By Nate Riggs published August 24, 2010

3 Critical Questions to Answer Before Building a Corporate Content Marketing Practice

Content marketing is hot! Companies everywhere are exploring how they can adopt content marketing strategies into their marketing mix. And that makes sense. What better way to reach the massive amounts of potential customers who spend time online?

For middle managers leading the charge towards content marketing, harsh reality doesn’t take long to set in. Corporate roadblocks are everywhere, and these barriers to adoption will need to be addressed before content marketing can ever become a sustained business solution.

From our experience at Social Business Strategies in working with mid-sized and large companies, we’ve learned that it’s important to consider some of the tough questions before making the final pitch for content marketing adoption.

With that, here are three things you will need to know before you start building your business case for content marketing.

Does my company have top-down buy in?

Leaders set organizational culture. They also have the ability to move new initiatives forward by assigning budget dollars and internal resources. On the opposite side, leaders can also kill new initiatives before they are even born.

It’s important to learn where your company leaders stand in their understanding of content marketing and their overall attitude towards the practice. You may need to do a little spy work, but here are some questions you can use to gauge the potential for buy in.

  • Are my executive leaders social media users? Do they have profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or other online properties? If so, how actively are they used?
  • Do my executive leaders read blogs? Do they ever comment or even search for information on Twitter?
  • Have my executive leaders ever attended a technology or content marketing-related conference?

What is the percentage of personal adoption of social media and online tools inside my organization?

To make the pitch towards content marketing, it’s important that an organization has a culture of adoption. You can also use high levels of adoption to help build your business case.

To start, gauge where your organization stands today, which can be accomplished by using basic online survey tools. From there, conduct focus groups with various departments, and one-on-one interviews can help you get an accurate perspective on who has already adopted the technology used in content marketing and how they are using it today.

You can download this basic social media user survey for suggestions on some of the questions you might ask.  Please feel free to add more if it’s appropriate for your company and situation.

Here are some metrics to consider:

  • What is the total percentage of employees who use social media and other online tools for personal use, benchmarked against those who don’t?
  • Out of those who do use social media, what are the most prominent networks and communities where they participate? Why?
  • Are there already online influencers inside my company? Can we empower them to do more?

That last bullet is really important. Examples of inside influencers who have helped drive corporate content marketing are folks like Frank Eliason (formally of Comcast), Paula Berg (formally of Southwest Air) or even Petco’s Dr. Larry (still there). These corporate folks built a presence on social media before they had a corporate blessing. Chances are, if your company is big enough, you probably have someone inside who’s already creating content online.

Have we picked off the low hanging fruit?

A lot of organizations gravitate towards content marketing because of competitive pressure. While “keeping up with the Joneses” is a good reason to get things started, make sure that company’s low-hanging fruit is picked first. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do we have a clear brand voice and message strategy? Is it working the way we want it to?
  • Is our company website working the way we want it to? Have we optimized it with the correct keyword strategy? Are we getting enough traffic? Is that traffic resulting in sales?
  • Does my company have a CRM? Do we have a solid process in place that is allowing it to be used to its full potential? Is it a Social CRM?

If you want to be successful in making a case for content marketing that will result in a successful implementation, start with the steps above. From the answers you receive, you will know enough about what needs to change in your organization in order to make it a business practice.

What else would you add? From your experience, what other questions are important to ask when building a corporate content marketing practice?

Author: Nate Riggs

Nate Riggs is the Founder and CEO of NR Media Group, a Columbus, Ohio-based marketing agency that works to change the way businesses use digital media to connect with customers, earn their trust and win their business for life. Nate will be releasing the Video Engineering Playbook early in 2015, and you can download sample chapters for free.

Other posts by Nate Riggs

  • joshpursuit

    Good post, Nate! There are a bunch of questions to ask, but you picked the first and most important ones. Too many companies are treating social media as the trend du jour, meaning senior management is OK as long as they don't have to put resources in, and practitioners don't have to…you know…actually do it. The last question is for those excited about creating a presence for their employer in social media. In short, do what gets results early, then boil the ocean.

  • nateriggs

    Great points Josh. Part of really getting into content marketing I think lies in trial and error. If you look at all the really successful companies early on – Dell, Southwest, Zappos, BlendTech, etc. – they were all willing take a risk and dive in. Then, they adjusted their content strategies as they gained more and more experience. It takes the right answers to all of these questions to make that scenario work well. In reality, success in content marketing and social media is VERY much related to the elements of a company's culture…that's what I believe anyway. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  • Randy Murray

    I think that’s a very important point: Exactly who is going to write all of this content?

    There is a lot of warm and fuzzy thinking in the social media world that every corporate executive and thought leader is going to be able to write and communicate. That is clearly not the case.

    Any content marketing strategy needs to address content creation, including partners for these execs and leaders to help them. Many or most simply won’t or can’t do it on their own.

  • Jan Bush

    Great insight. Thank you