Ask a Content Strategist

Ask a Content Strategist: What Should You Focus On When You’re a Team of One?

Last week, I hosted a webinar with Henry Bruce, Contently’s SVP of marketing, to present our new content maturity model. It’s always exciting when you get to unveil something new while making emphatic hand gestures and semi-screaming at a PolyCom.

Over 700 people signed up, and we got a ton of questions. We tried to answer them all, but I spent a little too long breathlessly explaining how to work with compliance teams. So for this month’s Ask a Content Strategist column, I thought I’d dive into some of the best questions that went unanswered.

As a content team of one, I struggle holding onto the roles of creating the strategy, campaigns, assessment, graphics, etc. to avoid the chaos that always ensues. What should my primary focus be? And what are absolutely necessary technologies to invest in?

-Paul, Colorado

It’s never fun being a one-person team. No one realizes you’re responsible for 1,000 percent more than just creating content. And there’s usually that one guy who thinks he could do your job way better than you. (You may think you can write, Chad. But you can’t.)

When you’re a one-person content team, you’ll always be tempted to focus on just creating more. More content. More campaigns. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s much easier to just focus on the rote tasks in front of you.

But to be successful, you need to take a step back and focus on your content strategy. You’re one person. You can’t do everything. So it’s all about honing in on the few channels and tactics that are getting you the best results.

This is essentially the 80/20 rule. If you’re getting 80 percent of your leads through email and SEO campaigns, but spend the vast majority of your time trying to maintain an always-on social and blog cadence, you’re wasting time and effort.

Focus on the channels that work best for you, and then put all of your energy into creating a few pieces of high-quality content specially crafted for those channels.

As for the technologies you’ll need: It depends. A B2C startup focused on paid social video has a much different stack than a B2B company focused on email campaigns and partner webinars. But there are a few must-have buckets.

Analytics: The biggest key to growing your program is showing results. If you’re B2B, you need to show that your content drives leads. If you’re B2C, you need to show that people who engage with your content come back and buy something within a 90-day window.

Google Analytics is free, awesome, and can track both engagement metrics as well as basic conversion pathways. But to provide a full picture, you’ll need a good CRM as well. For most smaller companies, HubSpot is the easiest to plug in and get working.

Calendar and workflow: These tools are important for your own sanity and organization, but they also provide transparency to other teams you work with (sales, demand gen, accounts, etc.) so that they can know what content is coming. A lot of Fortune 2000 and fast-growth companies invest in a content marketing platform like Contently, but if your program isn’t ready for that yet, you can use a more general workflow/calendar tool like Asana.

Social media management: The free version of Buffer is awesome for smaller companies. For enterprise companies, Sprinklr and Spredfast are client favorites.

CMS: For owned content, you need a strong CMS that you won’t spend half your time troubleshooting. WordPress remains the easiest platform to design, maintain, and use. Plus, there are tons of great plug-ins to create different content formats (interactive, quizzes, parallax scroll, etc.) and templates that boost conversions and sharing.

What’s an example of a “big rock” asset in the consumer content world?

-Woo, San Diego

Usually we refer to “big rock content” in a B2B context—white papers or e-books that then get repurposed in a bunch of different ways: blog posts, infographics, videos, social posts, and interactive content that relies on the foundational research in the original asset.

But B2C companies create big rock content too—just look at Spotify’s “Year in Music” research, which it remixes as everything from personalized playlists to 100-foot-high billboard ads. There’s also Red Bull’s epic music and extreme sports documentaries, which the brand slices into “social cuts” specially designed for their audiences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

One of our customers, Silversea, creates big rock “Collections” that serve as travel guides for specific destinations around the world. Each component within them—like these awesome Planet Earth-esque travel videos—serves as a divisible piece of content.

Just look at that freaking walrus!

What are the most effective ways to track ROI for each individual piece of content you produce?

-Sam, San Diego

Here’s the truth: I really do not recommend trying to quantify the hard ROI of every individual piece of content that you create, as opposed to your content program as a whole.

It will lead you down a terrifying rabbit hole in which you have to match up a ton of web analytics and CRM data, and you’ll spend 90 percent of your time making those calculations instead of, you know, actually making cool stuff.

That being said, here’s an in-depth guide on one way to measure the full ROI of individual content pieces. And here are some key metrics you can look to in order to identify top performers.

Conversions: Track which pieces of gated content generate the most leads. For instance, in 2015, I wrote a series of five content marketing playbooks for Contently. They were extremely popular, generating tens of thousands of leads.

Each playbook was classified as an individual campaign, which we then tracked as the lead source in Salesforce. If a deal closed as a result of a playbook, it got credit. As a result, we were able to attribute millions of dollars of revenue from that campaign. (I’m still waiting for my cut…) And guess what? We’re rolling out an updated series of playbooks in the coming months to try to recapture the magic.

SEO: Three things I love about SEMRush—it’s cheap, easy to use, and tells you the monetary value of your primary organic keywords. If a piece of content is ranking for a high value keyword and driving a ton of traffic, this is an easy way to show hard ROI for an individual piece.

Here are some other ROI guides that should help:

The content metrics that really matter.

How to show the ROI content has on your brand.

One last piece of advice: Find the friendliest marketing or business analyst in your company, bribe them with booze and cupcakes, and get them to set up an automated dashboard that pulls in your most important KPIs each month. (In all likelihood, they already use Looker, Domo, Tableau, or Google Data Studio.)

It’ll mean the difference between looking like this at the end of every month…

Versus looking like this instead…

Joe Lazauskas is Contently’s head of content strategy and co-author of The Storytelling Edge. Ask him your most pressing content strategy questions here, or email him at

Image by iStockPhoto

Get better at your job right now.

Read our monthly newsletter to master content marketing. It’s made for marketers, creators, and everyone in between.

Trending stories