The 7-Step Content Marketing Strategy That Safeguards Your ROI

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You know you should be doing content marketing.

You’ve done your research.

You read how one company increased their revenue by 53%.

But implementing a content marketing program is a risky proposition.

When it comes to content marketing there are lots of stumbling blocks and no guarantees.

The most significant barrier to achieving content marketing goals is the lack of an effective strategy.  (State of Content Marketing Survey, Ascend2 and Research Partners, June 2016)

So how do you mitigate the risk that your content marketing won’t pay off?

One answer is testing and monitoring how people respond to your content. Unfortunately, those two steps happen after you’ve implemented your strategy.

Testing and monitoring can’t help you build an effective one in the first place.

This 7 Step Common Sense (Risk Reduction) Approach can because it’s designed to reduce the risk of you losing your investment.

The Flaw of Most Content Marketing Strategies

Plan the work and work the plan is one of those easy to remember adages. Unfortunately too many people skimp on the planning and put all their energy into getting stuff done.

If my CPA friend had her way, we would have tackled refinishing the fiberglass bottom of her 28′ sailboat with no protective gear.

She’s a doer who wants to jump in and just get it done.

I’m a planner. One who has successfully planned and delivered multi-million dollar projects for a Fortune 100 company.

Well-formulated strategies and plans focus on creating successful outcomes by reducing risk.

Every project has risks.

Unless your content marketing strategy addresses the inherent risks and identifies ways to mitigate them, you won’t get the outcome you want.

The 7 Step Common Sense (Risk Reduction) Approach

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The Seven Steps

  1. Define the field of endeavor
  2. Gather resources
  3. Create supporting foundation for content
  4. Identify solutions, prioritize, compile implementation plan
  5. Document processes to keep everything on track and optimize resources
  6. Deliver content
  7. Test, monitor, make adjustments, and repeat.

Step One: Defining Boundaries

If you’ve not heard of or read the story of Southwest Airlines and the chicken Cesar salad, you can read about it online or find it in Dan and Chip Heath’s book Make to Stick.

Why is this story important?

Because it demonstrates a fundamental, risk-reduction method that Southwest Airlines does very well: describing in clear and succinct language what they do in their marketplace.

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If you don’t already have one, you need to create this fundamental guideline.

It reduces the risk of your content marketing falling victim to runaway scope-creep by helping everyone in your organization determine what’s in- and out-of-bounds.

Steps Two and Three: Gathering Resources

Step Two

Here you bring your marketing, sales and customer service people together because they know the most about your customers.

Their combined resources include:

  • Customer data (demographics, personas, etc.),
  • Marketing materials,
  • Available collateral,
  • Sales data and experiences,
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs),
  • Customer complaints, or
  • Survey results

If you have data in an online knowledge base, be sure to include that as well.

Step Three

Take a hard look at your resources and begin determining what is suitable for creating content.

Everything needs to be looked at as having the potential for being turned into content. Don’t discount anything because of the way it’s being used currently.

Once you get a handle on what can be used for content, start pinpointing those pieces or ideas that can become cornerstone content.

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If content were ice cream, then cornerstone content would be the cone. 

Cornerstone content is the material that helps your audience understand what your business is all about. Think business philosophy, mission, purpose, thought leadership, as well as the products and services you offer.

You can also look at cornerstone content as: the online compilation of your company’s information and knowledge that helps position your company as an authoritative and valuable resource for answers and information.

In the case of Southwest Airlines, one example of their cornerstone content is their Contracts of Commitment.

Cornerstone content supplies definition, direction, references and resources for both your content and marketing collateral.

Step Four: Setting Yourself Up for Success

This is where the magic happens. Also most of the hard work, and if you’re not used to building strategies, then this may be the toughest part.

At a high level, it’s where you

  • Take what you know about your customers and start zeroing in on their content needs
  • Begin identifying content delivery methods
  • Determine the costs and risks associated with each method
  • Prioritize your approaches
  • Plan your course of action including testing and monitoring that will be done.

Why is this step magical?

