Your Mid-term Content Marketing Review

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) 2016 Reports 69% of B2C and 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content this year than last year. The fight for customer attention, spend and loyalty is more intense and now is a great time to review and act on how you have fared so far.

On the one hand there is research to suggest that more marketers have a documented content strategy, and no doubt eyebrows have been raised about the standard of quality content production and distribution. On the other hand it seems to me that many marketers and business leaders are still struggling with the organisational and content marketing issues of yesteryear, and are finding it very difficult to gain the desired traction in their content marketing efforts.

As a daily content surfer across blogs, websites and social media channels I still see a significant slant towards the quantity over quality content approach as well as dozens of link bait articles likely to hurt bounce and conversion rates not to mention search rankings.

Having analysed various companies efforts I dig deeper I find a lot of wasted content potential that is not advancing search (keywords, SEO, PPC ) tactics and conversions as much as it really could, as well as consistency and integration issues across the offline and online marketing channels.

Yes we are up against it. Content marketing is still an emerging philosophy with inherent challenges constantly under tactical development, particularly when it comes to measurement. However there are many instances where we as marketers need to shoulder some responsibility for marketing that is poorly aligned to business goals, and content marketing efforts that are failing for lack of an understanding and relationship with the sales funnel and customer journeys.

Are these the signs of resource or capability issues? Is there outsourcing issues that need to be collaboratively addressed? What internal working issues hold you back? Have stakeholder relationships not been correctly analysed and managed?

Now is a good time to assess the root causes and make the achievable adjustments/ changes needed to enhance your performance for this year and identify some of the learning’s to develop next years plan. So the following is a range of considerations that will help you review and improve your content marketing efforts.

Analyse your Content Marketing performance

Mistakenly assumed to be a straightforward task the challenge is to establish credible answers to the most important questions. How is our content advancing your strategic and organisational goals? Are you performing better than last year? How do you fare against your competitors? How can we improve?

Remind yourself – What is Content Marketing?

Whilst sales is one of the goals and there is an emergence of content used in the social selling process it is important to remind ourselves that it is not a tactic best led by sales goals. The core purpose is to start conversations with customers and prospects, focusing on all stages of the buying process and multiple personas, from brand awareness through purchase and loyalty to brand evangelism.

Marketing giant, Marketo recently reminded us of 6 good rules of execution to follow subject to my edit below:

  1. It’s not promotional
  2. It is relevant and contextual – be useful
  3. Answer a business question, solve a pain point or entertain – to build the trust and reliability useful to lead nurturing or engage an emotional response
  4. Ensue it’s well written
  5. Be relevant to your company objectives
  6. It gives proof – e.g. research, quotes, testimonials, actual metrics, stats

Why do I need a Content Marketing Strategy?

Without a content marketing strategy in place there would be no road map to produce goal focused content that engages in an integrated and measurable way.

Your strategy sets the focus for your creativity and innovation processes that lead to producing a highly effective portfolio of paid, owed and earned content. It is also is the impetus for collaboration and marketing integration across your business functions and roles to improve marketing in and consistent, effective and efficient way.

Regardless of what type of marketing tactics you use, quality content should underpin all forms of your offline and/or online marketing.

Overview: The 7 Pillars of Content Marketing Strategy

A diagram of the 7 pillars of content marketing
I wrote recently about the 7 Pillars of Content Marketing Strategy which explains top topic and structure in greater details and provides tips to excel but an overview is as follows:

  • Plan for Purpose – Your clearly defined objectives and business goals for content e.g. brand awareness, lead conversion, customer loyalty/retention, build email subscribers
  • Audiences – The details about your target segments / personas
  • People – Assimilating the key people and planning the tasks, responsibilities and procedures for everyone in the content process
  • Storyline and Principles – The brand story and propositions for the campaign including style guides, tone, design
  • Platforms – Decisions about where you will source, create, publish and amplify content
  • Processes – Outlining the series of repeatable actions for each piece of content
  • Performance – Specifying the budget, benchmarks and measurement KPI’s and metrics for control and monitoring success that matters

For more description, guidance and tips please read the article…

 Schedule a Content Audit

If you haven’t done one already perhaps it will be a good time to schedule a content audit to appraise and adjust content in terms of position, links, search value, accuracy, consistency and relevancy.

The overarching issue is whether each item within your content inventory is relevant to both your customers’ needs and your needs. An audit will help you clearly understand where you are, where you are going and identify and gaps for consideration.

During the process it is also beneficial to refresh content because as an ongoing concern out of date content is annoying and bad for business.

It is well worth investing time out at least mid-way through implementation season to consider these key factors and take necessary action. For some the process will validate much of an already successful year, highlight the need for a few pats on the back and spur on greater performance. For others I hope that it serves at as the catalyst to boosting your performance beyond your targets.

