A 5-Step Approach to Getting Started with Content Marketing

I’ve been traveling the past eight days with two of my staff, meeting with clients and prospects of mid-sized B2B companies in a variety of sectors. The one-on-one exchange has been one of the biggest benefits of this trip—far more productive than sitting at a trade show trapped in a booth, staring across the aisle at my competitors or even speaking at an event.

During this week we’ve met friendly, entertaining and smart people and come away with a great appreciation for their real-life challenges.

There have been many takeaways, but the most consistent one is that businesses of this size have limited human resources and can barely keep up with the day to day – forget marketing tactics that require a huge time investment. These are marketers living in a real world, doing the jobs of many, with performance goals that have to be met. Oh yeah, and their budgets are small and jobs are on the line.  So how the heck do they find time to carry out a true content marketing strategy?

Many don’t—at least not well—if at all. For most mid-sized businesses, content marketing seems to be this non-critical low-priority ethereal concept akin to eating nuts and berries or practicing yoga. Sounds nice, but probably not something that’s at the top of the list. They’ve heard about content marketing and have maybe even taken a stab at it, but didn’t understand it completely or struggled with closing the loop and instead fragmented the effort in disconnected silos.

Content marketing isn’t a simple matter of writing a few blog posts, or letting it all ride on a short article. It’s a complex, thought-out strategy backed by research that identifies your customer segments. And it’s a lot of work.

For those of us in agencies working with these businesses, I think it’s important to remember that just because you live and breathe this stuff doesn’t mean the rest of the world does. We as agency partners still have, and will always have, an obligation to educate our prospects and clients as to the tangible outcome of a particular strategy. And it’s hard, because agencies live in an “I can’t drive 65” world. Can’t everyone keep up with us? Unfortunately, our prospects live in a world with competing priorities and demands on their time.

So you, the mid-sized marketer, as you journey down the path toward marketing success, try this five-step approach:

1) Steal budget. Not from the local convenience store, but from one of your so-so marketing channels. You can’t afford not to test the waters, so find the money somewhere.

2) Start slow. Content marketing is a marathon, but you can work with your agency on a dip-your-toe-in-the-water approach that demonstrates results.

3) Be patient. A slow entrée will take longer to show a positive effect, but it will come. Remember to benchmark before you start.

4) Commit. Once you see results, be ready to present up the ladder and state your case for a larger budget. You have to keep moving forward.

5) Report regularly. Make sure your agency partner is accountable and keeps you in the loop. It’s important your strategy aligns and you learn along the way, but it’s even more important that you can effectively relay the outcomes up the chain.

There you have it.

Content marketing, like the Internet, is here to stay. It may look different over time, but it’s not going away. This approach will get you started, and may even save your job. Good luck! Now get out there!

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