Since its beginnings in 2004, Innovative Marketing Resources has worked with clients from all sorts of industries. Some are schools, others are non-profits and others are manufacturers or software companies. Some are big multi-nationals and others are fledgling startups. One thing that ties them all together, however, is content. They all need it and for the most part, all look to us, as their inbound marketing agency of record, to provide it. And the obvious question prospects and clients ask is: How will IMR write about my school/product/service in a way that attracts and educates prospects? Really, what do we know about every one of our client’s organizations? How can we be subject matter experts in every field?
This was precisely one of the questions that stopped us from growing our agency early on… because we didn’t know the answer and it seemed preposterous that we could be subject matter experts in so many areas. What do our content writers know about religious schools, bed bug mitigation, cloud-based IT services, advanced laser optics and legal services? Even if they knew the basics, information is evolving so quickly that keeping on top of every subject that matters to our client's organizations just isn't possible.
It wasn’t until we developed a process, which we call the Content Marketer’s Blueprint, for learning what differentiates our client’s offering and how to present that differentiated value in an authentic way through storytelling in blogs, video, whitepapers and webinars, that we knew we could continuously create great content for any organization.
What is our content process?
Before we even engage with a client, during the prospecting and selling process, we’re building a content strategy. To do so, we start with an online questionnaire that we developed, which captures responses from the prospect to questions about their target audience’s need for information (personas, triggers, questions etc.) – because that’s where inbound marketing begins. We go through this questionnaire with the prospect.
During the interview process, which takes about an hour, we encourage participation from all the stakeholders in the prospect’s sales process:
- C-level staff responsible for direction
- Marketing staff responsible for articulating the value proposition
- Sales/Admissions staff responsible for overcoming objections
Using responses from these stakeholders, we develop a list of topics that include both the reasons someone would choose to do business with our prospect and reasons they would not. We use these topics to facilitate a social listening exercise that helps us understand the most popular conversations and who the most influential authors are that are discussing the prospect’s topics and what specifically is being talked about in these conversations.
Remember, this is all happening before we’ve sold any services! We’re investing in our prospect before we’re asking them to invest in us. The reason we make this investment is because we want to know that we can make our new client successful and we want a new client to buy in to both the process and the specific content we’re going to use to achieve success.
How do we deliver a content strategy?
Once the discovery call and the analysis is complete, we compile results into a presentation of 24 unique blog topics and 3 premium content offers with associated CTAs. This gives us enough content to run an inbound marketing program for 3 – 4 months… a great starting point. We present this information along with a very specific set of steps that implement lead nurturing campaigns related to each piece of content. This becomes our sales proposal for an initial engagement with every client and usually takes the form of a 20 – 30 page content blueprint that spells out exactly what we’re going to do together. The proposal includes both specific content topics and the associated inbound marketing process and content calendar so that the prospect can see exactly the content and the process we will use to help them increase the number of qualified leads/applicants/donors. Because the prospect was part of the process, they also now understand exactly how our writers become subject matter experts on their organization and how we go about delivering the high quality content that differentiates them from everyone else.
When it comes to actually doing the writing, because we've standardized the way the content is created, we can use a mix of in-house writers and freelancers who have been qualified on the process. This makes is much simpler to scale up and down in response to demand for new content without sacrificing quality.
Is this too difficult for the average marketer?
Not at all. We discovered the content process we use when we were just a three person inbound marketing agency and employed it successfully with our clients to grow their businesses - and our agency. We didn't have to be experts in every subject and we didn't have to have a large content organization to produce consistently great content for our clients.We just needed a process for that enabled our clients to help us be great storytellers for them.
After we refined our content development process, getting the discovery call down to an hour and streamlining the way we conducted research, we learned that we could go through the process before we actually engaged with a client. In so doing, we discovered that making the client part of the process of producing awesome content dramatically improved our relationship and service engagement and enabled us to sell a process, not a promise (think about the competitive differentiation!). So the bottom line is that you can use the same process we use to predictably create great content even if you’re just a small team or a virtual company. If you want to use the process but don’t want to design and implement all the pieces yourself, you can check out the Content Marketer’s Blueprint Community.