Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, is one of the best in his game. He’s the third all-time winningest coach in the NFL and has six Super Bowl titles (another NFL record, by the way).
He’s crazy successful, but what’s even more impressive is that he’s been able to sustain success for almost 20 years. He’s an authoritative thought leader of his industry, and even the biggest sports haters have still heard of Belichick and the Patriots because of their unmatched success. Even if the closest you'll ever come to the excitement of a Super Bowl victory is creating an amazing content marketing strategy, the strategies Bill uses to coach a successful team are useful.
Content marketing is like any sports season: There are multiple opportunities to pull ahead of your competition, gain a dedicated following, and eventually compete for a championship title. It’s a long game that requires dedication, discipline, and a well-thought-out strategy to achieve your ultimate goals.
While I’m sure Belichick’s game plans are absurdly complex, it’s fair to say that his success is linked to his discipline. He cares about winning, but he cares more about improving upon his previous success.
This is the right mentality to have in content marketing. Most people just starting out in content marketing get caught up in achieving quick wins, but your content will be most effective when it builds upon resources you already have while working in tandem with your other efforts. It takes discipline, dedication, and a documented content strategy.
Marketers with a documented content strategy have been shown to see greater results than those who lack a strategy. In fact, 65% of top-performing organizations have a documented strategy. It won't lead to instant magic, and it may not always lead to the desired results (just ask Bill Belichick after the 2007 NFL season). Still, it provides a North Star that marketers can use for guidance throughout their content seasons.
If you're just starting to create a content marketing strategy and want to enjoy as much success as Bill, follow these strategies inspired by the man himself:
This seems obvious, but it’s crucial. Every good coach prepares for a game, but Belichick takes this to the next level. He knows everything about the game, his team, the referees, and his opponents. He even studies how opposing quarterbacks turn their heads before the snap. Obviously, he does everything he can to prepare for every possible situation.
You should do the same thing with your content strategy. Before you start planning topics and writing, determine your goal for content marketing. It might be thought leadership, lead generation, SEO, or something else — but it will provide the foundation of your content strategy. It should always be in the back of your mind as you plan, create, and distribute your content.
Then, decide on your target audience and any metrics you’ll use to gauge your success. You can even go a step further and ask yourself these questions: Where is your audience in the buyer's journey? What keywords are they using to search for your business or competitors online? How are people interacting with the content on your website or social channels? The more insights and direction you have, the more effective your content will be. Bill doesn't go into a game without a plan — neither should you.
Belichick is a strong leader because he’s able to bring the best out of his players. Julian Edelman, for example, was an unknown and undersized Kent State quarterback before Belichick selected him in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Bill recognized Edelman's talent but thought his skills made him a better fit for a different position. Edelman has since become one of the best wide receivers on the team, and he was named MVP of the 2019 Super Bowl. Bill leverages his players' strengths and helps them overcome their weaknesses — recognizing that not every player has the same skills.
Learn from Bill and assemble a content marketing team with diverse talents, giving members the opportunity to do what they do best. To get the most out of your team, assess each member's skills and place him or her in a situation to succeed. As you're building a team, you'll at least need a content strategist, a writer, an editor, a project manager, and someone who can maximize your content after it's published.
Your team should also have a dedicated thought leader or subject matter expert. This person will be an authoritative expert on your industry. If you want people to read your content, it needs to stand out from the rest. To do this, you need compelling stories and unique experiences that only thought leaders can provide. Once you assess your team's strengths and weaknesses, you'll be able to decide who can fill each role.
The Patriots win a lot, and that's because Belichick is adept at taking advantage of all three phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams. Success is often credited to offensive players (we're looking at you, Brady), but Belichick realizes that defense and special teams are just as important. A team can score a crazy number of points on offense, but it doesn't mean much if they can't stop the competition.
The same goes for content marketing. Take a full-funnel approach to your strategy, crafting content that will appeal to customers who are at different stages in the buyer’s journey. Off-site content, like guest-contributed articles or press mentions, will help inform readers, establish your company as a thought leader, and drive traffic to your website.
Once people visit your website, you’ll need on-site content to educate and engage them — think blogs, videos, podcasts, infographics, and more. Use a CRM or automated marketing system to capture leads, offering special downloadable content such as whitepapers, checklists, or reports to users who provide an email address. Continue to feed your leads educational content to help them understand your product or service while easing them into a buying decision. Like Bill, you'll want to focus on each aspect equally to ensure an effective content marketing strategy.
Game plans change based on what’s working and what isn't. The Patriots were down 28-3 at halftime of the 2017 Super Bowl before the team pulled off a historic comeback victory in overtime. As Belichick knows, adjustments are not a sign of defeat; they're a commitment to improvement.
As you build a content marketing strategy, keep your eye on the ultimate trophy: reaching your goal. Content marketing might be a long game, but the effort is worth it. After all, you can't win the Super Bowl unless your team makes it through 16 games and a grueling playoff run.
This blog post was developed and co-written with the help of my amazing team: Kendra Ruether, Susan Goedde, and Ryan Gauthier.
I enjoy learning new things, meeting new people, and talking about sports. I’m a devoted New England Patriots, Boston Celtics, and Missouri Tigers fan, and I love watching tennis and women’s basketball. I’m always eager to swap podcast recommendations, and I’ll never turn down Thai food or a good book.