How to Build a Content Marketing Program from Scratch

During a recent COSE Business Growth Boot Camp, BoxCast VP of Marketing Sam Brenner laid out the blueprint of how his company leveraged its content marketing strategy to grow its business.

When Sam Brenner joined BoxCast in September 2015, the startup amounted to a dozen people working out of a single room on the second floor of Burke Lakefront Airport. The company was also facing a host of challenges, including:

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    • low brand awareness;
    • a lack of inbound leads;
    • not enough revenue; and
    • no understanding or thought around how the company might be able to achieve growth in the coming years.

    During a recent COSE Business Growth Boot Camp titled “How to Build a Marketing Machine from Scratch,” Brenner, the VP of marketing at BoxCast, laid out the following six-point plan BoxCast put in place to address and overcome these challenges.

    Finding a purpose

    During a meeting with BoxCast’s CEO, Brenner said he suggested that BoxCast transform itself into a media company. He advocated that the company create media at every opportunity centered around live streaming and other topics current and future customers care about.

    This resulted in plans for the development of an in-house agency that would create videos, graphics and blogs at scale to draw customers in with valuable content to be distributed via social media as well as a mix of paid and organic search.

    Investing in content

    The CEO agreed to invest marketing dollars into content marketing, but asked how long this plan would take to implement.

    Brenner’s answer: forever.

    There is no endgame for the creation of valuable content. It’s something a company gets better and better at overtime as distribution channels evolve.

    Building a team

    Once the decision has been made to launch a content marketing program, it’s time to put a team together. Brenner suggested first looking inward to see if there are people already on your staff who might be able to help you create content. Identify individual skill sets. Do you have someone who is a knockout writer? Put them in charge of writing blogs. Perhaps you have someone who has a knack for video editing. They can become your new video director.

    Executing a plan

    Perhaps the most important part of designing a content marketing strategy is in the execution of it. In Year 1 of BoxCast’s plan, the company focused on cadence and consistency. The quality wasn’t necessarily as important as was the quantity. You’re going to make mistakes in some of the content you create. But at least you’re creating! Learn from those mistakes and what is resonating with your audience and keep moving forward.

    In Year 2, BoxCast began to work with outside partners to help amplify its reach. For example, the company identified a partner to use to boost lead gen with Christian churches, which is a huge market for BoxCast.

    The following year, BoxCast began tackling bigger video projects. For example, they began airing a video series answering the most common questions the company receives from prospects and customers. BoxCast also took the opportunity during this time to refocus its blog strategy to write content around the topics their customers are searching for. Further, the content team began producing longer form videos via a webinar series to be archived on BoxCast’s YouTube channel.

    Measuring results

    To have an idea on what’s working or not working with your audience, you must have systems in place to measure results. Brenner said companies should have Google Analytics set up to use in combination with a primary marketing system to measure the effectiveness of the content being created. There are other robust, free tools available to measure content on other channels as well, including both Facebook and YouTube analytics programs. As the data comes in, check to see how they intersect with your company’s unique KPIs.

    Aligning sales

    It’s important to get your company’s sales team on the same page with your content team. The two sides should be meeting regularly to discuss what they want to see and what’s important to their clients. This meeting can also allow the content team to present to the sales team on what content items are being published and how these items relate to the overall content marketing strategy.

    The COSE Business Growth Boot Camp series is just one example of the many events COSE hosts each year to help grow your business. Click here to see a list of upcoming events that can help your business succeed.

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    Next up: How to Build Your Brand and Engage with Customers

    How to Build Your Brand and Engage with Customers

    COSE recently reached out to members of its Expert Network to address questions related to his or her field. Featured today is Carol Staiger, business coach and marketing consultant with  Vantage Point Enterprises.

    COSE recently reached out to members of its Expert Network to address questions related to his or her field. Featured today is Carol Staiger, business coach and marketing consultant with  Vantage Point Enterprises.

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    Q: What is the biggest challenge your clients are asking about today, and how are they overcoming that challenge?

    A: Ultimately, clients always ask for a path to an improved situation, whether it be obtaining new clients, improving financial results, or finding relief from an employee issue. As a Business Coach, one of the important benefits I bring to clients is awareness: 1) awareness of aspirations and self-imposed limitations, 2) awareness of options they have for improving their companies or their individual situations, and 3) awareness of resources to keep them from going it alone. 

