These 5 Steps Will Make Your Content Development a Breeze

May 28, 2013

content developmentAccording to the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, the greatest challenge facing most B2B content marketers is content development, and specifically, being able to produce enough content to move the needle. Not surprising, right? Effective content marketing hinges on producing a steady stream of high-quality content — we’re talking multiple original pieces of content every day. That’s really hard for small businesses, particularly if you have a lean team that’s tasked with an array of responsibilities that go well beyond content creation.
Rest assured, however, that there are ways around this content development conundrum. In fact, with the right best practices and a little discipline and creativity, you can streamline and optimize your processes so that they become easier and more efficient, and you’re ultimately able to produce more with less effort.

These five content development tips will help make your life easier:

1)   Start with a Solid Understanding of Your Target Audience

Before creating any kind of content, you absolutely need a crystal clear understanding of your target audience. Admittedly, this is content marketing 101, but it’s so important. Remember, taking the time to develop that understanding will make any future content development efforts for that target audience run a lot smoother.
You can learn a lot more about understanding your audience and creating buyer personas by reading this post on targeted content, but essentially the idea is to gather a bunch of demographic and behavioral information that will allow you to get some insights into your target audience and eventually create a buyer persona. Once you have a good buyer persona, it is so much easier to tailor your content so that it resonates with your audience, which is ultimately what’s going to determine how effective it is.

2)   Develop an Outline and Plan of Attack

One of the best ways to streamline your content development efforts is to put some time up front toward creating a solid outline and work plan. For a short piece of content like this blog post, it’s a quick and informal process. I spent about five minutes listing out my ideas for this post on a sticky note, for example. For more extensive pieces such as an eBook or white paper, try to create a robust multi-page outline that really includes a meaningful level of detail. In both cases, the exercise forces you to think about what you want to say and how to best organize your thoughts. It makes actually creating content a lot easier in the long run by giving you a road map to follow.
If you are working on bigger pieces of content, now’s also that time to give some consideration to how long you are going to need to develop your content and get it approved and ready for publishing. Come up with a schedule by working backwards from your planned publication date, allotting time for research if needed, drafting, editing, and any reviews and approvals you’ll need. Plus, think about who is actually going to be developing your content. Are you the writer or will you be leveraging other staff or a freelancer? Often times, you can really increase your efficiency by managing the content development process internally, while outsourcing the actually writing to a third party. (For tips on working with freelancers, check out this post.)

3)   Execute Your Plan

This step is where being process-oriented really comes into play. By now you have hopefully created an outline and plan of attack that will give you a clear road map for how to create your content. Next you (or your freelancer) will have to sit down and write. Here are a few ideas on how to do so more efficiently:

  • Separate writing from editing. In other words, write as much content as you can straight through without editing any of it. Doing so lets you get your ideas out on the page without getting hung up on wordsmithing or coming up with compelling headlines, two activities that can derail any content creation process. If you worry about those details on your first pass you’ll never get anywhere, so save them for later.
  • Rely on thought leaders. Remember, you may be responsible for creating the content, but that doesn’t mean you are always the subject matter expert. Leverage the thought leaders in your organization to help you by interviewing them to get their ideas, asking them to review technical content for accuracy, or simply to validate your ideas. If you make engaging with thought leaders a part of your process, your work will get easier over time.
  • Do what you do best. Always play to your strengths, which goes back to a point I made earlier. If you’re not particularly good at proofreading or if you’re not a great editor, outsource that task to someone else who is. Don’t waste your time doing stuff you’re not particularly good or efficient at and certainly never spend your time doing lower level activities that can be taken off of your plate. An efficient content development process means knowing where your time is best spent rather than trying to do it all yourself.

4)   Get the Feedback You Need When You Need It

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in the past around content development has consistently been getting all of the feedback and approvals I need to publish a piece of content. The issue, particularly at larger companies, is that numerous people need to sign off on things, but often drag their feet when doing so. For example, perhaps you need the VP of Product to bless your latest white paper, but he or she is slammed with projects and doesn’t have time to review the copy for a couple of weeks. How do you get around this?
The answer is to get organized and to set clear expectations up front. Tell them exactly what you are going to need from them before ever engaging them in the first place, letting them know what they can expect and when (which a good work plan will allow you to do). My experience has always been that you get a much better result (and have more leverage) when you communicate expectations up front and let them know how their failure to provide feedback and/or approvals on time will delay your overall process. If they still don’t respond, kindly tell them that you will assume they have no changes and approve your content unless you hear back from them by a particular date. That way if you don’t hear back, you can still consider your bases covered and try to move forward.

5)   Repurpose and Repackage

Here’s the single best tip I can offer that will help your content development efforts: Always look for ways to repurpose what you have already created. For example, align small pieces of content such as blog posts so that they can some day be turned into an eBook. Conversely, break existing eBooks up into smaller bite-sized articles and posts. Not only will your audience never know what you’re doing, you will actually be making your content appealing to a broader audience by giving people different ways to consume it. Lastly, it’s much easier to repurpose something that already exists than to create something new from scratch.

So what are you doing to make it it easier to create content at your company?

Content Marketing Director

<strong>Kevin Cain</strong> is the Content Marketing Director for <a href="">BlueChip Communication</a>, Australia's leading financial services communication firm. Before joining BlueChip, Kevin was the Director of Content Strategy for OpenView.