According to a recent study, ‘producing enough content‘ is one of the top marketing challenges facing B2B firms. Everyone is so busy these days – how do you get the volume of content you need out of the door, consistently, month on month?
Here’s how US web development firm Newfangled does it. I’m an avid consumer of their content (it’s awesome – some of the best I’ve ever seen) and I’d noticed they’d upped their game in terms of the amount they produced every month. Turns out they’ve completely reorganised their content team and process recently, with enviable results – an 85% uplift in content volume and a satisfying rise in content quality too.
Newfangled’s content strategist Tema Flanagan explains how they’ve achieved this. Lots to learn from this if you want to build a workable content production engine for your firm.
How important is content to Newfangled’s business development strategy?
“It would be difficult to overstate the importance of content to Newfangled’s business development strategy, as well as to the success of the digital marketing platforms we build for our clients. We’ve written about this quite a bit on our site, but content — along with the contacts generated by calls to action — is really the fuel that keeps all of our digital marketing activities going.
“Content is the fuel that keeps all of our digital marketing activities going.”
Content plays several roles:
- It helps attract new visitors via organic search and links shared on social media networks.
- It demonstrates our capabilities and informs readers of the meaningful overlap between their needs and our expertise.
- It nurtures leads by offering fresh ideas that relates to them at all stages of the buying cycle.
- It offers opportunities for engagement in the form of CTAs, like the blog digest, newsletter signup, and webinar registration forms.
Without content, the whole business development machine would grind to a halt.”
What content do you share?
“We share content via several platforms: a blog, a newsletter, case studies, and webinars. Moving forward, we’re hoping to add whitepapers, too.
I know I’m biased, but I’m really proud of Newfangled’s content. We put a lot of effort into each piece we publish, and I think it shows in terms of the quality you see on the site. We really work to ensure that everything we put out there is thoughtful, accurate, and (we hope) truly useful to our clients and prospects.
“Openness and authenticity really do serve us well.”
We’re also quite transparent in terms of what we share about ourselves as a company and as individuals. It’s not at all unusual for us to write openly about our internal processes, including our trials, errors, and successes: Chris’s newsletter from a few months ago, Rethinking the Case Study, is a good example of that. Even personally — I think, for example, of Mark’s recent blog post about how to balance the needs of work and family during a frightening family emergency — we tend to be pretty open. Given that transparency, I believe our content represents quite accurately our thinking and our culture (which is marked by deep care for what we do, open communication, and a willingness to try new things). And I think the openness and authenticity really do serve us well.
What approach did you take before?
“Up until very recently, our COO, Chris Butler, was handling pretty much everything related to the production and publication of content on our site, while our MD Mark was handling most of the webinars. Chris was also writing the majority of the content each month.”
Why did that need to change?
“It was really unsustainable. Far too much of our content production and the responsibilities around it were resting on Chris’s shoulders. It was just untenable as a long-term strategy. We were more than meeting our recommended word count of 3000 words per month, but it felt like a struggle because we didn’t have a set plan, especially for the blog, about what we would publish and who would do the writing each month.
“It felt like a struggle because we didn’t have a set plan.”
Chris is more prolific than most, and his writing is top-notch (he’s built quite a following for himself over the years), but we were leaving untapped a huge resource in terms of our larger staff and their expertise. Not good.
The other big problem was that we struggled mightily to produce case studies with any regularity. Each project manager was expected to produce one case study per quarter, but the reality is that our PMs are super busy and the expectations were just a bit too vague. On a day-to-day basis, it wasn’t the top priority for project managers — and that was typically a sound judgement call for them to make. Over time, though, this meant we published very few case studies, and those we did publish generally weren’t there in terms of their depth and quality.
“Our available resources weren’t being allocated very efficiently.”
Essentially, our available resources weren’t being allocated very efficiently. What we wanted was a structured approach to content production that ensured consistency and distributed the burden of production more evenly across our firm and the disciplines represented within it.”
What’s your new approach to content production?
