How to Build a Content Marketing Engine
How to Build a Content Marketing Engine
Updated Jun 24, 2022
Professional services firms trade in knowledge and expertise, and there’s no better way to establish your value than well-executed, actionable content. But to succeed at content marketing, you have to publish the best, most helpful, most creative content that breaks through the noise. Consistently producing high-quality content requires a well-oiled machine — and a content marketing engine is just the machine you need.
An effective content marketing engine empowers you to harness good ideas — and get those ideas in front of the right audience to drive business impact.
Start With Your Strategy
Your content marketing engine starts with defining your strategy. Pumping out content won’t move the needle if you haven’t answered important questions about why you’re publishing to begin with. Coming up with a content strategy doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful. Answer these questions to define your content strategy.
What Are Your Business Goals?
Your business goals provide direction for your content strategy. What do you need from your content marketing campaigns to drive business results?
If the business is looking to improve market share, for example, your marketing efforts might focus on generating greater brand awareness through increased authority in your area of expertise. The number of backlinks your content receives and where you rank on search engine results are concrete metrics to quantify your authority.
What Are You Marketing?
Your firm’s unique value lies in the expertise and experience you offer to clients. An important part of a successful content marketing strategy is differentiating your value from your competitors in the market. An HR business partner with experience working with federal contractors, for example, offers a different value proposition than an HR business partner with experience in large health care systems. Figure out your differentiated value, and home in on your content topics.
Who Is Your Audience?
Of course, the more specific your value proposition, the more targeted your audience becomes. The key to a successful inbound marketing play is to tailor your content to reach the people who need your solutions the most.
Identify your ideal buyer: What industry are they in? What is their title? Are they decision-makers? Answering these questions will help you create more targeted content.
What Channels Does Your Audience Prefer?
You might produce the best content tailored to your audience, but your business won’t benefit if the content doesn’t appear where your audience is spending its time.
Determine which channels your target audience frequents the most, and optimize your content to be found there. And don’t right off channels you think of as B2C too hastily: As Generation Z workers mature in the workforce, for example, they may continue to favor TikTok or Snapchat.
Find Your Idea Sources
Once you know your content strategy, it’s time to look for the big ideas that will help you power that plan.
Many marketing organizations are missing the “big idea” part of the puzzle. That’s why you see so much boring, flat, repetitive content out there. But content creators aren’t just found in the marketing department.
Inspiration and great ideas can be found in many job roles and titles. Uncovering their wisdom will put you ahead of the pack. Here are some of the sources that can generate and inspire big ideas for your organization.
People Inside the Organization
Look no further than your organizational chart. The people inside your firm are your experts and thought leaders, and you want to capture their voices and perspectives as much as possible.
The Founder or CEO
Your firm’s founder and/or CEO can provide insights that no one else can. The story of why and how the firm got started and its original value proposition can highlight the evolution of your firm’s expertise.
People Who Have Been at Your Organization the Longest
Your organization’s longtime employees can also speak to changes they’ve seen in the industry and how customers’ needs have changed over time. This is a great opportunity to share case studies and demonstrate how the firm has pivoted over time to meet client needs.
Sales and Customer Service Teams
Your firm’s sales and customer service teams have a direct line of sight into the questions your clients are asking. They offer a potentially endless source of content inspiration that provides real value to clients and prospects.
Board Members and Company Advisers
Showcasing the industry leaders among your advisers or board of directors demonstrates your credibility and authority in your field. Share their predictions about the future of the industry and what they recommend as the next steps.
People Outside the Organization
External sources can provide expertise and authority that you may not have in-house. Tapping into the broader industry for sources and ideas demonstrates that you’re up to date on industry trends and aware of key players.
Speakers at Industry Events and Conferences
Experts in the field can provide insight into the ideas shaping the future of the industry. Reach out to the people leading those conversations: They’re established thought leaders who can lend credibility to your content.
Industry Analysts and Academics
Keep tabs on the latest research that affects your customers. Their work can be a good segue into topics that are most important to your audience.
Customers and Prospects
Don’t forget to have big-picture conversations with the people you serve. Surveying customers and prospects provides crucial insights into the effectiveness of your company’s marketing strategy and where to pursue growth opportunities.
Map Out a Detailed, Repeatable Process
Now that you have a broad range of people you can tap for content ideas, it’s time to think about execution. One-person marketing teams can sometimes outperform massive marketing organizations when it comes to actually getting content out the door.