    Once clients are really aware of these things, their demeanor changes, they are enthusiastic, a door has been opened.  Yet many fail to walk through to the other side.  Even though this side of the door may be dysfunctional, it is comfortable, it is known, and it works to some degree.  Those who succeed at real change understand that it takes 1) a clear vision of what the improved situation would look like, 2) a clearly-expressed SMART goal, 3) definitive action steps, and 4) practicing new behaviors. 

    Q: Talk about Project Management.  What are four things companies can do to help a project go more smoothly?

    A: Project Management is often thought of as a discipline, one that plans, organizes, motivates and controls resources to reach a deadline-driven goal.  Conversations abound over which methodologies and tools to use in various situations, and who in the organization might be the best (usually engineering) mind to be the Project Manager. Sometimes, the human part of the equation may be given short shrift, and the first three of my recommendations address that.

    1) Are candidates for Project Manager evaluated at all on their communication and people skills?  Why not?  Obviously the project will require the coming together of many minds, hearts and hands to achieve successful completion.  Does this candidate have the right combination of cognitive and social skills to complete the Project in the most effective manner?

    2) The use of electronic communication tools to inform participants about Project information should be supplemented by face-to-face human interaction, even if that communication is accomplished remotely, using tools like Skype. And, yes, scheduling a team meeting may mean building in the cost of a day-long session at a nearby off-site facility, but it will be worthwhile.  The opportunity to interact face-to-face with other team members will enrich the process and create synergy.

    3) Regular reviews with Project Team or the Project Leadership group, will probably occur, and I support this.  But there is no substitute for the Project Leader “checking in” with key individual Project Team participants from time to time.  Is the goal clear?  Does that task make sense? Is there an unanticipated roadblock that this person recognizes?  It’s intelligence like this that informs the Project Manager’s next steps.

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    Next up: Don't Lead Them On: How to Capture Potential Customers’ Attention and Keep It

    Don't Lead Them On: How to Capture Potential Customers’ Attention and Keep It

    Your customers are bombarded daily with all kinds of media. How do you get your message to stand out and maximize your interaction with your audience?


    Lead generation in the digital era can seem easier than the days of paper mailings, cold calls and door-to-door visits. While there’s certainly benefits to reaching potential customers on the platforms they are already using, there’s also an oversaturation of digital media coming at them every day. A user skipping over your ad in favor of a meme might seem likely but it’s not always the case. Digital lead generation does work! When you do get a user to click through on one of your digital ads, on your paid search listing or a link in an email, this is your opportunity to maximize the interaction and ensure that potential customer goes from a click to a conversion. 


    What is your end game?

    When you are starting a lead generation campaign, you need to define the goal. Ask yourself, what do I want users to do? The answer to this question is what drives content creation. The goal will also determine how you measure results. If gathering emails for your list is the goal then doing a product campaign to drive sales wouldn’t be the right fit. In this case you would measure sign-ups rather than sales. Think about what you want your potential customers to do and make it easy for them to do it. 

    Keep it simple

    The call to action (or CTA) should be clear from the first glance. The potential customer should have an idea of what they are going to get when they click on your ad. Though click-bait headlines might work for tabloids and YouTube videos, it’s not a great idea for marketing because misled people are unlikely to engage with your content again. You want to establish trust. If you are discussing a product and your intention is for people to buy that product, the link should go to the product listing. Don’t make people hunt for content. You have a short window to capture their attention. Capitalize on that! 

    Eliminate distractions

    Gifs, memes and viral videos rule the Internet, but do they have a place in marketing? Maybe. Are they always a good idea for targeted lead generation? Not necessarily. Getting a lot of eyes on your content can be amazing for brand exposure but eyes don’t always turn into buys. It’s more productive to focus on targeting potential customers. The CTA should be easy to read and it should be obvious what you want them to do. Things like “sign up here” or “read more” are likely to lead to clicks that turn into conversions. Fooling folks into clicking may lead to views but you want views from people who want to see your content. 

    Gated content

    Gated content refers to the idea that users must enter their email or in some cases, pay to access what you’ve created. Gated content is particularly popular in B2B content marketing. Writing whitepapers, blog posts, articles or creating how-to videos that inform your audience in a relevant way can be a way to not only establish yourself as a trusted expert in your industry but to also generate new leads. While it may be tempting to charge for gated content (and you totally can), that might be a short-term plan. The long game would be creating a simple form to gather emails, engage with those people and target campaigns based on their behavior. Gated content is one way to gauge what potential customers are interested in and then tailor campaigns to fit that behavior. 

