When and How to Build Your Content Marketing Team

By Jen Casson, Ben Castelli and Jason Cormier     |     October 20, 2017

Let’s start with the quick answer to when… yesterday.

Why? Because today, every brand needs to be a content publisher, with video being a critical ingredient to success. That’s not to say you need to become the next Netflix or Vice, but “content” is no longer just a weekly blog post or quarterly eBook effort.

Quality content production is now a core business function – just like recruiting, product development and customer support.

 

A Note on Quality vs. Quantity

Bottom line is quality should be priority one, but a healthy balance of quantity can’t be disregarded. For example, HubSpot reports companies that published more than 16 blog posts per month generated about four-and-a-half times more leads than companies that published four or fewer monthly posts.

On the quality side, considering HubSpot itself, an analysis of over 3,000 of their own blog posts showed that 93% of their leads came from only 20% of their content. This led to HubSpot doubling down on quality in 2017, and reducing the volume of their blog content by around half (with positive results to show).

Your content and your brand are now synonymous. What you produce will either strengthen or degrade how people identify with your company

 

6 Steps to Building Your Own Content Dream Team

Let’s start by reiterating that when it comes to building a team, your point of view about content mustn’t be limited to the written word. For example, four times as many customers would prefer to see a video about a product than read a written description, and consumers are more likely to invest in a service after watching a demo video online.

The medium (video, image, audio, written, sensory) of your content may vary with respect to purpose, topic and channel — but it should vary, nonetheless. Here’s what we recommend for starting and advancing your content team:

  1. Educate Yourself on the Investment

The return you should have, and he budget you should be prepared to invest are great places to start. Although digital marketing budgets continue approaching the majority of overall marketing budgets, you obviously need to spend a little time being present with applicable industry benchmarks and current marketing investments.

If you’re a small company (doing less than $5M, with 10-12% profit margins), the SBA will tell you to budget 7-8% of your revenues on marketing. A CMO Survey from earlier this year gets into greater detail based on industry (with a much wider range), but for the sake of brevity, we suggest you can start building your team for as low as $75k / year… more on what that investment might include herein.  

Factors you’ll wish to consider for determining a return may pertain to the value of increases in site traffic, leads generated, improvements in customer retention, decreases in customer acquisition or support costs, etc. The Content Marketing Institute published a formula for calculating the ROI for Content Marketing that covers many of these factors and is a great place to begin pulling those numbers together.

  1. Have a Vision, Follow Through with a Strategy

Before building your content team, start by creating a vision. Something that is just enough to communicate to all stakeholders where you want to head and how it will set your company apart from the competition.

To create a vision, imagine your content team 2-3 years from today. Begin writing as if you’re looking back on what the team accomplished, being as specific as possible. What obstacles did the team overcome in creating those videos? How did they empower your customers to help tell your story for you? How did you celebrate big and small wins? You can learn more about creating a vision here.

 A successful vision is inspirational, often tapping into emotions and core values. It is not a collection of goals limited around revenues and profits.

 

Once your vision has been created, communicated and revised (as needed), you’ll want to transition into a high-level content strategy to start. Minimally, this includes:

  • Identifying and documenting who your target audience is (personas: where they go for information, who they look to for validation, etc.)
  • What their customer journey looks like (their questions and motivations during awareness, consideration and decision stages of their experience).
  • Identification of content themes, including specific ideas that will resonate with your audience and provide the creative direction and guidance for the team.

You’ll also want to consider all current content that may be re-purposed. Determine what content makes sense for the brand to create, what can be curated, and what would work best coming from an influencer. A couple new resources worth checking out include the Fast Forward Video Strategy series (free), and chapter 3 (Creating Kick-ass Content) of the new Amazon best seller, Transformative Digital Marketing.

  1. Start With A Swiss Army Knife

The biggest investment you’ll make in building your content team is in the people. Identify and prioritize the roles needed to execute the strategy. Remember that roles are NOT synonymous with individuals. In fact, most employees are attracted to companies where there is opportunity to diversify in their day-to-day activities.

If budget is tight, one great place to look for your first hire is Journalism students. Not only have J-school grads been trained to learn quickly and dive deeply into a given topic, they also have strong storytelling skills.

An ideal candidate can effectively write, translate research into their own words, be resourceful about relevant visuals to support a story and have video production skills.

 

As your content needs grow, you may look to bring on some additional, multi-talented individuals or you may look for more specialists – copywriters, videographers, photographers, designers. When you need more than what your team can deliver…that’s where your extended (partner) network comes in.

  1. Find the Right Partners (Before You Need Them)

Your inbox is filled with vendors trying to get your attention – it’s muscle-memory (or your filters) sending them straight to the trash. However, creating relationships with freelancers, video production companies, copywriting services, and marketing agencies is critical to supplement your internal team with the necessary expertise and ability to scale.

