espresso and panicAny time an organization embarks upon a new marketing strategy, there are bound to be growing pains, milestones and (happily) successes. Content marketing is no exception. Where is your organization in the content journey?

Inception (0-6 months)

The corporate equivalent of taking the plunge, the inception phase kicks off when the company says “I do” to a content program. At this stage, there is generally little to no content strategy or editorial plan, and goals tend to be broad and poorly defined (e.g. “Position company as a thought leader.”)

The “content team” (note, those were “air quotes”) comprises a handful of dogged enthusiasts who operate on the edge of panic as they scrounge for content to fuel the blog, feed the newsletter and share via social channels.

The effectiveness of espresso as a creative muse is discovered.

Experimentation (6 mos. – 1 year)

The wheels are up on the content marking program and the team is in flight. Air quotes are no longer used in description of the content team, because the stuff they’re creating is gaining traction in the marketplace. Industry bloggers are taking note, the social channels have more relevant followers, the efforts have spawned a few media hits, the company is starting to rank for a few key search terms and the sales team are incorporating messaging into their pitches and follow up.

The content team is starting to learn from their experience, and is honing the approach. Content duds are identified and not repeated. Basic persona research has helped the team sharpen the message focus.

As successes build, the demand for content across the organization increases. Speaking invitations require prep and subsequent content creation. Product managers emerge from their dens, requesting airtime and attention for their products.

People assume the content team are magical beings capable of pulling stories and visuals from thin air.

Steady State (1-2 years)

What the content marketing program has lost in novelty, it has gained in budget and resource. Several people are devoted to the task of content creation, curation and publishing. The blog is a permanent fixture, and has morphed into an important vehicle for keeping internal and external audiences informed and engaged.

Integration between teams is starting to solidify. The content, social media and PR teams were the first to synch up, followed by the events team who has seen registrations increase when events get full exposure via numerous channels. As a result, the organization’s communications silos stat to crack and campaigns morph from isolated episodes into longer-term and higher-value digital presences.

Growth in traffic, follows, click-throughs and referrers exhibits a satisfying up-and-to-the-right curve.

Busting a few department silos has whetted the content team’s appetite. Sales, customer service, internal operations and demand gen are now in their sights.

It is clearly evident that content powers the universe.

Focused Results (2+ years)

Content is making enough of an impact that others in the organization are noticing it, and are starting to think in terms of how to incorporate the benefits of successful content marketing programs into other marketing disciplines, including retention and demand-gen.

Never satisfied, the content team continues to hone messaging and starts to proactively promote owned content. At first the PR team feels a bit queasy but they quickly realize the content marketing program is a rich source of the sorts of stories and stats journalists crave, so they quickly get on board. Amplification rates and generation of potent earned media take off.

At this point, the data and analytics teams get really interested. The impact of content is undeniable, and opportunities abound to test messages and gauge results via content channels.

The brand’s marketing squad becomes fully integrated. Content becomes the common thread linking upper-funnel visibility programs all the way through to conversion. Using new insights from the analytics gurus, they create content aligned with personas and buying stages, crafting calls to action that engender specific responses and behaviors. The web site becomes search engine magnet, social hub and sales machine.

The content marketer finds the real secret to successful content strategy. It’s not doppio espressos (but keep ‘em coming nonetheless) nor is it magic. It’s the integration of marketing activities up and down the funnel, linked with excellent content.

Is your content strategy sustainable? A high-powered panel will tackle the ins and outs of building a sustainable content strategy at Content Marketing World next week, in a discussion titled, “Don’t Run Out of Gas! How to Fuel a Sustainable Content Marketing Strategy,” slated for Monday, September 9 at 11:00AM – 11:45AM EST.

Featured panelists include PR Newswire’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Ken Wincko, Dell Inc.’s Managing Editor, Nicole Smith (@NicoleSatDell), and Altimeter Group’s Industry Analyst Rebecca Lieb (@Lieblink.) The discussion will be moderated by Michael Pranikoff (@mpranikoff,) director of emerging media for PR Newswire, and will focus on developing and executing an ongoing content strategy, including:

  • What to do after creating a content calendar and plotting out the best channels to distribute messages,
  • How to develop a customer perspective that drives community engagement,
  • Ways to accelerate content promotion.

Conferences attendees can join the conversation on social media by completing the sentence “Content drives” using hashtags #contentdrives #cmworld.

Content Marketing World attendees can visit booth #11 at the event to hear more. You can also follow this link to learn more about how to accelerate your content strategy:

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