Content for any organization in today’s digital world is an extremely important aspect of your sales and marketing strategies. According to CMI, content marketing generates three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing but costs 62% less. In addition, a survey completed by HubSpot concluded that 56% of marketers who leverage blogging say it’s an effective tactic, and 10% say it generates the greatest ROI (return on investment). (Source: Hubspot blog research) While many organizations have started to leverage content marketing tactics and felt the effects it can have, there are still a large number of companies and groups who simply just don’t believe. In this blog, I’ll explain how developing a culture of content within an organization isn’t as hard as it seems, and why you should look to implement similar strategies.
Why is Content Important?
Before I talk more about implementing these changes, I want to give you a bit more context on why it’s important. Content marketing or the inbound marketing shift of the last 10+ years has conditioned almost everyone into buying in a different way. As I’ve mentioned before in previous blog articles, the way we all buy has drastically changed. We want to read more, and investigate potential options for our problem, or gather more information prior to speaking to sales than ever before. We do this because of the plethora of information the internet has provided to us. Whether that be YouTube tutorials, asking Google a particular question about fixing your car, or even a referral from a colleague about a great marketing agency to work with. The first thing you do in almost any case is refer to the internet to do more research. As our Director of Business Development, you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve heard someone tell me, “Our clients don’t find us on the Internet.” In my mind, I know, they definitely don’t, because they’ve never invested in developing content that can be found.
Producing content isn’t just something a marketing person does to keep them busy. Helpful and relevant content has value to your potential clients, current clients, or even your internal employees for understanding what it is you do, how you do it, and what value it provides. When you start to answer these questions, you’ll be shocked at how many more people will find it and reach out to you with questions about how you can help them.
Preparation and planning are critical in any successful marketing engagement. Before you get started, or ask your team to help, you’ll want to have a solid content marketing plan. This is where our agency suggests developing Buyer Personas. A semi-fictitious representation of your target audience, or ideal customer. This will help you communicate to everyone in your organization about who you are writing for, and what they are typically like, how they like to be communicated to, and so on. This will help steer your writing as a gauge to determine if this content would be valuable to them. If the answer is no, you’ll want to rewrite it or change it so it is.
Once you’ve developed personas, you’ll want to start by thinking of the varieties of content that you’re audience may consume or engage with. The options in today’s digital world are almost endless. I’ll list a few of our favorites to get your wheels turning but remember to think about who your audience is, where they are most likely to find your content, and what stage of the buyer's journey are they in.
When planning out your content, the most optimized approach is to develop what our industry has defined as “Evergreen Content”. This term refers to content that can be used multiple times and in multiple places and remains fresh for readers. Some great examples would be a guide or checklist (See our Website Redesign Checklist) for a particular service you offer, that showcases your subject matter expertise while simultaneously providing your buyer persona with something of value.
Other great ideas for content can include topics about your company's products, services, and their associated benefits. Guides or How-To’s, Hot takes on trending or current topics, information about your personnel and their expertise or awards, and much much more. There are almost endless ways to generate helpful and relevant content for your audience. The most important factor to consider is ensuring that you write for all three stages of the buyer’s journey. You’ll want content for people in the awareness, consideration, and decision stages.
Building a Culture of Content
So you’re just a small marketing department or even one person. How do you get your company to contribute to a content marketing initiative? Here are some suggestions and ways I’ve seen this successfully implemented, or tactics that I suggest to help nudge your team into building a culture of content.
- The Foundation of Inbound Marketing - One of the first steps I’d suggest is to enlighten your team on the fundamentals, and potential benefits of an inbound or content marketing program. This education should include an explanation of the tactics, and what potential benefit the organization can yield from these efforts. I strongly suggest asking your team to review a few basic training programs that are completely free in the HubSpot Academy. (If you’d like suggestions on which ones are the best, I’ll be happy to tell you our favorites) Starting with this, introducing your team to what they will be helping contribute to, will position content marketing as a tactic that can help move the business forward, and position your company as subject matter experts.
- Reviewing the Plan - The next step would be to share your plan with everyone who may be contributing or would need to be included in the inbound process. This includes folks who will be contributing content, sales, and marketing teams, and customer service. The reason for this suggestion is so that everyone is aligned on what content will be created, and that each step of your working process is explained accurately to your target audience. This ensures that what you say in your content, is exactly what will happen if someone works with you.
- Set Expectations - A lot of folks freak out when you ask them to write a blog. I know, because I too was once nervous as hell about it. The truth is, if you coach and position this task correctly, your team members will actually get really comfortable participating. The first suggestion is to explain to everyone that blogs don’t have to be 100% perfect. Our agency aims for 80% quality for a first draft, with the idea that a technical writer can then take that blog, and edit it in order to make it publishable. Remind them that you are more after their knowledge of the process or subject matter and that you’ll edit and improve it. This will help remove their hesitation to get started. Second, set a reasonable cadence with your team. In a small team, everyone has another job that they are likely doing. Talk with your contributors and see what they are willing to commit to. Our team members typically contribute a blog once a month, or sometimes once every two months. Lastly, explain to them your expectations of the blog length. A lot of folks think we are writing white papers, when in fact, our agency suggests keeping a blog post between 1,500-2,000 words at a maximum.
- Brainstorm Together - One of the last things I suggest is meeting regularly with your content development team, and brainstorming topics together. It’s best to start with keyword research relevant to your business or services to identify words to focus on from a competitive standpoint. You can use a tool like SEMRush to gather this information or work with an agency partner who has access to similar tools. Once you have a list of keywords you’d like to target, start to teach your team how to generate ideas that encapsulate all three stages of the buyer’s journey, and focus on using those keywords to guide your topics. Remember to encourage them to use those words early and often, but to also avoid keyword stuffing, or writing robotically. I always suggest to folks that you should write in a similar fashion to explaining what you do to someone in a coffee shop.
Content Marketing ROI
So what is the return on investment for content marketing? Everyone always asks this question, and to be frank, it’s difficult to answer. Each industry and the specific company will have different starting points and competitive landscapes, this affects the time to value, and overall effectiveness. However, if you want to start generating results, everyone has to start at square one. When it comes to starting a content marketing or inbound program with your organization, the best time to start was likely a year ago, however, the next best time is today. Get started with these tips, and start producing content, you’ll be surprised at how over time, you’ll start to take advantage by attracting, engaging, and delighting new leads and customers.
If you would like help learning more about inbound, or how an agency can help bolster your inbound marketing efforts, please don’t hesitate to reach out!