What if you found out that your family only eats 30% of the food you buy from grocery store? Or what if you realized that your contractor only used 30% of the materials on the construction of your new home?
I know I’m not alone when I say this would infuriate me and my bank account. Sadly, this type of waste is the norm for content marketers when it comes to producing content that actually gets published. According to SiriusDecisions, up to 70% of content created goes completely unused by B2B content marketers.
No doubt that SiriusDecision’s survey reveals a sad state for the status of production and publishing; but unfortunately, it’s just as bad once the publish button is clicked for most marketers. Only 27% of B2B marketers say they’re effectively tracking content utilization metrics—meaning that when content is actually published, most marketers have no idea how it was used and if it is working.
Time to Think More like a Manufacturer
While content marketing has made its way into our marketing and PR departments as a key discipline, the data suggests that distribution and tracking success is typically absent from the larger process. In fact, 84% of marketers state they don’t have a formal content strategy for production and distribution processes.
84% of marketers don’t have a formal content strategy for production and distribution processes.
Could it be that we got so caught up in the “content is king” craze that we forgot to take a step back and look at creating a supply chain that truly connects content to an audience and destination? Okay, that was a rhetorical question.
“The best content marketers think like manufacturers,” wrote Jake Sorofman, Digital Analyst at Gartner. Sorofman is right. As content marketers, we repeatedly say we should think and act more like journalists and publishers. Perhaps it’s time for content marketers to exchange their journalist hat for a hardhat—one more fit for the manufacturing floor. While not as sexy as other content marketing areas, good old fashion logistics is the critical glue that will bond content creators, activation experts, and analysts.
Creating and Fixing the Supply Chain…
Ok, enough with the doom and gloom—now the good news. You can stop putting all of your content at risk of never seeing the light of a web browser or mobile screen. It’s time to fix the supply chain! Coming from a role in production and now focusing on promotion, I’ve seen first-hand the chasm that can often exist between the factory, warehouse, and delivery truck of content.
Here are 8 tips you need to take now to fix a broken content marketing supply chain with a keen focus on the end game: audience engagement and retention. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of pieces of content are counting on you to get them the audience they deserve.
Tip 1: Create Tentpoles for the Foundation of Your Content
How do you make sense of all this content you’re supposed to create? So many priorities and directions to go…
It can be daunting and quickly get out of scope, unless you have a North Star for your content strategy. Creating themes for your content marketing supply chain can do wonders to ground the strategy and process in a central approach for all involved in the supply chain. Themes can be informed by business goals, customer needs, product releases, or general trends.
These themes of tentpoles can be weekly, monthly, or even quarterly depending on your business’ cycles and goals. At iQ by Intel, we use an overarching monthly theme, but use sub-topics under that theme to dive deeper into specific areas and verticals. In November, the theme was Better Living Through Bigger Data. As such, we filtered all of our vertical content through the theme’s lens and created posts like this that covered how big data is transforming sports such as sailing, as well as stories like this that focused on healthcare in the world of patient data.
Some questions to ask yourself when creating your themes:
- How can audience-driven content help support our business goals? Where’s the intersection?
- What are some core questions that our target audience is continually asking? How do we provide value and a path to solutions?
- Where is the whitespace in niche topics that matter to our audience? What’s not being covered that could be?
- What are the pain points and frustrations of your audience? How can your product or service solve them?
Tip 2: Supply & Demand: Backfill and Reinvent Your Best Content
The world’s most successful retailers have one thing in common: they all leverage consumer data in combination with an effective supply chain system to backfill the products that are flying off the shelves. They know what’s selling and how to ensure supply meets demand. This is referred to as demand planning in the manufacturing world. For content marketers, we can use the same signals to align supply and demand in real-time.
Take a page out of the playbook of Amazon and Wal-Mart. Use audience insights from your content to determine what to back-fill and do more of in the future. Like most content publishers, you’re likely only seeing that 10-20% of your content produces the majority of your traffic and engagement. What is it about that top 10-20% that’s making the audience engage? Topics, formats, and common denominators? Also, repurpose and recycle your best content when possible. With the right effort, you can turn that hot whitepaper into 6-7 different assets, from a compelling SlideShare to a webinar.
