When you’re looking for content marketing inspiration, it’s easy to get caught up in content overload. Every day, more than 90,000 new articles go live; every hour, more than 80,000 blog posts get published. Every minute, social media users are sharing millions of pieces of content, tweeting hundreds of thousands of thoughts, and uploading an estimated 72 hours of video content.
We can get lost in focusing on the figures—we might even despair that we’ll never be found, which is why marketers can be better served by steering our focus on what content is supposed to do, and that’s help people.
Inbound marketing is a commitment to the end user; by making them successful, you’ll be successful. That’s what the experts have been saying for a long time:
“Behind every piece of great content is a marketer, publisher, author who passionately and empathetically sought to help his or her audience.”
— Mike Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group
Content marketing is supposed to help people; by helping your audience, you build trust, and trust is what will drive sales for your company.
However, before you can help your audience, you have to be able to help yourself. In this instance, helping yourself means developing an inspired content marketing initiative that will attract your target audience, and deliver value.
Marketers have a lot of tools at their disposal to help them achieve this goal; whether through free means of amplification, like blogs or social media, or paid services like Google Adwords or Facebook’s promoted posts. Add to that the list of tools, apps and services that are at our disposal to manage marketing, and it can be a Herculean task to know where to start.
And as easy as it is to get lost in the volume of content available online, it’s just as easy to get caught up in the thousands of companies, startups, agencies, and consultants who promise to make content creation, distribution, and amplification a single step in an otherwise complex process.
One area that’s gotten a lot of press in the last few years is that of marketing automation tools, and there are plenty of them. Pardot, Marketo, Hubspot… the list goes on. Are they beneficial? To the right company at the right stage—Absolutely! They’re one of the best ways to personalize marketing and improve sales efforts! But each has a slightly different value proposition.
But this post isn’t about comparing marketing automation tools. There are plenty of other posts out there that cover that to exhaustion. The reality is that marketing automation alone isn’t going to drive or inspire your content marketing, which is the essence of your content pedagogy and, ultimately, what will drive your sales. And that’s what we want to talk about today: content marketing inspiration. And you can find that in the damnedest of places.
Take for example a recent interaction we’ve been having. We’ve (obviously) had Hubspot on our radar for some time. We’ve done the “inbound marketing certification” thing here at MESH, managed and fixed Hubspot for a number of clients, but never bit the bullet and signed up ourselves. They’ve been nurturing us lately, and I’ve been digging into what they offer, and how they offer it. And I stumbled upon this little bit of insight in item 11 of their terms of service agreement:
11. Customer Responsibilities.
To realize the full value of the Subscription Service and Consulting Services, your participation and effort are needed. Resources that may be required from you include a Project Manager, one or more Content Creators, a Sales Sponsor, an Executive Sponsor and a Technical Resource. Responsibilities that may be required include planning of marketing programs; setting of a content creation calendar; creating blog posts, social media content, Calls-To-Action (CTAs), downloads, emails, nurturing content, and other materials; acting as internal liaison between sales and marketing; providing top level internal goals for the use of the Subscription Service; attending regular success review meetings; and supporting the integration of the Subscription Service with other sales and marketing systems.
The Resources and Responsibilities outlined in HubSpot’s terms of services agreement recommend two things: 1) that you are, or have access to, the right people who can do the job; and 2) that you (and your team) should have an understanding of the responsibility demanded by each resource.
In other words, to take advantage of the tools, you should have a small team of marketing specialists behind you who are fluent in the strategy, tactics and language of content marketing if you want anything HubSpot or any other marketing automation platform can offer you to work; without these resources and responsibilities, the software it offers will work, but you won’t see the true value in all its glory.
But don’t get discouraged. Ultimately, you’re the one who makes the call when it comes to creating content that fits your audience’s needs, not your marketing automation tool.
“Tools are great, but content marketing success is about the wizard, not the wand.”
