Content is fuel for digital marketing. It is hard to do anything – SEO, paid search, social media, email, etc. – without having quality content.
Whether it is in a range of formats like video, articles, blog posts, images, content is a necessity.
We have varying levels of sophistication when it comes to research and development of our schedules and calendars.
Depending on our focus and target audience, we may lock in on short-form articles, long-form, whitepapers, gated content, video, webinars for B2B, or go with quick hits and short formats that are visually heavy for B2C.
Regardless of our current level of planning and strategy and our organization’s target audience, we know we can improve the return on investment of our content and be more efficient in the process of generating it.
Here are eight tips to maximize your content budget and stop wasting money.
1. Align Content Needs with Goals
If a digital marketing channel like SEO is driving the push for more or different content, that can be a problem. SEO and digital marketing professionals need content for their efforts.
If they’re asking for it and it is a surprise or if they’re asking for formats and topics that aren’t in the broader digital marketing, or marketing plan, that isn’t a good sign.
Take a step back and ensure that all digital marketing channels are aligned toward overall marketing goals for the organization.
Then, work backward to see how each need content to contribute to the customer journey. From there you’ll be able to find shared content needs that will funnel into the overall goals.
SEO and other digital marketing channel goals shouldn’t be so different that their targeting and audience focuses require 100% unique and separate content to be generated than the other channels.
2. Create a Strategy
A strategy isn’t stating that we’re going to create two blog posts per week, do some SEO to them, and share them on social. (Apologies if I step on any toes here!)
If you’re in that boat, there’s no shame. Now is the time to take your goals (see above), do research (more on that to come), and create a bigger strategy.
Yes, you’ll need the tactical part of it regarding when you’ll create and deploy content. However, you need to know:
- What you’re producing.
- Why you’re producing it.
- Your expected content ROI at a top-level as well as a channel-specific one.
Most importantly – bring all of your marketing channels to the same table.
Understand what they are targeting, make sure there’s alignment across the board, and determine what their content needs are individually to create a cohesive strategy.
3. Learn from the Past
If you haven’t taken a deep-dive into analytics, channel metrics, and anecdotal results from the sales team – now’s the time.
While we can speculate on what performed well or what we want to promote, we definitely need to gain insight from what has worked and what hasn’t in the past.
Jane may think the piece on the quantum physics of how we engineer the widget is the best article ever written for the industry while John bets his lunch on the whitepaper comparing all of the inferior competitor widgets to our company’s widget.
Both may be right, both may have impressions based on what they feel is important in messaging.
If you have data and can trust how the content was optimized, shared, and promoted in the past, use this to influence the strategy going forward.
4. Learn from Competitors
While there may be an argument that we’re different and better than all of our competitors – or that no one really does what we do – there’s always something to learn.
Even a basic review and documentation of the topics, formats, and what we can see externally and through research tools in terms of engagement on competitor websites can help us.
We don’t need to repeat the competitors’ mistakes and we can leverage what appears to be working with our better and different take on the topics.
5. Listen to Your Audience
Going beyond the review of the past in analytics and reporting for engagement and what has worked well, talk with your team. Or, even better, talk to your customers.
- What are their pain points?
- What are the questions they had when in the research and buying process?
- What content helped them?
- What do they wish you had told them?
- How could they have found you faster?
There are a lot of great questions that can be asked both internal and external stakeholders. This doesn’t have to be through a statistically significant sample or survey.
Use conversations, surveys, and meetings to get this info and see how it aligns with goals, topics, and the plan.
6. Leverage Your Subject Matter Experts
Creating content can be a significant investment in both hard and soft costs for an organization. If you’re paying external writers, photographers, videographers, strategists, subject matter experts, etc., you’re investing a lot.
If you have internal subject matter experts, you have a wealth of knowledge readily available. The challenge is unlocking that knowledge and turning it into content.
You’ve got a strategy, you have goals, you know what the competition is saying and doing, you know what your channels need, now you need to produce the content.
Sure Jane and John aren’t marketers and writing in alignment with the content marketing plan isn’t their strong suit. That doesn’t mean that we can’t use them.
- Get bullet points from them.
- Interview them.
- Write an initial draft and have them add to it.
- Have them give you an initial draft.
With some guidance and the right process to get valuable content out of them, you can mine your internal resources and save both external and internal resource capital.
7. Use the Same Content in Multiple Ways
The goal of investment in content should be to get the most out of it.
Being able to leverage it in multiple digital marketing channels, for uses beyond marketing, and by packaging it in different ways, we can get the most out of it.
Additionally, being able to reuse the same content (if it isn’t breaking news or tied to a trending topic), you can find ways to resurface it and put different angles on it down the road.
For example, if you had a great article about the upcoming “mobilegeddon” you can write follow up pieces repurposing it when the deadline is nearing and even after the fact: “Mobilegeddon 1-month out: what we learned”.
By thinking about the multiple formats, channels, and ways to revisit and repurpose content topics, we can get even more out of original pieces of content without having to start from scratch.
Plus, more focus and concentration on a topic helps build thought leadership rather than just sprinkling out posts and mentions on a wide range of topics.
8. Measure Content Performance & Be Agile
While we can have the best 12-month plan in place with goals, strategy, tactical scheduling, and budget lined up, the reality is that things won’t play out exactly as we predict.
We have to have some level of agility built into the strategy or process.
This means we have to be constantly measuring the performance of our content against goals at the top level and within digital marketing channels and be willing to adjust the strategy as we go.
If we’re getting a ton of traction on a certain topic, putting more time into that topic and delaying another might be the answer.
In other cases, if we aren’t seeing traction, there may be a case for moving onto other areas of the strategy or adjusting the promotional and optimization plans.
Regardless, this is a fluid process that can’t be planned on an annual static calendar and rigid with no way to adjust.
Yes, you need the long-term strategy and calendar, but you have to build in the mechanisms to be able to adjust as you go.
With content being a focal point and necessary function of virtually all digital marketing channels – including search marketing – we know we have to invest in it.
By being proactive with our content marketing approach and finding ways to save money, become more efficient, and see better performance as a bonus.