Recently, I decided to take a new role as a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Bluecore, an email marketing automation startup. Bluecore had been doing content marketing for some time, but was looking for someone who could bring a new perspective and strategy to the program.
Today, I’m six weeks into the role and needless to say, it has been a whirlwind. While the first few days were certainly overwhelming, my consultative experience helped me attack the challenge pragmatically. Looking back on my first few weeks in this role, here are the top nine things I would recommend any content marketer to prioritize in his or her first 30 days:
1. Be Aware of What’s Already Coming Down the Pipe…and Jump in
Within my first week on the job, our marketing team was releasing a whitepaper, having a kick off call for planning an upcoming webinar, and preparing to migrate over to a new website design. In hindsight, sometimes it’s better to just jump in rather than have the time to psych yourself out and second guess your decisions! Understanding what was already scheduled and happening whether I was going to be prepared for it or not helped me prioritize what I needed to learn and plan around my other responsibilities and editorial calendar.
2. Interview Internal Stakeholders
A content marketing manager role is one that uniquely impacts almost every aspect of a business. It helps with brand awareness, brand perception, conversions, customer retention, hiring initiatives and so much more. Because your role will impact so many departments, its imperative to sit down with that stakeholder and understand their challenges and needs. For a sales leader, you may ask them about frequently asked questions they hear and how your company is differentiated in the marketplace. For a customer success leader, you may ask them about retention issues or best practices they wished customers knew about. Not only does this help you better understand the state of your business, but it also gives you an opportunity to build a relationship with that stakeholder and establish a relationship for content.
3. Interview Customers
To be honest, I lucked out with this one since our product marketing manager happened to be in the process of conducting customer interviews for a buyer persona exercise. However, reading her transcripts was incredibly valuable and gave me insight into the minds and challenges of our customers. It helped me grasp what every type of audience member is looking to us for and how we can proactively answer their questions. For these types of interviews, ask them tactical questions, such as what they need more of, what their day-to-day is like, what industry publications they read and what is their biggest challenge. You should also ask bigger picture questions, such as where they want to be in 5 years. A customer who wants to be a CEO and an industry thought leader can be a great resource for you to leverage for speaking engagements and contributing content.
4. Organize and Configure Your Technology Stack
This step is an example of some complexity I had drastically underestimated. From my experience at Salesforce, I had received decent exposure to different types of technologies and considered myself pretty savvy, but organizing and tracking down all the different logins and permissions and digging into the existing data was a very daunting task. For my role at Bluecore, I have different systems for project management, editorial planning, SEO, social media scheduling and management, email nurture, content publishing and website analytics (there are probably others I’m forgetting as well). Given that list, however, I’m sure I’m not unique in having a stack of systems to jump in and out of throughout the day. After a month of working in all of these systems, it isn’t so scary anymore. For vendors that provide you with an account manager, don’t be afraid to set up calls with them and ask every question you have. They want their technology to become an integral part of your role, so make sure you’re getting everything you need out of the system to make it worth your time and budget.
5. Audit Existing Content
Every organization has content. Even ones that are technically starting “content marketing” from scratch have existing content that lives somewhere. In your first 30 days, it’s in your best interest to spend the time digging through everything that exists and identifying what you can either publish for the first time or repackage and reuse. In doing this, try to identify where are your strengths and weaknesses, what you can edit to optimize for SEO, what has performed well in the past and what categories do you have lots of content and where are you lacking? For example, every quarter Bluecore has come out with Lookbooks of best practices from out customers. Historically, these have performed very well, so I decided to include them in my content marketing strategy moving forward. If your organization has already found something that works, no need to reinvent the wheel!
6. Read and Subscribe to Industry Publications and Thought Leaders
Reading up on industry news is something that should be an ongoing part of any content marketer’s job. However I found this to be a particularly important focus for me as I was entering a new industry. Bluecore primarily targets eCommerce marketers, an industry in which I do not have a background. I obviously knew this before I accepted the job and I expected to spend a lot of time playing catch up. Make note of publishers and thought leaders your customers and internal stakeholders mention during your interviews. Follow them on social media and subscribe to their newsletters. Do anything and everything to immerse yourself in the industry. Take note of what they are writing about and see what the hot topics of discussion are. Also look to see what content from those publishers are the most shared (free tools like BuzzSumo can help you with this). This will give you further insight into what your target audience really cares about.
7. Analyze Your Competitors
If you don’t want your content marketing to look and sounds like everyone else’s, you have to know what everyone else’s looks and sounds like. Follow the same process as you did with the industry publications and thought leaders. Notice what topics they’re talking about, pay attention to their publishing cadence and get a feel for their brand tone of voice. For a competitive analysis, take it a step further and look at SEO rankings. Find out where are their strengths and your weaknesses and vice versa.
8. Sync Priorities with PR
Although by definition public relations is very different from content marketing, the two programs should work together and not against each other’s current. Understand what their priorities and goals are for the next quarter and year. Listen to their point of view for what’s important and trending in the industry. Public relations works directly with journalists in pitching stories, so they have excellent insight into what industry publications care about, what is tired news and where is your biggest chance for success. At the same time, be upfront with what your goals are and brainstorm some content ideas that could be mutually beneficial.
9. Document Your Content Marketing Strategy
At the end of the day, none of this will do you any good if you don’t document your strategy. Take the time to organize your thoughts and document them into a comprehensive strategy that includes everything from the categories and topics you’re going to write about, to your distribution strategy, to how you’re going to measure success. Not only does this help you create a clear, actionable plan but it also helps set expectations and discuss priorities.