    Always get the email

    When you are capturing contact information to generate a lead, of course, it would be nice to have all the information you want to know about your customer right there from the beginning. But if the only thing you can capture from a lead is their email then you’re off to a great start. With an email address, you can create a digital marketing campaign to measure what they are interested and tailor content to fit their needs. To do that, you need to get their email and you don’t want to overwhelm them in the process. Keep it simple! If you have multiple fields on your form, try making only the email entry required – that way it’s up to the person if they want to provide more. You don’t want to lose the email because you required too much unnecessary information up front. You can always engage the lead later by having them fill out a profile or take a survey. Allow them to warm up to you with a simple welcome email first. 

    The best way to look at digital lead generation is like a relationship. You often must court the person. They want to know what you’re about before they invest in you. They want to know that you are worth their time and energy. At the beginning, an email address may be all they are willing to provide but that’s enough to get you started on the courtship. Always keep in mind that the user on the other side of the screen isn't just a potential lead, they are a person. Invest in the time to figure out how to talk to them. Unlike that awkward eHarmony date, you won’t regret it! 

    Marisa Pisani, director of marketing strategy and automation at Adcom, spends her days creating and executing data-driven strategies to drive measurable results for Adcom’s diverse group of clients. Adcom specializes in Brand Building & Positioning, Generating Demand & Conversion, and Marketing Consulting.



     

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    Next up: How to Earn Business from Your Next Networking Event

    How to Earn Business from Your Next Networking Event

    Effective networking is harder than it looks. But if you do a little bit of homework first, you’ll find it easier to make the contacts you need during these events to help your business grow.

    As a small business owner, growing and nurturing a network is critical for current and future business. People like to do business with people they know, like and trust—and earning that trust is critical. Successful small businesses grow through referrals that come from satisfied customers. When you think of going to a networking event, do you cringe? Is it because you will be hounded by people and getting business cards you don’t want, having to listen to endless elevator pitches? Well, it is time to rethink how to leverage events and grow a profitable network.

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    • RELATED: Learn about COSE’s B2B Cleveland Matchmaker event

    The first thing to do is get into the right mindset. Effective networking is about farming versus hunting. Farmers plant seeds. They are patient and make sure their seeds get the proper caring and feeding and then they can reap the harvest. Hunters go a mile wide and an inch deep, they value quantity and shoot at anything that moves. Most people do not go to networking events to buy something, so why go there with the intent to immediately sell?

    When you are going to a networking event, do your homework first. Find out who else might be there you want to connect with. Learn what you can about them on social sites such as LinkedIn and also go to their website. When you find them at the event, ask them questions about themselves, their business and their challenges. Take the time to learn about them, show them you care and you want to build a relationship. There will be time for talking about how you can support them—but only really after you know what they need. When you get to share, tell them a story of how you have solved business problems for clients similar to their problems, then it shows you listened and you have some experience.

    Ivan Misner, Ph.D, founder of BNI, shares the need to first have visibility. People have to know who you are and what you do. He warns against premature solicitation and asking for a sale before you have visibility and offers some tips on effectively navigating networking events. He uses a 12 x 12 x 12 rule. From 12 feet away—make sure you are dressed the part. At 12 inches away, perception is reality. Don’t complain to someone you just met because they will think you are a negative person. And think about the 12 words you’re going to say. After you listen to them, be able to concisely share your value proposition.

    I facilitate a leadership program focused on building influence and connecting with others leveraging John Maxwell’s books—“Everybody Communicates, Few Connect” and “Becoming a Person of Influence”. In it, we focus on how to really listen to others to better connect. It’s not about us, it’s about them. I love this quote by Norman Vincent Peale:

    “Humble people don't think less of themselves ... they just think of themselves less. When you really listen to others, you make a connection.” John Maxwell says “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand” and it is the same here for connecting.

    10 questions to ask at networking events
    Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and other great books, is a great connector and says, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” He shares 10 Feel-Good Questions to ask at networking events:

    1. How did you get your start in the widget business?

    2. What do you enjoy most about your profession?

    3. What separates you and your company from the competition?

    4. What advice would you give someone just starting in the widget business?

    5. What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?

    6. What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?

    7. What do you see as the coming trends in the widget business?

    8. What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business?

    9. What ways have you found to be the most effective for promotion your business?

    10. What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?

    The One “key” questions that will set you apart from everyone else: “How can I know if someone I’m speaking with is a good prospect for you?

    Important: Please keep in mind you won’t have time to ask more than two or three of these questions in any one conversation. These are questions people enjoy answering and they are simply meant to make them feel good and establish initial rapport.

