Published November 16, 2016  in Process Improvement

How to Improve Content Marketing Processes

Organizations typically set up processes to generate repeatable, consistent and predictable results with the least amount of friction possible. The approach to improving content marketing processes is no different, analyzing the individual workflows and steps to find the most efficient way to complete those repeatable tasks.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 53 percent of the most effective B2B content marketers have a documented strategy. Marketers who don’t document their strategy are more likely to report that content marketing just isn’t effective for them… We know that the most effective marketers meet either daily or weekly. If you’re meeting with your team less often, there’s a good chance that important tasks are falling through the cracks.John Rampton

Over time, you’ll refine those processes to run your business more efficiently. How you set up and refine those processes determines how effective your processes will become.

For marketers, content marketing is often a fairly manual process (translation: time-consuming.) But like all things, you can improve content marketing processes with a new approach as well as leveraging teams and tools to get the job done.

Improve Content Marketing Processes with Agile Marketing

The Agile approach is something common to software developed but it can also be applied as a marketing discipline. An agile approach helps you focus efforts on the customer to create more value, more often.

An agile approach to marketing also helps to improve content marketing processes by making it easier to adapt to change.

And change comes often in content marketing; consider how often Google has updated its algorithms to control the way content is shown in organic search results.

Companies need to get better at change, and adapting to what’s coming, by creating processes that are easier to manage. When everything you do is manually processed, and undocumented, the organization turns into utter chaos when change is forced.

There are 4 agile principles that need to be considered when working to change or improve content marketing processes:

  1. Change for the customers to provide maximum value
  2. Create cross-functional teams or tools that make production and promotion far more efficient
  3. Have a bias toward action; doing is always better than not doing
  4. Build, measure and learn; Get the content out the door and see how customers respond instead of getting stuck in perpetual research.

With those four principles in mind, there are a number of ways you can improve content marketing processes to stimulate growth and see tremendous ROI.

More Efficient Ideation

Developing ideas for content marketing can be depressingly time-consuming. In my early days, I recall many an afternoon spent twirling a pen over my notes as I tried to brainstorm keyword silos along with content topics to better engage my audience.

In addition to topics, I had to determine what content formats would be ideal for the projects I was working. After all, not all audiences want to read a long-form blog post.

This is where your content marketing strategy can go off the rails almost immediately if you don’t have a documented process, which sadly is nearly 70% of marketers according to CMI’s Benchmark Budgets and Trends.

Without a documented strategy, it’s easy to flounder trying to develop the right kinds of topics or understand what kind of content you need to create.

When you can’t answer those questions, it becomes much harder to generate ideas for content. This is why 60% of marketers struggle with creating engaging content. Rather than coming up with content based on a specific strategy, they start throwing out random ideas in the hopes of creating something the audience wants to hear.

To improve this part of the content marketing process, and other aspects going forward, start instead with creating a content marketing strategy to drive the direction of your campaigns and planning.

The Tools for Better Ideation

Once you have a content marketing strategy in place, ideation becomes much simpler. You know who your audience is, you know what they want and need, and you can easily create topics targeting specific phases of their journey.

I have very specific tools I use to help streamline ideation:

Likewise, I pay close attention to the influencers in the market I’m targeting to monitoring what they’re sharing.

Turn your ideation phase into a string of effective steps to quickly source content ideas.

Speeding Along Audience Research

The problem with audience research is that building a buyer persona or target audience is largely speculation.

Marketers create this picture of an ideal customer to fuel their targeting and try to establish product/market fit based on that buyer persona. Unfortunately, that buyer persona isn’t always accurate when it comes to developing content.

You may very well know exactly what your audience is searching for to find your products or services, but you know what they want from you, or how they feel? Do you understand their real needs?

A lack of clear research can be blamed on so many unsuccessful product launched and ill-conceived marketing campaigns. No matter how much you “know” the marketing will be successful, instinct cannot be trusted. Instead, you need to improve content marketing processes and strategies based on data.

The Tools for Better Research

To make the most of your time spent in research, and gathering the most authoritative data, here are tools you can work into your process:

  1. Think with Google: Marketer’s Almanac – Information on how consumer behavior changes in relation to the seasons, holidays and special events.
  2. American Fact Finder – A resource for searching U.S. census data with filters by age, income, year, race and location.
  3. Business Dynamics Statistics – Use census data to see economic data on job creation, startups, shutdowns, business launches, expansions and closures
  4. Nielsen MyBestSegments – A great tool to understand a certain regions demographic info and lifestyle habits

On top of the countless data systems out there, there’s no better way to understand your target audience than by going to them directly. When you’re planning out a new campaign and you need to improve the content marketing process, talk to your customers.

Create a survey or feedback form and ask them specifically about their concerns, fears, problems, likes, dislikes and more. Use that information to fuel your strategy going forward.

Remember to refer to your analytics as well. The content on your site receiving the most traffic and engagement can provide insight into what your audience wants to see. Under-performing content can be an indicator of topics or formats that aren’t catching their interest.

Rather than speculate, you can pull accurate data from the sources above to truly understand what kind of content – down to the topics – will bring the highest return in your content strategy.

Improving Content Collaboration

If you need to improve content marketing processes, you’re likely at a point where multiple people are involved in the production and promotion of your content.

Unfortunately, this is where a lot of processes and campaigns can come to a grinding halt. The more campaigns you have running, the greater the likelihood of a snafu, missed project, stalled campaign, or a task that gets overlooked.

The key to improving content marketing processes is to keep the work flowing, and utilizing tools that make that happen is critical to efficiency and getting campaigns launched.

Simple Tools for Better Collaboration

There are countless tools for collaboration, but I’ve found that nothing beats working in Google Docs. It’s the simplest web-based application for tracking revisions and suggestions and getting everyone involved without there being a mess. You can even work with different content formats, right down to story-boarding your videos and allow everyone a single space to work.

If you need more generalized communication, stay away from email. Several of my clients work within Slack, making it easy to keep up with conversations and attachments around a specific project. This is far more efficient than digging through endless email threads to find a single conversation.

Most importantly, you have an opportunity to use approval processes to track every phase of collaboration. A tool like TallyFy can ensure that projects move along at a proper pace, triggering notifications for approvals and next steps as content moves along.

Publication and Promotion

Producing the content is only a small part of content marketing. Honestly, I’ll spend more time promoting and repurposing my best content than I spend on writing. Without promotion, you’re greatly reducing the reach of your content.

There’s no set model for content promotion because of the variables involved (industry, audience, content format, budget, etc.). However, you should still develop and refine a repeatable process that fits your strategy and goals.

For example, when I publish a new piece of content I follow these steps almost to a T:

Jay Baer, prez of Convince and Convert, follows a similar approach, with a documented process that transforms a single piece of content into 8 pieces of content.

You can replicate that same approach to improve content marketing processes and streamline your promotional efforts. This can greatly reduce the time it takes to promote your content, and also ensure that you don’t miss a step or opportunity.

What are you doing to streamline your marketing and improve your content marketing processes? Share your approach with me in the comments below!

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