“The first major change was to relieve Chris of his responsibilities related to managing content production (things like calendars, copyediting, the mechanics of publishing content to the site, etc.). I come from a writing, editing, and content marketing background, so we assigned those responsibilities to me and reduced my workload in other areas. Essentially, we made the pretty obvious decision to allocate existing resources more explicitly to the management and implementation of our content strategy.
“We made the decision to allocate existing resources more explicitly to the management and implementation of our content strategy.”
Secondly, we looked at which of our team members had contributed most consistently to the blog in the past, as well as the disciplines we felt needed to be represented regularly on our site, and we asked those folks to join together as a small team that would together take responsibility for the blog content. We’d tried being more vague about it in the past, encouraging everyone on staff to contribute “as often as possible” — but that just doesn’t work. It’s really a tragedy of the commons sort of thing, especially when you have one person who manages to carry the majority of the burden.
“Each member of our content team agreed to be responsible for one blog post per month.”
So, each member of our content team agreed to be responsible for one blog post per month. We meet monthly to discuss blog topics as a group, then I assign due dates, and Chris and I work with team members to get the posts ready for publication.
As far as case studies, we agreed that I would be responsible for writing one per month to ensure they are a priority. The way it works is that Chris and I identify which projects to feature and what angle to take on them, and then I meet with the lead project manager and other key team members to get a full understanding of the project, what the process was like, what obstacles we encountered, and what we believed the main objectives and successes to be. We also reach out to the client to get a sense of how the new site is working for them and see if they’re willing to supply a testimonial. I draft the case study and work with Chris to finalize the text before collaborating with Justin on imagery. Unless I happened to have been the project manager myself, it’s really almost a journalistic process putting the case studies together.”
What difference have you seen?
“The difference is huge. We’ve been doing this for three months and already we are producing more content, more consistently, and with greater diversity and intentionality in terms of topics and voices. We’ve also reduced the burden on Chris considerably.
“We’ve increased our content production by a whopping 85%.”
In more concrete terms, the average number of blog posts, individual contributors, and case studies are all up. Taken as a whole, we’ve increased our content production by a whopping 85%.”
Any unexpected benefits?
“Yes! Our monthly content team meetings have been extraordinarily useful as a way to ensure that we’re being as thoughtful as possible in choosing writing topics. That means we’re more intentional with our writing.
“We’re more intentional with our writing.”
At the same time, making the space for a small group of team members representing all disciplines within Newfangled to bat around ideas each month is proving useful in other ways, too. It’s a healthy exercise, and one that enables us to think more holistically about what we do and what trends, challenges, and issues we ought to be thinking about as a business.
“The overall quality of our content has gone up too.”
Another thing: because we have more lead time for writing deadlines, and because we have a more streamlined editing process in place, the overall quality of our content has gone up, too.”
Tips for other firms – what can they learn from the Newfangled content production process?
“Many small-to-midsize agencies don’t have much (or any) budget devoted especially to content marketing. And, all too often, the burden of content production is too narrowly concentrated, just as it was for Newfangled (and that’s assuming a firm is managing to produce content with any regularity).
Sometimes this happens because the agency principal doesn’t want to loose the reins in terms of controlling the voice of the agency (that’s a bad move, by the way); other times it happens by default, simply because there’s not a good system in place. For Newfangled, it was the latter.
While I’d love to see smaller agencies making room in their budgets for content, there are ways to allocate existing resources to increase both efficiency and productivity. The devil is in the details, of course, and what makes sense for Newfangled won’t necessarily work for our clients. The solution needs to stem from each firm’s specific challenges, goals, resources, and existing content platforms.”
Fascinating insight there into what is evidently a very effective content production process for Newfangled – thanks so much Tema.
What works for you? How does your firm feed the content generation monster?
We’d love to hear what has made the process easier for you. Do let us know.
Free ebook for you
We’ve put together a short e-book to help you come up with a solution to the content creation challenge. This explores 10 different ways to get your people blogging. With thoughts from some very successful content marketers, we hope it will help you get your team on track for content marketing success.