Michael Nutley
Michael Nutley 8 July 2021

Three Steps to Moving Your Content Marketing from Tactics to Strategy

Many content marketers are trapped on a treadmill of production, measured by the amount of content they create rather than the results they achieve for the business. A new white paper from London Research and ContentCal looks at ways to break out and adopt a more strategic approach.

One of the biggest problems facing content marketers is the pressure to create so much content that they feel they’re ‘wallpapering the world’.  
This pressure can come from management, sales, or even themselves, but the result is the same. They’re so busy creating and posting content, they don’t have time to think about the strategy behind what they’re doing.
For content marketers in this situation, there are three steps to strategic nirvana: step back; spend time with the data; and use the results both to prove the value of your content, and that quantity doesn’t always drive the best results.
This is the key lesson from the London Research white paper, Content Marketing: Moving from Tactics to Strategy, published in partnership with ContentCal. The white paper, based on interviews with content marketers and agencies earlier this year, set out to find out how businesses are using content to generate leads, drive sales and build their brands, and to discover the challenges they face. 

Stepping off the Treadmill

The most important finding is that content marketers understand the value of a strategic approach to content; they’re just too busy creating the stuff to think in those terms.

As James Pearce, Website Manager & SEO Team Leader at Andertons Music put it: “We’ve got a never-ending amount of products to promote, and the content team do a lot of that. So how do you want to prioritise their time? Do you want to take them off organising product launches to do longer-term content planning? That’s the main struggle for us at the moment.”
The interviewees agreed that the most important step a content marketer can take in this situation is to step back and give themselves some time. There were three suggested ways to do this: cutting the frequency at which you publish; re-using ‘evergreen’ content; and automating as much of the job as possible.
Publishing frequency is often a matter of habit, something you’re ‘supposed to do’. It can also be down to fear, particularly for junior staff.
“People think there’s a black hole and you have to keep throwing content in, and that if you stop something terrible will happen,” said Matthew Owen, Head of Content & Social Media at Westcon-Comstor. He sees publishing less often as being a benefit in itself, since it means people have more time to see each piece before it’s pushed aside by the next.
Several interviewees also talked about the value of ‘evergreen’ content – material that you’ve used before but which retains its relevance and so can be used again. And if you don’t have any, start working on some now, so that you can buy yourself time with it in the future.
Finally, there was widespread support for software tools that allow basic tasks to be automated; from everyday scheduling and posting to helping locate assets and finding previous posts for re-use. The catch with technology is that many content marketers don’t have time to create the business case for buying it.

Understanding your Data

This is why stepping off the content treadmill is so important. It gives you time to look at the data behind your activity so you can build a true picture of what you’re achieving. In turn that gives you the information you need to establish a content strategy, which should improve the effectiveness of your efforts. It also means you can start to think about ROI, the crucial piece of evidence if you’re arguing for more resources. 
The challenge interviewees identified here is measuring the value of content to the business overall. Part of this is the attribution question that has bedevilled marketers for over a century. But part of it is down to confusion over the role of content marketing in the individual organisation. Content tends to be seen as a lower-funnel activity, but it’s just as important in building the brand and establishing thought leadership.
“It’s important to understand what you want your content to do, because it’s not just a numbers game; how many views did we have?” explained Kim Lehult, Global Marketing Manager, Content, Skyscanner. “It’s also about how much interaction did we have, how much activity, how many people commenting, depending on the type of content you’re creating and the type of organisation you work for.”

Winning Friends and Influencing People

Establishing the strategic importance of your content marketing to the business shouldn’t just help you win the support you need from management. It should also remove certain other barriers identified in the white paper. 
One of these is the need for help from subject matter experts within the organisation with creating content. Building a culture of openness and support is much easier when everyone can see the value content marketing brings, even if it doesn’t help them meet their personal or departmental KPIs.
In the end, the report shows that the majority of content marketers are in the same position – trying to move to being judged on the results their content generates for the business, rather than just the volume of it they produce. And it shows that sharing the lessons learned on that journey is the most effective way of accelerating progress along it.

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