Theoretically, saying “no” should be super easy. Two measly letters, one syllable, point made.
Psychologically, saying no can be super difficult. Most of us would rather take a stab at saying “Otorhinolaryngologist.” We might come out of it feeling embarrassed, but hey, we didn’t offend anyone or close the door on possibilities.
What does this have to do with content marketing strategies?
Well, marketers are no different from the general population in that we feel compelled to say “yes.”
“Should we up our blogging cadence?”
I don’t see what it could it hurt.
“What about this whole Twitch thing? Should we be experimenting with that?”
Seems to be the next big thing.
“I’m thinking we should revive the white paper, only better.”
I mean, if it’s better…
“Should we keep targeting the C-Suite but also build a groundswell of support at the user level?”
I read something recently about users being the most influential stakeholders.
“And how about video?”
It’s tough to argue with the stats about people loving video.
Any of the above suggestions could realistically work wonders with the proper content planning, execution and promotion. Experimentation shouldn’t be discouraged — it’s the driving force behind so many breakthrough campaigns. But the point is, every time we say yes to a new tactic, format, channel, audience or what have you without eliminating something that’s not working so hot, we reduce our odds of doing anything exceptionally well.
When we try to be everything to everyone in every channel, we inevitably circle back to the same question: How can we get those special someones to know us, like us and do business with us?
Before I dive into simplified content marketing strategies, allow me to clarify a few things. No matter which route you ultimately take, the same tenets of content marketing strategy apply. That is, you’ll want:
- A content marketing mission statement
- A documented strategy that remains front-and-center for all to see it
- Audience understanding and persona development
- Defined roles and responsibilities
- Brand messaging guidelines
- Proven, repeatable workflows
- Goals, KPIs and a plan for measuring and optimizing results
These are the strategic staples, no matter how simple or complex your content marketing strategy may be.
Next, I’m not suggesting the “integrated digital marketing mix” is bad. For most all of us, it’s necessary. I’m merely suggesting that memorable content experiences are more likely when the mix is cleansed and prioritized.
Think of it as taking on a 500-piece puzzle with your team instead of a 1600-piece puzzle. You’ll almost certainly figure it out faster and the result is just as beautiful. Pieces are less apt to go missing, or turn up mangled, and team members are less inclined to fling the box into the air and head for the exit.
Disclaimers disclaimed, here are four simplified content marketing strategies that can aid your team’s aim, alleviating the anxiety that stems from taking on too much.
The Outbound-Assisted Content Marketing Strategy
Why not start with inbound? Isn’t that the most popular approach of them all? Because inbound’s never-ending list of options is what got many content marketers into this mess (plus the ensuing strategies represent ways to tame your inbound monster).
As you read this, hordes of inbound marketers are shifting their gaze to outbound because they don’t have a choice. Leads need to be generated. Sales need to be made. And with everyone publishing content to the web, the odds of being discovered aren’t what they once were. Inbound-only success is still entirely possible. It’s just harder. Particularly if you’re getting started with content marketing.
An outbound-assisted content marketing strategy helps you do away with self-imposed content creation demands.
Rather than producing blog posts day-in and day-out because you’ve committed to a publishing cadence, you can create content assets and landing pages as needed and then pay to deliver those assets to the exact people who need to see them. You still might create a boatload of content, but only when there’s a logical case for it, not because there’s nothing scheduled for Tuesday. The inbound component isn’t out the window — you can still optimize many assets and landing pages for organic search and social.
Let’s be clear, an outbound-only strategy is rare, but by coupling outbound’s advanced targeting with desirable, inbound-style content, outbound can work like a charm.
Example of an Outbound-Assisted Content Marketing Strategy
Agency Clever Zebo was tasked with connecting a client to Chief Learning Officers and top HR execs at Fortune 500 companies. The approach? An inbound tactic, webinars, assisted by an outbound tactic, social advertising. Rather than rely on organic promotion and figuring out complex search algorithms to meet lead gen objectives, Clever Zebo went out and found its ideal audience, creating simple, personalized ads that earned an impressive 15% conversion rate and a bounty of qualified leads.
The “Own a Content Format” Strategy
Webinars, podcasts, email, ebooks, blog posts, interactive, video… The list of tactics at your disposal is long and getting longer. They can all work, so why not hedge your bets and try a bunch? Some of your audience members prefer video while others prefer to read, right?
Well, let’s say you want to add interactive and video to an already healthy mix. To do these formats well, you’re now tasked with securing a top-notch web developer and videographer, along with senior editors who can administer feedback via quality-inducing workflows to assure an impressive result, repeatedly.
If you’ve got a growing team and a budget to match, by all means. But too often these initiatives don’t get the scrutiny they deserve because the team can’t dedicate the necessary time and attention.
