One of the most ineffective ways to plan a content strategy is to think in terms of one-off content.
It’s far too easy for marketers to tall into the trap of being reactionary. One day, you’re working on a blogging plan for the next six months. You’re ready to put words around the ideas in your head. Then, all of a sudden, you’re pulled into a campaign to help your sales team meet a Q3 sales quota. On top of it all, you need to get your content strategy done. You’re working three jobs. You wonder how it’s all going to get done.
The good news and bad news for marketers is that we’re perpetually working 3 jobs. We need to be creative, well-equipped to work with data, and strategic in terms of how we build an overall brand.
According to research from Accenture Strategy, 50% of CEOs see their CMO as the primary driver of disruptive growth for their organizations. But marketers are also the most likely to take the blame if growth targets aren’t met. And only 36% of surveyed CMOs ranked launching new business models and value trains as important priorities.
That’s why it’s so important that we shift our thinking from short-term to long-range. We need to build systems rather than one-off assets.
When we’re in the routine of running integrated marketing campaigns, we:
- Can predict our own growth
- Build a library of assets that sales teams can repurpose
- Alleviate fire drills or last-minute rushes
- Create more holistic brand stories
- Make it easier for people to understand your brand narrative
Integrated marketing campaigns are built around critical moments in your buyers’ decision cycles. The assets that you create from awareness through consideration are most effective when aligned with specific questions that people want to learn about. For that reason, integrated marketing campaigns help companies conserve resources and avoid time sinks that turn into opportunity costs.
Here’s how to plan an integrated marketing strategy:
Step 1: Figure out What Your Sales Cycle Looks Like
Understand what questions prospects are asking and what might arise as a deal-breaker. Figure out where sales teams (or support lines) are bogged down with questions. Document what ice-breakers are helping kickstart initial conversations. This process will help you determine exactly what content you need to build.
How do you deconstruct your customer journey? Talk to sales teams, advisors for your company, and existing customers. Develop a landscape-level view of the narrative that your customers find most compelling about your company.
Step 2: Build a Content Pillar
A content pillar is the backbone of an integrated marketing campaign. In the initiative template above, the core asset/pillar is at the center, with supporting and derivative assets all around.
Your content pillar could be an eBook, microsite, set of tutorials, or other in-depth assets. It should have an educational focus and build on your company’s narrative.
The beauty of a content pillar is that it should lend itself easily to creating multiple pieces of content. Break down the themes you hone throughout the content of your resource into other assets that include infographics, micrographics, and derivative blog posts.
Running a content program can be highly challenging at times, and if you don’t find ways to repurpose and reuse content, your program can easily collapse, burying your marketing team in a heap of unfinished, one-off projects. Content pillars provide the support you need to strategize and produce a large volume of organized, related content in a short time.
There are an endless number of derivative assets to create. You might consider:
- Video scripts
- Speaker presentations
The value in your content pillar will be the solutions you provide to readers. You can repurpose the information you gather into a variety of forms—make sure you keep those artifacts (diagrams, interview recordings, etc.) on hand.
Step 3: Create a Story around Your Pillar
Just because you write a book doesn’t mean that people will read it. You need to first, offer a unique perspective on your market and second, use your marketing technology stack to reinforce the story that you’re telling.
In a way, think of this process as a series of short, enticing steps. Make people want to read what you’ve created—and don’t let them forget that the resource that you’ve developed is available. Take the time to document the backstory. Why did you decide to develop this pillar? What pain points in the market are you addressing? Have you tested it and if so, what were the results?
An integrated marketing campaign is the equivalent of marketing knowledge. Today’s buyers want to work with experts. They want confidence in the technologies, products, and services they choose.