By Allen Graves published October 16, 2014

Content Marketing Strategy 101: Make it a Game

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For your content marketing projects to get off the ground, you need to assemble the right team members, teach them the right way to do it, and get them motivated for action. It can be daunting to get buy-in from executive staff and team members who may not be well versed in content marketing. Don’t call everyone into a conference room and force a PowerPoint presentation on content marketing strategy down their throats.

Instead, gamify it.

Introduce them to the concepts and fundamentals, and get them to not only understand them but to be interested and genuinely excited about using them.

My colleague, and 20-year internet marketing veteran, Frank Pipolo and I needed to educate more than a dozen of our marketers and SEO professionals. We realized that the group was composed of highly competitive people (inherent to the marketing world) so we took that knowledge and created a game plan for content marketing. Here’s how we played it, but the process can be scaled from a small team of two to a team of dozens or even hundreds.

Pre-game training

This spirited competition was based on the concepts in Joe Pulizzi’s Epic Content Marketing, which was given to each participant. We created four teams, each composed of four to five people who did not normally work together. We felt this would increase creativity and build more cohesion among departmental subdivisions.

We shared with all that the winning team would receive a prize and a little fanfare (lunch at a nice restaurant and executive management recognition). All plans also would be presented to brand teams and clients for implementation.

As soon as we assigned everybody a team, the smack talk began. Creating a competitive environment was like magic – the interest and enthusiasm were immediate, and the friendly rivalries became instantly palpable.

Team members were asked to read one section a week of Epic Content Marketing. For five weeks we met every Friday and discussed in detail that week’s section. We answered any questions and clarified any issues that related to our specific business situations.

Let the official game begin

Teams were given final instructions and sent to have their own meetings to create their epic content marketing strategies.

Assignment

  • Choose a single product and develop a comprehensive content marketing plan for that product. (Teams could choose from one of four products in our brand.)
  • Choose a team leader and schedule an initial meeting.
  • Follow the 10 steps – include deliverables with each – and explain all steps in a PowerPoint presentation.
  • Cohesion and communication are required. Do not let each person in the group be individually responsible for two steps – work collaboratively on each step. All team members must participate equally.

Evaluation: Scoring will be based on creativity and detail, understanding and use of the concepts, potential to meet established goals, and potential for eventual leads/sales.

Step 1: Decide on a single product to market. Choose one that is understood significantly by at least one person on your team.

Step 2: Research and document general audiences, buyer personas, pain points, motivators, etc. Note: No piece of content should ever be developed without a strong understanding of the target audience/persona.

Step 3: Define goals of the content – leads, sales, exposure, list building, etc. Note: When done, audience and goal will be added as categories to our standard content request forms.

Step 4: Detail the buying process (how/when does the target buy) and engagement cycles (top, middle, or bottom of funnel).

Step 5: Define the content niche – what kind of content is the audience looking for and where can it be found? Note: Your content should fit into a niche and it may even carve out a new one over time.

Step 6: Develop a content mission statement. Note: Any content developed in this plan must adhere to the mission statement.

Step 7: This is the most extensive component. Create a comprehensive content marketing plan based on channel, persona, pain points, goal, content type, structure, tone, channel integration, and desired interaction.

Step 8: Build a content calendar to include at least 12 pieces of content. For each one, identify topic, type, persona, pain point, goal, call to action, next/previous steps, and anything else you deem appropriate.

Step 9: Develop a strategy to market each piece of content. Options could include social media, link building, video, offline, etc.

Step 10: Define key performance indicators and how goals will be measured.

The finish line

With your team-created content marketing strategy in hand, give a PowerPoint presentation to the brand’s content team managers/evaluators. The presentation should document the answers for all 10 steps. You can include an Excel spreadsheet for the calendar step. Following all presentations, a winner will be selected.

Post-game notes

The teams had two weeks to come up with a comprehensive content marketing plan with the requisite that it had to absolutely knock our socks off. We really pushed them to collaborate with each other, smack talk the other groups a little, and make it a friendly but serious competition.

From the moment they began, every single team member was completely absorbed in creating his or her team’s plan and making it better than what the other teams might create. As game creators, we simply answered any questions while the groups worked their magic. To our surprise and delight, we actually got the entire department excited and enthusiastic about learning and implementing a formal and tangible content marketing plan – on top of all the work they already had on their plates.

We ended up with four very different plans with various strategies, but all following the same fundamental rules that were laid out in the instructions based on the book. We were blown away by the amount of thought and creativity that everyone put into the game. The presentations were extremely well thought out and comprehensive. We ended up with highly professional content marketing plans that were ultimately approved by our clients and are in effect at this time.

The real winner

The real winner of this competition wasn’t the team who got the free lunch. The winner was our company, which now has content marketing advocates and well-educated players throughout the marketing department – people who know the proper way to implement and manage a content marketing campaign in today’s marketplace.

Follow our simple, step-by-step plan to integrate unique, impactful, and strategic content marketing into your organization. Download Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program.

Cover image by Vait Mcright via Pixabay.com

Author: Allen Graves

Allen Graves is the Sr. Managing SEO Content Editor and Lead SEO Content Strategist for Bisk Education, Inc. He develops and manages content marketing strategies supporting major U.S. colleges and universities such as Notre Dame, Villanova, Michigan State University, Florida Tech, University of Florida, Scranton and many more. He is also involved in the content strategy and development for U.S. News University Directory. Allen, author of The Article Marketing Handbook (2007), has been on the cutting edge of Internet content marketing and SEO since 2000 and is currently leading a content production team of seven editors and 26 freelance and in-house writers for Bisk Education. Follow Allen on Twitter at @AllenGraves or on LinkedIn.

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  • Mike Myers

    This is a great idea (that we are totally stealing). Thanks for sharing!

  • Frank Kerner

    Thanks for posting this. It’s a really creative way of getting the team together and producing something much better than one individual can. One thing I love about it is the way it’s gamified. That really helps invoke passion in the work place and it will show through their work.

  • Erin

    Excellent advice. When people can put aside their differences and truly collaborate as a team, the sum of the parts is so much greater than the parts themselves. Hope all companies engage this strategy!

  • Anna Stevens

    Sooo helpful, thank you!

  • rogercparker

    Thanks for sharing a great, actionable story, Allen. Hope you share more internal training stories like this.

    Coincidentally, I just finished reading Paul Roetzer’s new “The Marketing Performance Blueprint,” which has a full chapter devoted to “Construct(ing)) an Internal Marketing Academy.

    Your idea to use Joe’s “Epic Content Marketing” as a common denominator/teaching tool also makes perfect sense.
    Roger

  • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

    Hi Allen…I think it’s every author’s dream to have their book leveraged in such a way. All I can say is a sincere THANK YOU.

    • Allen Graves

      Hi Joe,
      It was really a no-brainer. It lended itself to this project so perfectly that we knew from the start we’d be using your book as our manifesto!
      Thanks,
      Allen

  • http://www.fpinternetmarketing.com Frank Pipolo

    It was a real great project. The team had a great time and learned a ton. We implemented all of the strategies and have seen awesome results. I actually used some of this as the basis of my presentation at Conductor’s C3 conference that was held last week. You can take a look at that presentation @ http://www.slideshare.net/frankpipolo/building-a-content-marketing

  • Keesia Wirt

    What a great idea! We are about to train our agency on content marketing so I totally want to do this!

    • Allen Graves

      If you would, please come back and let us know how it goes. Thanks Keesia!