How to Build a Content Marketing Program from Scratch

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A lot can change in a year. One year ago, I was the lone attendee from SAP at Content Marketing World 2013. We were looking for a way to create content that would resonate with our target audience and a strategy that would align with our goals.

Starting a successful content marketing initiative is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming undertaking. There are different ways to go about creating a program and the key is finding what will work best for your business.

3 Pillars of Content Marketing

There are three pillars to establish before getting started. These pillars go above and beyond strategy, since strong execution applies to content marketing more so than most business practices. The three pillars are team, platform and budget.

Team

It's all about people. Hire passionate and exceptionally creative people. If you are unable to recruit externally, tap into your existing employees. Who knows, you may uncover a passion of theirs. Trust your team, give them ownership over content creation and let them take the lead.

Platform

Most people start their content marketing efforts by blogging. However, having a platform to both deliver and measure this content is critical. When creating a new platform, or leveraging an existing one, you will need to make a philosophical decision about whether or not it should be on or off domain. There are benefits to both, but the decision should be based on what is best for your audience and the manner in which they prefer to consume content.

Budget

If you don't start with something, you can't ask for more later. Pick a target audience and identify their pain points. Once the audience and their needs are identified, allocate budget to create a piece of compelling content, and then execute. One important step many people overlook is to measure. Measure everything to show ROI. Being able to show ROI and justify that the content marketing initiative is working will make it easier to ask for additional budget down the road.

The Performance Stage

After these three pillars are established, it is time to move on to performance. How do you express ROI for your content marketing efforts? Balancing awareness-level ROI (building an audience), with revenue and financial impact ROI can be difficult. It is about finding the right mix for your program and what is needed at the current stage.

With performance you need to set expectations up front, since establishing a content marketing strategy is not an overnight task. It will take time to create, grow and eventually be viewed as a trusted voice within the industry. While doing this, look at your audience’s engagement with content -- where are they consuming it and what channels do they prefer? Look to these places to drive traffic and share your content. You can’t use yesterday’s metrics to measure content in today’s world.

Next, is the content mix dilemma. There are different types of content, original in-house, original third-party (licensed) and curated content. There are many different ways to mix the content you provide to your audience. While the ideal situation would be to have the majority be original content, that is not always feasible. Being able to fill the gaps with licensed and curated content provides a great alternative. Additionally, having third party content is a way to earn the trust and credibility with your audience and other influencers.

When building out a content marketing program, remember to think ahead and anticipate what’s next. Quality over quantity should be the goal. Pushing out quality content will always benefit a brand over pushing out content just to hit quantity goals. In the future, we all want to see an increase in owned-branded content verses paid-branded content. Owned-branded content shows that people have bought into the program and are passionate, knowledgeable and willing to help curate the brand they work for. Having paid-branded content makes the brand seem less trustworthy to the audience.

Brands of all sizes are increasingly accepting content marketing as an integral component of their marketing strategy. Starting from scratch is not always easy, however, if you are able to pull together the right team, platform and budget, the support you need during the journey will be there as well as an outlet for the content.

Set expectations with your leadership team in terms of the outcomes they can expect, put the appropriate measurement tools and processes in place, learn from your mistakes, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful content marketing program.

Title image jeff_goldman (Flickr) via a CC BY-SA 2.0 license