List-based content produced 65% more average engaged time, and 50% more traffic than the average post.
At iQ by Intel, we saw that our list-based content produced 65% more average engaged time, and 50% more traffic than the average post. Today, we utilize list formats in more content and test list-based headlines in nearly all of our promotional content. Also as a result, the average engaged time per iQ post has climbed by 20% since making these changes.
Tip 3: Outcome- and Objective-Based Planning
By default, your editorial calendar will surface up basic info such as content title, author, status, and target audience. The most important component of your editorial planning and calendar, however, should include an additional section that helps connect your content to tangible actions for your audience and a clear purpose for those down the supply chain in publishing and promotion.
Consider creating an outcome category. This is the problem you solve for the reader, and a ultimately the core focus for your editorial team. Include an objective as well—is it a click-through to your blog? A sign up? A comment, or simply a like on Facebook? This will help create the primary reason for the content to both the internal team at large, and, more importantly, the audience. Consider using framework that highlights key variables like this:
- Who will read and share this content?
- Why will they share this content? With whom would they share it?
- What will the audience do after consuming this content? What’s the call-to-action?
Before implementing an objective for content, we discovered that we were creating content that was not aligned to its true purpose. For example; despite a click being the primary goal, we would publish a Facebook post that would have some clever copy but no call-to-action to click on the URL in the post. If a click is the action you want your audience to take, work hard to pay off that objective in the content itself.
Tip 4: Purpose to Platform: Mapping Assets to the Best Destinations
Let’s face it, you have to tap an array of social and distribution platforms today to give your content the best chance to succeed. What works on Tumblr won’t necessarily work on Twitter. A Pinterest “home run” won’t translate to Instagram or LinkedIn.
Your content requires a customized approach, aligned to the attributes of each audience on each network. Bottom line is that each network’s audience is expecting different things, and you have to deliver native content to meet that expectation or else you don’t belong. When looking at your content from a long-form perspective, look at what works on which network. Do you have animated gifs [Tumblr]? What hashtags can you leverage [Twitter]?
Ensuring that you have a process to map assets to the attributes of specific channels will identify any production gaps that exist. If your brand has a Tumblr presence, then you’ll want to have animated GIFs as part of your production process. If you don’t, make it a requirement or don’t bother publishing on Tumblr. It’s okay to focus on a couple platforms—in fact, it’s the best place to start. Focus on one or two channels that make the most sense for your audience and do them really well. From there, look to expand, but don’t start with 10 social media channels.
Tip 5: Embed Amplification in the Review Process
To dovetail off my last tip, ensure that your content workflow and process has a checkbox(s) for the team or person that will be doing the promotion of your content. Make sure they get to look it over before publishing and have adequate time to develop promotional copy and assets. This is even more critical when paid media is applied to the content, ensuring the full utilization of your investment. Wouldn’t it be a shame to spend all that budget on lackluster content?
This is often overlooked in the overall process, but it can make a big impact on the resonance of the content once it hits audiences on their respective networks. In Kapost, you can easily add a step in the workflow…
As someone who is embedded in the production process for promotional and paid media purposes, I’ve found that some big misses can occur if it goes unchecked. We’ll be set to promote a post on Outbrain and Taboola knowing that we’ll need at least 3-4 images to test and optimize, but when the product comes in for final approval, I see that only 1-2 images exist. Having the promotional team involved in the overall publishing approval process allows us to come back with feedback to ensure we have what’s needed to make the content thrive on the networks it will be amplified on.
Tip 6: Be Agile…within the Guard Rails
While I encourage fixing your content factory and supply chain, don’t take it so far that an overly-rigid process gets in the way of the strategy. Leave room for agility and ways to capitalize on more opportunistic and real-time moments… all within the confines of your supply chain structure. If it was all about process then we might as well leave content marketing to robots. The balance of flexibility and process is the sweet spot—too much of one can lead to either chaos or handcuffs.
The time to be agile is in the optimization stage of promoting your content. At this point, your process should have led you to a good place with getting the content initially published and promoted. Now, it’s time to use insights and data to maximize the performance and traction of the content against your goals.
Find those outliers that are working and double-down with additional resources, both with investment and production. It’s crucial to identify trending content quickly to fully utilize its performance. Find ways to act on data daily, even sub-daily, and make sure to build that into the last stages of your overall process.
