How to Tailor a Content Marketing Strategy By Company Size

In “Parks and Recreation,” Ron Swanson offers sage advice: “Never half-ass two things,” he says. “Whole-ass one thing.”

Too many content marketing teams try to half-ass a bunch of things—blog posts, whitepapers, video, social media, SEO—in the pursuit of a cohesive content program. They plunge headfirst, but despite their frantic productivity, nothing seems to stick like it should.

Part of the problem is that small and mid-sized companies want to compete with huge corporations out of the gate. “We want to be as cool as Apple or as daring as Red Bull,” someone might say, ignoring the fact that Apple and Red Bull have giant teams and giant budgets devoted solely to content.

For those us who don’t have endless resources, we can still aspire to be like prolific brands—as long as we have a realistic content marketing strategy.

Successful content marketing doesn’t necessarily mean you have a gargantuan editorial empire in the middle of your brand. It just means your existing content team—whether one person or one hundred people— creates work that’s helping the business.

So how do you get to that point? The answer is different depending on your situation.

Level 1: A small, committed content team

Team size: 1-2 full-time employees and (maybe) 1-2 regular freelancers

Primary goal(s): Brand awareness

Content output: 1-2 blog posts per week and 1 report or e-book per year

Major pain points: Need executive buy-in and additional resources

There’s no reason a single creator can’t develop and launch a content program, though it certainly helps if you have a clear purpose and time to devote to creation. Steve Kamb, a writer and entrepreneur I admire, began writing blog posts about health and fitness while working a day job that drained him. He had a well-defined brand in mind as he wrote—Nerd Fitness—and that brand has since grown into a global empire. Kamb runs Nerd Fitness meet-ups, oversees a vast roleplaying discussion board, and now has several writers working for him. He has also published three e-books and sells a line of Nerd Fitness activewear.

Kamb told Forbes in 2016 that his initial content didn’t connect with an audience. It took him a very long time to hit 1,000 subscribers. “After nine months of publishing articles daily, I had [only] 90,” he said. “I changed my strategy. Instead of publishing five short, topical, skimmable articles each week, I published two articles that went in depth on a subject, oftentimes topping 3,000 words each. I injected each article with nerdy personality, metaphors, and references. I wrote articles I loved to write and wanted to read myself, and hoped others would feel the same.”

It’s a simple piece of advice, but the best way to jumpstart a tiny content operation is to commit to creating what people actually want to read. That’s it—there’s no quick fix, and content mastery is only available to those who truly want to tell good stories.

Level 2: A growing team ready to experiment

Team size: 3-5 full-timers and 3-5 regular freelancers

Primary goal(s): Brand awareness and lead generation

Content output: 4-5 blog posts per week, weekly email newsletter, and 1 report or e-book per quarter

Major pain points: Securing more budget for multimedia, converting leads to revenue, and speaking to multiple personas

So your audience is growing and you’re ready to scale. That doesn’t mean you have to hire seven new people next month. Sometimes a well-oiled content machine has to patiently prove results.

Walmart, a Contently customer, has a modestly sized content running one of its blogs, Tips & Ideas. It might surprise you that the small group of creators suits the brand just fine. They rely on a core group of freelancers who understand the brand’s goals.

“We love our small and trusted group of creators dearly,” Britt Dionne, senior manager of editorial, told us in a webinar. “They usually know what we want, and they nail it the first time.”

The blog isn’t Walmart’s sole contact with its entire customer base. But because the content creates such a tailored, unique experience, the value to the brand is clear. In fact, customers who engaged with editorial content before ordering anything had 7 percent larger shopping carts than those who had never encountered Tips & Ideas.

Level 3: A robust team driving ROI

Team size: 5+ full-timers, 5+ freelancers, full executive buy-in

Primary goal(s): Brand awareness, lead generation, sales enablement

Content output: 5+ blog posts a week, 1 video per month, 1 infographic per quarter, email newsletter 3x a week, 4-6 reports or e-books per year

Major pain points: Aligning with the sales team, repurposing old content, tying content to revenue

If you’re already part of a large content team, trust the strategy that got you to this point and find ways to make small tweaks that improve the ROI of your existing output. Can you update your core pieces for an SEO boost? Can you write a new thought leadership argument based on data you collected a few months ago? Which of your e-books touched on a subject that could inspire a video series?

Now that you’re not hurting for resources, use your wiggle room to work with the sales team and create new content for the entire customer journey. Conduct a content audit and urge your freelancers to fill in any gaps. If most of your content is clearly bottom-funnel, emphasize the top and middle of the funnel to drive more people there. If you have too much brand awareness content, balance out the other way.

Whatever you do, just don’t be complacent. You have resources that others desperately want. So try new things, fail, and keep getting better.

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