While “Content Marketing” has been getting a lot of attention lately, it really isn’t all that new.
Creating quality information that educates and builds trust has always been a key ingredient of a successful small business marketing system.
Without quality content, your marketing is reduced to the self-promotional drivel that everyone ignores.
What is relatively new is that people expect to be able to find the information they need to make a purchasing decision when they want it. If they can’t get the information from you, they will quickly move on to someone else.
Marketers, therefore, must consistently create content that is relevant to customers and package it in the formats they prefer.
Creating quality content when you have multiple products, services, and decision makers involved in the buying process can feel like an overwhelming task. How will you get all of that content created? How do you make sure you don’t create a lot of content that doesn’t produce any sales?
The key is having a systematic process for producing, managing, and measuring the effectiveness of your marketing content.
What exactly is content marketing?
According to the folks at the Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Another way to look at content marketing is through the lens of the Marketing Hourglass concept. The Marketing Hourglass starts with the Duct Tape Marketing System definition of marketing:
Marketing is getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you so they will buy from you, become repeat buyers, and refer you to others.
The Marketing Hourglass concept combines this definition with a systematic process to help prospects and customers move from one stage of the hourglass to the next. Since you can’t force someone to move to the next stage before they are ready, you must provide the information they need to see or hear in order to feel comfortable moving forward. If you don’t, they will look for another service provider who will.
Packaging that useful information into one or more types of media and making it available to your prospects and customers when they want it is what content marketing is all about.
Why You Need a Content Marketing System
Small business owners don’t have the time and resources to be creating content just for the sake of creating content.
We need to be using our resources as efficiently as possible to make sure our content marketing efforts are going to help increase the bottom line.
In order to be effective, we need to be creating content for each of the individuals (personas) involved in the buying process. Our marketing content needs to address the concerns of those individuals in their particular stage of the buying process. Depending on the complexity of your business, keeping track of the needs of each persona in each stage of the marketing hourglass can quickly become overwhelming.
As a small business owner, you need a systematic approach that allows you to plan, delegate, curate, create, collaborate, re-purpose, and measure your marketing content in order to squeeze every bit of value from your content marketing efforts.
Components of a Content Marketing System
There is no “one size fits all” system that will fit every business. However, there are core elements that are found in every successful content marketing program.
Content Marketing Blueprint
Your content marketing blueprint aligns your marketing plan with your broader business goals.
Marketing is all about delivering the right information (Message), to the right people (Market), at the right time and in the format they want to consume it (Media). Therefore, your content marketing blueprint should include buyer personas, your value proposition, and understanding of your ideal customers’ buying process.
Foundational Content Themes
Your foundational content themes are the substantial topics related to your business or industry. They often represent important keyword search terms that your prospective customers use when searching for solutions. You typically will create multiple pieces of content for each of your foundational themes.
Marketing Content Audit
Conducting an audit of your marketing materials is an important step in developing your content marketing system. A content audit will help you document what content you already have and can reuse. It will also help you identify where you have gaps that need to be addressed. For example, you may find that you have plenty of content that helps people find you but are lacking in content that helps convert those people into customers. Or you may find that all of your content is written content and you may be missing out on customers who prefer to learn from video.
A Systematic Planning and Review Process
Creating a marketing content production system is not a “set-it-and-forget-it” activity. Put another way, the value in planning doesn’t come from the document (the “plan”) but from the planning process.
To be successful, small business marketers need a regular, systematic process to review goals, set and prioritize new ones, evaluate what is working, what isn’t, and what to do about it. Establishing a consistent planning rhythm in business is the key to staying on track with your long term business goals while remaining flexible enough to adapt to changes and new opportunities.
The editorial calendar is an essential tool for planning and managing the content creation and publishing process. An editorial calendar can be as simple as a spreadsheet. Editorial calendar specific software can act as the hub that ties all of your content marketing efforts together by helping to manage planning, automate workflow, manage permissions, track goals and produce reports.
Content Creation Workflow
Whether you are a one man show, have an in-house team, and/or outsource your content creation, it is important to have a well defined content creation workflow process in place to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Managing content creators, assigning tasks, monitoring progress, editing, approving, and publishing all of these content items becomes a significant challenge if you don’t have tools and processes in place to manage them.
A word of advice – make sure your workflow tools and procedures match the way you and your employees work. Having someone else’s “system” (like the people you outsource to) forced onto your business rarely works.
Content Analytics and Reporting
As with all of your marketing, your content marketing system should include a feedback loop that helps you determine which pieces of content are working, which are not, and what steps you should take to move closer to achieving your business goals. Collecting and reporting content specific analytics is an important part of the planning and review process mentioned above.