Content Marketing
POSTED : June 8, 2016
BY : David Rosenstock

According to a recent research study conducted at PK, 92% of marketers note that even with content marketing growing in priority with senior leadership teams, it still only accounts for less than ¼ of their total marketing budget. As pressures rise to outperform growth metrics year over year, content marketing will have to become proactive to secure bigger budgets in the future.  To do so, marketers must get savvy in two ways:

  1. Continue to prove its worth by doing more with the budget they have.
  2. Make the case for further investment to ensure sustainable growth in the future.

Typically, the best approach is to start with #1 and collect the metrics needed to support a better case for further investment in the future.

Marketers with fixed budgets need to reassess how they are spending their money across 4 areas: content production, distribution, staffing and technology. With the right strategies and priorities in place, content marketing can achieve more with less while building the case for investments that will lead to long term leaps. Let’s look at strategies within each area:

Production: Do more with less

In today’s world of content marketing saturation, having quality content is crucial. In a social setting, the best content quickly rises to the top, driven by a perpetual growth of engagements as the networks prioritize content they show in feeds by shares and likes. To even have a chance in this arena, content marketers need to stop thinking of their content as cheap throwaways and more as products to invest in. With a quality piece of content, marketers can then repackage and repurpose it into multiple campaigns all focused at driving greater reach and engagement. Over time, this should increase the content’s ROI and have teams focus less on the content creation and more on engagement.

Investing in fewer pieces of content requires content marketers to spend more time planning. When creating a content production roadmap, many forget to marry content to a buyer’s lifecycle stage. With a different goal and purpose, the content type and channels used will be different at every stage. Teams should test to discover their right channel and content type mix that will maximize engagements at every stage.

For example, a high level lifecycle plan may look like this:

Mazimize Content Marketing Budget

When teams can narrow down to a few killer performing content types and channels, they have a better shot at optimizing ROI. They can also begin to tie content performance to metrics that matter to executives and build a case for further investment.

Distribution: It’s all about reach, not followers

With higher content production costs, marketers must now get even more views & engagements for each piece of content than ever before to achieve a positive ROI. Up until recently, marketers could obtain enough reach to generate the needed engagements by recruiting social followers. Viewed as the second coming of email lists, followers gave marketers the ability to get their content seen by a growing audience. But, as the sophistication of social newsfeed algorithms grows, the importance of followers is dying. Today, on average, only 2-5% of company followers will ever see an organic post.  That means, if a company has 2 million followers, a piece of content will only be seen by 40,000 people.

To counter, marketers can do two things:

  1. They can repurpose the same content and post multiple times to compound the views of their follower audience.
  2. They can promote their content through paid campaigns.

The good news is, with less content to promote, savvy marketers aren’t stretched thin and can focus on driving more eyeballs to each piece of content. Quality content will provide meaty ways to repurpose it into multiple campaigns to maximize organic reach. Fewer pieces will increase promotional spend per content, allowing each piece to get the impressions needed to jumpstart the perpetual engagement cycle.

No matter what combination of distribution tactics they choose, the focus should be in maximizing reach in hopes to trigger a perpetuating growth of engagement on each content piece.

Content marketing staff: Hire experts, not generalists

Any seasoned marketer knows that a quality strategy is only as good as the people that execute it. Today, it’s very rare to find a single person that has the capacity to be at the level required to keep pushing the boundaries of quality for both content production and distribution. Hiring managers should focus on a staffing mix that maximizes the skills required to meet the program’s objectives:

  1. Sell the program’s importance within the organization to increase budget and long term investments
  2. Execute at a quality that outperforms competitors.

To achieve these objectives, the following roles should be prioritized:

  1. Internal content marketing evangelist. I call them an evangelist because this is the person that know how to sell content marketing within an organization. They know how to measure content effectiveness and tie it to key organizational objectives. They know how to make more with less, recycling those premiere pieces of content in thousands of tweets and Facebook feeds that get noticed by top executives. They are the ones that will create the talking points and results needed to secure budgets. Typically, evangelists should be Full Time employees, ones that are able to build relationships throughout the organization over time.
  2. Content topic experts. With a focus on quality comes a need to find experienced content specialists and the best are not going to be the cheapest. Rather than focus on writing and editorial skills, marketers need to start staffing for topic expertise. Content creators who have previous industry experience, or worked in a similar role to a target audience are becoming more common. After staffing for topic expertise, advanced marketers will look to supplement expertise by content medium – outsourcing superior videographers or designers for execution. Regardless of how, the key here is to find the right mix that will raise the bar of content quality above the competition.
  3. Distribution experts. With a focus on reach comes a need for savvy marketers that know how to stretch a paid media dollar on each channel and micro target to the right audience. This strategy requires teams to no longer rely on drip campaigns to nurture a person through a process. Marketers must now know how to profile a person at each stage of the process and find them in the digital ether. The best I’ve seen at this understand channel nuances, know how to run rapid test campaigns to refine, and are knowledgeable about technology trends that can keep them ahead of the competition.

Content marketing technology: Choose wisely

In the memorable scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana must choose the right cup to drink from to receive the gift of life. He chooses a plain wooden chalice, a “cup of a carpenter” (his target audience) and upon drinking from it, the Knight tells him “You chose wisely.”

A lesson here can be applied to selecting the right technology investments. With the growth in new services and products replicating exponentially, more and more “shiny options” appear on the market every year. The problem is, technology is an investment, and typically requires years to reach maximum utilization and positive ROIs. That is why it is so important for teams to select the right technology for them and their needs and not be blinded by the highly coveted and talked about new and shiny chalices that promise them power to disrupt in the latest trends.

To find the right technology, teams need a high level of self-awareness to understand their current needs for generating higher quality content or executing more efficiently. They should look at how technology can both accelerate their strengths and counter their weaknesses. The goal here is to select a few core technologies that the organization can grow with, as the real investment comes not from the software purchase itself but from the time it takes to implement, learn and maximize efficiencies from the tool itself.

The savvy marketer always does more with less

Successful content marketers are savvy when it comes to budgets. They know how to build strategies that can satisfy short term commitments while making room for investments that will deliver long term growth. Content marketers that complain of budget restrictions need to reassess their content production and distribution strategies and work towards measuring and maximizing content ROI. Then they must hire the right people to execute and have a lot of self-awareness to ensure they choose the right technology investments for long term growth. Only then will they have the pieces needed to put forth the argument for bigger budgets that no executive can refuse.

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