“Measure twice, cut once.”
– My dad
You’re building a skyscraper. You start by spending money, and, as you build the floors higher, you start spending less money and then you start making money. You make more money the higher you go, and the sky is the limit. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s deceptive. If you rush the engineering on the first floor, you won’t really notice until the 5th, and then it will become a bigger obstacle with every floor. If you want to touch the sky, you need to sweat the details.
The engineering, of course, is your Content Strategy. We all want to rush to build the 10th floor right away, but you won’t make it to the 20th if you do. Force yourself to step back, take a breath, and measure twice. I like surprises at Christmas, but not in business. I tell clients at the beginning, and throughout, to not expect significant ROI for at least a year. If you’re still with me, let’s get to the 30th floor together.
Objective: To Align Business Goals with Marketing Objectives
“Alignment” starts by talking about your business. Then we pivot, with 2 SWOTs, from your business in general to what content marketing can do for your business. Then, having a sense of your business goals in mind, we start to talk marketing.
Your Business Goals
You know what you want from your business. Have you written it down? Content is the most adaptable means of marketing in the world, but in order for the suit to be form-fitting you need to know your measurements.
What are your 1 year and 5 year goals for your business? These are your benchmarks. After 1 year you should start to see your content marketing working (yes, it takes that long), and after 5 years you should be seeing the full benefits rolling in.
The more specific your goals, the better. “20% more sales” doesn’t help me as a strategist. “40% more leads with a 50% better conversion rate,” or “20% higher traffic count with disproportionate growth with Millennials,” gives me something to work with.
Model & Brand
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? We need both. What’s your business model? Or to put it another way, how do you make money? Every business is different, and it’s never as simple as you think. Peer inward into your company and define its shy, introverted, inner workings. Now that we know how you make money, let your extrovert run free and ask what people think of you. That’s your business brand.
Owners and Managers often start responding to this question with what sounds suspiciously like a mission statement. I’ll listen politely and then ask what people really think of them. If you don’t know, there are numerous tools, from “Social Mention” to tapping into social chatter or NPS scoring to quantify advocacy.
Why do this? The business model gives the strategist guidance as to what revenue models the content needs to align with. The brand discussion starts to tell me whether we’re improving an already thriving image or doing field triage with a struggling reputation.
Business & Marketing SWOT
Starting marketing is like getting into a romantic relationship. If you don’t have a strong sense of self going in, you may start to lose yourself and it will become unhealthy. We spent the first part of the meeting defining your business, albeit very generally. Now, we’re going to do the same exercise twice in order to pivot to talking about what marketing can do for you.
As exciting as content marketing is, it must conform to your business goals and not start creating its own. That may sound obvious, but as you go down this road you’ll find that content can take on a life of its own very quickly.
SWOTs are the business equivalent of a plus/minus list. I conduct a 20 min SWOT with my team before every major decision. It’s like a palette cleanser: it clears the mind and gets everyone on the same page, ready to focus on what’s coming next.
Conduct a general SWOT for your business (even if you just did one a week ago). Then, conduct a general SWOT for marketing (not just content marketing).
We’re going back to goals now, and layering marketing goals overtop of business goals. What do you want to see from your marketing in 1 and 5 years. respectively? It’s my job, as your strategist, to educate my clients about setting reasonable expectations. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: don’t expect a quick ROI.
Content marketing should be something you start in order to create a culture of long-term growth, not a tactic for bouncing your business out of a rut. What are your critical KPIs? Don’t drown in data; define which metrics are meaningful to you, based on your business goals, and establish quarterly benchmarks for the first year.
While content marketing usually starts externally, it needs to percolate inward in order to succeed. Management, sales, and front-line staff all need to be invested. We’re creating a culture-of-content, one where features-and-benefits habits shift to a customer-driven paradigm that’s committed to the value of being useful. We will need to start thinking like publishers.
This will take some getting used to, but the rules of content marketing and publishing are the same: it’s about creating quality, targeted content on a deadline, delivering it effectively, and learning from how people engage with it. Whatever business you’re in, publishing is now a part of it.