There are 2 key points in the life of a content marketing campaign where many fail. The first is the beginning, where you set out to find what your audience is looking for.
The second is when you to scale your content creation beyond yourself. You hire a writer… But the brand loyalty you have carefully built up over time can turn against you here.
Will the audience that you’ve worked so hard to build up still be interested in following content created by someone else? Will you be able to maintain the quality of what you publish? Can you find a writer to write in your voice?
Many content marketing campaigns fail at this crucial stage. But there are a few simple steps you can take to improve your odds and ensure the long-term success of your campaign.
Not scaling your content could be dangerous. What if, after many years, you tire of the topics, but your content marketing is the main driver of traffic to your business? What if you want to sell your company, but the success of the marketing relies on you and becomes a liability? What if you want to spend more time managing your team or improving other areas of your business, but content creation is taking up too much time?
Define your content marketing strategy
The foundation of your content marketing campaign should be a documented strategy. For many content marketers, this seems like unnecessary homework. In fact, according to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, only a third of marketers have a documented strategy.
“Last year, 35% of B2B marketers had a documented content strategy, 48% had a verbal-only strategy, and 14% had no strategy. A documented content marketing strategy impacts effectiveness:
- 53% of the most effective marketers have a documented content marketing strategy
- 40% of the least effective marketers have no strategy at all.”
A “verbal-only” strategy is not enough; we’re all humans here, and we know how easy it is to get sidetracked by the latest shiny object marketing trends. Content marketing is a long-term play, and the only way you’re going to get results is with consistency and quality.
We also know how easy it is to misinterpret each other when communicating. If you don’t believe me, here’s a little experiment you can try.
Take a picture of a landscape with distinctive features. Find a friend who is great at drawing and ask them to draw a picture of the landscape for you, but don’t show them the picture, just describe it to them. (If you actually do this, please post the picture in the comments).
In just a few pages, this document should contain:
- The mission of your content – The mission certainly should not be “sell more of my product”; people will easily see through that and go elsewhere. Your content should have a purpose and be valuable in its own right. If you’re just focused on using content to boost conversions or drive traffic, then you’re missing out on many of the hidden and unmeasurable benefits of content marketing.
- The reader avatar – Great content can bring you more than just customers. So instead of focusing on a customer avatar, define it as someone who you would want to recruit to your team. Create content that inspires them to join you in your mission and your vision. This will fundamentally shift how you approach your content.
- What makes your content unique – In this noisy world, the best competitive advantage is to find something you can do better than most and an angle that makes you different from your competition. This could be your sense of humor, or what kind of content you create, or a key quality.
- Core problems – What are the core problems that your audience is having? What are they searching for that you can solve? You should identify 3-6 problems that are specific enough to resonate, but broad enough to be able to create lots of content. Identifying core problems makes it easier to reach your audience, organize your content and deliver a consistent message through. We’ll talk more about these in the next section.
- Metrics – How do you measure success? What numbers do you need to optimize for? Some simple ones I recommend starting with are 10% growth in traffic each month and 10% growth of your email list.
- What do you believe is true? – This defines some of the broad philosophies of your blog and helps you find a way to be unique in a noisy world. Simple things like “We believe content marketing is the best tool to bootstrap a business” or “we believe that less is more when it comes to working out” can help.
This strategy will keep you consistent over time. Without it, you’re susceptible to constantly changing your strategy depending on how you feel or whatever shiny object is in your field of view at the time. This is also crucial for sharing the vision of your blog successfully with others.
I have a more in-depth guide to a great content marketing strategy here: How to get powerful results with your content marketing strategy.
Also, here’s a link to a template I have developed to make documenting your strategy a breeze.
Organize your blog around your reader’s core problems
Your core problems will become your category structure for your content. This category structure allows you to do a lot of the time-consuming work that goes into creating good content once, and then use it in many of the things you create.
- Lead generation – For each category, you’ll be able to develop a lead magnet that is relevant to all the content you create in that category. This way, everything you create will have a useful lead magnet attached to it so your readers can take the next step with you.
- SEO – You’ll be able to research and collect a set of keywords for each category once that you can draw from.
