This might paint the post-pandemic picture for some of us:
The marketing flow needs to get going again. But budgets are officially tight. The team is down a few. And the hiring trends do not look bright. Should we tackle those more significant projects that will likely perform better? Or crank out less-complex projects for publishing consistency?
One thing is for sure; there’s less time for feedback, mentoring, and fine-tuning projects. For now, it’s all about hitting deadlines and goals.
From my conversations with customers and colleagues, this spot is pretty popular right now. And this is a dangerous spot to be in, indeed. We’ll be asked to keep up the same publishing pace, which means less time for creativity and collaboration, which means the quality of our work will likely suffer.
In the rush of the day, art directors will bypass illustrators and grab online stock images. Without time for constructive criticism and critical feedback, we won’t be learning lessons, but we will be repeating mistakes. It’s like a vicious cycle or even a virus that you can’t stop spreading. And worst of all, marketing becomes the scapegoat for slower revenue gains.
We’ve been in this situation before, with several recessions now logged in. It’s text-book really: Budgets cut. Staff reduced. Workflow slows. Quality tanks. Leads trickle. Sales suck. Revenue falls.
But here’s some good news for you. You read it already: We’ve been in this spot before. We know where we are. And how to get things back on track.
Have a Plan
It’s vital to have a plan moving forward. For starters, whatever we do, let’s make this simple:
- Plan A1: Management gives us way less budget and staff cuts, with mandates to turn the switch back on with publishing frequency and quality, with less budget and less staff.
- Plan B: Management gives us a reasonable budget and green lights for creative spending, and we’ll make the magic happen.
Plan A1 is sort of like the steak sauce. You want to give it a try to see what it’s like. Some people like the challenge of doing more with less. And it is by default different, so somewhat exciting to give it a whirl. But if you’re serving up Filet Mignon marketing campaigns, it’s a bit difficult to stomach.
When it comes to life, we always need plan B. It’s the “green light for creative spending” that makes Plan B perhaps the right way to go unless you’re serving up frozen Steak Umms.
Let’s assume you’re working with Plan B, which stands for brief. I’ll explain that later. Simplicity needs to be the driver for success, ranging from content strategy and content creation to content optimization and publishing workflow.
Think of it as minimalistic marketing with every step of the way. Less is more. And collaboration is critical.
Here at WriterAccess, we’ve kept the content flowing, as you can see on our blog, but behind the scenes, we’ve been executing the new plan. We have one content strategist running it all, Sarah Burt. One marketing manager is handling the “other” marketing initiatives, Marie Newmann, who I’ve tasked with cracking the whip on us all to be consistent with our efforts and ensure quality.
So it’s a two-person content marketing team, which, as it turns out, is what about 50% of brands are sporting these days, according to CMI and Marketing Profs.
Strangely, we’re taking the time to rebuild our content plan, which we ignored for years, to map out our content silos, target keywords, content spend, and projected ROI. When the times are tough, you need to document the plan to help stay the course.
Here are some of the elements of our content plan that you can adapt for your own business to get back on track with publishing quality content:
New Creative Brief
We think a new content tone and voice are necessary to help us stand out from our competitors. We put some time into creating a brief that could educate both the WriterAccess freelance writers we work with regularly and any new writers we later onboard. This brief includes a style guide that offers guidance on the WriterAccess brand voice, tone, and style.
Key Performance Indicators
We’ve stripped down KPI measurements and goals for each team member. Sarah focuses on publishing quality content consistently to boost likes, shares, and organic traffic. Marie is focused on decreasing user acquisition costs, increasing organic traffic, and boosting conversion rates.
We’ve created content silos to help guide the topics we choose to write about. These silos represent what our audience wants and needs to read about most: Content Strategy, Content Creation, Content Performance, Organic Marketing, Content Marketing Trends, Comedy Writing, and Life Betterment (our wildcard category). We also occasionally post on WriterAccess news and updates.
We are focusing on optimizing every piece of content we publish to our site and blog using tools like SEMrush, MarketMuse, and Clearscope. To get more out of the content we have already created, we’re also working on optimizing previously published material. MarketMuse helps us prioritize which blog posts and website pages to focus our optimization efforts. Some are quick wins like updating internal and external links, while other optimization projects are more involved – like adding additional content or creating topic clusters.
According to HubSpot, articles with a word count between 2,250 and 2,500 earn the most organic traffic. And articles that show up on the first page of Google results are typically around 1,890 words. With this in mind, WriterAccess is moving toward creating more long-form content. We’ve been publishing multiple in-depth blog posts around 4,000 to 5,000 words each week.
It’s vital for brands not only to publish frequently but consistently. Our team has decided on a frequency for blog posts, social media posts, email marketing content, and long-form, downloadable pieces. Marie helps us make sure that each week we are maintaining this frequency to ensure our publishing schedule is consistent.
Each week, we track what we spend on both ads and organic content. Understanding the average weekly spend on organic content will help us project our content marketing budgets for the future. As we increase budgets, we’ll have a better understanding of where this marketing spend would make the most significant impact.
The only way to know if our content marketing efforts are successful is to track our performance. Our team looks at metrics like page views, time on page, and click-through rates to understand what our audience is reading. We are also using tools like Hotjar to get a better look at audience behavior on our website pages.
As we track our content marketing performance, we will always be considering how to improve our efforts based on what we find. Being flexible with our strategies and tactics allows our team to adjust campaigns and strategies on-the-fly to improve performance.
We call this our strategy Plan B as in brief for a few reasons. We’ll be brief with our budget cuts and boost spending by delivering on our KPIs and goals. And we’ll be short with our meetings, for now, so we can spend more time cranking out the quality content we need, delivered to the right person at the right time.
Collaboration is the key to all this. And frankly creating this blog post will help me and the team get on the same page with documentation of what we need to do and how we need to do it while providing a clear path to get the growth going again at our pace of 30% average annual revenue growth for the last six years. That will be tough this year, but our past investments in technology and the release of our new super-simple platform should help us along the way.
Byron White is the founder of WriterAccess and numerous other startups. He is also the host of our webinar series at WriterAccess and chair and founder of Content Marketing Conference, an annual event sporting 14,000+ attendees and 75+ speakers. As a leader of the content marketing revolution, Byron is the author of a few books on content marketing, including Content Strategy MasterClass, a comprehensive guide to developing and implementing a winning content marketing strategy.