It seems like each year, everyone in marketing land follows the same pattern. You start out so fresh, so naïve, so motivated. You're excited about your plans for the new year, about hitting new goals and trying new tactics. You're in Q2 now, and it's likely you're still mostly on track. Sure, you may have been a little overly optimistic about the goals you set, but there's still time to make this year everything you wanted.
And then you enter the summer slump.
Now you start seeing less and less audience engagement with your marketing efforts. And to make matters worse for my fellow B2B marketers, everyone you're trying to market to is either on vacation themselves or covering for someone else on their team who is.
Things pick up in September, but by the time October rolls around, you're probably knee-deep in the process of setting your goals and budget for the next year or trying to spend the rest of this year's budget. You’ve got to scramble to vet vendors, approve budget, and create a strategy so you can start the new year running.
I’m personally guilty of falling into this cycle, and it's a pattern we notice with our clients, too. In fall and early winter, the Influence & Co. team sees an influx in leads and new clients who want to start or completely revamp their content marketing strategy for the upcoming year.
What they often don’t realize is that, depending on their strategy and past efforts, if they begin a content strategy in January, it might be spring or even summer before they start seeing results. (And before you think you can avoid that delay by not working with a partner, the same is true if you're creating content in-house, too.)
Do yourself a favor, and start accounting for that ramp-up period now while you've got enough time to lock in the help you need and lay down a solid foundation for success. Here's why you should begin planning over the summer to jump headfirst into a solid content marketing strategy by the end of the year:
Before you can create any content at all, you’ve got to figure out who's going to actually do the work of content creation. If you choose to focus your team's energy on what it does best and outsource your content marketing efforts, you're going to need a partner. And you can't just put a ring on it right away; you've got to make sure you've found the right one.
This means you’ll be spending time on research, reading content from different agencies, and demos and sales calls. Once you find a vendor you like, you’ll have to get signoff from your higher-ups and maybe even your legal team. All in all, this process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Don't wait until November or December to get started.
The biggest mistake you can make is to start a throwing content together with zero strategy. That's why at Influence & Co., we spend a full month working with each of our new clients to develop and document their company's content marketing strategy. This helps ensure that we're all on the same page about their biggest goals and what success looks like to them, as well as what voice and tone for the content we help them create will enable them to achieve that success.
Take the time to lay out your goals and document them. Think through exactly what content you should be publishing and where that content should be published. And don’t you dare forget about distribution! A major part of a good strategy is the plan you lay out to help your audience discover your content.
So, you’ve figured out who is going to write your content, and you’ve documented your plan of attack. Now, you’ve got to create that content, which (spoiler alert!) takes time, too. Whether that’s time your team is taking to actually write and edit each piece of your company’s content, get it approved, and get it published, or it's time your outsourced team is spending to extract your knowledge, turn those insights into content, and help you publish it where your audience is — it all takes time.
We help our clients create content for their websites and blogs, but to reach and engage new audiences, we also target outside publications that reach their audience. Beyond the time it takes to create content, it also takes time to pitch that content to publication editors and work with them to see a published piece.
I mentioned this earlier, but it’s so important that I’m going to say it again: You’ve got to distribute your content. If you take the time to write an article and no one reads it, what was the point of writing it, anyway?
Email and social media are key distribution tools, but if you're starting from scratch, you probably won’t have a huge following on social media or a big list of engaged contacts you can deliver content to via email right away.
When we first starting publishing content, it took time and effort to build an engaged network of followers. The reach and engagement of our early blog posts looked very different from what we see today. It takes months of consistent focus to build enough of a following to truly see results from your content marketing and distribution efforts. Invest in your future engagement and start building that following now.
Content marketing isn't something that will generate results overnight. If you want to make the most of this year and start next year with a bang, you’ll need to get started sooner rather than later. It takes a few months to set your strategy, find the right partner, and get content published. If you want to break the pattern you follow each year and see better results, then there's no better time to get started than this summer.