Content marketing is essential for the success of modern businesses. Whether you’re using outbound methods like commercials, billboards and direct mail or inbound tactics like blogs, interactive quizzes and webinars, your company is probably employing some form of content.
But if that content isn’t unified by a company-wide strategy that aligns your tactics with your growth goals, your content marketing won’t be contributing to your bottom line. The more content you create and the more people who are involved in that process, the easier it becomes to lose sight of that overarching goal — causing some unique challenges for enterprise companies.
I sat down with Principal Inbound Strategist Alyssa Lowry and Inbound Journalist Matt Davis to discuss what enterprise companies can do to successfully leverage their content strategy.
Larger Size Companies Require Conscientious Alignment Efforts
According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, 62% of enterprise content marketers said one of their biggest challenges was “coordinating content marketing efforts among multiple departments and brands” and 58% said “too many departmental silos.”
Having documentation around your branding and content strategy that can be accessed by everyone involved can help you maintain alignment across disparate departments.
“With the nature of larger businesses, it becomes way more important to have a single source of truth for your brand voice and style because you’re likely operating across different geographies and you might have different channel marketing teams. It’s a much larger marketing arm with more people involved in content,” Alyssa says. “So having your brand book, your messaging guidelines and creating a digital hub or resource center that consolidates everything together for internal alignment is a lot more important than if you’re a scrappy 15-person company where you just have a couple folks involved in content production.”
Even though within your organization content can be created by different business units or outsourced partners, for your audience it’s all coming from a single source. So, if the content your company puts out is inconsistent it can create a bad user experience.
“You’re not going to be able to have a cohesive narrative if you’re talking through all these different channels and mediums if you don’t have a really solid grip on the brand,” Matt says.
Everyone within your company needs to understand your brand, and beyond refining and documenting your brand and messaging at the company level, you should also hone it in for each campaign. How you apply your branding to each campaign can depend on the audience and distribution channel, so it’s important to keep everyone aligned. Those efforts can become doubly important if you’re outsourcing parts of the content marketing process.
It’s quite common to have specialized agencies to help with your social media strategy or SEO, and when it comes to specialized content formats like video, you can even have multiple partners working on the same asset. For example, a marketing consultant might help you with the strategy, a video marketing company might handle production and your PR firm might assist with promotion.
For every project you’re working with external vendors on, you need to have a creative brief that outlines the goal of the campaign, the target audience, the assets that’ll be created, the timeline and everyone’s responsibilities.
That brief along with your brand guidelines can mitigate confusion and increase the likelihood of the partnership functioning successfully.
Incorporate All Channels and Content Formats into Your Editorial Calendar
It’s pretty common to have separate editorial calendars for your blog, your social media, your podcast, your video strategy and your long-form content. But keeping your plans for different content mediums separate can make it difficult to maintain a cohesive content strategy.
“With a larger organization that might not just be using one agency as the sole content producer, having a shared editorial calendar that consolidates across all channels so everyone who is touching content has visibility into the overall plan and not just their individual workstreams is vital because things can very quickly get siloed if you have this calendar with one agency and this one with another and no one understands how it fits together for an overall marketing plan,” Alyssa says.
Maintaining that complex of an editorial calendar might require you to host your documentation in a project management tool, as opposed to a spreadsheet. But the visibility created by consolidating your channels into a single calendar will enable you to gain a better understanding of how your audience is receiving your content, especially since you may be releasing content through external sources like industry publications or distribution partners.
“Sometimes you can be so close to the campaign and product that you lose sight of how your end-user is receiving your product or message,” Alyssa says.
To accommodate for that, Alyssa recommends creating a visualization in your editorial calendar of not just the steps and timelines for your internal creation but also the publication and promotion.
“Connecting not just the content production, but the content production and promotion is really helpful because then it comes from the user perspective of ‘what are our consumers seeing at this time?’” Alyssa says.
