Abraham Lincoln famously said that if you gave him 6 hours to chop down a tree, he would spend the first 4 sharpening his axe. The point is that when you improve your process, you get better results.
Too many companies today are in a rush to ‘try something new’ when they aren’t getting the results they want from their content marketing efforts. I always advise companies to first look at their current processes and see if they can improve what they are already doing. Often, I find that companies complaining about not getting the results they need from their content marketing efforts also don’t have clearly defined strategies and proven tactics guiding those efforts.
To get the best results from your content marketing, you need an efficient system in place to produce your content. Think of your content marketing as a water hose, with the goal being to have as much water as possible flowing through that hose. If you have a 50-foot hose attached to a faucet and that hose is a tangled mess, what happens when you turn the faucet on? Not much, right? Maybe a small amount of water would drip out. But as you start working out the kinks in the hose, more and more water comes out, and when you completely straighten the hose, water will be gushing out of the end of the hose.
If your content marketing isn’t getting the results you want, you probably have a lot of ‘kinks’ in your hose that you could remove and get more water flowing. There’s probably a lot of things you could be doing to improve your existing content marketing efforts that would net you better results. Let’s be honest, today more than ever, it’s better to improve your current efforts, than spending money on something new that may not work. I’d rather see you spend less to get the same or better results.
Let’s start with three areas you can work on to improve your content marketing efforts.
Define Your Who, What, and Why.
Let’s follow Simon Sinek’s advice and Start With Why. The ‘why’ as it pertains to your content marketing, is your strategy. Why are you using content marketing, what are you trying to accomplish, and who are you trying to connect with. The ‘why’ comes first because it encompasses and guides all elements of your content marketing efforts.
The role of strategy development for your content marketing will fall to your Chief Content Officer in a more developed company with a larger content marketing team. For smaller companies with smaller teams, the strategy development function would fall to the most senior role on your content team, or perhaps to the most senior position on your marketing team. In terms of hierarchy within the organization, the Chief Content Officer will usually either report to the Chief Marketing Officer, or possibly report directly to the CEO.
Regardless of who has the responsibility, it is vital that your company’s content marketing efforts are guided by a solid strategy. This only ensures that your content marketing efforts will be more effective and efficient. That means less time on content creation and execution, along with better results. The head of your content marketing team will work with the head of your marketing team to ensure that your company’s content efforts are in sync with the company’s larger marketing strategy.
It all goes back to planning. The more planning you do, the better results you will achieve. So when fleshing out your content marketing strategy, ask and answer these three questions:
- What are we doing? (Why are we using content marketing?)
- Why are we doing it? (What do we hope to achieve?)
- Who are we doing it for? (Who is the audience we need to reach via our content?)
Now let’s look at ‘What’
In terms of your content marketing efforts, the ‘what’ refers to the tactics you will use to execute your content marketing strategy (the ‘why’). Many marketers get strategy and tactics confused. Tactics are used to execute the strategy. The strategy is what you want to accomplish, the tactics are how you will accomplish it.
The Director of Content Strategy will be responsible for helping to develop the tactics to support the larger content marketing strategy, and they will work with the Chief Content Officer toward this end. The Director of Content Strategy will also work with the content marketing team to execute the strategy through those tactics. For smaller companies with less developed content teams, this responsibility can fall to the Content Marketing Manager. In general, the Chief Content Officer designs the strategy, the Director of Content Strategy then determines the tactics that will be used to execute that strategy.
What does tactics include in this context? Anything that is used to deliver content marketing to the end audience. It could be certain digital tools, like blogs or podcasts. It also be certain social sites such as Twitter or Facebook. It could even be formats, such as white papers, or pamphlets to be included in print newspapers.
Think of tactics as being the battle plan to execute the strategy. Let’s say you are a war general and you are tasked with defeating an enemy city. You decide that the best way to do this is to cut off supplies to that city. That is your strategy. To execute this strategy, you decide to position your navy in the harbor to block supplies from coming into the port. The naval blockcade of the port is the tactic you are using to execute the strategy of cutting off supplies to the enemy city.
So the Director of Content Strategy works with the Chief Content Officer to develop the tactics to execute the content marketing strategy, and they then work with the content marketing team to help facilitate content creation via those tactics. Based on the size and cope of your content marketing team, the Director of Content Strategy may or may not be tasked with actual content creation.
Finally, let’s look at ‘who’.
So ‘why’ is the strategy for your content marketing efforts, and ‘what’ are the tactics you will use to execute that strategy. ‘Who’, is the audience for your content marketing, the person you are trying to reach. The determination of who the audience is will come from your content marketing strategy, and tactics will be chosen based on who you want to connect with and what actions you want them to take as a result of interacting with your content. The ‘who’ is listed last simply because the members of your team tasked with content creation will have the most direct contact and engagement with your intended audience. Thusly, positions such as Content Marketing Manager or Content Strategist for smaller teams, will fill this role. In general, these roles will focus on content creation, but will also assist the Director of Content Strategy and Chief Content Officer in the development of content tactics and strategy.
So the workflow could look like this; The Chief Content Officer develops the strategy, the Director of Content Strategy develops the tactics, then the Content Marketing Manager creates content for those tactics, to reach the desired audience. This is the level where your content creators will live, so obviously, having multiple content creators with experience creating content via multiple mediums (audio, video, written, print, etc), is a big plus.
Now, when we are talking about ‘who’, the importance of creating quality personas to accurately define your ‘who’ cannot be overstated. Your content persona is your best ‘guess’ or summary of who the person you are creating content for really is. It can and should be as detailed as possible. The persona can include characteristics like:
- Martial status
- Where they live
- Number of children
- Pain points or problems they are facing (this can be focused on either home life or workplace, as relevant)
- Type of content they enjoy and prefer
The best personas give the content creator an accurate view of who will be interacting with the content the manager or strategist creates. It tells the content creator ‘this is who you are writing for’. Personas that are an accurate representation of the desired audience can be a huge asset for the content creator.
A Well-Defined Content Strategy Pays For Itself
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 57% of B2B companies have no content marketing strategy. That’s a staggering stat. If you have no strategy guiding your content marketing efforts, then you will get worse results.
To improve your content marketing results, define your why (strategy), your what (tactics to execute that strategy), and who (people you want to reach via your content).
Need help designing a content strategy for your company or improving your current one? Email me, I can help with that.