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January 15, 2013

The Ultimate Content Marketing Implementation Plan: Pragmatic, Powerful, and Guaranteed Success

by Tom De Baere


Content Marketing Implementation Plan

Atomium in Brussel by night, or at 5 am…
(picture soure :

If you are interested in a Content Marketing, implementing it, thinking about it, or living it, then this is for you. I can tell you, this is for you because I’ve been pondering about this post for a long time.

Ever when I started this blog, I wanted it to be a blog which give my fellow marketeers information, education and advice coming from real life experiences. That’s why this blog is called B2B marketing experiences in the first place. No bullshit, just usable stuff. I don’t need to see my blog post on Huffington, Financial Times or whatever other big and famous website. I don’t want to use high level talk and difficult concepts or difficult words. No bullshit, just usable stuff.

Imagine what happened this morning when I woke up at 5am.

Yes indeed, ^é#@!, too early. I could not sleep anymore. My mind was spinning like hell, thinking about this blog post. And here I am sitting behind my computer writing this blog post. It’s exactly 7 am. I never thought I would be doing this, because I am usually not an ‘early bird, rise-n-shine’ kind of guy.

I need to get this out of my head, this is powerful stuff.

How to Implement Your Content Marketing in a pragmatic, do-able way, which is acceptable to your organization, which educates your organization on how to do it, which delivers quick win’s and is built to be embedded for ever in your organization? Now that’s a mouthful.

So this is what kept me awake. But I think I’ve cracked it. And I-me-personally, I think it’s powerful. Maybe arrogant, yes, but if it’s useful to you, you probably don’t care.

Ready? I am sorry, this is what you call a #longread…

So here it goes…

Too much Content about Content Marketing

content marketing info sourcesEver when I started becoming interested in the domain of content marketing, I was blown away with the vast amount of content that is out there on how to do it. All good advice on everything, from strategy to tooling, form hints-n-tips to how-to’s, etc. Mind-boggling. Scary. How on earth am I going to do all of this?

I mean, the theory is fantastic, and you have a bunch of guys like CMI, Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua, MarketingProfs and others throwing out (great) posts EVERY DAY on how to do this stuff.

The title of this blog post is “The Ultimate Content Marketing Implementation Plan”. How dare I claim that while there are books out there all much better in explaining how to do content marketing than this short post ?

I’ll tell you: they make it all so darn damn complex! I have read many of those books, visited many of those blog post, and learned a lot while doing so. And I agree, there is much to tell and to know.

But because there’s so much out there, where do you start ? I mean, it looks such a daunting challenge that you would rather keep on doing traditional marketing and keep on spending millions of advertising money.

Where to start with Content Marketing?

Although it can be scary if you look at, if you go the pragmatic route, while handling it as a project, it becomes easy. The first thing you need to do is : get yourself educated. Don’t do courses, unless you are in a hurry. Do what I did and you’ll be just fine. And yes you’ll need to invest some time in this stuff (nothing’s for free you know), but the return is fantastic !

  • get yourself a twitter account, and go through a learning curve as I wrote in this blog post.
  • follow and subscribe yourself on the mailing lists of Hubspot, MarketingProfs, Marketo, Pardot, The Sales Lion…. you name it.
  • build yourself a database of great how-to’s you want to keep, by using a tool like Evernote.
  • start convincing your management and close colleagues about the need to change your marketing from outbound to hybrid or inbound marketing. If you want to know how you can do that, read this post.
  • start implementing some of the easy stuff you learn through the how-to’s you get from the big boys like Hubspot and the like. Trust me, some of their stuff is really easy to implement and you’ll see immediate return.
  • content rulesread these great books: The New Rules of Marketing and PR (David Meerman Scott), Content Rules (Ann Handley & CC Chapman), Flip The Funnel (Jaffe Joseph), Managing Content Marketing (Robert Rose). Don’t complain that you don’t have the time to read, you could just cut back on watching television or being lazy. Don’t ya ?
  • You’re now ready for the next step ;-)

The ultimate first step of your Content Marketing Implementation

Ok, now that you are educated yourself, time to educate your organization. The problem with content marketing is that you need to get the complete organization on board, as I wrote in this blog post. I mean, you can kick-start it alone, but you’ll need help.

How do you do that ? As you already have your CEO or other key people in your organization on board, a good first step is to get them to start blogging. You don’t even need to call it blogging, you could call it “providing trends and insights to our customers”. These are the people you want to start blogging:

  • The CEO’s blog – market insights, strategy & leadership
  • The CMO’s  blog –  market trends
  • The CTO’s or innovators blog – innovation & nerd stuff
  • The COO’s blog – IT, ISO, BPM, quality …
  • The Customer Service blog – great customer service
  • The Production blog – quality production
  • Guest corner – members of the board, strategic advisors or friends from your industry.