— Jay Bear, President of Convince and Convert
The truth is (and let’s assume HubSpot knows this), most content marketers are isolated in their efforts to create riveting content that end users will find useful or entertaining. In fact, content efficiency—the way in which marketers collaborate with other content creating departments—is lacking on so many fronts that most B2B businesses are losing 25 cents of every dollar spent on content marketing.
Let’s paint some perspective with numbers. The Content Marketing Institute reports that 92 percent of content marketers struggle with deadlines (read: they need more help); they further state that 81 percent of content marketers find it very challenging to coordinate with content creators (read: the help they do have isn’t very helpful.) The real blow here is that our fictitious scenario assumes that a company has the financial means necessary to create content in the first place.
Startups and small businesses have a love/hate relationship with content marketing. On the one hand, it can be extremely helpful for generating viral interest in your brand; on the other hand, a top-notch writer can cost anywhere from $1,000 – $2,000 for a single post. No matter how you slice it, inspired content marketing is a lonely and expensive road.
The good news is that inspiration is all around us, and in things as seemingly mundane as the terms of service agreement we pulled up on HubSpot. The real challenge is turning the mundane into something worth talking about.
“If you don’t have anything interesting to say as a brand, you’re just a product.”
— Spencer Bain, CSO of Vice Media
To illustrate exactly what we mean, let’s break down the resources and responsibilities from the terms of service agreement. Why? Because it’s the perfect opportunity to fill in a knowledge gap and transform a disadvantage into an opportunity by offering assistance to marketers interested in maximizing a marketing automation platform.
Businesses with dedicated content marketing strategies are like quasi-publishing houses. The project manager plays the role of publisher, who sits at the top of the content food chain.
While these individuals might never actually create any content, they will be involved at nearly every step of the content creation process, from conception and editing, to distribution and repurposing.
The project manager takes responsibility for the success, or failure, of the entire content marketing initiative and must ensure that deadlines and quality standards are maintained when content creation is divided among in-house employees and outsourced talent.
When it comes to inspiring better content marketing, project managers have the important job of managing continuity and making sure content is distributed and amplified appropriately.
Let’s say you already have great content. Who will see this content? And where will they see it? It’s the job of the project manager to answer these questions, which is why having a project manager is essential to your content marketing goals.
Before you can share content with your audience, it must first be imagined; content creators are the people that make this happen. We generally lump these individuals into a single category, but they produce content in a variety of different ways.
Writers, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, gamers, podcasters, and musicians are all different types of content creators. Their job is first and foremost to produce something of value for the target audience but, to do that, they must also be good researchers and willing to challenge the status quo.
When inbound marketing turned traditional advertising on its head, marketers had to rethink the whole sales process from the ground up. In some ways, content creators offer more than just words and pictures; they’re responsible for persuading change with ideas—not just for consumers, but within a business itself.
Content creators look for opportunities to challenge what is and act on those opportunities with persuasive content ideas. They do this to attract an audience, but also to make internal processes more efficient.
For example, content marketing can be used for more than just marketing to consumers. It can be used internally to help promote greater understanding of a product or service or train new sales people. Or it can be turned into talking points to help sales reps become industry experts.
Whether in house or outsourced, these individuals can have a huge impact on a company, extending out much further than just content marketing; they can help reshape the whole sales process.
Content marketers can’t work in a vacuum, if they are to be successful. They need help, and the sales department is one of the best resources a marketing team has at its disposal.
Content marketers need advocates on the sales side. A sales sponsor is someone who will meet regularly with marketing and give feedback about what is, and is not, working for customers.
A content marketing team creates buyer personas to help guide content choices and execution; but at the end of the day, these are no more than educated estimations of who the ideal consumer likely is.
A sales sponsor actually knows the consumers, having talked to them on the phone and exchanged emails with them, a fact that offers a distinct edge on understanding what the consumers need.