About the Author: Marvin Miller is a Marketing Management & Campaigns Specialist who works across multi channel marketing strategy, campaigns and marketing implementation. You can follow his daily updates via Twitter and join his professional network via LinkedIn 

The 7 Pillars of Content Marketing Strategy

Simply put, without a content marketing strategy in place there would be no road map that outlines your plans to advance your organisational goals supported by metrics or milestones, in a clearly aligned and integrated way.

There are two crucial factors to bear in mind about your content strategy. The first is to view it as a framework that sets the focus for creativity and innovation processes that produce a highly effective portfolio of paid, owed and earned content. The second is that content strategy is an integrated marketing philosophy closely linked with the sales funnel, search marketing via keywords, and social media although it should ideally come before social media strategy and ultimately help shape it.

Regardless of what type of marketing tactics you use, quality content should underpin all forms of your offline and/or online marketing.

 How to devise a content marketing strategy


A diagram of the 7 pillars of content marketing

Plan for Purpose
– Specifying the smart strategic objectives and the goals. Have clearly defined business goals with content that are the overarching reason every piece of content exists.


  • Include a content marketing mission statement to provide better focus for tactics
  • Aim to conquer the 3 prongs of content marketing – Socialise, Publicise AND Optimise
  • The strategy should be a framework that ignites creativity and innovation so avoid it being too prescriptive and limiting
  • Be familiar with the types of content marketing goals:

Common Content Marketing Goals

– Includes the overview of the current intelligence about your target segments or personas and positioning. Continue to develop your target personas and communicate intelligence to your people.


  • Develop personas to target – Two simple ways to do this are
    • For B2C – As a starting point is use Google Analytics to find out details like age, gender, and understand journeys through your website via clicks and times on site
    • For B2B – Use at least one of the following in order of popularity according to Content Marketing Institute B2B research: Industry trends; the profiles of individual decision makers; company characteristics; stage in the buying cycle
  • Resources permitting, look for synergies between your online personas and offline personas for a more holistic view

People – The details of the tasks, timescales, responsibilities and procedures for everyone in the content process including cross-functional colleagues and external partners.


  • Consider the role of third-party content e.g user generated content, guest blogs etc towards the bigger picture
  • Influential and collaborative leadership skills are best suited towards managing external partnership relationships including influencer marketing. Analyse whether their goals, resources and capabilities are the right fit and a collaborative partnership can flourish. For more guidance perhaps read ‘Better stakeholder management’

Storyline and Principles – The brand storyline for the campaign(s) and the fundamental propositions that are the foundations for conversations including style guides, tone and design guidance.


  • Before doing content marketing identify your unique brand story and values. To do so use the ‘who, what, were, why, when and how’ technique or the ‘5 Whys’ technique
  • You want to provide a framework to create kick ass content that adds value, solves a pain point or entertains whilst infusing it with your brand story to develop unique content propositions
  • Don’t limit your brand. Your content can go beyond what you sell to what your target audience loves and shares such as the case of Red Bull’s content focuses on extreme sports

Channels – The decisions in light of your plan and audience(s) as to where you will source, create, publish and amplify content


  • Plan the journey and tailor to the channels – Consider ‘who’ are our targets segments (personas), ‘what’ content resonates best ‘ and where’ best to find them
  • Stress the need to select keywords that align with your goals for website and content strategy
  • Integrate with offline content – utilize mind maps to help develop strategy with a structure that assists information architecture

Processes – Highlighting a series of actions to repeat with each piece of content, including set of criteria for sign-off.


  • Provide scope for real-time marketing (RTM) or reactive marketing (near-time) including integrating your crisis communications protocols that deal with negative PR and trolls
  • For outsourcing content creation aim to write outstanding ‘on brand’ and to objective content briefs
  • Set realistic timelines for content production and distribution
  • Use technology to collaborate around content ideas and processes. For instance, I use apps like Trello and Evernote that operate and synchronise across desktop and mobile devices

Performance Measurement – Specifying the budget, benchmarks and measurement. This is not just ROI, shares and likes, but must be related back to purpose.


  • Devise a good hierarchy of organisational goals from top line KPI’s through to headline content success metrics and then lower level content optimization metrics
  • For ROI measurement work towards arriving at a point where you can calculate your costs across – Planning, Ideation, Production, Distribution, Measurement. Use a consolidated set of analytic tools and invest the time ahead of every campaign to set up tagging, grouping and tracking which will pay dividends for more accurate real-time / near-time tracking of your content marketing ROI

With these tips hopefully you will be on your way to creating or adjusting your content marketing strategy and producing better results. Be sure to add any further tips and best practices that work for you in the comments below.

About the Author: Marvin Miller is a Marketing Management & Campaigns Specialist who works across multi channel marketing strategy, campaigns and marketing implementation. You can follow his daily updates via Twitter and join his professional network via LinkedIn 

Yet More Strain On Managing Client-Agency Relationships

For some the relationship is a strategic and tactical battlefield, for others it is a match made in heaven. The status of the relationship is never fixed and may well change following recent guidance and research that has the potential to increase tensions and be detrimental to the client-agency relationship.

