Having adequate resources to operate effectively has always been a struggle for businesses. It's a constant balancing act to optimize productivity while maximizing profitability, and when things get tight, organizations tend quickly shift the focus between priorities. As a result, many companies push content marketing aside when business climates soften. Unfortunately, this pause can stall content programs or derail them completely.
Yet, as we discuss marketing strategy with our clients and partners, the overwhelming feedback is that content marketing is critical for success. In our last survey, 25% of marketers stated that content marketing ranks in their top 3 priorities, but 44% reported it as their biggest challenge. This article will explore the disconnect and offer some ideas to help content programs get through the rough patches.
WHICH RESOURCES ARE CONSTRAINED?
Many marketing teams are undoubtedly struggling with budget constraints, given the current talk of recessions and economic downturns. Others may have difficulty focusing on their content programs while being pressured to generate more direct sales leads. However, based on our discussions with marketing leaders, even if budgets and focus align with content goals – finding and keeping talent is daunting these days. In reality, this problem is having a strong impact on organizations around the world.
A primary cause of the workforce woes is the result of "The Great Resignation" - one of the biggest disruptions in the employment market we’ve ever seen. We discussed this in detail in our last series article - The Impact of The Great Resignation on Content Marketing. The fallout is that people have been moving between companies, changing industries, and leaving the workforce altogether in extraordinarily high numbers since the pandemic started taking hold.
KEEPING YOUR CONTENT ALIVE
In this section, we'll explore some ideas to help marketing leaders increase the odds of sustaining their content program during times of constraint. Not surprisingly, these same tactics get used by executives across organizations to fight for a fair share of the company's budget and resources. They also apply to department heads trying to move their agendas forward.
The obvious premise of the points below is that Content Marketing is a critical part of the marketing mix. We assume if you made it this far in the article, it's a battle you believe is worth fighting.
UPDATE YOUR PLAN
Even if the marketing plan includes a solid content roadmap, it may be time to revise that section if resources are becoming scarce. Investing this time offers a sense of clarity and will help you internalize what needs to happen and how. In addition, it will help build your confidence and regain control over what can be an uncontrollable situation.
Once your strategy has been refined, set up a meeting with your boss and discuss why your content program must be a priority. It's not enough to say that slashing the content budget is a mistake; they need to be convinced. If applicable, you also should highlight activities that will be temporarily paused or eliminated to compensate.
SELL THE VALUE
According to author Daniel H. Pink, "To Sell is Human." To survive and thrive, we constantly position ourselves, our ideas, and our value to others. As a result, we spend a good portion of our daily lives trying to get what we want through artful self-promotion and negotiation.
Like all things marketing, showing tangible results from your content program is the best way to keep it going. Most marketing leaders track metrics well, but the exercise may require a deeper dive. For example, try to link large sales or important long-term clients to your content efforts – if new customers started their journeys by reading your blogs or watching case study videos, this helps your cause. Also, present data for Marketing and Sales Qualified leads (MQLs/SQLs), awareness, campaign support, social media impact, etc.
TRIM THE FAT
You may need to get leaner when budget or headcount become factors. The idea is that you look at all you do – advertising, social, email marketing, and so on. Then, you ask yourself which activities can be temporarily parked or scaled down.
Social media is a great example. We know it's important and provides a key delivery vehicle for content. However, often companies have too many channels, which waters down the few that get results. In addition, many social programs are too obsessed with follower counts instead of channel quality. Being more strategic and focused on the social media effort can be a solid place to free up valuable resources.
OPTIMIZE THE TEAM
As discussed earlier, there has recently been significant movement in the marketing ranks. As a result, taking stock of your team's current capacity, capabilities, and at-risk employees should be time well spent. And given content marketing skills are quite specific, having that talent becomes even more important. Optimizing your team can usually be accomplished by working with what you have. But it's always possible that reshuffling people may be required to keep your program moving forward.
Having the right team in place is a great start, but people perform better when they are fulfilled and motivated. Although it may seem soft or something that can wait until later, building team spirit and improving the culture has never been more important. These are critical times for company (and marketing) leaders to prove their worth in this area.
