July 10, 2023
Whether your company is focused on developing your audience, reaching new customers, marketing your product, or building your brand, the most important step you can take is putting together a content marketing program.
And yet a sizable number of companies, including those at almost every stage of the growth trajectory from startup to enterprise, have not created a strategic marketing plan. And even more companies say they have a marketing plan that isn’t delivering the results they expected.
Chief marketing officers (CMOs) and other marketing leaders are already aware that an effective content marketing program costs significantly less than traditional channels. Content marketing helps them develop three times as many leads and six times as many conversions.
So what’s keeping marketing professionals from creating a content marketing program that works?
No cohesive strategy. Marketing teams often try out a variety of approaches, only to abandon them when they don’t pan out immediately. This is why developing a comprehensive, long-term strategy — and sticking to it — is so important. For every piece of content, you should know why you are creating it, how it fits into the bigger picture, and what you want it to accomplish.
Lack of consistency. The best way to maintain momentum in your marketing program is by uploading new content on a regular cadence. This way your team knows what and when it should be posting. It doesn’t always have to be newly created material; sometimes, reposting evergreen content can be equally as effective. If you’re having trouble staying on track, use a marketing calendar to plan and schedule your posts.
Not enough analytics. How do you know whether your marketing strategy is working? If you can’t answer right away, you probably aren’t gathering enough data about how your content is performing. Or you aren’t using the data you’re collecting as effectively as possible.
Content isn’t hitting the mark. You can accomplish these first three points — putting together the right strategy, posting it on a regular basis, and analyzing how your content performs — and still not have an effective content marketing program. In that case, the problem is probably your content itself: It’s not resonating with your potential customers because the quality of the writing is poor or the subject matter doesn’t grab them.
If you’re encountering any of these issues, it’s time to consider launching a content marketing program or upgrading the one you already have.
When they realize they need to make a purchase, your customers start off by conducting their own independent research. According to a report by Gartner, buyers spend 27% of their time on online research. They spend another 18% on offline research. The interaction with the seller only occupies about 17% of their time. As a marketer, that doesn’t give you much opportunity to get your foot in the door.
In today’s world, both B2B and B2C companies are looking for the most effective ways to connect with customers as soon as they begin researching their options online. This means producing content that speaks to the problems customers are trying to solve and answers any questions they might have. This content must engage customers and spark their interest in the company’s products, which are positioned as the obvious solution.
But all this is easier said than done. In a poll of 1,200 marketing experts from around the world, HubSpot reported that 22% of marketing teams said one of their biggest challenges is creating engaging content. About 21% said that they were encountering problems reaching their target audience, while 20% said that they were having a hard time generating new ideas for content that led to conversions.
To create content that resonates with potential customers, experts agree that your company needs to have the right kind of team in place. The good news is that you can start out small and expand your team as your company grows. In the following sections, we’ll look at what you need at four key stages: Startup, Growth, Expansion, and Enterprise.
The point of a content marketing program is to prove your company has the expertise in the field that your customers are seeking. This is especially crucial for startups.
How early should you start with content marketing? Does it make sense to create content before your company has gone to market? Experts say that content marketing is necessary for early-stage startups because it’s the most effective and economical way to establish brand awareness.
Begin by creating top-of-funnel content — such as blog posts and social media content — that catches the attention of your target audience. If you do this correctly, you can start to create buzz around your product even before your official launch date.
Here are a few tips when creating your first piece of content:
At this stage, the right size for your content marketing team depends on your goals. You can often get away with one person who wears multiple hats — editing blog posts, updating social media, and planning the content schedule. It’s possible to still have top-notch content, especially if you use an outside company to help you plan your strategy and write and edit your articles.
As your company moves into the growth stage — also known as the scale-up stage — your content should evolve. You still need top-of-funnel content that catches the attention of potential customers. But you also need lower-funnel content, such as personal stories or case studies, that results in purchase conversions and generates more leads.
All of which means you need more content spread across more platforms. To accomplish this, you need to increase the size of your team. Hiring a content marketing manager is a crucial step when you bring in additional people.
The moment your company enters the growth stage, everything changes. In a startup, it’s all-hands-on-deck when a crucial task needs to be accomplished. But at a growth-stage company, accountability is a must. Systems are automated and hierarchies are established.
During the growth stage, you’ll probably find out quickly that an ad hoc, jack-of-all-trades approach no longer works for your content marketing team. Your content marketing manager will be hiring team members based on their specific areas of expertise, from content strategy to social media management.
How large should your team be at this point? You’ll probably have only a handful of full-time staffers with complementary, but not entirely overlapping, skills. The rest will be handled by outside consultants who know your industry well.
One of the hardest transitions a company can make is into the expansion stage. It’s a gratifying time, because all of the work put into product development, customer development, and content marketing has paid off. Now for the real challenge: Figuring out what comes next.
For your content marketing team, expansion involves a lot of changes. You’ve probably saturated your current marketing channels, so you need to figure out what other options are available. On top of that, the company is probably releasing more and more products that need to be included in your content marketing plan.
The content marketing team will definitely be expanding, meaning recruiting, onboarding, and other complex management tasks will come to the fore. Some managers may not have the skills to run more complex organizations, so changes in leadership may be necessary. If the company hasn’t already brought in a vice president of marketing or a CMO, the expansion stage is the time to do it.
You’ll also need to develop your areas of expertise. Instead of one person writing your social media posts, you’ll probably have a social media manager overseeing the department, with several different people writing posts. The same goes for the teams handling your blog and other channels, which could result in a tone shift for your messaging.
With more than 1,000 employees, an enterprise company has more marketing requirements than smaller companies. That’s why close to one in 10 employees at enterprise companies work in marketing and related departments.
In an enterprise-level company, content marketing can be a real challenge. That’s because silos arise when a company reaches a certain size, and the content marketing team is often split up into different departments. And each department might handle a different product line.
You can imagine the problems this can cause. According to research by the Content Marketing Institute, 74% of enterprise companies reported struggling with coordinating content marketing across departments. About 60% said departmental silos are a barrier to their content marketing efforts, and 50% said they are unable to leverage technology adequately.
Many of the most successful enterprise companies avoid these silos by revisiting their content marketing plan. It might make more sense for them to organize their teams by function, such as Brand, Growth, and Acquisition. That way they aren’t duplicating their efforts.
But the basics of content marketing — know your audience, understand your business model, and start out with the right foundation — stay the same no matter what stage your company is in. Follow these precepts and you’re well on your way to reaching your target audience.