Welcome to part 3 of the Content Marketing Agency Playbook where we’ll do a deep dive into how to run content for clients at scale.
Take a moment to think about this question: Why do most content marketing strategies fail?
What do you think? A lack of time? Not enough creative content ideas? Too crowded of landscape? An unengaged audience?
Ultimately, the flop of most content marketing efforts typically all boils down to this one preventable root cause: a lack of repeatable processes.
It might seem odd to compare your own content team to that of a pit crew on a race track, but stick with me for a minute. A pit crew functions like a well-oiled machine. They have a standard way of doing things that empowers them to jump on their individual tasks and get that car back on the road in no time—without any confusion or bottlenecks.
Your content team probably isn’t changing out tires or repairing engines, but this same concept still holds some water.
Without streamlined processes in place, things easily fall apart. Unfortunately, you already know this. Your spreadsheets are a mess, so deadlines are missed. Your tasks aren’t clear, so there’s confusion over who on your team is responsible for what. Because you don’t have a standard way of doing things, optimizations aren’t made. And, as a result, your entire publishing schedule falls way behind.
Groan, right? And, when those things happen, the easiest thing to do is to toss up your hands and call the whole thing a failure.
But, rest assured, there’s a better way. The solution lies in identifying a bulletproof content marketing process that everyone on your team understands and is onboard with.
So, how can you identify and build a repeatable process for your own team? Here’s what you need to know. Ready? Start your engines.
This is part 3 in our playbook for agencies. Download the entire eBook here. Or dive into specific sections:
- Why Your Client Onboarding Process Matters
- Defining The Roles on Your Marketing Team
- A Repeatable Content Production Process
- A Scalable Content Promotion Process
- Prove Your Value to Clients With Better Marketing Reports
Settle on One Way of Doing Things
That old “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” sentiment is a little gruesome, but it’s also true. Within your own content team, there are seemingly limitless ways that you could get a specific task done.
However, just because there are 1,000 potential ways that you could do something doesn’t mean that you should leave that door wide open for your team members to choose their own approaches. Instead, settle on one way that everyone on your team should do that specific thing—yes, only one way that applies to everybody.
Before you roll your eyes at this perceived inflexibility you’ll impose on your team members, take a moment to think about the benefits. Having this set approach in place makes it far easier for you to scale, as you’ve already identified the tools, processes, and methods that work best for your team and your work.
With those documented standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place, it’s a lot easier to onboard new team members (they just need to follow the processes you’ve already laid out!). Even further, these standardized methods also ensure that each piece of content your team creates meets your standards.
Planning Your Production Schedule
Before you dive into the steps of building out your own content process, it’s important to first give some thought to your production schedule. How much time does your team need to produce a single piece of content? How much time do you want to give your clients to review the content (we recommend at least a week)?
Within our own content marketing agency, Audience Ops, we work on a standard four-week production schedule for our clients’ blog posts. The first week is dedicated to drafting the article, the second week is for editing and setting up the content, and the client has the entire third week to review the content and offer any feedback. By the fourth week? The post goes live.
You may have other things that go into what you produce for content, so your timeframe may differ. However, the important thing is to think about what sort of schedule you need to meet for your team members and your clients. Having that in mind will empower you to build a process that helps you create quality content, meet deadlines, and keep your clients happy.
Building Your Content Process
So, where should you begin when building your own content process? The best starting point is to break your own content production into distinct phases. What different stages does a piece of content go through to make it from inception to publish?
For example, perhaps your written content goes from the draft stage to the editing stage. Or, a video goes from editing to set up.
By identifying these unique and distinct phases, it’s far easier for everyone on your team to discern what’s currently happening with a specific piece of content, as well as who’s responsible for it at that given point in time.
You can break these phases down even further into individual checklists—rosters of smaller tasks that need to be completed in each given phase. These checklists keep your team members accountable, your processes organized, and also ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
Don’t forget about deadlines! Every task in your checklist needs to be completed on-time, every time, in order to keep your content publishing schedule on track.
