It’s the time of year when you can’t search for “content marketing” without dozens of 2016 planning or prediction posts cropping up. And that’s just how it should be. As the year draws to a close, marketers are mapping out all the ways in which 2016 will be a better year in their content strategy and effectiveness. But before you finalize your goal setting, your editorial calendar, and your overall strategy, I urge you to take a step back and consider your overall approach to creating content and integrating it into your other marketing efforts. Before selecting tactics, setting goals, and developing strategy, I’m making some new year’s resolutions to rethink my content philosophy. Will you take time to consider yours?
1. I will insist on quality over quantity
After attending several marketing conferences this year, and hearing the same message over and over from people like Robert Rose and Lee Odden, I start to wonder if B2B marketers are just bad listeners. Every day we’re churning out more more more content. Yes, the usual suspects are creating content that is valuable and wonderful, but how many times have you read an article or blog post with a promising headline and content that is the digital equivalent of plastic packing peanuts? Be the change and insist on writing fewer but better pieces of content. Give it a longer lifespan by learning how to repurpose.
2. I will fight for more time to value
Creating a content ecosystem takes time. Expect as long as 12-18 months to build your content empire to a point where you can monetize your audience, says the Godfather of Content Joe Pulizzi. Finding alternate means of growing sales and traction is critical in the early months, so don’t stop with the usual outbound methods just yet. Creating content with immediate monetization in mind will also undermine your efforts. So be patient, focus on creating value for your audience, and growing a following based on your credibility. Before you know it, you’ll be a behemoth and customers will be lining up to do business with you.
3. I will learn how to measure content ROI
Accurately measuring content ROI in terms that matter to the C-suite still eludes marketers. It’s not impossible, but it’s still clunky and cumbersome. Measuring MQLs has its limitations, especially when credibility and value are measured in the dollars you bring into your business. To better illustrate the value of content marketing, I resolve to think beyond the usual measures of success and improve my ability to connect content to revenue.
4. I will create a content culture that goes beyond marketing
Content impacts everything from sales, to branding, to customer success, to product development. It has the potential to touch every area of your business, so why do we continue to view it as exclusively a marketing function? Convincing non-marketers to write content is a delicate and challenging process, but when that fails, there are other ways for everyone to contribute to the creation process. Your sales team communicates with prospects all the time and can give you helpful feedback on what your audience wants to hear, and what would help close more business. Customer questions, concerns, and habits can give you fodder for future content.
5. I will be more strategic and less tactical
Your CEO had a great idea for a blog post. Or maybe there’s some industry news that just begs for commentary. Inspiration for a piece of content can arise unexpectedly, but if you’re always thinking one blog post or white paper at a time, you’ll always scramble to fill your editorial calendar, and your audience will learn to expect disjointed content. Developing a content strategy with the big picture in mind will leave room for serendipity, of course, but it will also enable you to get ahead of your content needs and ensure that what you create is thematically connected to all your other content and creates a natural path for your audience to keep on reading.
6. I will segment by intent
Buyer personas and the buyer’s journey have become cornerstones of a B2B content strategy. But there’s another level of segmentation that can help you target your content even better. Grouping customers by intent allows you to think in terms of addressing their biggest questions and need at that buying stage. The funnel is no longer an accurate model for a purchasing process and the individual customer journey is less linear than ever before.
7. I will tell better stories
Outside of the classroom, no one should be expected to retain information that is boring. If what we’re reading is not interesting or compelling, it’s hard to keep reading—even if it’s accurate and relevant. Using storytelling in your content marketing helps share information in a way that is engaging and can forge a powerful emotional connection to our band.
8. I will build a process that scales
Hiring one great content marketing manager is not a long-term strategy for success. One rockstar is not a process, and to grow your content marketing efforts, you might hire more staff, recruit freelancers and guest bloggers, or ask more people in your organization to write. As you add in more people, you add more variables to the process and more places where it can break down. Having a clearly defined process for aligning content to business goals, generating ideas, assigning topics, and setting editorial direction will help you grow your content creation army from 1 to 3 to 17 without creating chaos and diminishing results.
9. I will find the right tools for the job
While software can’t fix everything, if my content operation is going to grow, I need to find a better way to manage and optimize my work, and measure what it’s doing. Marketing technology is an exciting space right now because so many truly great solutions are cropping up. It’s also a noisy space because so many truly great solutions are cropping up. Determining whether what I need is a project management tool, a content marketing platform, or marketing automation (to name just a few) begins with taking a look at my process and identifying my biggest pains and most pressing needs. Then I can think about making an investment in software.
10. I will not sound like I’m in a cult
Are your friends, family, colleagues, and chinchilla sick of hearing you talk about content marketing? We all get it. Content marketing is wonderful and effective. But to grow as a marketer and writer, it’s important to take a break from living and breathing and constantly reading about this one thing. Make a point of reading things that have nothing to do with marketing or business. Rediscover language and ideas outside the context of your work. Marketer and storyteller Bobby Lehew recommends reading poetry in the morning. I can’t get enough of Brain Pickings.
What are your marketing resolutions for next year? We’d love to hear about them on Twitter at @CrescendoCM.