Since graduating college, I’d quit sports altogether. My agility, balance, and flexibility had deteriorated, and my strength was nonexistent. After so much inactivity and complacency, I set a goal to become more agile than I had ever been. And it got me thinking: Can complacency affect businesses in the same way it does people? Can businesses become weaker and flabbier through inactivity or a lull? Do marketers using the same old methods find their strategies have grown doughy?
In content marketing, brands continue to act without direction. Creative teams focus on optimizing articles for clicks, rather than writing articles to solve readers’ problems. They also produce an uneven amount of collateral, trusting a few assets will carry them forward without any amplification solutions. However, in an age when enterprise-level businesses are spending more on content creation than other digitally driven practices, brands may need to sign their teams up for a content marketing boot camp to make their investments worthwhile.
Marketers see branded content becoming more important to their overall marketing strategies. Gartner’s 2013 U.S. Digital Marketing Spending Survey found that marketers are spending 21 percent of their overall digital marketing budgets on content and social media content creation.
The Custom Content Council found in its annual “Spending Study: A Look at How Corporate America Invests in Branded Content for 2013” that 80 percent of marketers anticipate a “moderate” or “aggressive” shift toward content creation next year.
Now that businesses are putting money toward content marketing, marketers are responsible for the integrity of the practice. Just because a small brand team receives 21 percent of a business’ digital budget doesn’t mean it should only produce 21 percent of overall output. By implementing an agile marketing methodology to content creation, marketers can maximize opportunities through programmatic output and real-time strategic shifts to capitalize on timely industry trends. Here are three approaches to content marketing that branded newsrooms can adopt.
Marketing teams often search for the next big idea that puts their brands on the map. Instead of focusing too closely on a single project at a time, it may be more beneficial to let a content strategy build up over time. This common approach suggests content writers start with a broad topic and narrow down ideas into small snippets of information.
As part of the Skyword marketing team, I pay close attention to how people engage with our content, and I notice which topics resonate most. We allow our content writers to cover a variety of subjects on our blog, helping to inform high-level digital strategies. Over time, we realized that SEO-focused articles tend to be shared across social by a hyper-active audience, so we saw this as an opportunity to build long-form content to push readers through our pipeline.
We updated our editorial calendar to include weekly SEO tips from our strategists, rather than one or two blogs on the same topic per quarter. In addition, we’re now producing e-books on SEO best practices to help clients and site visitors manage their increasingly complex web presences. This strategic shift is an example of the build-up approach, where we started off with smaller content formats and worked up toward higher-level pieces once we saw demand. We couldn’t have implemented this agile marketing approach unless we followed the standard 70/20/10 rule. See the definition below:
The practice typically follows the 70/20/10 rule, which means brands spent 70 percent of their marketing budgets on planned activity, 20 percent on programmatic delivery, and 10 percent responsive to timely trends.
This approach suggests content writers start with longer-form content and narrow down creative output into smaller, snackable snippets of information to prolong engagement.
Skyword used this strategy to support a cornerstone piece of collateral we produced in Q3 2013, the “Content Marketing Gets Social” survey. The campaign kicked off with a well-researched report from Unisphere Research that outlined how content marketers have embraced social media as a distribution channel, but we wanted to make sure this asset continued to generate interest well beyond its initial launch. We developed a strategy that included:
We call this the top-down approach, in which we dedicate time to develop a significant cornerstone asset, and echo its core message through subsequent media.
Some marketing teams start by creating the biggest asset first, but others find it easier to let their ideas evolve over time. These marketers follow data trends closely and pinpoint patterns in their content that inspire future assets.
For those marketing teams still doing the dirty work of identifying what sticks with their audience, starting with blog content can help cast a wide net. From there, content analytics shows what topics, content types, and channels deliver noticeable results.
This introduces a new content marketing concept that looks more like a bell curve than a build-up or top-down approach. Content strategies that follow this plan begin by producing several smaller assets, ramping up toward a cornerstone release like an e-book or survey, and then decelerating back down with smaller content formats like post-release blogs or reminder Tweets.
As a brand marketer, I have no loyalty toward a singular approach. It’s important to look at each message you’re trying to communicate or market you’re breaking into, and then build a communications strategy that helps you reach that end goal. Don’t be afraid to test various content marketing strategies on your audience to see what they respond to and how they react. Be responsive to the feedback and analytics you see, and implement processes that allow your staff to pivot based on content reports. This strategy, whether considered agile marketing or just perceptive to market demand, will help you see success from your digital marketing efforts, and avoid the pitfalls of becoming a lazy company. Sometimes it just takes a little push to get in shape, whether in business on in your personal life.