- Key relationships – For each core problem, you can list influencers, allies, and competitors that address those problems and begin to build relationships with them by linking to their content and drawing inspiration from what they are doing.
Here’s an example of some of the core problems we decided on for WP Curve and how much traffic we were getting to our site for each problem.
Have others write in your voice with style and branding guide
Where your strategy handles the big picture of your content, your style guide helps with the day to day. There are many tiny details that are worth keeping consistent if you want to maintain the quality of your content as you scale. The style guide also can give you a predictable creation process, which enables you to plan out content weeks or even months in advance.
A style guide allows other writers to create content in your voice. Here are a few key elements of a good style guide:
- Words you use and don’t use – Some people like to say words like “hack” or “ninja” in their content. For some audiences, this is a great move, for others, it could turn people off. Consider your own style and how a writer could embody it.
- Header Style – Do you use h1 or h2 for your headers? Should they be in all caps, sentence case or title case?
- Quality Checklist – What are some aspects of your blog post that embody the quality you want to create. Is the content actionable? Is it easy to read? Do you focus on one problem only? Are there helpful images? How many outbound links should there be in each article?
- Images – How many pictures do you expect per post? What dimensions should the images be? What’s the size limit?
An editorial calendar will allow you to plan out content weeks or even months in advance. You’ll be able to anticipate holidays, industry events, product launches, and have content prepared in time to take advantage of them.
Two common tools for editorial calendars are Trello and CoSchedule. Each has unique advantages depending on your tastes. I have written a review comparing then here: Trello vs. CoSchedule: Editorial calendar review for content marketers.
Here are a few key elements of an editorial calendar:
- The content pipeline – What articles are planned to be published and when.
- Visualizing progress – As your content team grows and you begin creating many different posts simultaneously, you’ll want an easy way to see the status of each post without having to dive into each one individually.
- You can organize your lists in Trello to indicate status (Check out how the team at Trello does it here)
- Both Trello and Coschedule have labeling systems, and you can assign certain colors to mark the status of the post.
- The colored labeling systems can also be used to indicate the topic or the core problem of the post.
- Who’s responsible? – You’ll be able to assign specific content to team members and hold them accountable to moving the post forward.
- Team idea collection – This should be a recurring event each month. Have your team meet to discuss new ideas for content and add them to a list of “open ideas.” Mention any new key relationships that may have started and could be developed with content collaboration.
- Repurposing – You should not always focus on new content creation. Make time in your calendar to repurpose your successful content into different formats.
Great content won’t be seen without great promotion
In the article What to do if your content is not getting traction? Renee Warren, the founder of Onboardly, describes how she focuses heavily on content promotion, not content creation. This is especially important in the early days of your brand building when you’ll need to work hard to get attention and differentiate yourself in your market.
You should have several processes in place that ensure every post gets promoted.
Here’s a few I recommend starting with:
- Email and @Mention anyone you link to – If you’re making use of the key relationships list I mentioned earlier in this post, then you need to let the people you are mentioning know about it. This is great for building relationships, and it’s likely that they’ll help promote the content if they are mentioned in it.
- Use tools to help you with social media – Keeping up with Twitter and all the other social media platforms can be a hassle without the right tools. I recommend using either CoSchedule or Meet Edgar, which allow you to schedule social media to be published in the future.
- Hashtag bank – Just like with your keyword bank, you should have a hashtag bank with relevant tags to make sure you’re consistently promoting to the right audiences.
- Team promotion – Content marketing is a team sport, and your team members should be helping you get the word out on your content. Have team members rotate posting on sites like Inbound.org; everyone should be sharing content on their own channels and emailing it to people that may benefit.
Scaling up your content marketing and building a team that can tell your story and speaks in your voice is crucial to the long-term success of your campaign. With documented processes and the right tools, you’ll be able to scale up your content marketing, expand your reach and grow your business.
Kyle Gray is the founder of Conversion Cake, he helps startups and small businesses build content marketing strategies and teams. He is the author of “The College Entrepreneur” A book for students who want to break into entrepreneurship. Follow him @kylethegray.”