Example of Owning a Content Format
With a mission of “simplifying the complex finance industry,” financial planning platform Finimize has simple in its DNA. So it’s no surprise that its strategy emphasizes one tactic: the email newsletter. With this singular format, the company has amassed more than 100,000 (mostly millennial) subscribers in just over a year, many of whom now rely on Finimize to break down the day’s biggest financial news into a quick read that’s easy to understand.
Finimize still performs other tactics and maintains a blog, but the publishing cadence is weekly and the blog’s purpose is mostly for showcasing culture and communicating product updates. The daily newsletter is how Finimize makes its hay.
The “Own a Channel” Strategy
You could make the same argument for channels as you would formats. Your audience hangs out on several channels. Why not focus on all relevant channels to avoid missing out on potential customers? The same concern comes to the forefront: If you’re active in every channel, trying to accomplish the same goals in each, do you diminish your chances of taking full advantage of that one channel where you’re best positioned to do big things?
In which channel are you most likely to reach the lion’s share of your audience in a comfortable context? In which channel do you already have a solid presence? Which channel provides the tools, features and data you need to get the job done? Ask your team these questions to help guide channel prioritization.
Again, this isn’t to say that you should ditch your de-prioritized channels. You might continue to maintain a Twitter presence but your new channel goal would be to get Twitter users to subscribe to your YouTube channel because that’s where your most effective social content lives. Channel clarity would then allow you to take fuller advantage of native video possibilities in other channels as a means of building the YouTube subscriber base.
Example of Owning a Channel
Global financial services provider HSBC uses several social channels to reach its audience, but LinkedIn is the clear leader in the clubhouse. With nearly 1.3 million followers on the platform, HSBC leans hardest on LinkedIn when it comes to making sure its thought leadership content reaches the right people.
Prioritizing this channel makes complete sense for HSBC when you consider that its target audiences consist almost entirely of global finance professionals who use the platform. It’s also worth noting that HSBC grew its organic footprint in part by running paid campaigns that gave LinkedIn members a compelling reason to follow.
The “Own an Audience Segment” Strategy
Recall the fictitious strategy suggestion at the top of the post: “Should we keep targeting the C-Suite but also try to build a groundswell of support at the user level?”
Suppose you go forward with this strategy. Could it work? Certainly. But if you’re already having trouble digging in and understanding how to motivate your various C-suite stakeholders, what’s to say that adding another audience will help?
That means more research to create additional buyer personas. Research completed, now each new persona needs its own tailored content and probably a dedicated nurture stream. That’s more one-off content to create, more content to maintain and more funnels to track and optimize. In the video below, buyer persona expert Adele Revella explains marketers’ natural tendency to target too many audiences, concluding that most companies need half the personas they think they do.
By prioritizing a persona, we are more likely to intimately understand, reach, speak the language of, and inspire that audience segment to act.
Examples of Owning an Audience Segment
I’m including two examples here because this can be quite different for B2B and B2C brands. For many B2C brands, the audience segment defines itself based on the product. Toy manufacturers target children. Reverse mortgage providers target the elderly. You get the gist. Yet some B2C brands dive headlong into an audience segment and flat-out own it.
DivvyHQ client Red Bull has built a content empire, with formats ranging from big events to blog posts and everything in between. Where it gets simple is that it’s all catered to the same audience segment: the youthful thrill seeker. Red Bull knows this audience better than anyone because they are this audience. The authenticity shines through in the content, which has had a major say in the millions of adventure-thirsty people who associate Red Bull’s iconic slim can with a fascinating lifestyle.
Owning an audience segment is a bit trickier for B2B companies because the typical B2B purchasing decision involves nearly seven stakeholders. Since they all hold sway, it’s only natural to want to reach and influence every stakeholder. Some companies consistently reach several stakeholders (many through account-based marketing) but it’s a tall order that’s hard to scale.
A simplified approach involves singling out a specific, pivotal stakeholder and knocking their socks off. This doesn’t mean giving up on the other stakeholders. Quite the opposite. The goal is still to reach the buying committee — it’s just that you’re creating an enlightened, motivated sponsor who eagerly, accurately shares your story. Because you intimately know your sponsor’s role and all that comes with it, you are better equipped to show this person how to advance your agenda within the construct of their role.
Venture capital firm First Round Capital knows that it’s common for multiple stakeholders to get involved with funding, but to them, the most logical persona was the startup founder. Content-wise, no one speaks to this audience more clearly. The success of their blog and newsletter, The Review, is a reflection of that focus on a singular audience segment.
Are any of these simplified content marketing strategies right for you? Well, if your team is feeling the pain of trying to do too much, and you’re driving yourself bananas without gaining traction, it might be high time to simplify.
As for simplifying your content planning and workflow, that’s our focus. Say “yes” to simplification. Take DivvyHQ for a spin to make sure we’re right in calling it the easiest-to-use content marketing calendar for busy content marketing teams.