If you have different audiences on different channels, it might not matter how aligned they are. But, if you have some prospects and customers who consume your content in multiple places, you don’t want them to be seeing the exact same assets everywhere they look nor do you want them to feel like they’re getting whiplash as they go between your website, social media and emails.
“Beyond thinking of messaging by persona, you need to think of that cross-tab of messaging by persona and product line or persona and promotion channel. What works for this persona in email won’t necessarily translate to your Twitter handle, so I think there’s a little more nuance when you’re thinking about messaging strategy,” says Alyssa.
Center Your Topics on Specific Campaigns
Enterprise companies will have numerous products or services and customer segments. Trying to constantly create content that covers everything can lead to a very scattered content strategy.
Align your short-term content strategy around your quarterly goals. This will require an understanding of both your company objectives and your different products.
If you’re bringing a new product to market or trying to expand the reach of an existing product, that’ll require a concentrated content marketing effort. Meanwhile, if another product is super seasonal in its demand, you don’t want to invest resources in promoting it when it’s not relevant.
“Focus on better understanding your products: which ones have higher margins, which ones require the support of marketing and sales and which are self-selling so you can prioritize your calendar around that,” Alyssa says.
Create a Structured, Repeatable Content Production Process
Creating content for enterprise companies involves a lot of moving parts. Strategy has to be approved, responsible parties need to be assigned and then the actual content creation process occurs (which involves multiple steps in and of itself, like interviewing subject matter experts (SMEs), writing/recording/designing the assets and then editing and copyediting). After that, multiple rounds of approval might be required before the content can go live and be promoted.
“From the outset, build in a very repeatable process to scale your content production,” Alyssa says. “Especially at a larger organization, on the consumer side, there’s an expectation of much more regular content being produced than at a smaller or mid-sized business. So, having a person who’s managing [content production] from the project management side so it’s as seamless as possible to loop in SMEs and involve those specialists during the production process is important. You can templatize this process by creating assets such as a standard blog interview guide. This ensures your process is repeatable so every time you’re trying to produce a new content piece, you’re not starting from square one.”
According to Matt, SME access can be one of the trickiest parts of content marketing for enterprise organizations because experts are busy with their own responsibilities and might not be bought in on the value of spending their time helping with content production.
Setting expectations around both the goal of the content you’re creating and what you’re hoping to obtain from the SME can make meeting with them go much smoother.
“Give them a one-sentence quick, snappy rationale behind the piece and send your questions ahead of time so they have time to think about it,” Matt says.
When SMEs know how your content will contribute to company goals in advance, they’ll be able to spend the time you carved out to meet with them actually providing you with the information you need.
The other content creation area that has a high potential for bottlenecks is the review process, especially when multiple parties need to give their approval.
“Establish a number of review rounds. That sometimes challenges SMEs to consolidate feedback because you can very easily run into a scenario of too many cooks in the kitchen,” Alyssa says. “It’s never going to be perfect, so identifying what your MVP is for content and building how many review rounds you’re going to allow off of that is really helpful so you’re consistent and people understand the urgency.”
Alyssa recommends offering two review rounds to keep things streamlined: one for larger developmental edits and one to make final tweaks.
During the review process, content collaboration platforms can help you uphold process adherence and manage version controls. Features like user permission levels can help you ensure people are only making changes to the content when it’s their turn and enable you to identify where changes are coming from.
Clear communication around who is responsible for reviewing content at what time is important for staying on track, and a well-documented plan can help you hold all parties accountable.
“If you have a really solid editorial calendar set up and you’ve done that foundational work, that can reduce [bottlenecking] because you can point back to that and say ‘we need to get this piece out the door because we have this deadline to create this collateral that’s part of this campaign,” Matt says.
When everyone involved understands the impact of the content they’re working on, they’re more incentivized to uphold their commitments, which makes it easier for you to create content that achieves your goals.
An essential part of successful content marketing is delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. Learn more about how to map your content to the buyer’s journey:
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.