When you’re planning your content checklist, take into account how long each task and phase should take so that you can build enough time into your production schedule.
TIP: A tool like Ops Calendar makes this easy, as the entire system is built around phases and task lists, with deadlines that automatically calculate according to your publishing schedule.
Now you have one other question: What phases and checklists should you break your own content process down into? This can vary, depending on the composition of your team and what type of content you’re creating.
Below, we breakdown some common content production phases, as well as the types of tasks that could be included in that phase.
Topic Generation and Approval
Whether you’re creating blog articles, white papers, videos, podcasts, or something else entirely, the first step of your content process should involve generating topics and receiving approval and feedback from your clients.
Starting here ensures that your team doesn’t get in too deep on a topic or strategy that your client isn’t onboard with. Additionally, it provides the opportunity to gather feedback that your team can use to generate even stronger content moving forward.
Potential Tasks in This Phase:
- Conduct research about the client and their audience
- Generate topic ideas for content
- Send topics to client for feedback and/or approval
- Make necessary tweaks based on client feedback
- Create an outline of topic
- Schedule topic on the content calendar
This will be the meat and potatoes of your content process—it’s when your content is actually being created.
Perhaps that means drafting an ebook or conducting a podcast interview. Regardless, this phase of your process should involve any and all tasks that deal with taking that topic from an idea to something tangible.
Potential Tasks in This Phase:
- Drafting an article or other written piece of content
- Recording a podcast interview
- Filming a video
- Creating a webinar presentation
- Designing an infographic or other informative image
Having that piece of content actually created provides a great sense of accomplishment; but, that doesn’t mean your work is done.
Once the content is drafted or produced, your next phase should be post-production—which is when all of those polishing tasks, like editing or adding images, come into play.
Potential Tasks in This Phase:
- Editing and refining (whether it’s a written piece of content, video, podcast, or something else entirely)
- Sourcing or designing relevant images and illustrations
- Writing show notes (for a podcast)
Publishing and Promotion
Next up? Actually making that piece of content live for your audience. But, as you already know too well, content isn’t a “build it and they will come” sort of thing. You need to actively promote it in order to get those eyeballs you’re so desperate for.
That’s what this phase is for. Whether you want to schedule social posts or purchase ads, this part of the process takes you from pushing publish to spreading the word.
Potential Tasks in This Phase:
- Publishing the content
- Scheduling a promotional newsletter
- Queuing up relevant social posts
- Purchasing ads
- Answering questions on forums
- Republishing the content to other outlets, such as LinkedIn or Medium
Where Your Team Fits In
Having these phases broken down and the tasks laid out is helpful to ensure you create a streamlined and efficient content marketing process. However, your team will also benefit from having things parsed out this way.
With this broader view of all of the tasks that need to be completed, you’re able to further clarify your team members’ responsibilities. You can standardize their roles and assignments as they relate to very specific tasks within your process.
Another way that a repeatable content process helps you is that it creates dependencies within your team. Think of your team as a line of dominos—an action is needed from the first one in the line before the next person is able to take action.The “secret sauce” of content marketing is identifying a repeatable content process. Click To Tweet
For example, a blog post can’t move ahead to editing until it’s been drafted. These dependencies mean that you’re that much less likely to let certain steps of the process slip through the cracks—once one domino falls, the rest should as well.
While your team members still should communicate when passing off a piece of content to the next person in the process, Ops Calendar makes this chain of events even easier by automating those dependencies. When you assign a dependency to a specific checklist item, the next part in the process physically can’t happen until that prior task has been addressed.
Over to You
You might think that there’s some sort of “secret sauce” involved in making your content marketing efforts successful. And, as it turns out, there is: Your success lies in identifying an effective and repeatable process for your team.
With that in place, your tasks and efforts will be streamlined, your team will avoid any confusion or crossed wires, and you’ll end up with a strong piece of content—with little to no stress required.
Don’t forget to grab our free resource that will help you identify and fine-tune your own content production process: