The Cure For Content-Creation Madness

I just recovered from a HootSuite infection. I thought that by posting new content each day, hordes of new B2B corporate decision makers would find me. I watched and waited for my Klout score to skyrocket.

Boy, was I disappointed. The majority of new followers included yoga instructors, network marketers, and sundry dilettantes. I had fallen prey to CCM—Content Creation Madness. Given the incessant social media frenzy, I suspect I'm not the first.

While the plethora of content distribution once excited me, I now realize that my content was landing in the data dumpster. I lacked a critical ingredient: a content marketing strategy. Thankfully, I am regaining my footing on the road to content creation recovery.

The first antidote was for me to fully understand content marketing strategy and its key components. According to marketing agency Tomorrow People, "content marketing is the approach of fitting your content within a structured and measurable process to create better results in attracting leads and transforming them into customers—and increasing revenue." Effective content strategists do five things very well:

  1. They develop tools that help them constantly listen to their market, (such as SearchMetrics and Google Insights), and articulate their ideal customer profiles (aka buyer personas). This allows them to clearly define their customers' buying process.
  2. They create content for each stage of their buying process (awareness, consideration, and decision). Content appears in many forms, ranging from short videos to live seminars, infographics, and white papers.
  3. They foster audience participation—the right audiences at the right time in the right channels (landing pages, LinkedIn, social media, live forums, etc.) to foster discussion around relevant topics.
  4. They build a solid lead management, lead scoring, and lead nurturing platform to turn ideas into discussions, discussions into leads, and leads into customers. Eloqua, Hubspot (for small businesses), and Marketo provide platforms to streamline these processes.
  5. They constantly expand their audience by continuously tracking results.

How do you know when you're about to contract CCM, and your strategy is amiss? Tim Hill, President of Global Marketing for Blackboard, a technology solutions provider for the education market, shares their experiences (and their mistakes).

  1. Your content is downright boring. According to Hill, "I was seeing a lot of talk about us (in many cases, we were leading with it)—who we are, what we can do—and not enough on our customer’s problems: student progression and academic outcomes."
  2. You're growing rapidly. Since 2007, Blackboard has managed 12 acquisitions and one merger.
  3. Ineluctable proliferation of content. Hill stated that "with more people saying more things in more places, Blackboard marketers now had a broader mission and more competition for readers’ attention."
  4. You let the sales organization dictate your content strategy. You know you're in trouble when the sales reps have the power to request a "special" white paper or presentation, and tell you it's essential to closing their next big deal.

Hill, recalling his team's bout with CCM, said his marketing team grabbed the proverbial content bull by the horns and made it their mission to eliminate boring, duplicate, and irrelevant content.

The first step was to ensure they established clear alignment with sales before undertaking any content-related project. By building a stronger bond with sales, his marketing team became more involved in customer conversations and discovered a recurring sales theme: the "active learner."

Blackboard then created a one-page worksheet to help teams build content that would establish themselves as thought leaders around the needs of active learners. This worksheet became the de facto filter to help teams be more effective content creators.

Instead of asking "what do we need to tell our prospective customers?," his team is asking "how can we help our customers effectively deploy digital content, or build their brand using mobile technology by sharing effective practices we see in the field?"

Blackboard's content strategy is a work in progress; however, the early signs are encouraging. "We more than tripled our following on Twitter and Facebook in the past 6 months. And we created so much buzz on Twitter at our annual user conference that we trended nationally twice in the span of 3 days with over 20,000 tweets about the experience."

Blackboard shares the ranks of savvy content marketing strategists with Google (with Think Quarterly), ExactTarget (with their Subscribers, Fans and Followers blog), and Air Canada's EnRoute magazine.

What preventive measures can you take immediately to quarantine CCM, build healthy content habits, and improve how you nurture your best customers?

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Lisa is the Chief Energy Officer of EnergizeGrowth and the founder of Marketing Leaders of DC.  She has helped B2B companies such as Adobe, Microsoft, and BMC Software grow customer mindshare and market share. Lisa is also a sought-after speaker, and is the author of EnergizeGrowth NOW:  The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company.  Visit to download a free sample chapter through EnergizeNews and follow Lisa on twitter.

[Image: Flickr user Tpmartins]

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  • John Miller

    I disagree slightly with you on this; I agree that quality is paramount. If the content isn't good, if it isn't built upon a smart strategy, and if it doesn't deliver value to the audience, then it's a waste of time.

    However, I'd argue that once you have quality, quantity DOES become important. If we agree that brands should be publishers, then they need to think about that publisher mindset too; bringing readers back to the site time and time again is important - it creates engagement and nurtures those visitors towards becoming customers. 

    So, yes, quality first, but quantity matters too.

    John Miller

  • Lisa Nirell

    Once my clients know their buyer preferences for receiving valuable content, it's critical that they commit to a publishing cadence. You're right in that regard.

    I'm annoyed when companies post content "because we have to improve our search engine rankings and keep sending information to our audience." As a result, they create a veritable online junkyard of passionless pablum.

  • Craig Elias


    GREAT insights! 

    I'm intrigued by those who feel the need to write several blog posts a week hoping it drives traffic to their web site.

    As Guy Kawasaki says all the time "HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY".

    Thanks for the inspiration to keep writing quality content

    I say that because my upcoming blog post - that is scheduled to be published this Tuesday - took almost six weeks to come together.

    Keep up the excellent work.


  • Lisa Nirell

     Hi Craig, My next post, which goes live by tomorrow, will further explore the benefits of  focusing on outcomes versus output. Keep reading and commenting here. I appreciate your perspectives and contributions.

  • Adrian Kingwell

    Great article, Lisa. It's all too easy to convince ourselves that it's a volume game. The trouble is knowing what our customer thinks is valuable. What we thought was the most poorly written, uninteresting content on our client's site has often driven the best user engagement - visits, retweets, likes, comments... We now closely measure certain success metrics for each article before deciding if it's great or if it sucks. The metrics can vary depending on where it sits in the funnel, or which audience type it is aimed at. The trouble is that only 1 article in about 20 gets what we would call an "exceptional" response - i.e. that hits the sweet spot and starts to get into your network's network (notice I didn't say "viral" there!). It is almost impossible to predict, but there are certain things that help. A strong title and a powerful image really help. A well known author helps too. But really it is just about a subject that catches the public's imagination - or at least brings a smile or nod from the influencers in your network. Get their heads twitching and you're off to a great start!

  • Lisa Nirell

     Hello Adrian, I am curious what success metrics you typically use. Would you be able to share examples? When you say "where it sits in the funnel," what are the funnel components? (awareness, evaluation, selection...?) Thank you for your contribution.

  • Srimankothapalli

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  • Lisa Nirell

     Thanks Roberta--yes, it's about quality, not quantity, and mapping the right content at the right stage. Great to hear from you.