A version of this post was originally published on LinkedIn.
Many companies are now starting to get organized around content. Some are finding early success; many more are not achieving the results they need to continue, or to scale. Here are some lessons from the front line of the content marketing era to help you make a successful transition from being interested in content marketing to being fully committed to content marketing.
The answer is to develop a series of low-risk, but high-potential pilots that allow you to find success early and create momentum in your organization.
Here are eight filters to help you define pilots that will rock:
Decide which audiences to focus on in your pilots. The more targeted, the better. Then look for audiences with needs are not well served today. Content marketing works better for brands, products or services that have considered purchases., such as car purchases, investments, business services and healthcare.
Start close in with your most valuable customers because it will be easier to improve response and engagement than with a customer you have no relationship with.
2. Customer journeys
Once you have decided on the customer priorities, map out the customer journey so that you understand the rational and emotional needs of each stage of the journey, and which channels the customer prefers to engage with. This is an excellent opportunity to encourage collaboration across your market research teams, channel managers and brand teams. Look for gaps where there is an opportunity to make a real difference. Look for opportunities where your corporate brand promise will resonate. And get alignment on all of this with cross-functional team at the earliest stage of pilot thinking.
3. Timeliness and scalability
This is an important practical need. You only have so much time to prove the case for content marketing efforts. Develop pilots that do not take long to get to market. Ideally, you should be in market within three months. At the same time, do not over invest in infrastructure to support pilots. Be pragmatic and use band aids in the short term, and then build out the infrastructure once you have a winning pilot on your hands. This is called a right-sized infrastructure. And make sure those pilots have the potential to scale, so you can continue to invest in that specific approach.
4. Response curves
Direct marketers know that it is easier to take response rates from good to excellent than it is to establish response rates that are already low. You should have some pilots in areas of your business where you already have decent response rates. Conversion or advocacy measures may be easier to impact than acquisition. Because you already have a base level of performance, you can explore how a content ingredient can improve results. When done well, content marketing can become a genuine way to serve your customers, so you may well see an improvement in customer service scores or that customers spend less time with sales or service teams. That operational improvement should be measured, too.
Watch what your competitors are doing and learn from them. You can then out think and out flank them by using their strategy, but in a way that is unique to your brand and product strengths.
6. Always on
Avoid one-offs that are tied to a season or a news event. Your pilots should be always on and repeatable. For a global company, a pilot should be designed to go global.
7. Highly measured
Ensure pilots are measured in the same way that other marketing investments are made, so that you can report results in a way that is already understood. It is easy to dismiss results if new-fangled language or engagement measures are used that are not respected or understood. The gold standard is to be able to connect content engagement to a business result.
Build teams across the organization to engaged stakeholders and shares learnings about your pilot successes and failures. Ensure your paid media team is involved, and ask them to approach owned and earned channels with as much rigor as paid channels. Ensure knowledge sharing is in place, because once you find pilots working you will want to spread the word. The only competitive advantage is the ability to share knowledge faster than your competitors.
These eight filters are by no means exhaustive, but illustrate the need to think strategically about your pilots before you jump in. Once you have a long list of pilot options, rank them in a scorecard against each of these criteria, weighted if necessary for emphasis. Then pick the ones that rise to the top, and hold onto the remainder for future waves of activity. The low hanging fruit is there for you to pick.
Click here to explore how OneSpot can help you evaluate your opportunities to run content marketing pilots and develop comprehensive content programs.
David is Chief Strategy Officer at OneSpot.