That’s usually because teams are missing a reliable content process.
A reliable content process is a series of nitty-gritty tasks that turn a nebulous idea into a published piece of content. Those tasks matter because they make the difference between living content that drives business value and ideas that are stuck inside our heads, on a road map or in rough drafts.
Your process will have details and roles that are specific to your needs, but the following steps are foundational.
Before you start producing content, determine the purpose and core idea of each piece. What questions do you need to answer? Who do you need to talk to? What do you want people to do after consuming your content? Organize this information in a content or editorial calendar.
Research can take many forms. Background research, such as reviewing existing content by thought leaders or competitors, can help you understand what’s already being discussed — and what’s being overlooked.
Interviews provide expertise and a distinct point of view for thought leadership pieces, while surveys and statistics can highlight or reveal trends for informational articles. Make your content unique by providing original research and surveys for insights that no one can match.
Give your content creators time to work through their thoughts and research, but set clear deadlines so the draft doesn’t languish. Keep in mind that great content marketing comes in many forms, from video and podcasts to articles and graphics. But whatever type of content you’re producing, writing is still an important step.
Someone other than the writer should edit the draft to make sure it’s meeting the agreed-upon goals, is substantive and serves the intended purpose for the audience. Depending on the types of content you’re producing, you might also need access to a skilled video or audio editor.
Turn the draft into content that’s ready for the world. That might mean putting a blog post into WordPress with images, call-out quotes and a call to action. Or it might mean designing dynamic graphics for a website or video.
Each piece of content should have a publication checklist and someone to oversee the process. This process will include such tasks as meta descriptions, episode summaries, graphics and scheduling.
You’ve put so much thought and care into your content creation process, so don’t stop at publication. Distribute the content to your target audience — on social media, in email, to the sales team, to customers. Create a schedule that generates long-term value from the piece.
Revisit and Update
Periodically audit your content catalog to make sure it’s still accurate and still reaching the right audience. You might find in six months, for instance, that it’s time for a refresh or a response to your original piece.
Once you’ve settled on a process, make it transparent to everyone, including the subject matter experts whose help you need. If they can see your scheduled publishing date and the steps that need to happen to get there, the process will be less mysterious and overwhelming. They’ll see their contribution (the ideas) as one initial step in a collaborative effort of creating amazing content.
Think about the content channel you spend the most time on — like your blog, for example. Write down every step that goes into producing a single blog post, from the strategy and planning to the promotion.
Document how to use each of the tools in your technology stack — project management platforms, AI-powered marketing tech, communication channels — so there’s no ambiguity. Posting a document in the wrong place or communicating on the wrong channel can easily lead to content projects falling through the cracks.
Assemble Your Dream Team
The key to executing a smooth content process is having the right team in place. A content marketing engine is powered by multiple people, each fulfilling their essential role in the process. Monitor for bottlenecks or instances where people are overwhelmed so you can decide who to pull in for help.
Determine Your Needs
Your content creation process shouldn’t live on one person’s shoulders. But the people with the skills you need aren’t always available in-house. Compare your needs to your talent to determine where you need to invest in additional support.
Determining your talent needs goes back to your content strategy. If you’re doubling down on long-form, thought leadership pieces, consider investing in a full-time writer. If your strategy requires an occasional video (say, once a quarter), then working with a freelance producer is a good option.
Identify Key Players
Look at the content process you defined earlier. Now assign a person to each step in the process. This might be a strictly in-house effort, or maybe you look to other teams, outside agencies or freelancers to own some of the steps.
What’s most important here is that you assign an owner to every task. When everyone knows what they’re responsible for and who to report to, managing your content marketing engine becomes much easier.
Start Your Engines
With a content marketing engine in place, you have an effective, repeatable process to consistently produce high-caliber content. And for a professional services firm, a well-executed content strategy could be the difference between losing ground to your competitors or winning the race.
Thought Leaders Are Market Leaders.
Email newsletters are a powerful vehicle for communicating your thought leadership and building long-term relationships with your prospects and customers.
Ready to see how content marketing can drive growth for your firm? Schedule a brief consultation and learn how our framework can help you:
- Develop your reputation for thought leadership.
- Fuel your account based marketing with differentiated content.
- Strengthen your employer branding by telling the stories of the people who power your company.