If your content marketing program is bringing in new members, increasing attendance at your events, boosting engagement, and setting your association up as a shining resource in your industry, congratulate yourself! Content creation can seem overwhelming – but doesn’t have to be. If you’re unsure about how to start or even want to make sure you’re doing everything you can, keep reading.
If you’re concerned about costs, staff availability, quality, and effectiveness be assured you can start a program that will meet your needs, even if your budget is modest. Here are our suggestions for creating effective content marketing:
Decide who is responsible for content marketing
Your content can come from several different sources, including staff, volunteers, industry experts, or contract writers, but someone on your team must take responsibility for managing the project. Often that falls to the marketing or communications team, but if you have a small staff, the roles might not be as clear-cut as you’d find in a larger organization. If someone on your team is not a “content person” by training or experience but needs to manage this function, think about utilizing online training through companies like HubSpot to get your team member up to speed. You might also consider hiring an outside consultant to help you create your content marketing plan, train your staff manager, and act as a mentor as the project begins. The cost of hiring an expert could be well worth the expenditure by focusing your efforts and saving time during the initial stages.
Define your goals and audiences
As with most projects, you need to decide what you want to accomplish and what audiences you want to influence. It’s overwhelming to launch a program that’s built for all types of content, and it’s generally unnecessary. Once you know the results you want, you can build a program that delivers specific content through selected channels to achieve your goals.
For example, if you’re a medical association trying to maximize attendance at your annual scientific conference, spending time and money on creating content for every single available social media platform might not give you the highest return on investment. On the other hand, if you’re trying to attract more people to the profession, investing in reaching middle and high school students on certain social media platforms might give you just the bang you want for your bucks.
Decide what content types are most important
Once you’ve defined your goals, you can start to match content types and channels to them, but first, consider two methods of influencing your audiences – advertising and content marketing.
Advertising, such as a pay-per-click program, tends to have an immediate impact but results fade quickly when your ads stop appearing online. And it can get expensive in a hurry. It might be part of your overall marketing plan, but it differs from content marketing in that it contains an overt sales message and call to action.
Content marketing, on the other hand, helps create relationships. You’re providing something that your audience wants, and there aren’t any strings attached. You’re acting as a trusted adviser. As they consume your content, your audience experiences your brand and becomes familiar with your products, services, and member benefits. When the time comes to become a member or make a purchase, they already know and trust you.
Content marketing is also effective for the long term. Research has shown that a program starts to make a difference at about seven months, but the effects build on themselves and can continue to influence your audiences for months and years. The best type of content for your organization, however, depends on your goals and audiences.
To start, determine your cost to produce different types of content. Examples include blog posts, podcasts, research, whitepapers, slideshows, case studies, videos, infographics, and e-books. Then determine which type of content will produce the best results for each goal. Remember that you don’t have to create content for every possible channel to be effective. Start with what you can handle and then grow the program.
Keep an eye on the metrics + stop doing what doesn’t work
When you start to determine what content and channels are working, it’s tempting to track the number of followers you have or the size of your email subscription list, but those metrics are often labeled “vanity” metrics. They’re nice to know, but they don’t really measure how well your content is helping your audiences choose your association, meetings, events, products, or services.
Instead, consider your goals and determine what behaviors will indicate that your content is effective. For example, if your goal is to increase student memberships, you might track how long users interact with content that introduces how student membership can benefit someone coming into the profession.
Think about how you can measure the effectiveness of your efforts both quantitatively and qualitatively. Benchmark performance before you begin the new program so that you can compare results moving forward.
You’ll likely track some combination of:
- Brand-awareness metrics like users, page views, and unique page views
- Engagement metrics like click-through rates, social comments, shares and mentions, total time reading, bounce rate, average time on site, and inbound links
- SEO metrics like page and domain authority
- Lead-generation metrics or sales metrics
Give a new program six to nine months to build effectiveness, but don’t stop too soon. After you’ve given the new program time to become established, however, keep doing what works and stop doing what doesn’t work. We live in a beta world, and you shouldn’t be shy about launching something new and changing it if it doesn’t work.
Use one of the many available tools to determine what posts are driving the most traffic. Figure out why the topic is resonating with your members and do more of it. Determine what social media channels are attracting the most attention. Do your members like Twitter or LinkedIn best? Are they Instagram junkies? Focus your efforts where you see the best response.
Get creative with content creation
The personality of your association will help you determine how to maximize your content creation budget. Your members may want highly technical, scientific, or medical content that would involve a subject matter expert working with a writer or content coming straight from an expert in the industry. Your members might want specific information that helps them perform their jobs at a higher level or best practices for operating their businesses. Education can be a separate revenue source, but you might think about repurposing popular webinar content into blogs, infographics, videos, and e-books. Just be sure you have permission to use someone else’s intellectual property.
Allow consultants and suppliers to provide guest blogs and then let them know. It can be an additional supplier benefit. You’ll need to establish guidelines for how someone would pitch a new blog idea as well as standards for the finished blog. Content marketing works because it provides great information without an overt sales message. If you keep guest blogs helpful and insightful, your members will appreciate the information, and staying sales-neutral will help your association and the writer’s company in the long run.
Much of your content will be newly created, but an inexpensive way to get the most from your content is to repurpose it from other sources. Try these suggestions:
- Hire a writer to create a whitepaper or e-book on a hot-button industry topic. Then, create a series of blogs from that material
- Use blogs to create 30-second videos for social media or infographics
- Use a blog post as the basis for a Twitter thread or a LinkedIn post
- Refresh older blog posts in your library and repost them
- Resize blog graphics for use on social media
- Create podcasts from blogs
- Use related blogs as the basis for a whitepaper or e-book
- Repackage your blogs each month as a newsletter
Content marketing can be a powerful tool for your association. Be sure to promote the great content you’re creating in your email and text marketing campaigns. If your content is relevant and rich, you can invite members to subscribe to your blogs, newsletters, or other recurring publications. To start, you might push email reminders that new content is available.
Finally, as your content marketing efforts grow, your technology should be a help, not a hindrance. Do an assessment of your technology ecosystem to be sure it's serving your marketing efforts well.
Content marketing done well can benefit all aspects of your association – even on a budget. Start small and build your program. You’ll be glad you did.
Emma is the Marketing Manager at Rhythm. When she's not thinking about all things content-related, you can find her traveling or shooting 35 mm film.