With workforces being so transient, companies would be wise to do whatever they can to make employees feel valued, respected, and part of the team. Of course, you can't stop anyone from leaving or doing less than inspired work, but some level of connection is needed to keep people engaged and productive.
FIND OR CREATE LEVERAGE
We all know that leverage is a wonderful thing when we find it. However, when resources are constrained, it becomes more than a nice-to-have. Exploring the following areas can help marketing managers improve efficiencies when things get difficult.
The first (and perhaps easiest) way to find leverage is to re-purpose existing content. This process includes assessing and reusing previous assets and those in progress – especially if the creator is no longer with the company. Some ways to do this are:
- Take older content that is still relevant, and give it a facelift. First, update any data, key talking points, and changes in context. Then, relaunch the update with a new title, different SEO, and a slightly altered thematic focus without starting from scratch. Be sure your changes make the material interesting and fresh, but not a word-for-word rewrite.
- Use popular topics you have used in the past and expand on them. In this scenario, the previous content typically summarizes a complex subject, and there is an obvious opportunity to go deeper and add more information. First, of course, you need to determine if the audience wants or needs more depth, but in most cases, you have plenty of room to expand while still providing something your subscribers will value.
- Look for other relationships. Any topic can get much "wider" than the initial theme. For example, a CAD design story can lead to many others by focusing on product applications, comparing technologies, or discussing breakthroughs. The subject adjacencies include all the activities subsequently driven by the design process – simulation, digital twinning, virtual stress testing, manufacturing, quality control, etc. The simple statement "how CAD improves x" can spawn dozens, if not hundreds, of new content ideas.
- Transforming content assets to other mediums is another strong form of leverage. Take articles and turn them into videos, animations, ebooks, or infographics when possible and appropriate. This approach often is neglected and is valuable low-hanging fruit when content development is constrained
- One last thing, and something easy to overlook, is ensuring that if members of your content team leave the company, someone has a good handle on what they were working on before the transition and that the work in progress gets completed.
While not as strong an option these days since many companies are short-staffed, getting help from people in other departments with content may still be possible. For example, our Collaborating with Engineers on Content Marketing Guide focuses on the importance of working with company engineers and ways to go about that. There could also be people in other departments who have helped marketing at some point and have a knack for it. So whether it's engineering, HR, or other teams - if you have worked with good communicators who could pitch in, it can't hurt to ask.
Another internal source involves looking at the marketing team itself to identify those with content experience from previous roles. If the situation is dire enough, perhaps some will be willing to roll up their sleeves in the short term. Of course, this would be "above and beyond" work and may require an incentive of some sort. To help bridge the gap, offering part-time, temporary income to someone with the desire and skills might be a win for everyone. In addition, there may be people in non-content roles on the marketing team with strong skills who are eager to step in and show what they can do.
LEVERAGING OUTSIDE HELP
Another viable option is to outsource your content for a while. This approach can be more effective if you have previous experience working with a freelancer or publisher and they know your industry. For many companies, having external partners helps smooth out bumps when employees leave. If you have never used outside help, you may want to try it as an experiment. It may not be a long-term play, but having resources to augment your team during lean times is good contingency planning.
If a key team member of your content team suddenly leaves, your options may be limited if you are unprepared. It's surprising how many managers take for granted that their star players will never leave. It's better to be proactive and have possible options before the inevitable happens.
Another aspect of looking outward involves "virtual benching." Without going too deep, this is simply the process of building a strong personal network over time – one you can tap into when the need arises. LinkedIn is an excellent place to nurture these connections, but it takes effort and discipline. Knowing strong marketers in your industry and beyond will give you a great starting point when recruiting and could drastically shorten the process.
All companies struggle with constrained resources to some degree. However, transitioning to a new post-pandemic reality has been difficult for most. Rampant inflation, supply chain issues, political uncertainty, and HR management challenges have created a much tougher business climate. In many organizations, marketing is not getting the attention it typically does, and keeping content programs intact has become even harder. If you believe content marketing is truly critical, you must prove it and work hard to sustain the program you've built.
To help marketers understand and improve issues such as these, we provide a wide range of free resources to provide insights. In addition, we offer numerous services to support your team's content program. If we can help, please click below to learn more and connect with us. Thank you for reading, and good luck in your content continued content quest!