Work with your team to identify gaps in expertise, then plan to fill them. In today’s connected and digital world, these resources don’t have to be local. Try to have two or three options for each need.

Designate time to build your freelance and vendor network – especially when you don’t have immediate projects or urgent timelines.

 

Keep track of those you’d like to work with, including their areas of strength, a link to their portfolio, and their standard rates. This will help you avoid wasting time to find and vet people when you really need them.

When you need someone who can collaborate with you more closely on the content strategy, creative, and promotion/distribution of your content, finding an agency that suits your needs and budget can be a great solution. Looking to an agency also makes sense for your higher-profile content, such as your homepage video or even a quarterly campaign.

  1. Execute With A Core Process

We’ve discussed strategy and people, now it’s time to define how your content actually gets created on an ongoing basis. The processes for working with influencers and curating third-party content are their own beasts. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the content your team will be creating, and hit on four key aspects your process should address.

  • Enable a Content Champion: To create the content, you’ll likely be tagging internal subject matter experts to work with your content team. Having them understand the value of content and being excited about participating in its creation is critical for success.

A Content Champion must have a level of authority and involvement in the process – selling the value of content, removing obstacles and lighting a fire when necessary.

 

  • Start with a Brief: Help your content team be successful by starting with a brief outlining the business objectives, audience, key messages, insight, and other creative guidelines. Here’s a template for you to get started.

    Before you give the brief to your content team, have all necessary stakeholders with approval authority “sign-off” on it. Then review it with your content team and make time for questions and discussion. Don’t just throw it over the fence in an email. From there, give your team a bit of time to THINK. The more time you give your team to collaborate and work through multiple concepts, the better the ideas will be.

 

  • Appropriate Feedback: When reviewing work – such as a rough cut of a video – it’s important that both the team and those providing feedback understand what type of feedback is appropriate at what stage of the effort.

    For example, feedback on a video script is appropriate during the script review…not once the video has been produced. Feedback on the color palette being used is appropriate early in the process, such as during storyboarding for a video (or if those aren’t a part of your process, then the first draft). This will help the process be much more efficient and free from unproductive friction.

 

  • Distribution & Promotion: Ensure your content team is thinking about the channels by which that content will be distributed.  

    No matter how amazing your content is, it’s a waste if it doesn’t get in front of the right people.


    Tailor the content to the audience on the channel (i.e. your audience on Facebook is likely different than your audience on LinkedIn), and deliver it in the format that works best for that channel. For example, a 3 minute video might work for your website or YouTube, but a shorter version will likely perform better on social channels.

    Help your content be successful by putting some ad spend behind it, and targeting it to the right people. To learn more about video distribution and promotion, check out the Distribution & Promotion Checklist, in Episode 3 of the Fast Forward Video Series.

  1. Adopt a Data-Driven Spirit of Experimentation

Today, marketers who are data literate and able to treat their work like a science experiment are at an advantage. Creating content that “works” requires being data-driven and adopting a spirit of experimentation.

Ideally, an initial concept for content you’re developing is supported by some evidence – maybe you’ve seen a competitor’s content doing well, have a hunch based on a Facebook Audience Insight, or notice a trend in social conversations. Treat this initial idea as your “hypothesis” then track your observations and results with an objective and analytical eye.

No one likes to be wrong, but by being open to what the data is telling you, you’ll either validate your hypothesis or know you need to try something different next time. Either way, you’ll learn something about your audience that will only make your content (and company for that matter) better moving forward.

For more on making your organization more data-driven in the context of content and creative, check out  Creativity and Data Marketing by Becky Wang.

Notes, References & Resources

The ideas and suggestions herein include much of what we’ve done to build our own custom content services — generating over 200 pieces of high-quality video, photo, article and interactive related content each month — and are reflective of lessons learned from our own mis-steps.

We hope you found this helpful and will consider sharing it with others. We also invite you to share your own advice or experience in our comments — and encourage you to contact us for your content marketing requirements.

About Jen Casson

Jen Casson’s experience marries art with strategy. Her breadth of experience embraces IT, data and creative craft. She loves collaboration, storytelling and supporting her clients with research-based data and creativity. She is an award-winning editor for the Discovery Channel, Sundance Channel, Science Channel, Ford, Dish, and others. When she’s not working, she’s avoiding folding laundry by skiing and mountain biking with her friends and family.

About Ben Castelli

Ben is an optimist who brings a calming force to the agency. That is why we call him 'The Captain.' He is motivated to serve others, which is invaluable in his role as Agency Director and Account Director. His ability to get shit done, constantly learn new things, and create systems and structures for the agency is inspiring.

About Jason Cormier

Jason is a co-founder and leading strategist at Room 214. With a rich history in information architecture, user experience and online marketing, Jason contributes to the social media and digital marketing efforts that help brands create online communities, tell meaningful stories, and gain more customers.

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