Content Marketing: Starting the Machine

Today we crank the Content Marketing machine that we’ve built and set it into motion. If you have a few minutes, watch the video. It’s about a modern day Renaissance man named Reidar Finsrud and his perpetual motion machine. The man and the machine are fascinating (if a bit crackpot), and provide an apt illustration of how smoothly and efficiently we’d like our content marketing program to operate.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the past several posts were a series of articles about Why Content Marketing Makes Sense for printing companies. We’ve included a lot of detail about parts and assembly of an inbound/content marketing strategy, including Where the Ideas Come From, Managing the Process, Where Social Media fits in, Why Print and Email are good tactics, and the importance of Feedback and Analysis. Today, we’ll talk about putting all of this into action.

The Obligatory Content Marketing Diagram

Obligatory Content Marketing Diagram

Here’s a diagram that makes it appear that once you start a content marketing program, it will run smoothly on it’s own forever.   It was inevitable that one of these overly simplistic circular diagrams would come into play somewhere in the narrative. It’s a delusion – there’s no such thing as a perpetual motion machine. All machines and your content marketing program will require an energy input to make them run. The diagram represents the ideal, and I must be the first one to admit hypocrisy (lately, my own process for content marketing has looked more like one of Jackson Pollock’s paintings.)  We can still talk about how the machine could and should really run, though. What is the best process for continuing to produce a stream of content that produces results? What are reasonable expectations for results? Finally, how long will it take to work?

Back to the diagram.  Here’s how a smoothly running content marketing program could work. We start with a plan. It’s best to use some form of management system to keep yourself on track. I create an editorial schedule on  Google Calendar, but the project management feature of your CRM might work just as well. Your plan should include topics, a schedule for content production, and the marketing channels you intend to use.  You might also want to use a program like Evernote to keep track of good ideas for content.  If you’re using Buffer or Hootsuite and intend to aggregate your social media posts and program the release, add this to the schedule.  Alternately, just find a good time of the day to spend time on the networks and stick with it.

Schedule in place, we begin the implementation.  The next step is create and curate.  Creation is self explanatory.  You’ll need to set aside enough time to produce the content if you’re doing it yourself, or to work with others on topics, development and the production schedule.  You’ll also need a system and a plan for aggregating curated content that will be interesting to your audience.  We provided a couple of suggestions for helpful applications in a previous blog post (Too Much Information).

There’s little use in creating content that sits on the shelf, so the next activity is to publish the content and then let your audience know that it’s available by promoting it. Your website is the center of your content marketing strategy, so most of the original content that you create will be published there. Because we’re in the print world, there are some forms of content (e.g. newsletters, white papers, case studies) that are also good candidates for print publication. Content promotion can occur wherever you’re engaged with your audience, but the social networks are key.  As you engage through social media, you’ll find that not only do you develop an audience, but also some consistent sources for curated content to share. If you make contact with these folks, you’ll find that many of them will appreciate your efforts on their behalf and be more than willing to reciprocate by helping you to promote your the content you develop, especially if it’s of high quality.

The last post dealt at some length with the topics of feedback and analytics. Listening is extremely important for obvious reasons. Don’t publish, promote and forget. It’s very important to stay tuned in to the social media channels that you’re using. You’re likely to find that the first opportunities for engagement are online. Respond to questions, pay attention to trends, and enjoy the online conversation. The feedback and comments you receive can help provide ideas for additional content and also suggest ways to adapt and improve your strategy.

Because the conversations are generally with one (or a few) individuals, listening is more of a qualitative feedback mechanism.  Analytics are the quantitative part and deal with numbers generated from your efforts.  With all of the data capabilities that can be found online or added to your website, it’s easy to get bogged down in the detail. Isolate some relevant measures and try to find or make real correlations to the goals you’ve set. Remember that we’re not doing all of this for fun – the big objective is more and better customers and increased revenue and profit.

Responding to Results: How to manage leads

This is the important part. You’ll notice that there’s an arrow shooting off to the northwest in the obligatory diagram above.  It cuts through the word response and points towards results. Unlike the amazing perpetual motion machine that Mr. Finsrud invented, the object of our smoothly running marketing machine isn’t just to keep the motor running. To be successful, we need to spin something off occasionally. It would be lovely if our efficient machine would generate a stream of orders with no additional bother, but that’s not likely to happen. We’re spinning off contacts from the process and what we’re really hoping to generate is leads that we can cultivate.

