In layman's terms, content marketing is the art and science of communicating with your customers without an upfront sales agenda. Today’s smart consumer knows how to unplug from the world of push marketing — spam filters, TiVo and the 'forward' button on YouTube are just a few examples of this. Additionally, engaging customers in the ever-expanding digital universe is a skill that organizations around the world are scrambling to master. Organizations with a strong marketing discipline like Procter & Gamble and Microsoft are blazing the trail in this core marketing differentiator. A popular case study is that of Red Bull – which runs its own media house, Red Bull Media House, with content at the heart of its digital strategy.
According to Gartner, the best way to think about content marketing is Create, Curate and Cultivate. Gartner also encourages marketers to think of the content supply chain in the same way that a manufacturer should think of a production line. These are brilliant pieces of advice, which can help organizations that are in the developing or enhancing stages of achieving content marketing excellence. But, what if you are just starting out, and building a content strategy from scratch? Where would you start — with your data/content, technology, external agency or your employees?
Below is a three-step primer that provides elementary steps to laying the foundation for strong content strategy.
1. Inventory your content capabilities
What channels do you currently use and will you use in the future? How much content do you currently have in terms of organic, curated and cultivated sources? Where is content stored and how is it accessed? Who owns the content? Do you have the right skill set in your organization to create and manage content? These are some of the preliminary questions that one should use to baseline your current content capabilities. When inventorying your content capabilities, it’s critical to have a handle on the marketing capabilities you want for the future.
2. Define your content marketing aspirations
With a pinch of realism, it's good to dream big with content. Seasoned content marketers champion the need for content to be mobile through being independent of brand, product or service. In a mature stage, content creation (blogs, video, reports, etc.) is continuous, not occasional. Successful content marketing companies have capabilities that enable real-time content marketing and curating. Robust technologies manage content not only as a repository but also the workflows from an ownership, approval and archiving perspective.
3. Formulate a content enablement road map
Now that you know where you stand and where you want to be, map out the steps. A good way to think about the road map is to merge the bottoms-up thinking of what capabilities you can build vs. buy and grow vs. acquire with the top-down considerations of budget, timeline, etc. Create a sense of awareness within the firm, engage key stakeholders, accelerate executive buy-in and engage the right agencies and systems to help your organization reach the goals of your content marketing.
An integrated marketing strategy is not feasible without a strong content strategy. Content is the life blood of digital marketing and is predicted as the #1 focus for CMOs in 2014. A solid content strategy enables dynamic content and real-time marketing and acts as a strong supplement to your traditional advertising strategy. Lastly, the right content strategy helps drive up tangible metrics like revenue and profit but also increases the powerful intangibles like customer advocacy and awareness.
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