How to Build a B2B Content Marketing Department: Beat Staffing ShockWe’re all familiar with sticker shock; but with content marketing, staffing shock is the problem that has many of our heads spinning.
Indeed, when a company embarks on its first B2B content marketing program, a common discovery is that there’s more to the job of creating and managing content than meets the eye. Producing effective, high-quality content efforts requires a wide range of skills, capabilities, and expertise; so the team you assemble to do the job must be prepared to meet the challenges involved in conceptualizing, creating, crafting, executing, promoting, and measuring content.
This high-level review of content marketing roles and skills should help you put that team together.
Content marketing is a fairly new discipline and, as such, it is not yet fully understood within most organizations. For any program to get off the ground and stay aloft, it must have an internal champion. In many firms, the champion (or champions) are the CEO and/or a top marketing executive; some firms have even taken the step of creating the position of CCO, or Chief Content Officer.
Among the responsibilities that fall under program leadership are:
- Determining objectives
- Guiding and articulating strategy
- Evaluating messaging themes
- Determining priorities, goals, milestones, and measurements of performance
Leaders must be effective communicators within the organization and must also have a solid, hands-on understanding of the sales process and customer needs. They need to keep their fingers on the pulse of content marketing best practices, because they are changing and growing more sophisticated at a very rapid rate.
Internal staffing requirements and outsource options for content creation vary widely, depending mainly on the amount and type of content you wish to produce. Many programs start with text-based content, such as blog posts and press releases. However, entry-level copywriters tend not to fit the bill, particularly in the B2B sector, because writers need B2B experience to achieve the proper voice, industry experience to convey expertise, and technical writing skills to provide accuracy.
Whether writing duties are contracted out, done internally, or handled as a shared effort will depend largely on production volume and what is being created: One or two blog posts a week is far from a full-time job; 10 case studies a month will take a small army.
A compelling reason to nurture in-house writers is the Google Authorship program, about which much has been written here on the CMI blog. Suffice it to say that participating in Google Authorship builds credibility and thought leadership, as well as enhancing SEO and conversions on organic search.
Staffing requirements get more complicated when visual content is part of the mix. Infographics, slide presentations, images (e.g., those published on Instagram or Pinterest), and video all require creative specialists with skills that are not easy to find or develop internally. In the Chicago market, we see a lot of collaboration for non-textual content creation: Boutique agencies that specialize in video production, photography, and infographics are sprouting up all around the area. Collaboration has the advantage of speed, efficiency and out-of-the-gate quality, but the drawback of a collaborative strategy is that messaging can sometimes miss the mark, due to team members’ lack of familiarity with your business, and lack of centralized control.
The guiding light for staffing should be quality. Don’t cut corners by asking an accounting clerk with time on his hands to put together a slide presentation. If your content isn’t professionally crafted, relevant, useful, and engaging, there’s no value in creating and sharing it. Content marketing on the cheap is not about saving 30 percent of your budget — it’s about the possibility that you are wasting 100 percent of your efforts.
Editors play an enormous role in content production, and yet this role is frequently overlooked, understaffed, and miscast. The editorial function in a content marketing program is likely responsible for topic generation and work flow management, as well as substantive editing, line editing and proofreading.
Obviously, different skills are needed for each of these jobs. A good substantive editor needs to understand the big picture, whereas a proofreader must be extremely detail-oriented. A production work flow manager must be highly organized, whereas a topic generator needs creativity above all.
Work flow management and substantive editing are best accomplished in-house. The former requires continual, hands-on involvement, and the latter an intimate knowledge of your business. Topic generation, a difficult and time-consuming task, can be delegated to a contracted agency or freelancer, or even outsourced entirely, as can line editing (i.e., light copy editing) and proofreading.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
One of the most important objectives of a content marketing program is to improve search engine visibility. Therefore, the content marketing process should include keyword research, on-page optimization, and analytics setup and review. If an in-house or outsourced SEO function already exists in your organization, all that’s needed is to adjust staffing to fit the new content marketing requirements. But if your business lacks an internal SEO specialist, it’s recommended that you find an outsourced partner or hire someone on a full-time or part-time basis as quickly as possible.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
A shortcoming of many B2B content marketing programs is a poor conversion optimization strategy — evidenced by a lack of offers, poorly structured offers, poorly designed submission forms, and a lack of lead-tracking capabilities. If your firm is fortunate enough to have a CRO specialist on staff, it will have a big leg up on the competition. If not, you would be well-advised to run content pieces through a freelance CRO specialist or agency — or at least hire a CRO specialist for a consulting engagement early on in the development of your content marketing program.
Once content has been created, edited, and optimized, attention must turn to getting it published and promoted. Outreach specialists are responsible for identifying desirable publishing sites, pitching content, and cultivating long-term relationships with publishers. Effective outreach requires a high level of organization, excellent sales and communication skills, and a solid understanding of the industry. Since all of these skills are hard to find in one individual, firms often split up duties into internal tasks, such as identifying publishing sites, and external duties, such as pitching articles. Your firm will have a lot of leeway here: Outreach can be effectively handled internally, or outsourced to a PR or content marketing agency.
B2Bs are often conflicted and confused about social media marketing. One thing that tends to be rather pointless is setting up social media communities solely for the purpose of syndicating a firm’s content. If all you’re doing is tweeting links to your blog posts, the chances of developing a vibrant social community are slim. On the other hand, creating a real content marketing presence on social media is a gargantuan task, involving the creation of original, platform-exclusive content; relentless community-building; and an ongoing, possibly around-the-clock, interaction strategy.
Few B2Bs have the stomach (or checkbook) for that kind of commitment. In my view, a firm should establish a social media strategy that is separate from its content marketing initiative, and then determine how content marketing fits in.
Keep in mind that content marketing consists largely of offsite content — a firm can piggyback on the publishers’ social communities (which can be quite large) rather than rely on its own resources.
Measuring the success of a content marketing program can be difficult, since many of the associated metrics are “soft” — i.e., are not directly tied to a specific user-generated action, such as clicking on an ad, filling in a form, or phoning for help. That’s why it’s very important for leadership to clearly lay out what will be measured, what the numbers mean, and what they don’t mean. Among the most commonly used and reliable ways to evaluate a program are:
- Number of onsite content pieces published
- Number of offsite content pieces published
- Number of active offsite publishers
- Quality of active offsite publishers, as determined by factors defined by the firm
- Content pitch success rate
- Social shares on the firm’s social networks
- Social shares on publishing site social networks
- Social brand mentions
- Blog comments (offsite and company blog)
- Traffic to company site and blog
- Page views of onsite content
- Bounce rate
- Length of page views on strategic onsite content
- Form fills
- Phone inquiries
From a staffing perspective, the keys are:
- Assigning someone the specific responsibility for collecting, reporting, and interpreting the analytics data
- Establishing a process for reviewing and acting on those data
If a firm does everything else right but fails on metrics, it will be hard pressed to improve its content marketing or even identify obvious flaws.
Over to you
What have I missed? What other roles and skills are necessary to put together a solid B2B content marketing program?
Looking for more advice on building a top-notch content marketing team? Don’t miss the insightful conversations taking place at Content Marketing World 2013. Register today!
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