When companies need a bit of help achieving their inbound marketing dreams, it's almost always because they're struggling to create the volume and variety of content needed to drive inbound lead generation. Once you add it all up—blogging, downloadable content creation, social media messaging, website construction, email writing, targeted campaign planning, etc.—it's safe to say that the required manpower (and efficiency) needed to drive a powerful inbound marketing plan can be very overwhelming.
In some ways it's not very different from the old days of traditional advertising tactics. While most companies have always preferred to do most of their work in-house, whenever it came to shooting a televised commercial, constructing a tradeshow exhibit, or developing a sequence of expensive print ads (i.e., the extremely time-intensive, too-important-to-mess-up projects) companies have tended to look for outside help. And that's really the whole reason marketing agencies exist, right? At a basic level, agencies like Weidert Group are highly time-sensitive companies focused on creating high-quality content (of multiple forms and media) with the utmost efficiency for their clients.
Today, I want to give you an inside look at how agencies like ours have learned to create content with enough speed and efficiency to remain profitable. If companies want their in-house teams to create the overwhelming amount of content needed to do inbound marketing well, then it's critical to start thinking about time the way inbound marketing agencies do. When constant content creation is more effective at producing leads than largescale paid projects (e.g., TV advertising, tradeshow exhibits, etc.), the only way you'll see a strong marketing ROI is to focus on how efficient your process is for creating basic content.
So, without further adieu, I'd like to introduce the experts behind Weidert Group's agile trafficking of regular content projects: Kate Nissen, our Traffic & Production Manager, and Meg Hoppe, our Creative & Content Director. Across Weidert Group's client accounts and ongoing business development efforts, Kate and Meg are the foundation of our abilty to produce without fatigue or failure. In the following Q&A with these two experienced content experts, I learned a number of lessons that I think every company can use to create better and faster inbound marketing content.
Q: To start, what is Weidert Group's process for creating high-quality marketing content while maintaining speed and efficiency?
Meg: Generally, our senior consultants, Tami and Frank, begin by working with the client to determine the basics: the personas and the campaigns. Using these basics, they lay out the content to be created and workflows for the content experience.
Once those are established, Kate and I are told the nine or so items we may need: it might be two tipsheets, an ebook, a regular weekly blog post, a video, and a whitepaper. From there, we assign a number of these content pieces to a writer. Along with that assignment goes a detailed description of the client, the client’s prospects, the client's marketing goals, the prospects' painpoints - their whole persona - so the writers can put themselves in the place of prospects searching online and answer the questions the prospects need answers to.
Kate: Along with the client briefing and assignment, our writers are given an outline for the content creation timeline and a "deadline" in Basecamp. We've found the web app Basecamp to be our greatest tool for managing a team of marketer's deadlines. When things get busy, everyone can check Basecamp to see, at a glance, what's going on and who's responsible next.
Q: After content is drafted, how do you proof and edit, without spending hours looking for typos?
Meg: Kate and I work together for the bulk of our content's "quality assurance" – everything from just checking spelling and grammar to ensuring it’s formatted in a way that's easy to read: this means bullet points, subheads, checking it for clarity, checking it for value even. This content tells prospects what they really do need to know. Often times, there will be some content in here that's too complicated for the audience. We really work to ensure that when the content is published, it will be attractive to the client’s prospects.
Kate: We also ensure the writer is using the tone that our client would use if they were talking to the prospect. Our content needs to have some of the special little nuances as far as language that will appeal to their prospects.
Meg: Of course, every industry has their own language - the way they refer to their customers, the words they abbreviate, the references they make. They all have their own lingo when it comes to how they do business and we really have to align with that otherwise our credibility is shot.
Kate: Once we've reviewed a group of content pieces, we're sure to get our client's opinion of it.
Meg: They're the best double-check because our clients are the ones working with this prospect day after day. We always understand our client's prospect quite well, but we can still sometimes learn more during these final creative reviews.
Q: So, who at Weidert produces content?
Meg: Our senior consultants, Tami and Frank, will pitch in especially if the content or the industry is rather complex. Our content marketing associate, Alex, is a fantastic writer. He writes a great variety of content for our clients. Our project managers, Laura and Tim, have specific clients they get to know quite well. They help with all sorts of content, email workflows, blog writing, et cetera. I, myself, started as a writer and still enjoying writing content. Even our president, Greg, enjoys helping to write content, especially blogs. Some of our clients blog pretty regularly—up to three times a week—and these can be a bit more creative and fun. And we all know the businesses so well, it’s up to all of us to pitch in.
Q: As the two of you work with clients to produce content, what are mistakes you see new content marketers commonly make?
Meg: There are often tiny spelling and grammar mistakes but that’s to be expected. I find they struggle most with clarity and brevity. It helps to format the content in a way that's easy for the reader. It’s common for clients to really want to tell everything there is to tell. I don’t know if it’s a mistake as much as it is a tendency that we have to work with them on. We always want to focus on one topic, keep it clear, keep it to the point and make them want to learn more at the end so that you can lead them on to another form of content.
Q: At Weidert Group, we have so many different types of content, for different companies and their different prospects, all moving through the same writers. How do you ensure none of the content pieces are forgotten?
Kate: Well, our main priority here is forming a schedule and making sure that things don’t fall through the cracks when things get busy. We create checkpoints, especially for busy times, because that's when mistakes happen. Even if you're swamped, if you stick to procedure and do the job that's on your desk at that time – we can all avoid mistakes. That’s my key thing, to resolve to stick to procedure.
Meg: And to add, as far as Kate's role, I’ve seen her have to juggle more than multiple things at one time, which goes all the way back to when we were doing traditional marketing. That experience has really come to help now because inbound can be quite complex with a lot of moving parts that have to integrate very smoothly. She's so great because she has the ability to keep calm when there’s a lot going on.
Q: To wrap up, is there any one piece of advice you’d give to marketers just starting to produce inbound content?
Meg: Not to be too self-promotional, but I would strongly recommend they get some help. Because you know, when we started doing it for ourselves, it was overwhelming, and we’re the ones who do it for a living! It’s a lot to wrap your arms around and there are a lot of things to consider: personas, editorial calendars, email workflows, and blog writing, and just a lot that doesn’t come naturally to people because it’s just a whole different way of marketing.
To start, learn with an inbound firm that can help to at least structure your campaign and review it all. Then gradually take responsibility if that's what you choose to do. Inbound marketing is a big complex machine and just saying “now we’re going to do inbound” is not realistic – and it’s the best way to start making mistakes. It takes a bit of time to learn how everything can be integrated, so getting the help of someone who can walk you through it and hold your hand for a little while is valuable.
Kate: My advice would definitely be to ensure you have a team that's onboard because one person cannot do all this. I mean it really takes everybody working together to make this work so it's really important that you are part of a team where everybody in the entire sales process is committed to inbound.
Hope my conversation with these incredible marketers is helpful for you as you transition to inbound. To learn more about inbound marketing, be sure and subscribe to the Whole Brain Marketing Blog and click below for a great example of the marketing content Meg, Kate, and the rest of our team help produce.