Creating and distributing content might sound simple — unless you’ve done it.
Even with a detailed content production workflow, the multi-layered, multi-step process can overload and overwhelm the content marketing team. And that can lead to content marketing waste, which means you’re not going to see the best return on your investment.
Where does waste happen?
Let’s explore these five inefficiencies and the fixes that can help your content marketing team be more effective and boost your content marketing ROI.
Inefficiency No. 1: Writing for multiple personas
Audiences aren’t monolithic. Your target persona may capture most of the people who would buy from your company, but it doesn’t represent everyone. Get to know your wider audience, but don’t aim to create content variations for every audience segment you identify.
Multiple iterations of the same content confuse readers and waste time. “(Wide-reaching personas) seem like a good idea since who wouldn’t want to be hit with the most relevant message,” notes CEO Drew Neisser of B2B agency Renegade. “But in reality, customizing your brand message across these target personas actually leads to a muddled perspective on your product/service when the buying committee convenes.”
Always write to a targeted reader. Choose that reader by asking sales who buys your product or service, not by only evaluating your analytics to see who’s engaging with your content. While these two groups are not mutually exclusive, distinguishing between people who like your brand’s Facebook post because it’s funny and people who think it’s funny and is likely to purchase your product or service is critical. Spend your resources reaching the people who drive revenue.
Inefficiency No. 2: Ideas suffer from a lack of accountability
There’s a reason parents implement chore charts when teaching their children responsibility. Often, only when the kids see a visual record of dirty dishes, dog-walking, and bed-making responsibilities can they pay attention. The same principle applies to your content pipeline.
Yes, ideas and pitches make your content pipeline flow. But if nobody keeps track of what happens after the pitch or brainstorming meeting, the time spent on ideation becomes a sunk cost. Ideas must be tracked from conception to completion. Even after the content is published, its performance must be logged to inform future ideation.
Designate someone to be the “idea accountant.” This person (or team, depending on volume) keeps tabs on the team’s ideas. The idea accountant (similar to a project manager) should note when ideas are presented and approved when the first draft is due when the edit should occur, and when the content should go live.
Once the content asset is published, this same accountant answers some key questions: How directly did the idea convert to sales? Have audience members noticed anything new or interacted with the content differently? How much total production time was invested in the piece?
The accountant should deliver a weekly or monthly report to identify which pieces were successful in terms of development time and engagement, which failed to meet either mark and what could be done differently.
Inefficiency No. 3: Expertise on too many topics
You’ve nailed down your audience personas and learned what topics your readers are interested in. All the doors are unlocked. It’s tempting, but don’t open all of them.
Becoming an expert in every area your audience cares about is an exercise in resource waste. Not only will it overwhelm your team, but your readers will see the truth: Your brand experts are great at certain topics but with others, they are out of their depth.
To hone in on your areas of expertise, Carlijn Postma, founder of content agency The Post, suggests using a map. Content mapping, she points out, is similar to mind mapping, in which the user visually puts the main topic in the middle of the map and surrounds it with subtopics.
Relate the main topic to a primary use case for your product or service. Then add spokes, each describing a related need or opportunity. If you can’t directly tie a topic to your primary idea, then you probably shouldn’t be writing about it.
Inefficiency No. 4: Creative team lacks the necessary support
Your creatives are the engine behind your content. The rest of the car might be in great shape, but if the content producers don’t have enough fuel, you won’t go anywhere fast.
You and your content creators should be in near-constant communication to keep the pipeline functioning smoothly. You need to be on the same page in three areas.
Do your creatives know what your brand stands for? If you’re sending mixed messages about your brand’s values or mission, their product will suffer, and you’ll need to invest more time in revising. Make sure to detail the company’s values and mission in the brand style guide. (Don’t have one yet? Create and share it as soon as possible.)
To learn whether your creative team understands the values and mission, host a roundtable meeting. Ask each of your creatives to explain how they see your brand. Review what they share with the documented branding mission. Remind them the value on-brand content plays in achieving that goal.
Being on the same page about capacity and capabilities also will lead to a more productive team overall. Tracking time to produce the content (e.g., writing, editing, publishing) against its performance can let you find efficiency opportunities. For example, if a writer has a lot of assignments on their plate and the content diminishes in its effectiveness, you’ll know to pull back a few assignments. Or if a writer is turning in great content but takes more hours to develop it, you can dig deeper to identify potential inefficiencies in their process. Work together to find an acceptable balance of speed and quality.
Your creative team members should know they are important to you and the brand. They should be compensated fairly, and they should feel comfortable coming to you with questions and critiques. If they worry that they’ll be punished for trying new ideas, your content will fall flat.
Inefficiency No. 5: Production process has no beat
Think of your publishing schedule like your favorite song: Without a beat, the whole thing falls apart.
If you’re publishing stories as they are completed rather than publishing at a regular cadence, your content marketing will seem like ad hoc thoughts.
Task-by-task deadlines aren’t enough. “Speaking from experience, creating better content more consistently starts with strategic use (of) an editorial calendar,” explains Garrett Moon, co-founder of the marketing platform CoSchedule.
Grow efficiently and effectively
Your company’s content game is only as strong as its processes. Get your creatives on the same page, hold them accountable, and support them with all you’ve got. With the right processes and helpful thinking in place, you’ll see content returns grow.