There are really two aspects to response. It’s partially internal to the process, the contribution to the conversation that is discussed above. The other response needed goes to the contacts that are spun off from the process. This is the activity that’s necessary to turn leads into prospects and customers. The contacts can come in different forms. For instance, you may have created landing pages for specific offers of information (white papers, case studies, etc.). If someone visits the page, completes a form, and downloads the information; it’s a reasonable bet that they’re interested. You’ll want to follow up. If you receive a telephone call or a request for contact, that’s a very good sign. If you measure that a certain group consistently opens email newsletter, it’s a weaker indicator, but personalized followup may be in order.

In marketing jargon, creating a system for responding to inquiries is called lead nurturing. Larger organizations that use sophisticated marketing systems set up elaborate lead scoring systems to automate the process.  This is another big topic that we should probably skip entirely. The process of creating customer personae and analyzing their decision-making processes seems overly psycho-wonky to me.  It’s about as likely to be implemented at a printing company as it’s probable that Professor Finsrud’s will actually continue running in perpetuity.  For most small businesses, including printing companies, lead nurturing is best done by human beings with consideration given to the information available for each individual and with the propensity to err on the side of more contact.  After all, we won’t be dealing with thousands of contact requests. The number of leads generated should be manageable and a personal email or phone call can is an effective way to follow up.

There is one last topic that is should be addressed. It’s the hand off  between marketing and sales. The phrase “lead nurturing” has always sounded messy to me. As a father of five, I have many memories of toddlers and pre-schoolers in various degrees of  mud, muck, and mayhem.  I’m not really fond of the term “nurturing” and think that something more straightforward would be a better phrase.  Perhaps “lead herding” would work.  The marketers work with the whole herd of sheep, but a sales shepherd is needed to deal one on one with the individuals.

Naaaaaah! Customers aren’t sheep, so this terminology really doesn’t work either, but the point is made. Marketing can only go so far with the development of leads. At that point, there needs to be a close convergence between the marketing and sales departments where information is discussed and turned over and the sales people work on the conversions from leads to prospects to customers.  For more on this concept, see Should Sales and Marketing Work Together?  in the DP Marketing SMB blog.

How Long Does the Machine have to Run?

So, now you’ve read through an entire series of DP Marketing blog posts and you’re excited about starting a content marketing program for your printing company. That’s great. Crank up the machine! Get started now and make a steady effort. Stick with the plan, but don’t expect immediate results.

You may actually generate some interest early on, but it will take a few months to really begin to see steady interest and response. Remember the discipline and the process. Consistency is critical to your efforts. Don’t ignore the measures over the first few months, but look for trends that indicate traction first, before you begin to expect a series of steady leads. It takes time. Be patient.

Jackson Pollock - Autumn Rhythm

Jackson Pollock – Autumn Rhythm

The Last Suggestion

There’s just one last piece of advice that might be the most valuable idea you receive from this whole series of blog posts. The discipline, planning, and process are critical, but the idea of creating a perpetual motion machine is really preposterous.

Here’s the advice: Give yourself a break.

Entropy exists. Live with it. Some days you will not be able to keep the schedule. Maybe it’s the usual disruption or perhaps today your brain really feels like a Jackson Pollock painting. Remember that a missed blog post is not the end of the world. Don’t waste the time and pick up the effort later.

When You need a Mechanic:

As every printer knows, even well-maintained machinery sometimes needs a mechanic. Please don’t hesitate to call DP Marketing if we can help with your content marketing efforts.  There’s no risk – I always enjoy meeting new people and love to talk marketing. The first conversation is free and usually we’ll generate a few good ideas. DP Marketing can also help with content creation and curation, either on a regular or occasional basis.

Art by Jackson Pollock: Autumn Rhythm (Number 30)” (57.92) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.
New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–


21_20logoAnother Take on Content Marketing for Printers

21/20 Marketing Hangout with Richard Dannenberg and Spencer Powell

The next 21/20 marketing webcast is scheduled for Thursday, March 20, at 4pm Eastern. Each month, Spencer Powell and I talk about marketing topics of interest to printers and direct mail companies, and you’re invited to join and participate. This month we’ll be talking more about website traffic, and looking specifically at the complexities of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Join us if you’re interested in print marketing or if you’re considering content marketing for your printing business. Learn more about 21/20 on the Registration Page for the chat.