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The New Year is rife with opportunities for improvement, especially for those individuals and organizations ahead of the curve who are practicing content marketing. How can you drive more traffic? Generate more leads? Accelerate your return on investment? Here are 5 savvy content marketing steps that will make 2017 your best content year ever.
1. Create a Culture of Content
If you need a mantra to repeat to yourself in 2017, try this one: “Content marketing can transform our organization’s results if we let it transform our culture.” Rather than siloing your marketing efforts in one department, take steps to create a culture of content marketing that encourages company-wide collaboration and participation. Content marketing is far bigger than any one department, and to truly work you need to unlock the expertise of your entire organization.
Here are a few ways to jumpstart a culture of content in your organization:
- Treat your employees and colleagues as content marketing assets. Everyone is a subject matter expert in their own right, so learn to tap into the resources within your organization to produce the smart and insightful content people want to read.
- Provide incentives for participation. While developing a culture of content marketing, you may need to reward and/or recognize those people within your organization who are participating to incentivize others to do so as well.
- Remember: every moment is a content opportunity. Inspiration can strike suddenly when your team expands its “content awareness” and realizes people are naturally attracted to intelligent and personal content born out of direct experience.
- Share results and be transparent. Measurement is one of the key steps to successful content marketing. As you develop and refine your own measurement capabilities, share the results with your team consistently while providing transparency on how your efforts are working.
2. Document Your Content Strategy
It’s no secret that the best content marketers document their strategy. They don’t just keep it rattling around their brains as a loose idea; they get serious about aligning their people, processes, and priorities around a singular goal—namely, to do content marketing well. More than an editorial calendar or simple 12-month roadmap, a documented content strategy answers important questions such as:
- Why are you creating content? Content for the sake of content, with no overarching objective or goal attached, is a waste of resources. Answering this question will ensure each piece of content you produce meets at least one of the aims of your content marketing strategy: increase brand awareness, increase leads into the sales funnel, drive additional revenue, etc.
- Who is the intended audience? Content should never be created for a generic audience. It should be customized for a group of specific people with specific problems and needs. Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly who your target audience is now; you can refine your audience based on measurement and feedback later on.
- How will you measure the success of your content? Speaking of measurement, you need to be able to analyze the performance of your content in order to determine how effective it’s been at achieving its intended goals. (Curata’s Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics & Metrics will help here.) A documented content strategy helps you set benchmarks and define the metrics that matter most for your organization, such as organic traffic, conversion rates, leads, etc.
Still think a documented content marketing strategy isn’t worth the time and effort? Consider these facts illustrating the importance of a documented and actionable content marketing strategy:
- 53% of the most effective B2B content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, compared to 13% of the least effective marketers.
- 58% of the most effective B2C content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, compared to 37% of “average” marketers.
- B2B and B2C marketers who have a documented content marketing strategy “get better results from their content marketing tactics, social media platforms, and paid methods of content distribution.”
Source: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs
Before you publish another piece of content, put together a strategy or refresh your current one. A content strategy doesn’t need to be an exhaustive document; it can be as simple as filling out a template with a sentence or two for each checkpoint. The most important thing is that your strategy—whatever it looks like—is an informed, realistic, and actionable content plan that helps guide your efforts in 2017 and beyond.
The gaps are already widening between those organizations with a documented content marketing strategy and those lacking one. If you want to keep up or outpace the competition and get a head start on your strategy, check out this free content marketing strategy template and checklist.
3. Consider Marketing Automation
If you’re driving organic traffic to your website and generating a steady flow of new leads, you may be ready to scale your content marketing efforts. This is where marketing automation (MA) comes in. MA platforms such as HubSpot, Act-On, and Marketo (along with many others) streamline, automate, and measure marketing and sales engagement. (These three super hacks will help you get the most out of Marketo for content marketing.) MA platforms make repetitive manual processes like segmentation and lead nurturing easier so your team can focus on producing content that drives traffic, leads, and conversions.
Like strategy documentation, there are some compelling statistics that underscore the importance of MA for organizations ready for marketing automation:
- 79% of “top-performing” companies have been using marketing automation for two+ years
- 63% of companies that are outgrowing their competitors use marketing automation
- Companies using marketing automation see 53% higher conversion rates than non-users
A word of caution: while MA tools provide efficiency and insight, they also have SEO pitfalls you don’t want to fall into. Watch out for these six common automation problem areas when you’re looking to adopt or change platforms:
- Page Speed
- Content Delivery Networks
- International Targeting
- URL Redirects
- Page <head> html control
- Exporting Your Site
4. Try the Hub and Spoke Content Marketing Model
The team at Vertical Measures have fully embraced the hub and spoke model of content marketing. Conceptually, this model starts with a robust, well-researched, and well-written piece of content (the “hub”) that is intended to capture leads. This could be a free guide, white paper, eBook, or case study—practically any piece of content is hub-worthy as long as it offers value and provides something useful in return for someone’s name and email address. By gating a hub, you incentive visitors to provide valuable contact information that they might otherwise not give up.
Next comes the spokes: supplementary articles, videos, emails, press releases, etc. that point people back to the significant piece of content (the hub) and drive traffic to it. Spokes may be “bite-size” pieces of content taken directly from the hub or ancillary topics that support and relate to the hub. Below is an example of how we do the hub and spoke model at Vertical Measures.
By following this hub-and-spoke model, you can achieve a variety of positive results in 2017, including:
- The ability to scale your content
- Creating a focused campaign
- Content format variety
- A library of content that has semantic value for search engines
5. Align your Team with Training
We are hardcore believers in continuing education and training for content marketing. It fits right back in with lesson #1—the more education and understanding you can create around your content marketing efforts, the richer your organization’s “culture of content,” and the more successful you will be. That’s why we teach content marketing workshops, train our own clients, and even set up a coaching program to help organizations get more out of their efforts. And it’s also why we believe training can help overcome the obstacles and roadblocks you’re likely to encounter in 2017.
Look for these opportunities as the year progresses:
- Sign up for online training courses. There are so many free courses, webinars, and talks presented online that anyone on your team can benefit from. The depth and breadth of topics covered can help your team develop the skills and knowledge needed to be highly effective content marketers in 2017 and beyond.
- Learn from other content marketers. Look for national content marketing conferences where you can learn and network with the best and brightest in the content marketing industry. However, don’t limit yourself to the big national conferences; look for opportunities to network with content marketing experts in your area.
- Put together a content workshop. One of the best ways to align your team around a common vision is to get everyone in the same room and learn from experts. Put together a “content camp” or something that will inspire your team. This could be an interactive, hands-on content marketing workshop or a “lunch and learn” speaker series with content marketing experts in your area.
Step into the Future
Content marketing is no longer a trend or some newfangled strategy; it’s an important part of digital marketing that is here to stay. If you want to catch up, keep up, or pull away from your competitors, you need to focus on improving your content marketing efforts in 2017 and beyond. As more people jump in and get onboard with content marketing, the niche your organization has carved out will shrink unless you make content marketing a priority. Take these steps to heart and report back to let us know how your year is going, and sign up now for my free webinar detailing how to make 2017 your most successful content marketing year yet!