Sometimes it seems impossible to stay ahead in the content marketing game. The blog post that spiked traffic on its first day is barely getting a dozen views today. The niche you were targeting just a few months ago seems to have evaporated. The catchy titles and buzzwords that used to get you tons of organic traffic no longer work. Andrew Chen’s law of clickthroughs states that every growth hack eventually stops working. The fast-changing nature of the industry means that conventional practices surrounding hiring, rigid systems, and production aren’t going to work. Instead, you need an agile, malleable team made up of members who will try new things, iterate their strategies and adjust quickly. Here are six actionable ways to set your content marketing team up for success.
1. Start lean
It’s tempting to get a bunch of people together and fire on all fronts when it comes to marketing. You figure if you get a ton of great content people and cover all your bases–social media, your company blog, newsletters, infographics–you’re bound to succeed. But hiring a bunch of people, who are all working on different things will spread your managers thin. It also prevents your team from having a cohesive marketing strategy. You should avoid staffing up too early and only hire when the workload becomes too much for your current team to handle.
2. Work backwards from your customers
You should work backwards from the customer to nail down your content marketing strategy. Send out surveys to your existing customers to learn the topics they’re most interested in learning about. Once you find your market niche, focus 100% on quality. Make sure that your writing is insightful, actionable, and not like other stuff out there. Producing great content starts with defining and understanding your target audience. As soon as you start publishing content that appeals to their interests we guarantee you’ll begin to notice a significant increase in blog traffic.
3. Nail down a repeatable writing process
Content marketing costs your business less than half the price of other types of marketing, yet gets you 200% more leads. The value of great content is unquestionable, yet most marketing teams take a very haphazard approach to writing it. They’ll snag an interesting topic they find somewhere, write up a post in a few hours and post it on a whim. Some weeks will have 3 posts, and some will have 0, and that inconsistency doesn’t build trust or anticipation. Content marketing is too important to treat so lightly. Your marketing team needs to create a systematic way to consistently churn out great pieces. That might mean:
Creating a writing schedule. Great writing usually involves some sort of feedback process, but waiting on edits can slow content makers down. Create a schedule to make sure pieces aren’t getting stuck in an endless feedback loop.
[Buffer’s Kevan Lee came up with this schedule to enable content marketers to work on several pieces at once, without being held up]
Outsourcing some of the work.
If you don’t have the manpower to get enough articles out, get some freelancers to contribute. If you have a quality issue here, commit one of your marketers to touch up freelancers’ work–it’s still more efficient than writing from scratch.
Try to get the biggest bang for your buck out of each piece of content. If your team puts out ebooks or writes long-form posts, borrow some of the research and insights for shorter, more focused pieces.
4. Focus on educating your audience
Many content marketing teams focus on writing content that’s only relevant to their product. They see it as an opportunity to sneak in feature suggestions or product pitches. As you can see, this results in a huge amount of untapped opportunity, and a bunch of pieces that no one cares to read. Bad content marketing teams don’t think about the value of the actual advice, only the hard sell. Instead of constantly thinking about how they can position their product, marketing teams should be focused on creating content that their customers and prospects would be interested in. For example, say you have an email platform. The temptation will be to write about all things email. But the people reading your content (perhaps other B2B marketers) are also interested in getting better at using social media or business development software. There’s only so much you can write about your own product. If your goal is to get your blog in front of the maximum amount of eyeballs you should focus on providing actionable advice to your target audience.
5. Prepare to scale with collaboration tools
“I think the most obvious thing when moving from a 10-person company to a 100-person company is that marketers need to know how to work better in a team, rather than working individually.” -Hiten Shah
One of the biggest challenges of growing your team from just one or two marketers to a team of 10 or 15 is communication. Sharing a Word document with one person is easy, but collaborating on blog posts, landing copy, or even internal strategy becomes difficult when you have 15 voices that want to weigh in. If you don’t properly share information across your team, then you’re just individuals sharing an office. This means that great ideas never see the light of day, and your processes and work quality never improves. Here are some tools that can open up channels for communication:
Quip. This tool is a that was built specifically for collaborative teams. You can have an unlimited number of people edit and leave comments in the word processor.
I Done This. This super simple checklist tool is built for team members who have to work. It lets individual members record to-dos, blockers, and “dones” asynchronously.
Teamwork Projects. Teamwork is a project management tool that allows content teams communicate, plan posts, delegate tasks, manage time and track progress in.
6. Don’t over-rely on data
As CEO of Vox Jim Bankoff puts it, “[People] should be data-informed as opposed to data-driven.” He argues that you have to balance data with your own subject expertise, otherwise your company’s on auto-pilot. You’re looking at arbitrary numbers and making one-off decisions. Instead,you should use specific, actionable metrics to inform–not decide–your content strategy. Metrics like CTRs, bounce rates, and pageviews aren’t telling you what people think of the quality of your content, nor are they indicators that you’re reaching the right readership. Instead, you should pay attention to:
Time on page. If your users are reading through your articles, then they’re useful. It means that the distribution channels you used are connecting the right, interested parties with your blog. But if they’re leaving after 40 seconds, then your content is under-delivering on value, or being distributed to the wrong audiences.
Conversions. At the end of the day, this is what it’s all for. Look at what type of content gets your product in front of the right audiences.
If your blog is brand new, then you won’t have much of a data sample to understand what works and what doesn’t. In that case, you want to rely less on quantitative data, and more on qualitative data. Try using a tool like Qualaroo to get quick feedback from your site visitors, right before they exit.
If your content marketing goal is to sell, then it will show. Instead, your content marketing goal should be to help. It’s the difference between, “here’s what our tool can do,” and “here’s how you can solve your problem.” This distinction is small, but it makes a huge impact with your readers. This customer-centered, jobs-to-be-done perspective will get the most eyes on your blog, and once you gain momentum and your blog grows, the leads will follow.