Even though CMI’s mission is to advance the practice of content marketing, we find that a lot of people still need help with the basics. Even more specifically, people need help connecting the dots with all of the information available (and, according to Google Trends, searches for content marketing have been skyrocketing).
In 2014, we published a series of posts to help marketers get back to the basics of content marketing or to improve what they are doing. In case you missed some or all of the series, here is a quick primer.
1. Define your goals.
Before you do anything – including thinking about what content you want to produce – figure out why you are doing this. What needle in the business do you want to move with your content marketing? Here are some possible goals and associated metrics:
TIP: Remember to constantly ask, “How will this project support our business goals?” If you find that the content you planned will not support those goals, chances are that it should not be a priority.
2. Create your mission statement.
Your mission statement should speak to three components of any successful marketing endeavor:
- Audience – the type of person you can help most with your content
- Product – the types of information you will provide through your content
- Outcome – the things your audience will be able to do once it has consumed your content
TIP: Your audience should never be “everyone” even if you can find a use case for everyone. Be as specific as possible.
3. Document your strategy.
If you spend any time with CMI, you likely know that the one thing that separates an effective content marketer from a less effective peer is the presence of a documented content marketing strategy.
4. Decide on the primary topics to cover.
While many people want to start talking about the type of content they want to create, it’s a better to follow steps one through three to get your plan in place. But, as you put your plan in place, consider the primary topics you want to cover with your content marketing.
Here are a few ideas to help you determine what topics are a better fit for your audience:
- Profile your database by providing a simple survey.
- Delve into Google Analytics to better understand which posts and pages are resonating most strongly with your audience.
- Consider other data you have that provides insight into what topics interest your audience. For instance, at CMI, we look at data related to webinar attendees, attendance at each session of Content Marketing World, the number of participants and tweets from our weekly #CMWorld Twitter chats, downloads, and views from our SlideShare presentations.
- Talk to people. While we don’t typically make changes based on one person’s comments alone, it’s interesting to see what trends emerge as all the user comments are compiled.
TIP: Categorize all of your content based on your identified topics. Not only can you better measure which topics are working, but this will also help when you want to curate and repackage your content.
5. Decide on your content formats.
When deciding what kind of content to create, one thing to consider is consistency. There are certain types of content for which readers expect a regular cadence, and there are other types that can be more ad hoc.
TIP: While you always want to publish what we at CMI call epic content, don’t be so paralyzed by perfection that you don’t publish anything at all. Look for the middle ground: What can you do to make incremental improvements to your program?
6. Build your channel plan for social media.
Of course, creating content is only the first step. You also need to have a plan to market your content marketing. Social media usually is a core way, but you need a plan that supports a custom approach to each channel (i.e., you never want to “spray and pray”). It helps to have a social media content plan that answers these five questions:
- What is the goal for this channel?
- What is the desired action?
- What is the specific type of content the audience wants to get in this channel?
- What is the right tone for this channel?
- What is the ideal velocity?
TIP:Let your goals dictate the decisions you make in regard to social media content. For example, if the goal of your content marketing plan is to increase email subscribers, would it really make sense to broadcast all your blog posts on Facebook and Twitter? What reason would readers have to subscribe to your email program if they can get the same information on the social channels they visit regularly? Think about how you can tweak and repurpose the content you share on your social networks, both as it applies to your goals for the channel and to your overarching business objectives.
7. Consider SEO.
I’m a firm believer that your content should be created for people, not search engines. But, considering the amount of traffic potential from search, it’s important to understand the basics.
TIP: Read our new 15-step ultimate SEO checklist.
8. Hire a managing editor / content marketing lead.
While you need many people for a successful content marketing team (Joe Pulizzi discusses the 10 key roles), if you can only hire one person, you need a managing editor. Here is a quick list of what this person should understand:
- Content ideation and prioritization
- Content taxonomy
- Ability to find and manage writers
- Content workflow and scheduling
- Basic understanding of SEO and social optimization
- Content repurposing
- Ability to measure and communicate content effectiveness
TIP: In addition to considering tasks, it’s important that your content marketing lead has a number of soft skills such as a love of learning, willingness to innovate/experiment/fail, comfort in working with technology, and the ability to communicate well with others.
9. Have a plan to communicate key KPIs.
KPIs are the high-level metrics you and your management team have selected as the most critical to evaluate your content marketing program’s performance – such as the number of email subscribers earned, completed registration forms, sales increases, etc. To get continual support for your efforts, you need to communicate your progress. Here is a simple spreadsheet you can customize for your particular situation:
TIP: Measurement can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. Don’t measure simply for the sake of having some numbers to present to your upper management. If you aren’t certain what you should be measuring, ask yourself these two questions:
- Do these metrics support my key goals?
- Can I take action on these metrics (i.e., will they provide me insight into how I can improve my program)?
10. Understand what content is and isn’t working.
While understanding and presenting high-level KPIs is important for the entire team and management, it only offers so much insight. They tell you how you are doing, but they rarely provide the insights into what is working and what you need to adjust. You need to dig deeper and look at the performance of each piece of content so you can make continual improvements.
Here is a template you can use as a starting place:
We suggest a five-step approach to understanding and tracking the effectiveness of all of your content:
1. Audit all of the content by platform.
2. Decide which other information you want to collect, such as key audience, format, topics, place in the buying cycle, etc.
3. Figure out which KPIs relate to each piece of content. For instance, do you need to track number of email subscribers per piece of content?
4. Calculate a baseline for each metric so you can understand what is performing above or below average.
5. Update your tracking document on a regular basis.
TIP: Remember that what you track and how you collect the data can evolve. But, it’s critical to get a system in place and get into the practice of measuring everything you are doing.
Read the entire Back to Basics series for more information on each of these steps as well as an example of how CMI has tackled each of these areas.
Learn more about the five core elements necessary for running successful, scalable, and highly strategic content marketing operations within an organization. Read our 2016 Content Marketing Framework: 5 Building Blocks for Profitable, Scalable Operations.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute