In 2009, Marcus Sheridan trailblazed a customer-centric, search-focused approach to content marketing, focused on answering the most five common knowledge needs customers have about businesses:
- How much?
- What problems?
- You vs. competitors?
- What’s the best?
Sheridan’s open, trustworthy content vision turned things around for his formerly struggling pool installation business and also made him one of the most sought-after speakers on the marketing circuit.
Today, Vocus had the pleasure of sitting in on his presentation to the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, where he shared a recipe for turning virtually any marketing department or business into a content marketing machine, with all employees sharing their expertise to generate more sales.
Impossible? Not at all: here’s how it’s done.
1: Start at the top.
If your CEO and management are not behind your content marketing initiative, incredible results are unlikely to happen. Get them interested and invested as your first priority.
2. Hold a “Why Workshop”
As per the above, simply saying “Let’s do content marketing” is not going to get incredible results either. Instead, hold a meeting with key colleagues spanning all areas of your company: marketing, sales, product, customer service.
Explain the principles of content marketing, what it does, how it works, and how to do it right. Then explain that you want them to create business content around the most common questions customers ask.
Explain that the marketing team – most companies’ first-choice content creators – aren’t necessarily the best expert teachers of what customers want to know. Sales, on the other hand, answers customer questions all day, every day.
3. The “First 100”
Brainstorm the questions that customers ask all day, every day. Keep going until you have 100. These are your first 100 blog posts, in which you should answer each question in a straightforward way that customers understand.
4. Appoint a Chief Content Officer
Your content initiative needs a person to be its organizer, editor and cheerleader. If you don’t have a writer on staff, consider hiring a journalist part-time for 20 hours a week. They have the skills and typically need the cash.
5. Create an editorial calendar.
Do not entrust your content initiative to the “let’s see if we have time for this” approach; it is a recipe for failure. Instead – once you’ve brainstormed – assign a person to write each of your 100 posts by a specific date. You now have an editoral calendar. Stick to it.
In the longer term, make content creation part of your culture. Consider adding ‘will help with content creation’ to the job description when you hire new employees.
6. Keep it simple
Ensure that your content is simple, straightforward and relaxed. You want it to be the equivalent of a meeting in a coffee shop, not a technical demo or sales call. Sounding clever is not the goal. If it’s not perfect, publish it and improve next time.
7. Recognize four types of content employee
In content creation terms, your organization has four types of skillset:
- Writers write naturally – they’re your blog post creators.
- Actors don’t write but they know the answers and love talking to people. Top salespeople are typically actors. Interview them on video. Host the video and transcribe it to repurpose the same content.
- Talkers don’t want to be on video but they know the answers and are happy to talk to you at length. Your product team might be talkers. Record them, transcribe it, blog it. You can get six blog posts from an hour with a talker.
- Questioners can’t help you with answers, but they have valuable insight when brainstorming questions. Your customer service team might be questioners.
8. Keep your content culture going
Reporting and training is essential to keep people enthusiastic. Create an internal content newsletter, sharing the feedback you hear from prospects about your content. Give credit to the people who created it.
Several months down the line, hold a follow-up workshop to re-establish your goals and look at results.
Big thanks to Marcus Sheridan and MarketingProfs for the session! Follow Marcus’s work at The Sales Lion here.