A vast majority of marketers — 91 percent, to be exact — reported this year that their organization does some form of content marketing already. If you're in the minority that hasn't yet invested in content, you’re probably either certain that content just doesn't make sense for your business (which I find hard to believe), or you’re planning to make the investment in the near future.
Whether you're looking to invest soon or you're preparing to adjust your current efforts, creating content with a clear strategy and infrastructure in place is key. To set yourself up for success and maximize your ROI, here are six things you need to have in order to get the most out of your content marketing:
1. A Documented Content Strategy
The first thing you absolutely need to nail down before jumping into content head-first is a documented strategy. Our interactive content strategy checklist makes this process a lot easier, but if you do nothing else, at least write down what goals you want to achieve — and keep your list handy as you start your content journey. These goals will inform the types of content you create, the topics you cover, where you publish, and how you measure your progress.
2. A Working Website
This might sound a little too obvious, but we can't overlook how truly important this element is. Depending on the goals you have, the kinds of content you create, and where you choose to publish, your needs may differ — but you do need a website of some form, no matter how simple it is.
Even if all you have is a homepage at this time, you're moving in the right direction. That said, if you have nothing else on your site, I'd suggest you establish a blog, some landing pages, and a process for follow-up. Here's why:
- Maintaining your company blog can be one of the easiest, most effective ways for your marketing team to publish content consistently and start building an audience. Just be sure you keep it updated regularly and make it easily accessible on your site.
- If lead generation and sales are goals you have for your content, then your site has to be set up to accommodate that. Landing pages help you capture those leads, and a CRM/marketing automation system is essential to managing them once they've been generated. Our team uses HubSpot for this, and we highly recommend it.
CRM? Marketing automation? Are we making your head spin? . We’d be more than happy to walk you through all of these things and more.
3. A Point Person
You don’t need a full content team if you're just getting started — or ever, really. It's totally possible to outsource your content marketing. But at the very least — whether you keep it in-house or work with an outside partner — you need a point person who can own your strategy and help manage or execute some of the work you're doing.
It doesn't matter if this person is a strong writer/editor, and he or she doesn't need to be your company's subject matter expert. You can fill in the gaps with an outsourced team or individual freelance writers and editors, and a knowledge extraction process can help you work with the people in your company who are experts in their fields.
What's important is for this point person to have a knack for digital marketing and an understanding of your business and the goals you've identified.
4. A CRM (Or Other System for Your Sales Team to Follow Up With Leads)
If you're hoping to use your content as a tool to increase revenue, then you’ve got to align your marketing and sales teams — and that includes creating a system for delivering marketing-generated leads to the sales team so they can effectively follow up, nurture, and close them.
At Influence & Co., we’ve got a whole team of sales reps devoted specifically to our inbound leads. If you aren’t seeing a huge influx of inbound leads, then you probably don't need a team devoted to handling them — just filter them to your existing reps for now. Don't forget to educate your team about the differences among leads from various sources, though; inbound leads might need a little more nurturing, so prepare your sales team for what to expect.
5. An SEO Plan
One major benefit of content marketing is the opportunity to improve your organic search rankings. But earning (and keeping) a spot on the first page of Google doesn't happen by accident; it requires an ongoing plan for bringing SEO best practices into your content.
Start with some keyword research, and compile a list of keywords related to your industry, business, and audience interests before you start creating content. This information can help you develop a stronger strategy, create better content, and more effectively get that content in front of the people who are looking for it.
6. A Distribution Strategy
If you're creating any content at all, you'd better be doing something with it because (unless you are very, very lucky) just building it won't guarantee anyone will come. Thankfully, you have literally dozens of ways to distribute content depending on the audience you're trying to reach and the goals you're trying to achieve, including:
- Social shares. Distribute your content across your social platforms, and tailor your messages for the audiences on each. Share your content from your company account, and encourage your team and thought leaders to share it from their accounts, too.
- Email newsletters. Build your subscriber list, and deliver content directly to them through newsletters.
- Sales outreach. Send content to active contacts in your sales pipeline to help answer questions and address objections.
A working website and a plan of action for strategy, SEO, sales enablement, and distribution are all important to the success of your content marketing, but for a little extra credit, consider adding:
- Contacts for PR and guest-posting opportunities. Guest posting and securing press mentions are valuable ways to boost your content. We've seen such positive results through guest-contributed content and press mentions, both for ourselves and for our clients.
- A marketing automation system. You can piece together various solutions to create your perfect marketing stack, but there's a lot of value in having an automation system that houses all of your content and analytics in the same place and makes it easy to deliver information to your audience. As I said earlier, we use HubSpot marketing and sales platforms for this.
Sure, it is technically possible to “do content marketing” before you've locked in every item on this list. But having these elements in place before you get started will help ensure you get the most out of your efforts.