Before you have them blogging, give them a “crash course” on the following subjects:

  • what is digital marketing?
  • what is social media? how to behave?
  • what is a blog? why would we blog
  • blogging writing tips
  • blogging behavior
  • about SEO and keywords & longtail key phrases
  • how to find the right topics to write about

content marketing implementation planMaybe the last bullet is a difficult one, but you solve that easily by saying (thanks to Marcus Sheridan from the Sales Lion @saleslion for this tip) : write down 20 questions you get from your customers. Answer them in 500 words each. Those are your first 20 blog post. Great isn’t it ? “Dang” would Marcus say ;-))

In case you don’t have a website capable of blogging functionality, get yourself a WordPress site (hosted or on like I did. Will cost you almost nothing and it’s a great platform.

As soon as they posted their first blogs, you’ll need to gradually align the topics to be in line with your company strategy. As they are the C-level, that’s like the closest you can get to understanding the company strategy, so you should be fine. If they don’t know it, nobody knows. But it’s important to plan their post, so they become aligned with the company priorities. If you don’t plan them, the’ll write about the stuff that easy to them, but of a less priority to your company.

Getting the rest of the organization on board

quote what would happenQuestion: What would happen if everyone within your company would answers 1 question of a customer and put the answer online ?

Answer: you would have <<write here the number of employees you have in your company>> answers/year. Obviously not everyone will be doing it, but you’ll have enough for a while.

Now, the big question: how do you make people do this? Why would people in your organization wanna do this anyway ? isn’t this the job of marketing ? I wrote a blog post about this, but in essence this is what it’s about :

  • People share their talent and knowledge with others, leading to extra motivation of employees
  • Creating content for your customers forces them to study, analyze, question and test your products and services. Your products and services will become better, thanks to them. And you know, the fun thing about this is that your employees will be seen as the people improving those products and services.
  • They become a better communicator: not all of your employees are good communicators. But by having them think about this single questions, and learn them how to answer them properly for example in a blog post or a white-paper or a case study, they learn how to communicate better.
  • They better understand your customers: by calling up customers to find out about a question they have, or by learning more about how customers see that particular question causing business issues, your employees start understanding your customers much better.

And once you have the creating answers to questions of customers you’ll see that the effect of all of this is:

  • Great answers lead to even greater trust by your buyers
  • Great content leads to interest from your buyers

“You are now creating a culture of education, internally and externally.”

The next step : setting up a “listening” team 

content marketing active listeningYes, you guessed it: I wrote a blog post about this ;-). But kidding aside, this is probably the hardest step, but crucial step you MUST do. There’s no way you’ll get a decent content marketing implementation without this step. You can do without it for a while, but you’ll never produce the thought leadership pieces you want and need.

In essence, you want to have people listening to the business issues of your customers.

Only by really understanding what goes on in their business, you’ll be able to understand:

  • the big issues of your customers
  • the words they use to describe their issues (SEO keywords, remember ?)
  • the way you are viewed by your customers
  • which questions they have, and which they want to see answered because they solve their technical or business issues

How do you do that? Assemble a team (or just you if you are a small company) of people doing the following:

  • talking in depth with customers about their issues through a phone call or face to face meeting. Record those meetings, have them transcribed for keyword glossary building reasons. And then have someone report on a regular basis about those meetings. You’ll need about 10 or 20 per year of these in-depth interviews, depending on the volatility (this is my first difficult word ;-)) of the markets you are in and the number of markets you are in.
  • following important print/digital magazines in your industry and have someone report on a monthly basis about the important stuff linked to your business, including a keyword glossary of the words used.
  • follow a number of big blogs or influential blogs in your industry. Don’t think that there are no blogs in your industry. Sometimes they are hidden and not called blogs. Just type in google ‘your market blogs’ and you’ll get millions of hits. Once you follow these blogs, have someone report on this on a regular basis.
  • follow a number of companies on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, whatever fits your market. Check out this blog post if you want to know which social media network is right for you. And then, you guessed it again, have someone report on it on a regular basis.
  • your customer service department is to report on a regular basis which questions they are getting.That’s excellent material to write how-to’s and FAQ’s by the way.
  • whatever you can think of where you can find valuable understanding from your buyers. If these are focus groups, user groups, whatever, go for it.

