With content marketing top of many marketers’ lists of priorities this year, it’s vital that companies get their content organisation in shape to make it more effective. Jonathan Whiteside, Co-Founder at design and build agency Building Blocks, talks to Figaro Digital about the importance of planning, process and infrastructure to ensure content marketing efforts can deliver tangible business value
The content marketing industry in the UK is currently worth almost a billion pounds and yet, according to recent research by the Content Marketing Institute and the Direct Marketing Association UK, 52 per cent of UK marketers admit it’s not something they’re doing efficiently.
As we all become more familiar with content’s role throughout the different stages of the buyer’s journey, the efficient management of content creation and publishing also becomes increasingly vital to commercial success.
Building Blocks, a digital agency that specialises in the design, build and ongoing support of large complex websites, have formulated a content management fitness plan to guide their clients. And, like any fitness plan, it begins with jettisoning a few bad habits.
Focus on man, not machine
“The problem is that a lot of website content has been written to influence a machine, primarily Google, in order to drive traffic from search results artificially,” says Building Blocks’ Jonathan Whiteside. “And such artificial content, stuffed with keywords and linked to from unnatural sources, is not informed by what real people want and need.”
Every digital touch-point, says Whiteside, needs content, but the primary focus must be on the audience if content creation efforts are to deliver real business value. You have to remember you are building an asset with content, one that can yield results for months and years to come. Of course, content should be optimised for search engines, but only to ensure that each page is indexed appropriately and to attract the right people, delivering the relevant answers they are looking for when they input their search query.
“Google is becoming more ‘human’ in the way it looks at content,” agrees Whiteside. All the algorithm updates, of which there are hundreds every year, are focused on getting better, more relevant search results. So get rid of the old bad habits born out of antiquated SEO practices, stop gorging on poor quality content and start getting in shape with a content strategy focused on the needs of your target audiences.
Get organised and apply discipline
Step one in the Building Blocks’ fitness plan involves clearly articulating what you are trying to achieve. Most fitness programmes start out with an end goal in mind. Define and agree measurable, commercial objectives and track and share your progress obsessively, just like you would if you were training for a marathon or an Iron Man event. But don’t forget to bring to life a vision behind which all stakeholders can unite, not least in how valuable content can support and enhance your brand positioning and credibility.
Now you need to ensure a balanced workout in your content programme. Consider the different types of content and the role each one plays. It’s not all about blog posts or product copy! What purpose does different content play and how can you leverage a variety of formats, including video and visual content, downloadable takeaway content and so on to achieve your aims and meet the needs of your customers. For example, you may need a range of content to support customers post-purchase, which would be very different to content you use to attract relevant traffic from new visitors and prospects.
Managing digital channels in any large organisation, say Building Blocks, has to be a team sport. Unlike traditional publishers who already have a broad range of skills to draw on, it’s important to define the roles and skills needed across your organisation to deliver.
It is highly likely you won’t have all the specialist skills in-house to ensure peak performance, so you may need to bring in extra players from outside. However, you do have experts in your field within your organisation, and you need to leverage their knowledge and ideas by breaking down the walls between segregated departments. C-Level sponsorship certainly helps with this, as does having someone who’s got final say on priorities and who can direct resources to make sure things happen. “Often things get stalled because decisions aren’t being made on time,” says Whiteside.
The right processes and tools
As an agency that specialises in large scale and often-complex content management systems and programmes, for Building Blocks planning and process are paramount. Whiteside recommends planning a clear schedule for your content throughout the year and tailoring it according to customer segments.
Your entire business, he says, must be encouraged to provide input which your content teams can then shape into a clear calendar which can be shared and managed more efficiently than a
random, ad-hoc approach.
“Have a realistic plan,” says Whiteside. “Map out the features and content assets you want to include but align these with your business objectives and your marketing plan. And make sure you have the IT infrastructure in place.
There’s no point trying to create content if you don’t have the right templates or functionality to support it. Don’t create a content plan in isolation. Make sure it’s integrated with all your digital platforms.”
Pivotal though process is, says Whiteside, this is one area that’s frequently skated over by busy businesses. If your team are unclear about who needs to do what and when, chances are nothing will get done at all.
Responsibility matrices can help identify lines of accountability. Automate repetitive tasks (your team will thank you for this) and instead spend more time crafting the experiences that users will actually engage with. And that brings us to tools and technology which are not, for Building Blocks, the answer to marketers’ prayers. Nor should they be at the centre of the decision-making process. Technology, explains Whiteside, is the support mechanism that binds
everything else together.
“Choose the right tools to help you. Implement them in a way that is aligned to how you will actually use them. And remember they’re tools – not the focus of your efforts.”
Six steps to content management fitness
1. Define measurable objectives aligned to organisation, brand and customer goals.
2 Create variety by using a mix of content based on each content role and channel.
3. Ensure your skilled people work as a team and assign the decision-maker roles.
4. Create a detailed plan aligning your marketing and IT roadmaps as well as customer mind-sets.
5. Define processes and governance structures introducing routine and repetition to instil discipline.
6. Implement technology tools to support and automate your activities and improve performance
Article by Jon Fortgang and Liane Grimshaw