First came the debate around the new retainer plus and project plus contract frameworks introduced by the voices of British advertising the ISBA and IPA back in June 2015. An approach criticised for doing nothing to resolve the larger, underlying tensions between clients and agencies that threaten to undermine the marketing industry and the quality of work created by agencies.

Then came the findings MediaSense, IPOS and the ISBA’s Media2020 research  findings last September 2016, signalling marketers intentions to work towards scaling back on agency relationships, driving performance orientated agency models, and gaining more in-house control of campaign activity.

What is Media2020?

A series of surveys and in-depth interviews with over 200 senor marketers and media decision makers from multiple industry sectors who account for over $1.5BN of advertising spend. A summary of the key findings:

  • Over half expect to reduce the amount of agencies they work with and bring typically outsourced functions like content development, social media and media planning in-house or to new agencies by 2020
  • Most aim to contract directly with media owners and tech companies cutting out the middle agency role
  • Media agencies are likely to remain the go to for paid media and creative agencies for big creative ideas but there is ambiguity as to the extent due to current discontent which I took the liberty to interpret as follows:

Content is king that has lacked creativity and strategic focus. Distribution is the queen that has lacked special effort to be contextually engaging to seize the moment. Performance is merely vanity concerned with what it looks like over what it is

  • Monitoring is a top priority changing the arena right now as the use of attribution modelling (63%) and business impact based KPI’s (76%) to lead and appraise media investments is increasing
  • Metric use is increasingly centered on digital metrics for ROI, customer value, engagement, and ultimately developing a single customer view

Why are the results so significant?

1. Signs of preparing for a very different media ecosystem

Insight in to how many businesses intend to organize themselves to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving media ecosystem. Marketing management at implementation level is likely to increasingly evolve around more agile tactics and project management methods. To do that requires building more internal capabilities to manage customer relationships and the resulting data alongside further digital transformation. A ‘show me the value’ culture is taking centre stage to marketing investment (not cost) and that will influence the nature of agency relationships. Future success will be largely determined by how these processes are managed.

2. Marketers are trying to solve their problems but beware of the unintended consequences

Client issues like transparency, the control of campaign data, performance monitoring, and budget management have all been ongoing agency issues. Marketers intend to reign in control over owned and earned media across content marketing, data management and social media strategies to become more self-reliant and agile, data driven and tech enabled.

This makes perfect sense from a business perspective but the cat is out of the bag and agencies will not exactly be willing lie down and surrender their hard-earned revenues and that is understandable. Business will still need agencies along the way and those suspecting the chop will raise their defences and that will become detrimental to a relationship that requires a collaborative offence.

 3. Agencies may become wary about investment hindering development

Agency bosses ears have heard the ramblings of disgruntlement over agency performance from marketers and key decision makers for some time now and vice –versa. However this time the outcomes heighten fears around the worst case scenario. The increasing media investments from businesses, that agencies have built business models around, may be made by internal departments and less will be available to agencies.

An agency is a business like no other and if the threat of declining future revenues seems real then they’re unlikely to continue to invest enough resources in to account teams and the specialist talent that will help grow your business.

No doubt, unless you can show some commitment to what they need as well as your own needs and make them a part of the process you may risk forcing agency leaders to focus even more on survival agenda than leading your account to glory.

 4. The threat of undermining collaboration

Today, many of the best results derive from co-creation, risk taking and trust between the client and their agencies and among the agencies themselves. Effective collaboration is a problematic area but essentially is built upon effective leadership, mutual trust and respect, goal alignment, commitment, communication, co-operation and control.

It is perhaps best for leaders to openly discuss research findings and guidance such as these whether the cap fits or not. Use the moment to enhance the bond and iron out budding areas of conflict.  Otherwise you run the risk of these external influences chipping away at all of the other building bricks to effective collaboration via the ability, motivation and attitudes within their team.



5. The tendency to focus on the negatives more than the positives

The findings are more a reflection of business clarity on how best to play game and good agencies remember that they provide business models and propositions to help them play it well. Social media and content development are all central to digital strategy which in turn lies at the heart of marketing agility, performance monitoring and data development.  When you throw in the increasing costs of agency relationships the findings seems inevitable.

Don’t hate the player, find better ways to work with the player because they make you money…hate the game.

The reality is that for most businesses, agencies will continue to be an effective solution to internal resource and capability issues. They are the heroes with the specialist expertise and objectivity that allows them to thrive in their respective markets.

Overall the research is best used as great direction for clients and agencies on how best to prepare to work together going forward with the intention of creating long-term business relationships.


About the Author: Marvin Miller is a Marketing Management & Campaigns Specialist who works across multi channel marketing strategy, campaigns and marketing implementation. You can follow his daily updates via Twitter and join his professional network via LinkedIn