Because this is where you take all your thoughts, ideas, concerns, knowledge and resources and start working your way to identifying well-informed solutions.

It’s where the potential for doing content marketing gets refined into solutions that can be individually implemented thus allowing you to improve your processes as you go along.

It’s also the step that’s really easy to screw up.

Remember the vignette in Disney’s animated feature Fantasia where Mickey Mouse as the magician’s apprentice tries his hand at a little magic and creates chaos?wizard-hat-29560_640

Mickey jumped at a solution he saw working for someone else, but it was one that didn’t deliver what he wanted.

Jumping to solutions too quickly is the most common way to mess up this step.

A set of solutions quickly arrived at will not be able to sustain an effective content marketing strategy.

Developing Robust Options

  1. Identify and document all possibilities and get more by scoping out what other companies are doing.
  2. Refine those possibilities by inserting practical considerations.
    • This is where possibilities either fall out of contention or become viable contenders.
    • When possibilities fall out, get creative and see if they can be reorganized into contender solutions.
    • Since content marketing is a process, white-board simple flows so you can easily see the possibilities and pitfalls.
  3. Ballpark potential costs, determine risks and risk mitigation steps.
  4. Thoroughly document each contender solution so you can complete your analysis.
  5. Prioritize implementing your solutions.

This is what it looks like when you’ve completed steps one through four.

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Keep strategizing and planning as separate steps because each uses a different mindset.

The planning stage is, of course, where you identify everything that needs to happen in moving forward with your strategies.

Step 5: Keeping Everyone and Everything On-Point

Use well documented Policies and Standards to keep your content marketing on-point and easy to manage.

They formalize your business purpose from Step One by giving people clarity on what appropriate actions look like.

That makes it easier for employees and contractors to create what you want.chaos-485493_1280

Use policies and standards to identify:

  • The style guide you’ll use for grammar, permitted uses of company branding materials,  etc.
  • The format of blog posts, list articles, use of pictures, quotes, voice, etc.
  • The process to create, review, post content, and more.

Include delivery processes for things such as lead-times and scheduling, handling adhoc communications and your testing/monitoring processes and procedures.

If you want consistency of action, then having policies and standards is critical. So is updating them as necessary.

Steps Six and Seven: Keeping the Momentum Going

The last two steps of your content strategy are clear-cut, iterative processes: create content, deliver, monitor and test, modify as necessary, and repeat.

A change management process makes sure modifications are made and documented in an orderly fashion

Use it not only for your content, but for your policies and standards as well.

Change management doesn’t have to be an onerous or exacting process, but you do want to keep tabs on:

  1. What’s being changed
  2. Why
  3. Who has approved the change (if necessary)
  4. Who’s implementing the change, and
  5. Who’s going to ensure the change was made correctly

One of your ongoing challenges will be creating content.

In Step three, you stockpiled potential subjects and usable material.

Get additional material and ideas from employees, and people outside your organization. Their different perspectives on your business and customers can help keep content fresh and interesting.

That’s something Google appreciates and for which it will reward you by ranking your site contents higher.

Summary

The goal of this process is to keep your content marketing robust and sustainable by reducing risk.

The 7 Step Common Sense (Risk Reduction) process begins by having you document the business purpose that will frame and contain your content marketing strategy and program.

Next you gather internal resources and design the foundation material that will support the content you create.

In Step Four, you escape the trap of “common knowledge”. Instead you gain real world knowledge by testing the solutions you’ve designed.

Policies and Standards, plus Change Management controls keep everyone on track and moving in the right direction. At the same time, they optimize your use of both internal and external resources.

Lastly, segmenting your strategy makes it easy to modify the individual processes based on your testing.

By taking the process one step at time, and focusing on what each step requires you will develop an effective content marketing strategy that

  • Stays on-point,
  • Is easy to manage, and
  • Does a good job of safeguarding your ROI.

Just remember! The magic happens only when you resist jumping to solutions.wizard-hat-29560_640

For help with the magic of developing your content marketing strategy, get in touch with Quinn by completing her Contact form or calling 860-638-9990