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How to Feed Your Content Channels without Going Broke

Feeding Your Audience

Anyone who writes for a living has never doubted that great content can move you to laugh, cry, covet – and buy.  The rest of the world has finally caught on.  The result? There’s a ravenous horde of content channels growling at your door, keeping your PR and marketing departments scrambling for the right kind of meaty bits to feed the beasts.

According to Content Marketing Institute founder and author Joe Pulizzi, on average an enterprise now uses 17 different channels for publishing content. As new channels and platforms proliferate, Pulizzi forecasts that this number will continue to increase.

Content isn’t just the latest shiny object.  Every current statistic supports the rush to put a stake and money into compelling words and visuals: research from IDG suggests that the value of content now impacts over 50 percent of purchase decision (and many research firms peg it at an even higher number).

All that tweeting, blogging, pinning, posting, bylining, white papering and what-not-ing has not gone unnoticed.  In fact, some argue that this tidal wave of text and visuals is putting us into content shock, as marketing consultant Mark Schaefer has warned.

Still, when a tactic “delivers, per dollar, three times the leads of traditional marketing avenues, costs 62 percent less, and has been ranked as the single most effective strategy for SEO,” the bandwagon gets full, fast. Schaefer says that “content marketers are now creating 27,000,000 pieces of content per day, doubling (depending on who you talk to) the entire amount of available web-based information every 9–24 months.”

Whether you’re a brand manager, digital marketer or corporate communicator, feeding and caring for your content channels will take up more of your or your agency’s time. Unless you’re an Intel with a huge in-house 24/7 newsroom, you will never have enough resources to feed multiple channels, so narrow your focus.  Here’s how:

  1. Segment your customers. Before you pay someone for that thought leadership piece or video, identify your customer segments so you can make good targeting decisions. Traditional segmentation identifies shared needs, attitudes, behaviors, or demographics.  Value-based segmentation looks at groups that produce your largest revenue. If you don’t have existing customer segmentation data, get it.  If you can’t afford it, try to find third-party data from an industry association or a syndicated research study that covers your category.  Failing that, hypothesize likely market segments using the expertise of you or your colleagues.
  2. Choose your engagement points. Purchase funnels have been replaced by decision journeys. Whatever you call your prospective customer’s path to purchase, map out the top stops along the way and focus your attention on targeted segments and their key engagement points.  For a target segment, key engagement points could be the social media platform where the most conversation about your product or industry takes place, a third-party review site that delivers a healthy portion of your site traffic or the top trade publications in your business.
  3. Go deep or go home.  It’s easy to be overambitious when you’re faced with multiple market segments and channels. Remember that your content needs to be constantly refreshed. Whether your tactics include blogging, webinars, a video series or branded content, budget the time to update frequently, with original (not simply regurgitated) words and visuals. Better to build out your content deeply one channel at a time then fragment resources.
  4. Don’t count on luck. The “build it and they will come “ approach may work once in a million, but most content strategy requires effective distribution through both earned and paid channels. For example, distribute earned content like media coverage through promoted posts or share it through an incentive-based brand ambassador network.
  5. Track and respond. Measure what’s working and rethink what’s not. For example, if your CEO loves to hear herself talk, but analytics show that others could care less about her blog, perhaps a webinar, podcast or online industry expert panel would be more effective. There’s no place for corporate vanity in an effective content strategy.

Image “dog+steak=awesome” by Ed Schipul via Flickr used by CC BY-SA 2.0 / Resized from original.

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