces of content that are really hitting the mark. You might even be surprised about what works and what doesn’t, but let the results guide you.
- Focus Only On Re-usable Content. Avoid content that is one-time use, never to be used again. The trick is finding topics that are specific enough to be relevant, timely and useful to your audience, but not so specific that it can’t be applied to other uses. It’s easy to get into measuring the sheer volume of content produced. The trouble with producing volumes of unique content is that over time, it’s simply too much to refresh or maintain. Pick your core areas of content to build out, measure and re-use, re-fresh and re-purpose the information that gets the greatest amount of attention from your audience. Remember it takes over 7 exposures to a message for it to really sink in. Repetition is not reserved only for TV commercials!
- See Failure As Progress. With today’s availability of measuring the content that you’re creating, it’s hard to create a piece that fails forever as long as you’re looking at the measures to guide your next step. Accept that mistakes are inevitable, but they’re also there to show you what you need to fix. You often don’t have to scrap that content piece entirely. Getting results lower than expected can also spark some healthy conversations internally to find out what you may be missing. Was it that you were you delivering the wrong message at the wrong stage of the life cycle? Or was it really just the wrong format? Can you repurpose it in a different place that would maybe be more successful? In this day and age of widespread tools and technology at our fingertips, any “failure” is just an opportunity to learn and improve. As long as you are taking action on your findings, your content performance will only improve.
Does it matter if you produce content internally or externally? The consensus from our panel of experts was that 50% – 70% of your content should be produced internally because that’s where the real product and customer knowledge lies. The other 50% – 30% should be produced externally for one or more of these reasons:
Aim to produce 30% of your content externally for these reasons:
- Add credibility to your brand or message when you have other brands or experts talking about your solution
- Bring fresh outside perspectives to your message with writers or agencies who can convey the same message with different words—many times how something is expressed is more important than the format or design of the content
- Increase the volume of content you’re able to produce on targeted topics. If you have a small team or have a topic you know is hot with your audience, leveraging the help of outside writers who can bring both credibility and fresh perspectives can certainly round out your content library in meaningful ways.
Once you have clearly assigned the Chief Content Strategist role in your organization and developed a process for developing and refining your content, you will be well on your way to high performing content.
Need help producing high-quality content for your next campaign? Partner with Brand & Demand Solutions to drive demand and grow your brand. Contact us for a free strategy session today!