Crafting Purpose-focused Food & Lifestyle Brands

Tips for Getting Your Content Marketing Initiative Started

Let’s just say that you’re sold on the idea of an integrated, web-based marketing communications strategy of which concepts such as “content marketing” and “inbound Marketing” are going to play a key role.

But, you’ve never done something like this before and you have a boss who thinks (or wishes) that this web stuff is a passing fad or just isn’t important enough to invest time and money into (yes, unbelievably, there are still people who need convincing!). In the former case, it’s often a generational thing (that’ll change as they retire or die off!). In the latter case, their spouse’s brother’s teenage son has a MySpace page (see point #3, below), and can build something for a coupla thousand dollars.

But, you yourself are fairly savvy and you know that the electronic brochure of a website that your organization has is as inspiring as a tree stump, and as functional as a two-legged chair.

How do you get started? What’s your first step?

1. Establish a Budget for Content Marketing
Create a budget and be upfront with your potential vendors about what you can afford for this year, for this project. Initially, an experienced vendor will be able to give you summary of what they can provide within a budget scope, to meet the project’s objectives. This saves everybody time. And it’s time for the traditional RFP or pitch process to die, anyway.

Where print collateral has a short shelf life, the content you invest in through your web initiative will have long-term, “evergreen” value and ROI.

Look at your overall marketing budget for the year, realize that what you need to spend on a web-based, digital communications strategy, in today’s context, is going to be the most important spending of your marketing plan. And then allocate as much of what you can to your content plan.

Don’t take a second mortgage on the house. But, be realistic. This will be a worthwhile and valuable use of funds that will earn you or your organization more money through sales conversions, qualified leads, supporters, constituents, fans, etc.

Realize, too, that this is a long-term investment. Where print collateral has a short shelf life, the content you invest in through your web initiative can have long-term, “evergreen” value and ROI.

2. Invest In Planning
After you’ve chosen your vendor, the first spending of your budget should be a comprehensive plan.

Life is a journey. And so is your content plan and web communications strategy. And while some very exciting and excellent journeys set out with no clear objective of which direction to head in, you don’t want this to be one of them. If you want to set out for Paris, and don’t want to end up in Timbuktu, then plan.

Unless you’re one of those marketing types who are totally immersed into Web 2.0’s plethora of online communications and integrated marketing strategies, chances are that you can’t prepare the type of documentation and budget planning necessary to define out a project. This is particularly true of folks working in small businesses, non-profits, state agencies, museums, travel destinations and so on.

The reality is that for the lay person, the interplay and interconnectedness of offline marketing and online marketing communications tools, features, ideas, strategies, etc., is beginning to look a bit like a bowl of spaghetti.

The reality is that for the lay person, the interplay and interconnectedness of offline marketing and online marketing communications tools, features, ideas, strategies, etc., is beginning to look a bit like a bowl of spaghetti.

So, the first step is to realize that you can’t do this yourself, and then to choose a vendor who can work with you through this critical stage. You may end up spending anywhere from 15% to 20% of the project’s initial budget on well-written planning documentation, but it will be worth it.

The documentation will tell you where you’re going, why you’re going there, how you’re going to get there, and how much the stages of the journey will cost. It gets everybody leaving the station on board the same train.

Call this Phase 1 of your journey.

This Phase 1 deliverable, if you already have a budget in place, will be instrumental for moving forward into the Phase 2 development. Or, if full funding is not available, then the Phase 1 documentation will be instrumental in getting the funding, either by using it to persuade management, or using it to submit to funding sources (grants, foundations, etc.).

3. Admit That You Need Professional Help
The days of turning to your spouse’s brother’s teenage son who has a MySpace page and knows HTML and can build you a website in between downloading music through Limewire and hacking into the school’s computers are over. Just because someone has a computer and can code doesn’t mean they’re the best choice for a sophisticated online integrated marketing strategy.

Think of it this way. Your neighbor probably has a first aid kit, several prescriptions, some skin ointments, a cough syrup and some Tylenol in his medicine cabinet.

Who’re you going to turn to when you feel a heart attack coming on? Your neighbor, or a professional.

It’s the same thing. Kinda. Sort of.

Oh, one more thing.

If you’re a large corporation or state agency or non-profit, this most definitely is not a project for the IT department. They may get involved. But, you need to hire for communication — not programming — skills to lead your content marketing or inbound marketing initiative.

4. Marry a Vendor
In sickness and in health, for better, for worse, who you choose to build your web communications strategy will be more important in your life than your mother or spouse. OK. That’s an exagerration.

But not by much.

A full-service vendor who plans your strategy, designs your web presence, builds the site’s content management system, produces content such as video, etc., is a vendor you’ll be in touch with on a regular and ongoing basis, post-launch.

The point is, it’s an important, long-term relationship.

5. Plan for Ongoing Content Development
Some content will be free. You’ll use RSS feeds, you’ll embed YouTube video produced by others into your pages, you’ll use customer comments and reviews. You’ll join social networks such as Facebook. But, depending on your organization, your objectives, your key audiences, etc., that may not be your best content.

It’ll be the rare case where the “free” content promise of Web 2.0 will fulfill all your needs.

You’ll need to think, plan and act like a publisher. For example:

  • Your organization may be a thought leader in its sector, so you may want to offer professionally generated white papers, full color PDF downloads, etc.
  • You may be trying to save the world with your non-profit, and the services of a professional journalist – writer, photographer or videographer – may be the best way to tell your story in a compelling manner.
  • You may have complex ideas or concepts to express, and only a well-produced, interactive Flash animation will do the job.
  • You may want to be the “definitive resource” about your product, or service, and provide educational content to your customer or constituent base as a part of that objective.

Whatever it is, it’ll be the rare case where the “free” content promise of Web 2.0 will fulfill all your needs.

Therefore, post-launch, you’ll want to plan budget for ongoing content development.

Think of it this way: in the past, would a corporate CEO or CMO, a small business owner or head of a non-profit ask “well, we paid for advertising and sales last year, so we don’t have to pay for advertising and sales this year.”

The answer’s “no,” unless the organization’s strategic plan is to close its doors.

The same concept applies to your content plan. It’ll require ongoing care and nurturing. But, it’s creative. It can be fun. And your clients, constituents and stakeholders will love you and reward you for it.


We hope that this advice has been helpful. It’s based on 10 years of experience of watching people and organizations wrangle with the very topics that we’ve touched upon.

Although it’s 2009, and the intenet has become an inseparable part of people’s personal and professional lives, we still run into these issues, today.