[Editor's note: Happy Holidays! This week, the editorial team at Content Marketing Institute wanted to share some of the best content marketing blog posts we've seen from our CMI Consultants. Today's post originally appeared on Marcus Sheridan's website, The Sales Lion, on Oct. 17, 2012.]
As I sit in a plane and return home from what was another amazing Content Marketing Workshop experience I had with a Salt Lake City company yesterday, I wanted to discuss a subject that seems to vex so many businesses when it comes to establishing a blog and content marketing plan that not only work, but work fast in terms of building a company’s brand, increasing leads, and elevating sales.
The following system is one that I’ve been using over the last year, with tremendous results. It has been further refined with each client, including three that I’ve launched over the last 30 days. Although the system is best set up for companies with five or more employees (I’ve done this with companies from 5 to 200 employees thus far), the principles herein absolutely apply to “solopreneurs” and small partnerships as well.
Here goes: The 11-step plan to create a prolific blog and culture of content marketing
1. Management buy-in
I know, this can be a toughy. So much so, it’s the No. 1 complaint I’ve been getting from marketing renegades, and it’s also something I’ve written quite a bit about in the past.
But when it comes down to it, unless management is REALLY on board with creating consistently great content and “gets it,” your blog and social media efforts will likely fail. I say this out of much experience because with my individual clients, there is an extremely high correlation between management buy-in/involvement and the rate of content marketing success.
2. The “Why” Workshop
You’ve seen me write about this in the past, but more than ever I feel incredibly strongly about what I call the “Why” Workshop. Centered upon Simon Sinek’s principle of using the Golden Circle to establish a deep-rooted culture within organizations, a “Why” Workshop for content marketing addresses three major questions when it comes to content marketing/ social media:
- What is it?
- How is it done in a way that gets results?
- Why are we really doing this (from an individual and company perspective)?
I’m going to be writing more and more about how Chief Marketing Officers can do these in-house workshops themselves, but I can tell you that if done properly the results are profound and lasting, and about a thousand times more effective than a CMO or management member sending out an email to all employees saying: “Blogging and social media will help our company, which is why we are asking everyone to write blog articles going forward.”
If you’re looking to doom your company’s content marketing before it ever even gets going, just send out one of these letters and wait for the flurry of articles to hit your inbox the next day.
Oh, and one other thing about the “Why” Workshop: When management tells everyone to stop what they’re doing and then takes the time to bring as many employees together as possible in a setting to learn the what, how, and why of content marketing, employees sense that what is getting ready to occur is more than “just another program.”
3. Everyone participates in the content brainstorm
I love this activity, and it’s one that I’ve seen work incredibly well many, many times. Without going into too much detail, this is what I suggest:
- Divide employees into groups. Depending on the number of participants, groups of between 5 and 10 employees tend to work best.
- Assign one or two members of each group to be scribes/recorders.
- Tell groups their task is to come up with as many consumer/client questions as possible in 10 minutes. Whoever has the most questions written down at the end wins. (Note: When I say “consumer question,” I mean any question a consumer would type into a search engine assuming they had a problem/need and were looking for an answer.)
Although this activity may sound a little silly to those that have never watched it in action, I can assure you it’s amazing. By the end, employees are starting to catch the vision of how consumers think, how easy it is to come up with content ideas, and the power of synergy when all employees are “content producers” of one shape or form.
And to give you a feel for what to expect, most small groups will typically render a minimum of 20 questions for every 5 minutes of brainstorming. Going forward, these questions will now be the titles of all your future blog posts.
4. Individuals brainstorm
After the initial “Why” Workshop, when content ideas are fresh on everyone’s mind, I suggest that each employee in the group is given the task of coming up with 20 additional consumer/client questions on their own. This can be done during the workshop itself or as an assignment for that day, but to give you an idea of how effective it is, my client from earlier this week had about a dozen or so employees do further brainstorming the day of our workshop and they were able to come up with about 300 unique questions — well over a year’s worth of blog posts and easily enough content to skyrocket their brand and business once it’s written and posted.
5. CCO selection, management editor assigned; no bottlenecks allowed
This is one step that can’t be missed. Depending on the size of your organization, someone is going to need to fill the role as CCO, or Chief Content Officer. The scope of this position (and name, for that matter) is incredibly flexible based on need, but the key point to remember is that someone needs to be in place to plan, assign, edit, and upload all content to the company blog. If these duties are too far spread out, then failure is almost always inevitable. Ultimately, one person must be responsible.
Along these same lines, there is usually one person within management that does a review of every article before it is posted onto the blog. Again, this might be the CCO or it may be someone else, but the essential element here is that the person is not a bottleneck and is able to read and approve/edit the articles very quickly.
6. Editorial calendar written; names and dates assigned
Once the consumer questions/content ideas are listed, the next step is to assign a name and date to each one of the articles. Be careful not to get too caught up in this step (over-analyzing who would be the best writer for what), which I’ve seen happen a few times. Generally speaking, if an employee came up with an article idea, there is a good chance that person is the perfect candidate to write the content for said post.
7. Better analytics
As I’ve talked about in this article, tracking the return on investment (ROI) of our content marketing and blogging efforts is of huge importance. Furthermore, Google Analytics is not enough, as it doesn’t track names of people (folks who have filled out lead forms on your site), how they arrived on the site, what pages they went to, etc. And if you’re truly going to be great with any type of blog, better analytics are a part of the deal, whether people want to accept this or not. It is for this reason that I require all my clients to use HubSpot, as it’s the best overall software I’ve personally seen on the market for inbound and content marketing.
8. The initial content burst
After you have brainstormed all your consumer questions and assigned your dates and authors, it’s a great idea, when possible, to launch a strong foundation of content at the beginning of your blog. In some cases, because of the lack of manpower, you may only be able to post one single article at first, which is fine. But if you have multiple contributors, I’d recommend 5 to 15 initial posts out of the gate. Notwithstanding, do not delay the launch of your company’s blog just to stockpile large amounts of content for the launch. Get it out there!
9. Email and assignment selling implementation
I’m not going to dive into Assignment Selling here because I’ve done it in other articles, but it’s critical that as soon as a blog launches, the employees — especially those in sales — start integrating the blog content (be it articles or videos) into the sales process. This is also why I feel every email a sales person sends out to a prospect or client should include at least some content within it so as to help that individual move along in the sales process.
10. Bi-monthly newsletter
If a company is going to form a great blogging/content marketing culture, there needs to be something that keeps everyone aware and informed of the happenings, victories, etc. When done right, a company’s content marketing newsletter should include:
- Articles written, and authors of each
- Articles that ranked for keywords
- Positive comments from readers about content
- Leads generated from content
- Sales generated from content
- Success stories of sales department using the blog articles/content to get better results
11. Management praise
Did you notice what this 11-point plan started and stopped with? Yep, that’s right, management. As you already likely know, their importance in all of this working cannot be overstated. And when employees are putting their thoughts out there and helping with the company blog, a few words of direct praise from management can go a long way toward making the blog and content marketing campaign a huge success.
Although I could have included a few more steps in this process, I figured 1,500 words was enough. That being said, I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything I may have missed or anything you don’t agree with in the list above. Also, has your company attempted any of the above and what were the results?
As always, your thoughts are valued and appreciated.
Want to hear more great advice from Marcus Sheridan? See his presentation at Content Marketing World 2012 on demand.