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From the Trenches

Follow This Map to Success: Document Your Content Marketing Strategy

Right Source | June 27, 2016
Follow This Map to Success: Document Your Content Marketing Strategy

Earlier this month, we hosted a morning workshop for our friends at Loyola University Maryland’s Office of Marketing and Communications. After everyone poured coffee and grabbed bagels, we settled down to talk about content marketing strategies and the challenge of engaging in relevant ways with three distinct audience segments: undergraduate, graduate, and alumni. Loyola operates in a centralized Marketing-Communications environment serving both internal and external customers, which adds a layer of complexity to their efforts. In addition to managing the brand, driving enrollment, and maintaining alumni relations, the MarComm team serves as the internal agency for the entire University. Even with the exceptional team they have, it takes an army to get everything done.

As such, they endeavor to maximize resource utilization and meet the ever-growing demands of all their stakeholders. Our workshop was designed to explore industry best practices for content-driven marketing and align those best practices with a well-established and successful marketing operation. Not the easiest task in the world, but there are always opportunities to find efficiencies and scale.

Toward the end of the workshop, Right Source Chief Content Officer Mike Sweeney walked the Loyola team through the various sections of a sample content marketing plan. As the team started discussing the sample, they realized that part of the key to finding efficiency and scale rests on thorough documentation of both the strategy and plan. Without a formal, documented plan, the team runs the risk of getting caught in the ground-swell of daily requests and fires. Creating the plan, working the plan, and sticking to the plan quickly became the theme of the workshop.

The Loyola team isn’t alone in this — most marketing organizations get mired in daily tasks and formally documenting their strategy falls through the cracks. According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), only 37 percent of B2C marketers and 32 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content plan, and 44 percent and 48 percent of them (respectively) have a plan but haven’t put it down on paper. Yet capturing your content marketing strategy is crucial to successfully executing it. Read on to find out why.

Why you need to document your strategy

When your team first starts discussing content marketing strategy, it can be difficult to slow them down and keep track of everything you want to do. After all, there are so many great ideas to implement immediately, and it can feel like you’re delaying the “real” work in order to get the plan down in writing.

However, documenting your content marketing strategy is far from a waste of time. Having a record to refer back to can keep your team accountable once you get into the weeds of your content marketing effort. You’ll know if you’re staying true to your goals, what still remains to be done, who is supposed to do what, and how your effort is evolving over time.

In fact, CMI’s annual Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report reveals that those with a documented content marketing strategy are far more likely to consider themselves more effective at content marketing, and generally more likely to consider themselves more effective with every tactic and social media channel.

How to capture your plan

So how do you actually record your content marketing strategy? Tactically, a trusty PowerPoint is a good way to break down the information into manageable sections, and you can craft an executive summary so you have an “elevator pitch” to send around to other departments in addition to (or in select cases, instead of) the full deck.

It goes without saying that your plan should be created on either your corporate PowerPoint template or something custom that you have designed just for this effort, but regardless, your presentation should be professional and buttoned up. This will be your Bible for the year, and you will need to be able to share it with every level of your organization with pride.

A PowerPoint may involve more work than a simple Word doc or spreadsheet, but it lends a sense of legitimacy to the plan. In effect, you are saying the plan is worth the extra effort to flesh out images and charts, rather than just leaving it at roughly sketched-out notes.

Securing support for your strategy

Once you’ve got a record of your plan, it’s time to start getting people on board. In the Loyola marketing team’s case, they have many different stakeholders within their organization, so getting that backing is key. In other situations, you may be trying to get approval from someone internal to your team or department instead. But you will need to get buy-in, and sometimes it can be challenging.

If you’ve never documented your content marketing strategy before, be prepared to start at the beginning, educating others on what such a strategy is and why it’s important. You might even have to go back to basics and explain what content marketing itself is. Offer some data (86 percent of B2B marketers report that their companies use content marketing), describe studies that show how other companies have been successful with content marketing efforts, or point out examples of what your competitors are doing.

Even if you’ve had a quasi-strategy before — maybe just never formally capturing it — external stakeholders still might not understand it or what it entails. This may seem like a lot of work, but laying all of this groundwork can actually be an effective recruitment tool if you’re trying to get others involved in the plan’s execution — whether it’s as direct contributors, subject matter experts, or just people who are willing to share your content.

Make sure to arrange a formal, in-person presentation of your plan at least to your most critical stakeholders. Only sending your plan out via email leaves it to recipients to figure out how all the pieces fit together, and that could spell disaster for your efforts.

Content marketing is a long game, so it should be no surprise that patience is also key with adoption of the strategy. It may take time to transition everyone to thinking in terms of the content marketing plans, especially if you have a complex environment with many stakeholders like the Loyola team.

Think of your documented content marketing plan as your roadmap for success. It’s easier to know where you’re going when you have something to guide you, so remember to circle back to it frequently once you have it written down and everyone is on board.

Need to get started documenting your content marketing strategy? Download our eBook, “Build Your Content Marketing Plan: A 10-Step Guide.” For more planning help, get in touch.

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The Marketing Trenches blog provides thought leadership from actual marketing practitioners, not from professional thought leaders. Designed to help business leaders make more educated marketing decisions, our insights come directly from our experience in the trenches. You can find more from Right Source on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and LinkedIn.