We hear over and over that the highest performing marketing organizations have a content marketing strategy. But it's not just having the strategy, it's understanding what do with it once you have it. Here are some top level guidelines to follow in adopting your content marketing strategy.
View Part 1: Day in the life of a content marketer
Part 2: Operationalize the content marketing strategy:
How to operationalize your content marketing strategy
In this post I shared the struggles of a content marketer and the importance of designing and implementing a content strategy. The corresponding piece digs deeper into what it means for an organization to truly align and operate against a content marketing strategy.
The more dialogue I have with CMOs, the more I realize there is a common struggle connecting activity to strategy in today’s marketing organizations.
I am reminded of one conversation with a CMO of a mid-tier technology organization. I asked him what, if any, attention he was giving to the brand story he offered the marketplace. His response encapsulates what I have heard from many senior marketers:
“I hear a lot about content strategy and storytelling and I love it. That is what I want to be working on. But the truth is, short of hiring a New York agency for millions a year, I have no idea how to connect my team’s daily activities and goals in a way that results in telling a great brand story.”
The Content Marketing Institute pounds it into our heads in almost every piece of research and content they publish: high-performing brands have a documented content marketing strategy. And I agree. But…will you know what to do with it once you have it? How do you ensure every single content piece developed and published contributes to your brand purpose and strategy?
Your strategy should be built—in part—on intersection between your goals and the goals of your audience
The fundamental drivers for developing a content marketing strategy are the goals for the brand, taking into account the goals of your audience. Goals are determined by understanding and alignment as to what the brand is trying to achieve.
Are you trying to drive awareness for the brand? Or trying to change brand perception? What marketing metrics are you trying to move? Increase pipeline velocity? Improve close rate? And it can’t be all of the above. You have to know which dials you are trying to move.
This may be an obvious starting point to some, but you'd be surprised how many marketing leaders cannot succinctly articulate the goals for their organization. If you don't have this starting point, all the steps that follow are impossible to complete.
Develop activities required to reach goals
Once you understand what you’re attempting to achieve, outline all of the activities, tools and dependencies required to achieve the goals. This is the sniff test to assess whether or not you have the resources, budget and organizational alignment to fulfill on the strategy. If you require far more budget than is available, the goals and strategy need to be re-worked. If you can’t get alignment with other parts of the organization (most importantly sales) you don’t have a workable plan.
If you have alignment along with enough resources and budget, develop an overarching operating plan that assigns activities to individual team members. Most strategies fail because this planning phase was too insular or obvious risks were ignored. We often see teams too rushed in the planning process to do this effectively. You owe it to yourself, your team and your brand to fight for an ample amount of time to complete this phase properly.
It takes way more time and money to fail in the long term than to plan properly in the short term.
Accountability drives activity
Meet on a regular cadence with team members to discuss activity. Are any activities taking longer or costing more than planned? Are content development and publishing activities reflective of the strategic goals? This needs to be monitored regularly, through manual approvals in your CMS or programmatically via a tool like 8-Point Arc that can match your content to your strategy.
This includes resources outside of the marketing organization. You MUST have the alignment and credibility to hold thought leaders throughout the organization accountable to contribute. If it’s left only to the marketing team, you’re in for a long haul. It’s a rare team of marketers that can fulfill on the content marketing strategy without inter-departmental help.
Measure WHY content is working, not just that it is working
As marketers, we all know the importance of measurement so there is no need to drive this point home. The important element is not just knowing what is content is working and what isn’t. We are all in various states of evolution to figure out the answer to what’s working. The real question is, do you know WHY it’s working or not working?
Was it the timing? The content type? Detail within the content? If you didn’t develop your content with specific purpose within the grand scheme of your plan, it’s difficult to know why anything is working. Plus, it helps to have a tool like 8-Point Arc to help you define what is actually in your content :)
Alter activity to improve results
Last but not least, react to feedback. Once you know why your content is working, build on that to better engage your audience. For example, one of our better performing blog posts were the posts listed above. The pieces performed well because of uniqueness (the use of the illustration) and the Authoritative elements in the related piece (“5 U’s to consider in creating your content marketing strategy”). This very piece is developed with that feedback in mind.
As a former CMO, I understand all too well, the gap between how things should be done and the reality of how they do get done. If you already know these steps but don't have the organizational latitude to perform them properly, then hopefully you can use this post as reference for those who won't give you the latitude (we're talking to you CEO).
If that doesn't work, give us a call and we'll try and talk some sense into the right people :)