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June 13, 2017
You Can Build a Content Marketing Machine in Just 5 Steps
It was a great question. It’s content that conveys the unique value that a company offers its buyers. It’s through the creation and distribution of content that we share with our buyers our relevance to them, and our potential impact on their businesses. Therefore, every marketing organization is faced with building and operating a content marketing machine. And that’s something that we at RES do effectively.
Here, I'll take a little more time and dive more deeply into what we've done to build and operate an efficient, high volume content machine. It may be easier than you think.
It’s a team endeavor.
Yes, it takes writing talent. But don’t picture your content being created by a single cubicle-dweller, tapping at a keyboard beneath flickering fluorescent lights. The more people you engage in content creation, the more content you can produce. Every person on your product marketing team, for example, should regularly develop ideas and write about them; likewise, for your company’s business leaders. Are there subject matter experts in your sales, solution architect and professional services teams? Consider them content creators.
To put them all to work, they’ll need encouragement. Pay them if you must. Offer a quarterly bonus, a gift card, or what have you for successfully turning over to you some form of content. Consider giving your designated team of content creators a quota per quarter of finished (but rough) content. They may not meet it, but they’ll likely make the effort; and even a partially fulfilled goal will help. The cumulative efforts of a team of content creators will certainly produce volume over time. Also remember that, not so very deep down inside, we all like the way our names look in print. So be prepared to give credit where it’s due when the time comes to publish.
Make it easy for them.
Let’s say you’ve identified a substantial and motley team of content creators, but none of them are actually skilled writers. But at this stage it’s raw content you want, right? We'll deal in a moment with transforming their rough copy into usable nuggets, but let's get the rough stuff first. And it’s best to do so by lowering expectations. Ask your content creators to think in terms of blog posts for what they produce. Posts are typically short and informal in style and structure. It’s like asking for bite-sized content that anyone (who can think) can produce at some level. And give them some reassurance. “Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, structure. It’s my job to make sure everything looks and sounds good. All I need from you are ideas spelled out in words, no matter how rough they are.” Make it easy, keep expectations low, and they'll produce.
Spinning gold from straw
Yes – you’ll need a skilled editor who can take this raw content and polish it for publication. And focus on that word "editor" as you search for the necessary talent. While it takes writing skill to be a good editor, your talent will be using his or her skill to edit other people's work: and that is inherently faster, easier and therefore cheaper than writing original content. So keep this in mind as you find your talent. That person may be you or someone on your team. But if you don’t have good editorial talent available, it's relatively easy to find on a consultative basis. Consider paying for completed work rather than by the hour: $x for a blog post, $y for a solution brief or brochure, $z for a white paper, for example. Set an expectation of no more than two rounds of revision plus a final round of proofreading for each piece, and you should be able to agree on a fixed rate that will help you budget for this talent. Avoid hiring through an agency and engage the talent directly, if you can. Doing so is usually cheaper. Editorial talent is in good supply and (sadly for those of us who possess such skill) it’s often not highly paid for reasons noted above.
The final stage: publishing
Your editor will need to be plugged in for the rest of the creative process, which might include layout into a published PDF or on the web. But from this point, your editor is now in oversight and proofreading mode as your graphic designer, web designer, or whomever takes over. This step is no different than what you've normally engaged to create collateral -- except that you may now have higher content expectations to deal with. As you reach this stage, think back to your content creation pool. Can you give your contributors authorship credit? Surely you can for blog posts; and maybe your white papers can be by-lined as well. This typically isn’t done for solution briefs or other collateral, but for every such brief or collateral, consider having a short blog post created that introduces the collateral along with a link to the finished product. That blog post can credit your content creator. That keeps your content team's morale up, which is always good for production.
The magic won’t happen overnight...
... but it will happen as quickly as one business quarter, especially if you’re successful in engaging a team of a half dozen or so content creators. That’s also something you can get started with right away, while you conduct a search for the right editorial talent.
These approaches may seem very easy -- at least I hope they are. Putting them into play here at RES has had an enormous impact on the volume of content we're able to produce. We're keeping our two blogs (strategic and technical) fed, our website and collateral up to date, and a steady stream of white papers and other content assets that feed our campaign machinery.
We're able to produce "LookBooks" brimming with content used as campaign destinations for our solution offerings. Here's an example for our onboarding and offboarding product offering: