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Kickstart your content marketing

Lawrence Andrews
Marketing technology

Content is central to any successful sales and marketing strategy however getting started with content marketing is a daunting prospect for many. More so in small or medium sized companies where your personal responsibilities can extend well beyond your core area of expertise. I know this very well myself!

What is content marketing?

Forgetting marketing for a moment, having effective content alone is important. Your target customers don’t always recognise the root of problems that they face. Often they are not aware of solutions that are on the market. Even if they are aware, understanding their options, exactly what individual solutions offer, how they solve their problems as well as the financial case for them is a time consuming endeavour. You could argue an impractical one. Content then is about education.

If this is true then content marketing can be described as educating your customers in a manner that helps them excel in their own individual roles with minimum pain and effort. By giving them the information they need and are asking for at the time they need it. By recognising that time is extremely limited and they need to develop their understanding quickly and effectively. It’s about not giving them too much but enough. The end goal of course being to develop relationships and turn prospects into paying customers.

Clearly effective content marketing is easier said than done but before we get into the how, it’s worth exploring some of the benefits.

What are the benefits of content marketing?

The best thing about any piece of content is its versatility. Just one good piece of content can unlock benefit and contribute to multiple content marketing goals. Here are a selection of some of the key benefits of content marketing to show what I mean:

Increase traffic from search

By creating and hosting content on your website related to subjects people care about and search for, you can increase your presence and ranking in google search results. Over time, as you climb the search rankings, you will increase traffic to your website. Once you have them on your website you have their attention and a golden opportunity to really sell what you do.

Build authority, credibility and trust

As you start to build up a library of content tackling a range of subjects you will begin to build more credibility with your target customers. Assuming you also get people engaging with your content you can really begin to position yourself as an authority in your area of expertise. By doing this well you build trust. A more intangible but no less important aspect of the purchase decision of any buyer.

Expand brand awareness

Building brand awareness is about catching people’s attention. If you continue pushing out the same sales message time and time again people become blind to it. They unconsciously pass over it, dismissing it as generic promotional or sales content. By drawing people in with content that’s associated but not directly related to selling your products and services you can truly build awareness. Awareness of who you are and what you do. Publishing new content regularly means you are exploring multiple angles to catch attention. If you don’t hook someone around one subject you might do with another. The best thing, you begin to validate with real data what angles are working and which aren’t.

Reach new audiences

The versatility of content means you can use it in multiple places. It might not be 100% the same but you can promote and amplify interesting content on your different social channels and you definitely should. Like in real life different people, or in this context potential buyers, hang out in different places.  Email marketing is also still a hugely valuable channel in terms of ROI of marketing spend to lead conversion and shouldn’t be neglected . Make sure you are sharing your newest content with people you already have in your contact lists. Maybe you’ll initiate new conversations with them.

Convert leads into sales

Having a bank of content related to the problems people face and how you can help solve them can serve as a valuable resource for your sales team. Reshare links to content as part of ongoing sales conversation to help educate your buyer. This will also build trust, understanding and help remove barriers to purchase at this all important time.

Content marketing in 10 steps

OK, so there’s a good chance the benefits of content marketing are already clear. The harder bit is getting started and finding a realistic path to build it out into a valuable inbound sales channel. I hope you’ve stuck with me because here are some practical steps on how to do it.

Step 1: Revisit your customer and value proposition

With limited time and limited marketing budgets starting with a clear focus is critical. In our article ‘Climb into the mind of your customer’ we provide a practical approach to explore the needs of your target customers, revisit how you serve them through your customer value proposition, and put definition around their journey from awareness of your brand to a purchase decision (hopefully in your favour!).

The output of this is a list of customer needs tied to each step of this purchase journey. It doesn’t need to be a long exercise. To get value from content marketing however it’s a step that cannot be skipped.

Step 2: Get creative with content ideas

Now is the time to get your heads together. To just come up with ideas for content you could create. You shouldn’t constrain yourselves at this point but equally starting with a totally blank page can be difficult. To help encourage the creative juices of you and your team there are structures that can help.

One angle is to capture broad topics, another is to think about different mediums or content types and how these could be used to meet particular needs and wants of your target customers. Sometimes it’s just fun to try and come up snappy headlines or concepts for a particular piece of content or content idea. You can do all these things simultaneously too so it doesn’t feel too forced.

The point is about getting people engaged and out of the day to day grind. To think about what could be possible even if it’s not right now.

Step 3: Turn ideas into a content backlog

Turning rough ideas into a structure that you can work with is always a challenge. We sometimes use a google sheet to build up a more structured content backlog. Or in other words a list of content pieces we could create. You can access and create a copy of this here.

What we want to do is to build out enough detail around each idea or content piece to help understand what content we should be investing in and in what order.

Some considerations covered as part of this are:

  • Working Title
    To provide a shared reference for the content idea
  • Goal
    To ensure there is a clear goal or purpose behind the content piece (e.g. help the buyer understand their technology options)
  • Content structure
    To select the best structure to present this content (e.g. a how to guide, an opinion piece, a checklist etc)
  • Content medium
    To consider what medium would lend itself best to this content idea (e.g. video, infographic, webinar etc.)
  • Expertise
    To assign a level of expertise in the topic area that the content piece either assumes or is targeted at (e.g. beginner, intermediate, advanced)

Step 4: Make a plan for content creation and distribution

Once you have a backlog of content ideas then you are ready to assess them. Some ideas will require more effort to create than others (time and cost). When you look at the full list you’ll start to form a view of what you collectively think will deliver the most value to your target customers.

Do this assessment as a team and then shortlist a set of content ideas for the first phase of your content marketing plan. Make sure you have a good selection of content ideas that are low effort and high value. Think blog articles, video snippets and 1 pagers.  

At the same time make sure you have at least one piece of hero content. Something that might require a bit more effort to create but potentially is more engaging and higher value than the smaller effort pieces.

From this point the making the plan bit becomes more straightforward. Sequence the smaller content pieces to help get things moving quickly and create some regularity around new content creation and distribution.

For the bigger hero content pieces perhaps break down the plan to create these in a bit more detail. Agree who’s responsible for what to make sure you can also start progressing these immediately.

Finally, think about your channels. Where are you going to host your content? Perhaps on your website or directly on a social media channel. What channels are you going to use to promote it and how do you plan to do that? For example social posts, paid ads, emails or all of these. I appreciate this all sounds like a lot of effort but if you break it down and don’t try to plan too much in one go then it really doesn’t need to be.

Step 5: Define your brand personality and tone of voice

It’s likely when you are starting out that you and your team will be getting involved yourselves. Even if you are planning to brief the work to a specialist supplier your brand personality and tone of voice is crucial. Every piece of content you create, whatever it is and whoever is producing it, needs to feel like it is part of one coherent voice.

The only exception to this is blogging and social media where you may choose to lead out content through specific individuals. Here it’s more authentic for them to have their own voice but nevertheless it still needs to fit broadly within what you decide is the personality of your brand.

The good thing is at a very basic level it’s about defining 5 or 6 characteristics that you feel accurately reflects how you want your brand to be perceived. For example playful, irreverent, innovative, disruptive or perhaps serious, considered, diligent. You should also try to tie this back to your target customer profiles explored in Step 1 and what you think will resonate best with that audience.

Step 6: Carve out time to just write

Sometimes we find that the best way to develop the actual detail of a sales proposition, to really explore a subject or develop a point of view, is just to start writing. In general everyone is very comfortable talking about things but more time should just be invested in quiet time, thinking, researching and writing stuff down. Even if you later brief the work to someone else you’re clearer in your own minds the goal, structure and content of what you want to present.

Often people say they just don’t have the time to think about or commit to content planning and creation, or just the day to day gets in the way. When you contrast time spent on emails, messaging apps and meetings this probably isn’t true and you can make time. It’s good to try and block out a few hours or whatever you can commit to content creation every week. As mentioned earlier, good content marketing is about regularity and rhythm which can only be achieved if you adjust your working practices to match.

Step 7: Create partnerships to bring professionalism

There’s nothing wrong with some DIY. You and your team are the ones with the expertise in your space after all. However, it’s unlikely you will be able to draw on all the skills you need to do everything you want, to the level of professionalism you desire.

So start with things you can do. As you build up your content and experience, you should begin to see real returns or at least positive signals. As soon as you do, look to identify partners to go to for different types of content. Think about how you build up a set of partners, or recruit skills in, incrementally so you are not making big commitments too quickly. Give yourself the chance to prove ROI as you move step by step.

As you generate real value you can add more strings, people and partners to your content bow. In doing this you will be able to increase the volume, quality, professionalism and finesse of what you are putting out there. And that should help you generate even more sales!

Step 8: Pick your tools

A key outcome of content marketing is to create new leads that you can develop relationships with. Leads that you hope will later become new customers. To make your life easier you should definitely have a CRM and a mechanism to capture and automatically create new leads. This should be linked up to your website and maybe other social media channels depending on what you are doing.

Another important consideration is having an email marketing tool. If you don’t already have a CRM, or are just not using your current one, you should consider an all-in-one CRM that also allows you to manage your email marketing and marketing automation from the same place.

Other tools you should think about is a social media scheduling tool so you don’t need to physically log on and post on social media each day. In addition there are a wealth of tools to help you plan and manage content creation and content marketing more generally.

For pretty much any tool these days there are low cost options as well as free versions or trials to help you get started before committing to any new technology costs.

Step 9: Get your content marketing running!

Resist the temptation to continually refine and perfect things internally before pushing things out. Of course there are always exceptions but unless something is going to genuinely damage or compromise your brand then just get it out there.

You could perfect 30 blog articles before pushing them out one by one over the course of 6 months. Instead you could use the 2 - 3 months it might take you to prepare those and get 15 out. See what people are finding interesting and what they are not. Guaranteed the next 15 you do will be different and they’ll be better.

Step 10: Keep an eye on the data and keep the faith!

You won’t see instant results and it can feel demoralising as it takes up front effort to get content marketing going. But just make sure you keep going! Keep up the momentum of new ideas and new content.

As you get more content out over time you really can see from the data what is happening. There are benchmarks that are publicly available that you can use in order to see whether your content is performing above, below or in line with industry standards.

You can track content engagement through your website, email and social media analytics. You can see the impact that your new content is having on your search presence and ranking over time!

A final note about the 10 steps

Finally, it’s worth remembering that you don’t need to go through every step in great detail before getting content out there and working for you. It shouldn’t just be something you do once. In fact, the first time it should be something you time-box and do quickly. It gets you started and you can just repeat it later with more knowledge, new ideas and real insights on what is and isn’t working. Over time you’ll find a rhythm and before you know it’ll have become a really effective sales channel for your business.


To many, the effort involved in setting up content marketing feels prohibitively high and the overhead maintaining it, unpalatable. Many start the journey and give up. As outlined there are smart and practical ways to approach it, break it up and build it up over time.

There is always going to be an element of commitment and patience but when has anything good been created overnight. This is undoubtedly an area where ‘you get out what you put in’ rings true. With the potential upsides, and general movement of the majority of businesses in this direction, it is an area that can’t be ignored.

At LMR Labs, we have a team of experts who can help you get the right technology, structures and processes in place to achieve success from content marketing. We also have a roster of great partners to help create professional content if you need it. Contact us today to learn more.