We call this mentality the “day trader” approach. It’s at odds with the more traditional “buy and hold” or “publish and pray” strategy where you would act more like a mutual fund manager than a day trader.
“Producing a single piece of content is like playing the lottery in that there’s no guarantee it will resonate with your audience,” said Eddie Kim, CEO of SimpleReach. “Therefore, one of the keys to an effective content strategy is producing enough volume combined with an intelligent distribution strategy that quickly identifies your top content.”
Read more about the day trader distribution strategy covered by Digiday and AdExchanger.
Tip 7: Provide Transparency and Visibility for All Players Involved
As indicated by the data above, roughly 1 out 4 marketers are tracking the success of their content. To fix this, the first step is to create a system and culture where everyone from the IT manager to the data analyst is entrenched into the performance data. The entire team should be proactively looking at the data on a regular basis, as well as getting a cadence of solid reports with clear actions for their specific roles. Top-level data points are not useful without an actionable takeaway for individual team members. It’s similar to a financial planner telling you the Dow went up 40 points…it doesn’t mean anything without targeted implications on your personal portfolio.
No matter what tool(s) you’re using for analytics and reporting, do your best to create a “Dow Jones” for your content performance for all the major players in the supply chain, a place where everyone can quickly get a glimpse of what’s performing and trending with clear actions from the data. Yes, we’re not all data scientists, but that doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t have visibility into how to make better data-driven decisions. Just make sure the data is actionable and frequent as possible—data is everywhere, it’s the speed and context in which we get it that can make the greatest impact.
At iQ by Intel, we’ve ensured that our entire team has access to our paid media reports and analytical tools. We also do regular reporting syncs with the broader team using a simple framework that distills the complexity of data into the top insights and what should be doing differently based on the analysis.
See below for three simple steps to looking at the most intriguing data.
- Data point: What’s the raw data telling us? i.e., 42% increase in average time spent for XX post
- Analysis: What’s that data point telling us? Assertions, trends, and historical context? i.e., this post is in list format and has images for every sub-headline
- Future Actions: What should we do differently based on this data? i.e., do at least one list post a/week for rest of the month
Tip 8: Put a Ring on It! Get Analysis and Production Hitched
Ah yes, the best for last. The holy grail for optimizing your supply chain is to make it cyclical, not linear—meaning that your end point (insights and analysis) will close the loop with the production of raw materials (content development). This is how you achieve success with your supply and demand—taking the insights from the pulse of the market and making it real in the form of new product that meets the demand of the audience.
All of these tips should help you ultimately realize this utopia of content marketing logistics, but it’s important to fully adopt the this as the end-goal for all of your analysis and insights. It’s surprising to see how many content marketers are looking at analysis as something that is only fit for the C-level and an elite few in their data science departments. It’s not the end to the process, it’s simply a means to an end…and that end is producing more content that’s paying off your goals and audience demands.
A couple tangible ways to ensure your production and analysis teams are collaborating and exposed to each other’s activities:
- Extended members of the teams: Put a representative(s) from each team on each other’s reporting/editorial calls or meetings. Treat each other as an extended team member and ensure your taking in their insights and perspectives.
- Actions speak louder than numbers: Carve out specific actions from each team’s report for one another. In other words, make both analysis and production teams to give and ask each other for items to do based on the insights.
- Encourage call outs: Have the production team push the analysis team for development insights. Conversely, have the analysis team ask the production team about how they’re using the data to create content differently.
While this post looks at fixing your supply chain of content with special eye on distribution, make sure to check out Kapost’s complete guide to building a content marketing workflow.
This is my last post in the Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution. Please check out the other three posts in this series where I dive deep into distribution through the lens of production, publishing, and paid media using examples from my work and key takeaways for any content marketer. You’re assured to pick up some best practices to apply to your new year’s resolution for content marketing.
- Distribution + Production… 3 Essential Tactics to Infuse Distribution Into Your Production Strategy
- Distribution + Publishing… How to Bake In Distribution Into Your Content Publishing Recipe
- Distribution + Paid Amplification... 3 Steps to Take Your Distribution Strategy from Good to Great