What is a mature content marketing program?
Glad you asked. There’s actually a Gartner model that categorizes content programs into maturity levels—from 1 (beginner) to 5 (expert).
The Maturity Model for Content Marketing uses five critical elements to determine level: strategy, tactics, technology, organization and budget. You’ll notice strategy is first (more on that later).
Once a brand identifies its level, it can follow the steps Gartner outlines to support content marketing business goals. As the model points out, a key challenge many content marketers face is that they often fail to align their efforts across marketing channels to the business’s broader goals.
What? While that seems oddly out of step for us at Manifest, sadly it is more the norm than not.
Start with a Content Strategy
A few months ago, we were working on a pitch for a luxury brand in the travel space. The process for the pitch, for content production and social media services, lasted more than seven months and went many rounds. Several times, we suggested that the travel brand spend time thinking through its content strategy before beginning any content development. Yet this business was convinced that it already had a strategy.
When we received a request to scope out price, the client listed “content strategy plus production.” Reading over the document, it became obvious that its idea of a content strategy was nothing more than a master calendar for proposed content—a process rather than a strategy. Calendars and milestone guidelines are great, but they are no substitute for a foundational strategy that includes desired KPIs. (New to the world of metrics? A KPI is a key performance indicator.)
I learned that many brands confuse the two. They think a strategy is a process. It’s also one of the reasons many businesses have begun taking the content work in-house—the belief that setting up and carrying out a series of creative steps is all that is necessary for success.
What’s Required to Build a Content Marketing Strategy?
Gartner’s content maturity model, the latest such approach to arise from the original Capability Maturity Model created for software development in the 1980s, makes a clear case for avoiding such a misstep.
Developing a content marketing strategy requires data, time and hard work. Most important, you’ll want many voices around the planning table. A well-developed, data-informed strategy is the best possible foundation upon which to build a brand content marketing program. Without it, your program is just a process with tactics; it might get you going but not growing.
This is where a full-service agency partner that knows content marketing comes in. If we made one mistake in that travel brand pitch, it was not abandoning the process once we knew our potential partner didn’t understand the necessity of a content strategy.
Manifest has clients at all points along the maturity model, and a few at the highest level of the Gartner scale. That’s why we can proudly say we are damn good at content marketing. If you want your brand to be damn good at it too, start with a solid content strategy.
SOURCE: Gartner, Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, Jan. 24, 2018, ID G00347262