Three Content Marketing Hacks for Any Kind of Marketer
Let’s face it. Crafting great content takes a lot of time.
When you add to that the strategizing, researching, revising, promoting and repackaging that all play a huge role in content marketing, you’ve got yourself a full-time gig. Even full-time content marketers (me!) feel like there is simply not enough time in the day to create the ideal quantity of quality content.
For people who do content marketing as a part of their marketing role, the temptation is to follow a “something is better than nothing” mantra and forsake quality or depth, share content erratically or ignore it altogether. But this post isn’t about the quality vs. quantity argument; both are important. It’s about making content marketer doable (for a company with a content marketer) or better (for a content marketer).
Maybe because I was a writer long before I was a “content person,” I’m partial to this aspect of marketing. After all, this is how you build relationship, show off your product organically and deeply connect with customers. But in my personal quest to put as much time toward actually writing as possible and facing the constant dilemma of deadlines vs. quality, I’ve found a few "hacks" (really, they're rhythms) that anyone—even someone who’s not technically a content marketer—can bake into their overarching marketing strategy. And they free up not just people who want more time to write, but people who want more time in general.
1. Plan a Collaborative Blog
Cranking out interesting, consistent content requires both creativity but discipline. Many companies publish prolifically in the form of a blog, which is a great resource to have for those middle-of-the funnel prospects: They’ve heard of you. They’re intrigued. But they don’t want to jump on a phone call or sign up just yet. They want to learn and explore your company on their own terms.
You need enough content to establish credibility, prove value and keep them hungry to know more. But it also must be good enough to do all that.
In my experience, having a team of “writers” (who are all aligned on a strategy and style) can create a rich and well-rounded content library. Whether a team is five people or fifty people, getting multiple perspectives keeps content fresh. The easiest (and most cost-effective) way to curate a blog, then, isn’t to hire a single writer; it’s to turn everybody into writers!
Obvious, right? But much easier said than done… unless there’s a concrete plan. Here’s a plan that has worked for me at several organizations (and the one Growth Guild follows today!):
First, choose one person to project manage the blog—maybe the best writer, the person who’s most passionate or a person whose role aligns most closely.
That person should be in charge of creating a blog strategy (worth an entirely different post!), though they can open that up to collaboration as well.
Next, create a content calendar and publishing cadence that fits within your strategy (do you want to post once a week? Twice? Which days?). I like to plan about six months out, but you can choose the timeline that fits best within your team culture. Having some topic ideas is helpful, but it’s good to leave room for inspiration!
Perhaps most importantly, assign writers to each publishing date (remember to bake in some time for the blog manager to proofread!).
Then make the calendar visible to the entire team, maybe even company. This creates some accountability for when a publishing date gets missed here and there (though, with a six-month plan, nobody has much of an excuse to miss their deadline).
At Growth Guild, this looks like each partner writing one blog post per month and allows us to speak more credibly. Sure, I’m technically the content marketer, but if I wrote about, say, design, it would carry a lot less weight than when Astrid does. By forcing ourselves to a follow a plan, we also muster inspiration a lot more frequently than if we just let it hit us at random.
Important note: Content marketing is SO MUCH MORE than a blog. But many blog posts can be repackaged into other content. You can flesh an idea out into a white paper, turn a case study into a downloadable PDF that can be used to capture emails on a landing page, create an infographic that can easily be shared on social media, etc. Similarly, other content can be repackaged into a blog post, like a webinar video link with transcript, creating a library full of relevant content for prospects to peruse. So you could really just call this a collaborative content approach.
2. Stick to Your Plan—and Add Promotion to It!
We’re so excited about creating growth for clients at Growth Guild, it can be easy to de-prioritize focusing on our own growth. But since we launched in January, we have only skipped two planned blog posts, and we made up for one within a few days. If we didn’t take our plan seriously, that never would have happened.
It’s just as easy for non-agencies with a single product to push a blog post off a day—or week or two—in lieu of other priorities. Sometimes this is inevitable: urgent matters arise. Also, writing well takes time. Who has an extra eight-ish hours to incorporate into their week? If the organization as a whole isn’t on board with regular contribution, it won’t happen. Sticking to the plan requires intrinsic motivation from everyone involved.
When that happens, however, you can add a promotion plan to your blog plan. And we all know how important promotion is, not to mention re-promotion. There are all sorts of ways to promote content, like:
Share on all social media channels
After a certain amount of time (maybe a week or two), re-share the post on social media using alternate descriptive text (be sure to track which version gets the most engagement!)
Encourage employees to re-share posts on their personal social media accounts
Use hashtags and mention other influential people or organizations to try to get more visibility
Answer Quora posts by linking to (relevant!!) blog posts
Post to websites like Reddit or Hacker News (or ask a non-org friend to do it) to try to get upvotes
Incorporate into an email campaign
Ask appropriate customers, partners, investors, etc. to share certain posts or documents
Depending on where your audience “lives,” the list goes on! The good news is, there are a lot of ways to get your content out in front of prospects. The bad news? Like writing, this takes a lot of time.
That’s why, once again, having a plan changes everything. If Tuesday is your internal organization promotion day, Thursday could be your “search Quora and Reddit” day, Friday your “request outside shares” day, etc. Put it on your calendar, take 15-30 minutes and force yourself to do it. The payoff could be worth it (and of course, sometimes it won’t be, but that’s okay as long as you’re paying attention to what’s working and what’s not!).
3. Branch Out From the Plan
While a blog (especially a collaborative one with regular promotion!) IS a great way generate content and promote thought leadership, it’s important to think outside the blog. As previously mentioned, content marketing is so much more than that.
There’s no single way to make sure you're approaching content ideas from every angle, but here are a few ideas:
Talk to other departments: From IT to Sales to HR, other departments might have fascinating qualitative data that’s worth considering. How do they see your product or service? What barriers do they think keep prospects from converting? What would they do to increase loyalty? It may take a little initiative but carving out 20 minutes to have a discussion can be a game-changer.
Make time to brainstorm as a team: While at Astronomer, our team got into the habit of running through everything we were working on as a full marketing team to make sure it aligned with each other and with a fast-paced company. We also shared ideas, like adding a piece of content (that most of the team didn't know yet was in the works) to a specific prospecting email campaign run by somebody else. Or turning a white paper into a landing page and using paid ads to drive traffic. Or blogging and hashtagging for a relevant conference.
Be a consumer: You can’t emit creativity if you haven’t been inspired creatively. Constantly read, watch and otherwise consume interesting, high-quality material that engages you. It’s sometimes easy for me to get too focused on my to-do list or even reading about specific subjects that will help me understand certain clients or content types. While that's good for me, maybe seeing an exhibit at a museum will give me an idea for a social media series or reading a great novel will help me better empathize with a subset of a client's audiences.
Like almost every challenge, content marketing without “a content marketer” is doable—with a plan, collaboration and self-discipline. And for a dedicated content marketer, those three things can streamline the role to create more time to focus on writing, strategy or amplifying the plan to increase output.
At this point, most organizations realize the value of content marketing. It’s just hard for smaller teams to build up the ideal library. Fortunately, all it really takes is one person to make a plan, delegate boldly, and take the initiative to keep everyone focused generating new ideas, together.