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5 Steps to Optimize Your Content in 2014

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by: Ellen Valentine (@EllenValentine)
15 January 2014

As we begin a new year, it’s time to put a strong content strategy in place. For most marketing departments, content marketing is an expensive and time-consuming aspect of many team members’ day-to-day roles. But, strong, shareworthy content is more important than ever, helping move prospective customers through the buying process or bringing in net new leads.

As you put together your marketing plan for the year, consider a thorough content audit as part of your strategy. This will help your sales team get off to a strong start, fuel strong marketing automation campaigns, encourage reuse of some of your best pieces and give you a guide for what content gaps you may need to fill. To make 2014 the best year for your content yet, consider these five tips:

1. Inventory Your Content

Inventory every blog post, spec sheet, white paper, video, infographic, calculator etc. Consider several aspects of the piece: When was it launched? Who was the intended target audience? If you can, report on content consumption — at what point in the sales cycle was this downloaded, clicked on or watched? According to the Content Marketing Institute, 33 percent of B2B marketers and 41 percent of B2C marketers cited the inability to measure as a significant challenge.  If you’re in this group, then 2014 is certainly the year to put in place processes and technology so that you can measure your content investment.

Note the optimal time for this content to be used — is this a top-of-the-funnel awareness piece or a late-in-the-buying cycle vendor selection aid? What is the title/role of the intended audience? If you have established Buyer Personas, then name the target persona for the content piece. Also, use your sales team. Ask which pieces they found most useful and how they used them. You might be surprised that your sales team isn’t even aware of some of your great pieces!

Once you finish your content audit, create a simple-to-use spreadsheet or document to share with your sales team. List all the content pieces you want to continue to use and the associated pertinent information that’s listed above. This will give your sales team the resources it needs to provide the right content to the right individuals at the best point in the sales cycle.

2. Determine If You Need a Content Tune-up

Some content does have a limited shelf life, and once you’ve passed a milestone, it becomes irrelevant or no longer useful. If that’s the case, then that piece can be retired. Often, however, content items just need to be adapted or updated. This usually can be accomplished with minimal cost and might not even require the involvement of the content creator!

Slightly modifying “old” content is akin to a publisher having a strong backlist, or a lineup of books that continue to sell well beyond their publication date. Some of the strongest companies thrive because they have a strong content backlist, and your organization should be no different. If you have a highly successful piece, consider remarketing it to the same audience that initially consumed it — they’ll be flocking to get the latest version! Challenge yourself: Can you create a content item that has this sort of quality? You too should strive for having a strong backlist and a “go-to guide” among your content inventory.

3. Put Your Content into a Framework

Develop a grid of your various stages in the buying cycle (your spreadsheet rows) and all your buyer personas or content consumers (your spreadsheet columns). Then, place all your content into the framework where it makes the most sense. For each content piece, color-code the primary delivery vehicle for the content — for example, website, sales, social media or event follow-ups. This should allow you to identify gaps where you might need additional content, or maybe where you’ve overdone it!

4. Consider New Formats

Once you go through the effort and expense to create a substantial content piece, think about breaking that content up into “snackable” smaller pieces that leverage a different format. For example, can you take the statistics from a research paper and turn that into an eye-catching infographic? Or, can you have the paper author introduce the piece in a video? The more formats you employ, the more likely you’ll get engagement – and the more likely your message will stick.

5. Fill in the Gaps

Every time I travel to London, I immediately smile when I hear the automated Tube voice say “Mind the Gap.” The same principle applies to content marketing. You may have worked very hard on content marketing over the last several years, but 2014 is the year to “Mind the Gap.” Make it a priority to fill up those holes in your content framework where you have no content or your pieces are not in the right format to be attractive to the right audience. Invest the budget and resources to produce some fantastic pieces — perhaps they can become a most valuable player in your content lineup!

With several years of focused content marketing under our belt, now’s the time to get smarter about our content creation efforts. By taking inventory, using a framework to get organized, considering new formats and filling in the gaps, you will be creating fuel for your marketing automation initiatives for 2014 and beyond.

Related Resources:

1) White Paper: “B2B Marketers Planning Workbook

2) Blog Post: “5 Top-Rated Silverpop Marketing White Papers and Tip Sheets of 2013

3) Blog Post: “5 Tips for Getting Your 2014 Marketing Budget Ready

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