Recipe for Success: The 3 Ingredients Your Content Strategy Must Have
POSTED : March 1, 2016
BY : Chris Sullivan

Imagine a company potluck. The table is packed end-to-end with the fruits of your colleagues’ labor—oh, Martha’s red velvet cake! Leon made his chili again! A bounty awaits, and surely nothing can go wrong. But, come to think of it, that salmon is a pretty strange color, and something doesn’t quite taste right with this potato salad…ladies and gentlemen, welcome to content strategy!

For every delectable slice of pie or perfectly seasoned hors d’oeuvre you discover amongst the gilded glut, you’re forced to sift through a half dozen wilted kale salads. By the end of the day you’ve either found nothing worth eating or you ate so indiscriminately that you’re already planning your excuses to skip next time to save on Weight Watcher fees.

As with your co-workers, we marketers all too often create content out of a false sense of obligation, rather than aligned to a deliberate strategy (didn’t Don see someone had already signed up to bring chips?!). For every delectable infographic or perfectly seasoned blog, we are collectively spitting out a stomach-churning volume of content that will never be consumed (up to 70% goes unused) and rarely delights our prospects. Why is this happening, and, moreover, what can we do about it? Let’s take those questions one at a time:

Why is no one eating my fruitcake? 

When we talk to our clients about their content strategy struggles, a few common themes emerge. For some, there is simply a lack of bandwidth to create consistent quality content, while others struggle with measurement, or simply lack insight into why they aren’t seeing an avalanche of leads as was promised in every other piece of content they’d read.

But as we dig deeper with them to drive to the core of the problem, it is clear that – while every organization is different – those differences are most often due more to the maturity of their content operations than it is to their effort or intentions. Too often, we see immature operations trying to support highly complex marketing efforts, or an ancient technology stack trying to keep up with the needs of modern marketing. And that’s okay! That’s not a failure! It’s better to bring that bag of chips than to empty-handedly ravage the desert tray. (To better understand your maturity, check out this free content marketing assessment.)

What we’ve found is that our clients are often unaware of where they really stand with their content marketing, and, regardless of their standing, they find challenges growing and staying relevant to their target prospects. Our more advanced clients need to keep innovating to stay on the bleeding edge, while our emerging clients are trying to gain share of voice in what too often feels like a rather cordial screaming match.

What can I do today?

So, how can we start churning out more sweet red velvet content and leave behind the stack of greens that are going to waste? There’s no standard recipe for success, but there are a few key ingredients that can help you get started:

  • Document your strategy. Maybe you are your content workforce, or maybe you’ve got a staff of writers. Either way, if you haven’t taken the time to document your content strategy – what are we driving to, why, and how? – it is highly likely you’ll struggle to connect your content to desired outcomes. A recent study found that less than a third of marketers document their content strategy, but nearly 80% of the most effective content marketers do.
  • Measurement. Tracking your success (and failures) is hard. Agreeing how to track it, getting the right metrics, and repeatedly accessing and tracking the relevant data is difficult. It’s also the single most impactful thing you can to prove the value of your content (yay) and to improve the value of your content (moderately bigger yay).
  • Material. You thought we weren’t going to mention this one? Look, it’s important to create content, but you don’t have to do it yourself. Less than 60% of content is being created in house,and can be cost effective to outsource or syndicate. The key, as always, is knowing what gaps you have and filling those gaps appropriately.

Focusing on those three areas can do any company a world of good, and can be the difference between bringing home a plate with mere traces of frosting or another unloved bowl full of slightly-older iceberg lettuce. As with potlucks, there are no participation trophies in content marketing. Simply showing up won’t do the trick – but it is still a crucial step in the right direction. But now, you’re here. Welcome. Take a hard look at how your organization is using the three ingredients above, and you can set your crockpot on the counter.


About the Author

A picture of Chris SullivanChris Sullivan is an experienced marketing professional who helps companies develop valuable marketing and sales strategies tailored to their business needs. His focus areas are B2B content marketing and channel sales. His background spans industries such as high-tech, finance, retail and software.

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