    So, it’s about farming and cultivating relationships and building a network of people that really know, like and trust you—this is your referral network. Be selective, don’t chase everyone, and focus on building a network of people that can leverage your services or product. Focus first on adding value and the rest will come! And most of all: Happy networking!

    Jill Windelspecht is president of Talent Specialists Consulting. Contact her via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.

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    Next up: How to Get New Employees AND New Business

    How to Get New Employees AND New Business

    COSE members explain how they are overcoming two of the most vexing issues facing small businesses.


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    Next up: How to Get ROI from Social Media

    How to Get ROI from Social Media

    With everything a small business owner has to contend with these days, it’s no wonder social media often takes a back seat. The thinking goes: Sure, it’s important, but promoting a business on social media isn’t going to have a dramatic impact on a bottom line. Not so fast! Jason Guyer and Paul Marnecheck, two members of COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s membership development team would disagree with that line of thinking. Guyer and Marnecheck recently took time to answer some common questions entrepreneurs have about social media and also relate how they’ve used social channels to drive business.

    With everything a small business owner has to contend with these days, it’s no wonder social media often takes a back seat. The thinking goes: Sure, it’s important, but promoting a business on social media isn’t going to have a dramatic impact on a bottom line.

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    Not so fast! Jason Guyer and Paul Marnecheck, two members of COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s membership development team would disagree with that line of thinking. Guyer and Marnecheck recently took time to answer some common questions entrepreneurs have about social media and also relate how they’ve used social channels to drive business.

    Q: Talk about how you leverage social in your day-to-day at COSE/GCP?

    Guyer: Social media in general is sometimes viewed by others as a time-waster in the workplace. I think that is a stale, outdated, and antiquated mindset on how social media can impact your business—assuming you use it the right way. I’d guess roughly 75% of all members that I’ve welcomed to our chamber or who are trying to decide if membership is right for them are all on social media in one form or another. 

    Day-to-day on Twitter, I’m always on the lookout for content I can share or retweet that might matter to those who follow me, whether it’s my own or content of those I follow. Anything I can do to help spread the word for our Northeast Ohio companies on Twitter—members or not—I’m happy to do it.

    Similarly, LinkedIn is a great way to connect and put a face to a name for companies I am trying to engage with who may not be active on Twitter. If I am exchanging emails or phone calls with someone looking for more information on GCP or COSE, I always check to see if they have a LinkedIn profile so I can connect and engage with them that way.

    Q: What networks are you most active on and does your strategy change based on the platform you’re using?

    Marnecheck: I would say I am most active for work on Twitter and Linkedin. I use Linkedin more for background research while I use Twitter to help push content out. I agree that social media is a great way to remain current with our members and the business community. By creating lists in Twitter for instance, I am able to organize my feed in a productive way. Also, Linkedin allows me to see when a connection changes jobs, gains a new title, or reaches a professional milestone.  It allows me to remain current quickly.

    Q: What strategies work best as you try to encourage engagement from your followers?

    Guyer: To me, the goal is to stay top of mind. Simple retweets and comments on whatever it is my followers and those I follow are putting out there shows them that A) you’re noticing their content and B) you care about what it is they have to say. People create these accounts to engage (ideally!), so why not go back and forth and strike up a social conversation?

    Q: This question is probably highest on the mind of a small business owner: Have you been able to turn social into sales?

    Marnecheck: YES! I have found one of the biggest factors in making a sale is timing. Linkedin & Twitter gives me a good sense of when things might have changed for the client and when the time could be right to approach, reapproach etc.

    Q: What’s one thing a business development professional or small business owner should keep in mind about social media?

    Guyer: If you’re using social media to ask your prospects to “marry you on the first date” then I think you’re utilizing these tools the wrong way. Do I use social media as a sales tool? Of course I do. However, rarely—if ever—do I ask someone to join via social media. To me, Twitter and LinkedIn serve as a way to establish and cultivate the relationship throughout the sales process. In today’s day and age where it’s easier to point and click than it is dial and answer the phone (thanks caller ID), social media is a way to bridge the gap in communication.

    Marnecheck: ALWAYS have current content. One of the biggest red flags to me is when a business lists a social network site (especially Twitter) on their company website only to find the content on the site is outdated.  Must always have fresh content.

    Want to continue the conversation with Paul and Jason? Paul is on Twitter @marnecheck while Jason can be found @GCP_Jason.

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