Basically, what you are doing now is putting out “listening probes” as I call them: people in your organization listening in to a specific channel, and report on it regularly in a structured manner.

How do I know who to put in this team? C-levels are best for in-depth interviews. Magazines can be followed by your PR agency or PR person. And the rest can be done by product marketers, service managers, customer service employees, etc…

Now you create your ‘answer’ team

content marketing implementation planWhat is this ‘answering’ part? To me there are 2 parts in this.

First you have the “ongoing answers”: everyone in your company should be able to create “how-to’s”, FAQ’s, personal views on technology and our industry…

That means that everyone is free to create this type of content, and the only thing you’ll do is check the spelling, “forbidden words”, company “slang” or “trumping your own horn”.

Secondly, because you are doing content marketing for a purpose, some answers must be planned in-line with our strategy, roadmap and company DNA. Basically what you do is, you take all the learnings you got from the ‘listening team’ and you analyze and discuss that with a team of strategic people and marketers.

The outcome of this is the following:

  • A set of big ‘themes’ around you will build content campaigns.
  • A description of the business issues as formulated by your markets and your customers, and the related strategic answers from your company. Obviously these strategic answers are linked with your business strategy, roadmap and whatever you want to link it with.
  • A keyword glossary and longtail phrases per theme.
  • An indication of what type of content needs to be created (early buying stage, mid or late buying stage).

That’s it. You now know what kind of content you need to start creating.

It’s time to create the content: set-up your editorial team

editorialteamThis is a team that timely publishes and promotes content, builds a following and follower list, and successfully grows the inbound traffic to our content hubs. These are the guys who understand about setting up an editorial calendar, understanding the difference between content themes and content formats, SEO and keywords, buying cycles and call-to-actions, opt-in’s and reporting, and blogging and writing.

And for the rest of the organization, it’s a team that helps them plan and create content.

Usually you’ll have a kind of a project manager or “Chief Content Manager” as Joe Poelizzi calls it. This person assembles all the meetings, assures deadlines are met, and get’s the content marketing fire going. You’ll also have reviewers, editors, publishers, external writers, and reviewers.

Yeah, and now you go social

content marketing implementation plan

Spreading the social media virus througout your organization. (image source:

A very important part of your content marketing implementation is having a social media presence. Have someone in your team or multiple people around the company assigned as “conversation managers”. These are the people who are naturally inclined to be on social media and serve as advocates or social media in your company.

When people have questions, or need to escalate a question they found on social media they can’t answer, these are the people to turn to. You can have a pragmatic escalation process for these type of issues, or a formal escalation process if you are a bigger company or public stock listed.

These are also the people who are part of your listening team, remember?

But that’s only a part of what needs to be done. As I wrote in this post, being active on social media to help customers or to defend your brand is not the task of the marketing department alone. It’s something that needs to be done by everyone in your company because you as a marketing department can’t by active on every network. There are so many LinkedIn groups, blogs, Facebook pages, etc… out there that you need the full social power of your complete organization to defend your brand, but also to amplify your brand as I wrote in this post.

So how do you do this, spreading this social media virus throughout your company? Obviously your are the best person to know your own organization, but here are some ideas on how you could do this:

  • Organize an internal webinar on this subject. Trust me, people will be interested in what you have to tell once the key people in your organization (the key sources of power) are active on social media.
  • Have an intranet section where you post FAQ’s, how-to’s, and social media successes.
  • Embed social media on your website, your intranet, and your mailing lists (internal and external)
  • Any other ideas?

Change Management is needed

If all of this is a big change for your company, you might want to learn something more about change management. A great starting place is this book (Leading Change by John P. Kotter), but in case you are in a hurry, here a some key take-aways:

  • get the key sources of power on board. Not one, you’ll need multiple. And get them involved in social media and blogging.
  • take away key barriers that people might have (like not having a blogging platform or having an HR department blocking social media)
  • quick wins: plan your quick wins. Quick wins are content pieces in this case which have been created because of this content marketing process. Think of them as : if we would not have the listening and answer process in place, we would not have this content. If that’s the case, you have a quick win. But you have to plan these quick wins.
  • embed the process into your organization: make sure that you have enough measures taken to embed this new stuff into your core DNA. Think of embedding it in your ISO processes, embedding it into your HR onboarding, objectives and appraisal processes, and having dedicated job roles set-up to do this. Don’t see it as stuff to be done on the side, but core tasks of people.

Now you have your Content Marketing Implemented

It’s now 8:15. This is what I am giving to you today.

Up to you now.


Do me a favor.

If you read this post, comment about it in the box below and let me know what you think. So, what do you think?

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere