We’re all bought in on content marketing. Right?
Seventy-two percent of marketers have a content marketing strategy in place, according to the LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community. Eighty-eight percent of B2B marketers in North America use content marketing as part of their overall approach, per Content Marketing Institute. Great news.
As much as it appears we’re bought in, we still face significant hurdles. According to Content Marketing Institute, LinkedIn and Forrester:
- Sixty percent of marketers site producing engaging content as a key challenge (CMI)
- Fifty-seven percent struggle to produce content consistently (CMI)
- Fifty-one percent cite lack of time and bandwidth as a major hurdle (CMI)
- Seventy-two percent of B2B marketers say fewer than half of their marketing staff is involved in content marketing efforts (Forrester)
When you put it all together, only 30 percent of marketing professionals feel their organization is effective at content marketing (Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs). Yikes. We’ve been at this for more than a decade, and that’s it? Yes, 10 years ago Seth Godin made it official: “Content Marketing Is the Only Marketing Left.” So, why are we 30 percent effective and struggling? If you look at these statistics, you might come to the conclusion that it’s the tactical, not strategic, efforts which really work. Marketers just don’t resource programs that well. Ironically, we seem pretty committed and successful at the hard stuff (strategy), but we can’t solve the easy stuff (putting enough time and resources into it).
Are we truly bought in?
Content Generation Is Hark Work
Creating content for your program requires rolling up your sleeves and hustling. In B2B, it’s even harder, when you consider complex stories and participation from numerous subject matter gurus. Creating content requires a good deal of diplomacy and influence.
If you’ve got the strategy nailed, but you’re still struggling to generate the quality and quantity of content needed to gain momentum, consider these options to ramp up your efforts. These tips assume you have a strategy that includes program purpose, goals, a defined target audience, and editorial guidelines to make sure efforts support the program’s purpose.
Seven Ways to Feed the Content Engine
Start with what you have. Most organizations are rich in timeless know-how that’s already been produced. Begin by identifying previously published materials which can be used as part of your program. I’ll get to repurposing in a bit.
Create a Content Calendar
A well-run content marketing program will include a lot of new ideas. Recruit representatives from marketing, sales, product management and engineering to brainstorm with you about company developments, customer successes, industry trends, internal experts, third-party influencers and anything else that might support your strategy. Create a topic map that spans six to 12 months, documenting the most likely contributors, specifying the formats you want to develop and identifying distribution channels.
Recruit Expert Contributors
You’re going to need a coalition of the willing. Remember, content marketing efforts struggle because they’re often under-resourced — and chances are your budget isn’t going to get a big boost anytime soon. This is where your diplomatic capabilities come in. The best content marketing programs involve dozens of contributors. The more people involved, the less taxing it is on everybody. Recruit the stars in your business. Show them the topics you’re looking for help with and tell them when you’ll need their assistance. Get leaders involved first so they can set a participation example for the rest of the team. Most importantly, don’t ask them to write the piece from scratch. Just request a brief interview. Use the writing skills in your marketing team or at your agency’s disposal to craft an original piece.
The single-distribution white paper. The one-off blog. A case study emailed only to sales. A conference presentation heard only once. Single-use habits hinder many content marketing programs. Keep your original content alive with ongoing social marketing posts, short videos that summarize content, blog posts that highlight key points of a new paper, and so on. Use your imagination on how to keep your best content relevant and visible for months, even years.
Share Your Customers’ Successes
Pontificating on issues and trends is great, but some amount of content needs to connect the dots. Your point of view needs to be grounded from time to time. Don’t hesitate to pull in a customer success example to offer evidence your story has a tangible end game. Don’t sell. Let the customer do the talking and communicate their success, which can ultimately be attributed to your company, directly or indirectly.
Curate Content From Experts
To be clear, this means share, don’t steal. You’ll find influencers in your industry who have an interesting take or a point of view that underscores your strategy. Share their content across your channels and offer your take. Be sure to give full attribution with links back to their original content. Adding third party perspectives to your program not only boosts your content efforts, it adds a layer of credibility by pulling in outside opinions.
We are entering the era of voice search. According to comScore, 50 percent of all searches will be performed by voice by 2020. This means we need to start thinking in terms of questions: Who, What, Where, When and Why. Ask subject matter experts from engineering, product engineering and sales to keep records of the questions they get asked most frequently. This helps on two fronts. One, these questions serve as inspiration for supplementing that content calendar. Secondly, these questions provide ideas for headlines that search engines are going to like.
Roll up Your Sleeves
Ultimately, generating content to support your content marketing program isn’t rocket science. Success depends mostly on strong organization, task management, influence and effort. Maybe we put too much focus on perfection. Maybe our romance with technology platforms has distracted us from the simple truths about how to go about getting the job done. Whatever it is, let’s hope our 30 percent efficacy gets better soon. If not, maybe Mr. Godin will have to suggest a new marketing type at which we can be more successful.