Content marketing is a theoretically great strategy for any business, but referring to it that way leads to a misconception that it’s a one-size-fits all strategy. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case. If you’re a large corporation with hundreds of employees and strong competitors in your field, you can’t get away with making one small content post a week. Similarly, if you’re a small business with limited resources, you can’t exactly afford the resources necessary to cover a daily-updating, multiple-platform content empire.
For most businesses, especially small ones, the key is to start with something basic and gradually scale up. As your reputation grows, so will the ease of getting published on multiple platforms. As more business trickles in from your efforts, you’ll have more resources to allocate to expanding your strategy. However, this process of scaling your content marketing efforts isn’t exactly foolproof. You must be careful not to compromise the integrity of your content during this period of growth, or all that extra time and money you put in won’t be effective.
To scale your content marketing strategy effectively, be sure to follow these seven critical rules:
1. Don’t scale too quickly.
When you first get started, it’s tempting to scale as fast as possible. Knowing that more content in circulation can lead to more inbound revenue, it’s easy to make a push to get there sooner rather than later. However, scaling too quickly can lead to a number of problems that directly negate the benefits of your strategy in the first place. For example, if you start publishing on four different networks but your current team only has the capacity to publish on three, you could end up neglecting that fourth outlet with poor content and damaging your reputation in the process (or risk overworking and burning out your team). You could also start scaling in a direction that doesn’t make sense for your brand, and invest heavily before you realize the error. Gradual, step-based scaling is a far better way to go.
2. Prioritize your voice.
Your brand voice is the foundation on which your content strategy is built. People want to keep coming back to read your content because they expect something familiar and unique about it—they should be able to read three sentences of your latest post and know instantly that you (or your brand) are behind it. In the process of scaling, you might lose sight of that brand voice’s power, and instead focus on pumping out lots of new material or appeasing a particular new publisher. These aren’t bad approaches, but they’re only worthwhile if your foundation—your brand voice—remains strong and consistent.
3. Never neglect your audience.
Your audience is the only reason your content strategy has a chance at being successful in the first place. If you neglect them, or don’t satisfy their needs, they aren’t going to read your content anymore, and you’ll be left in a worse position than where you started. As you start changing and building up your strategy, pay careful attention to what your readers are saying and how they’re behaving. Are they flocking to certain types of posts more than others? Are there more comments on pieces published on certain outlets compared to others? Pay close attention to these indicators and avoid scaling in a direction that your audience doesn’t fully support.
4. Keep it valuable.
Going along with the “audience” rule, remember to make every post, every piece, and every action in your strategy as valuable as possible. While scaling, you will be tempted to sacrifice value in the name of quantity or reach—for example, you might choose to put together a “fluff” piece of content for a shot at getting published in a lower-priority publication. Doing so might give you a short-term boost, but it won’t do anything for your long-term reputation. Whenever you write or produce a new piece of content, ask yourself—is someone going to be glad they read this? If the answer is no, the piece needs to be reworked.
5. Experiment, but do so iteratively.
Throughout the process of scaling your content marketing strategy, you should experiment with new angles—for example, you could tweak elements of your brand voice, try out a new topic in your content, or dabble in a new medium. These little experiments can help guide the direction of your overall campaign as you learn what people do and don’t respond to. However, to experiment successfully, you must do so iteratively. Launching nine experiments simultaneously will confuse your audience and lead you to uninterpretable results.
6. Build relationships.
Relationships should remain at the heart of your scaling strategy, rather than one-off interactions. For example, if an influencer shares your content, share theirs in return, and continue to engage with them to keep an ongoing relationship with them. If you get a piece of content published on a new outlet, work with that publisher regularly to keep up a healthy exchange. The stronger those relationships grow, the more value you’ll get from them.
7. Track your spending and your results.
This could be the most important rule, since it will help you determine whether or not your efforts are successful. Starting before the scaling process, take an accurate measure of how much time and money you’re spending on the campaign as well as how much value you’re getting from it. As you gradually layer in new strategies and bolder approaches, continue to take new measures of these figures. As a general trend, you should see your results grow slightly faster than your investments. If you notice a dip in your results, it means one of your latest changes is costing you more effort than it’s worth, giving you a critical chance to take action.
Aside from these rules, the methods you use to expand your content strategy are wholly up to you. You could start by posting on a wider range of publishers, or expanding your syndication networks, or you could increase the number and type of mediums you choose to post on a regular basis. As rule three suggests, your audience should dictate the overall direction of your growth, but the finer details aren’t as important. As long as you follow these rules and commit yourself to achieving long-term growth, you should have no trouble building to the results you want to see.
Image by Tim Norris.