Sales and marketing have become intermingled in terms of influence and collaboration. Sales sponsors receive value from working with content marketers and vice versa. Moreover, they bring creativity to the table, often in tangible ways: recoded phone calls, emails, and customer surveys. These things can help highlight gaps in communication or information that can then be handed over to the content creators.
If you ever need inspiration for your content marketing, look no further than your sales guys or gals—they’ll provide a new way of looking at things, which is always good for the creative process.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Any brand not prepared to deliver quality content in a strategic way is likely operating at a significant disadvantage.”
So, who makes the call? One barrier that must be overcome for marketers is getting the necessary executive support they need to do the job. An executive sponsor is someone who approves things like a budget, new software implementation, and collaboration between departments.
Again, we’re talking about an advocate: someone who plays an important, executive-level roll in the company, but also understands the critical need for competitive, inspired content marketing.
In most cases, the ideal executive sponsor is going to be a company’s chief marketing officer. Almost 80 percent of CMOs feel content is the future of marketing.
The buy-in conversation means bringing clear goals to the table, and alleviating any doubt that executive management might have regarding the advancement or implementation of better content marketing.
Having an executive sponsor will allow you to overcome the challenges we discussed earlier with regard to common grievances shared by most content marketers. This includes a bigger budget, more help from content creators or outside talent, collaboration with other departments, and the freedom to improve internal processes with the use of content marketing.
In short, this allows content marketing inspiration to flow more freely from the top down, making it a priority not just for content marketers, but also for the company at large.
“Never bring an opinion to a data fight.”
—Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder of Orbit Media
Marketing technology can be very intimidating: there are thousands of marketing platforms to choose from, each performing a variety of tasks, including managing customer lists, tracking sales, and supervising online advertising.
The trouble is, this job requires much more attention to detail than it often gets. Which is why companies like HubSpot exist in the first place. But what good are analytics and tracking if there’s no one on your team to make sense of it, or turn any of the data into an actionable plan?
Enter the technical resource.
In addition to being good at analyzing data, technical resources are also the people that help bring all your creative content to life—and ensure it stays alive—on various channels throughout the web.
Web developers help create online sales funnels, embed videos on your homepage, and ensure thousands of emails are delivered on schedule. SEO experts make sure online content is optimized, visible, and carefully executed using the latest industry practices. Technical resources come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re equally important to the creative process.
Technical resources bring their own perspective to content marketing, which can be used to make quantitative, data-driven decisions that help automate processes, segment sales cycles into personalized online experiences, ensure website optimization, and so much more.
If there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s that every member of your company has a role to play in the development and implementation of successful content marketing.
Creativity doesn’t breed well in a vacuum, and to truly harness you company’s content marketing inspiration, you need to have the resources and responsibilities nailed down before you partner with a shiny marketing automation platform.
Don’t get us wrong—we get what HubSpot’s doing. It has great content and is practicing what it preaches by sharing most of that content with the world for free. But let’s face the facts: content marketers struggle to get the help they need from within even the largest of organizations; and no marketing automation software can solve that problem on its own.
HubSpot is a great tool, but at the end of the day, you’re just signing up for software and consulting services—you need to bring the strategy, creativity and tactics to the table.
We hope that this article revealed another truth to you: that creativity is all around us, particularly in the mundane—even in terms and conditions. We often try to do it all ourselves. I know I’m personally learning new tools, tactics and strategies every day—but we just can’t do it alone. And sometimes, we buy a tool and hope that it’ll be the end to most of our troubles—yet a hammer doesn’t build the house. You need a crew, materials, and a location.
And that’s what we as content marketers need to realized—we are here to challenge the ordinary and solve problems for everyone, not just for consumers.
Content marketing inspiration is about solving real problems, for real people, at every opportunity. It’s an inclusive process that doesn’t exclude certain people from the conversation.
While it’s often suggested that you look at what other marketers are doing for inspiration, we suggest you look at your own organization for clues. Still not sure where to start? Ask us in the comments, or contact us today!