You have been creating content for some time now, and the traffic is coming in. You start to feel excited about the potential growth your company could experience thanks to the power of content marketing. So you decide to scale your content production; more content will drive more results.
The desire to scale content production is becoming increasingly common. According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2019 North America report, 56% of businesses have indicated a desire to increase their content creation spending.
The problem is that doubling your investment in content creation won’t necessarily result in a linear increase in output, either in quantity or quality or both. Without the right systems in place, your content team will experience several bottlenecks, which will reduce your team’s morale and effectiveness.
To scale your content production, you need to learn about developing a content development process that can support it.
Understand the content development process
By definition, “scaling” means to “grow or expand in a proportional and usually profitable way.” Therefore, when you scale your content production, you expand the number of content pieces you regularly publish without compromising quality or efficiency.
To expand this production, you first need to understand your content team’s process. This is called a content development process, and it defines how you plan, create, and distribute your content.
Without a systemic view of your content development process, scaling your content production can end up disrupting your content team’s productivity, resulting in low morale and bad performance.
Imagine that you have one content manager responsible for writing articles, editing, and formatting every blog post and email your company publishes monthly. Beneath this manager, you have one writer who’s the creative mind behind every post and emails produced – ten blog posts and ten emails in total.
If you wanted to triple your content efforts, you could hire two more people, so that the three writers create thirty blog posts and emails in total. In theory, this would work perfectly, except that the poor content manager won’t properly edit and format every content piece. While the content production capacity increased, the editing and formatting didn’t. Therefore, a bottleneck is born.
To scale your content marketing strategy, you need to dissect your entire content development process to understand how each part works, so you can adapt to each one accordingly once you increase their capacity.
There are different ways you can break and categorize each part of your content development process. In the simplest terms, here are some of the most important steps your process will include:
- Topic brainstorming from your marketing personas, competitor analysis, and company news
- Keyword research from your existing content, your competitors, and new opportunities available
- Topic prioritization to define the ones most likely to drive traffic and leads
- Topic assignment to the different writers, editors, and other team members required to create a piece
- Content writing or production (if it’s video, audio, or graphic design)
- Content editing or post-production
- Content formatting – i.e., taking the content piece and getting it ready to publish
- Content promotion, which includes sending an email to your list, reaching out to influencers, and setting up paid media campaigns
Each step can be broken down even further as an independent system, which can then be scaled further.
Map your content production capacity
Now that you know what a content development process is, you need to see your team’s current content production capacity.
Sit down with your content team, and have them explain to you how they create their content. You want to develop a visual representation of how they work to achieve their goals.
Each step in this process should have the team members responsible for executing it, plus any resources they use – e.g., the software they use, the budget assigned to their task, etc.
As you develop this workflow, ask your team:
- How much content is each team member capable of creating?
- How much time does it take them to create each content piece?
- What’s their most significant time-consuming activity?
- Do they report to multiple people?
- Do they communicate efficiently?
The goal is to develop a clear view of your current content production system to get an idea of how much content you could create to increase your production input.
You also want to take note of the existing tools your team uses to create its content. Whether that includes Slack, Atlassian, or Trello, you want to make sure your team uses the best tools for their job. If they don’t use any specific content tools, consider adopting:
- Nightwatch for SEO analysis
- CoSchedule for content planning
- Social Pilot for social media scheduling
Define your ultimate goal
The idea of scaling your content production may seem appealing, but without a clear goal, it won’t drive any results. If you publish a weekly article and decide to scale this effort, what does it mean for you? Is it posting twice a week? Or is it creating other content types, like webinars and ebooks?
Define a goal that’s both achievable, considering the current production your team handles, and desirable, considering your greater business goals.
Let’s say your team produces nothing but blog posts, emails, and social media content, and you want to start creating two monthly webinars to drive more leads. Given your team’s skills and capacity, you will have to hire someone with experience in webinars. Webinars are time-consuming and require skills that don’t necessarily correlate with content writing.
If one team member is willing to create webinars, you need to compute the writer’s production decrease caused by their new responsibilities.
Whatever the case, having a clear goal will help you scale your content efforts intelligently, adapting to the changes without losing steam.
Create a checklist
When you are developing a new scalable content creation process, you need to have clear SOPs (i.e., standardized procedures) for most of the tasks the content team is responsible for. You want to have a well-oiled system that your content team can implement flawlessly, while still keeping their creative input intact.
Checklists are tools that balance the strict nature of SOPs with the creative spirit of content marketers. By definition, a checklist specifies the tasks someone needs to implement to fulfill a step of your content development process.
For example, a tentative checklist for optimizing your posts’ on-site SEO would include the following tasks:
- Take the keyword defined before the post was approved.
- Add it to an SEO tool, like Text Optimizer.
- Add the keyword naturally in the post as many times as the tool from the previous step indicates.
- Add the keyword to the images’ alt-tags.
- Add the keyword to the title tag.
- Write the meta description.
- Add natural keyword variations in the post.
By following this checklist, a content manager guarantees the correct on-site optimization in every post. The manager’s only job would be to make sure the writer – or whoever is responsible for this checklist – checks this task from their project management tool’s card.
In each step of your content development process, discuss adding a checklist to standardize the step’s correct implementation step. Be careful not to choke your content marketing team with strict procedures; the goal of using checklists is to take care of the most important tasks for each step. Your content team members should have some room to test new ideas and improve the current checklist.
Besides on-site SEO optimization, other potential cases that could use a checklist include:
- Keyword research
- Defining the blog’s quarterly topics
- Writing an email newsletter
- Sharing social media content
- Editing and proofreading according to your style guide
As you create checklists, make sure your team implements them to see whether they are missing a step or using one that’s unnecessary.
With checklists, you can simplify every part of your entire content development process so your employees – or contractors – can execute your plan seamlessly. And as you will see, your checklists will make it easier for you to delegate and outsource these tasks.
Hire the right partners
There are several tasks that your team won’t be able to execute because they lack the time, skills, or both. In those cases, it makes sense to outsource them to freelancers.
Freelancers will help you extend the scale of your content team without incurring high costs. You can hire freelancers from marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr, or better yet, you can hire them from your network. Ask your colleagues for people with the skills you require to implement the checklists you developed in the previous step.
What’s more, hire based on expertise, not on cost. For example, if you want to hire a freelance writer, check their portfolio, and analyze their content. If the content they have written isn’t relevant or close to your brand’s style, they won’t be a good fit, regardless of their price; but if they are, then their content will be worth more than their cost.
Alternatively, you can hire an agency. Nowadays, productized services have become popular, with many agencies offering flat-fees for services as diverse as SEO, design, and paid media.
Whether these agencies charge flat or custom-made fees, it’s critical you hire your partners as if you were hiring a full-time employee. These partners should have a good fit with your content team; otherwise, they will cause unnecessary bottlenecks in your content process.
The goal of working with freelancers or agencies is to increase your content production while keeping the efficiency intact—the motto should be “more content with fewer headaches.”
Automate and win
Not only can you hire partners, but you can also automate some of the tasks you have created checklists for. Fortunately, you don’t need to hire a technical person to develop complex automation algorithms. With the help of tools like Automate.io, Zapier, and IFTTT, you can connect your entire marketing stack in a few clicks, freeing your team’s time from mindless low-value tasks.
Let’s say one of your team members spends two hours a week exporting and formatting your new email subscribers to a Google Sheets to create a custom audience in the Facebook advertising network. With an automation tool, you can easily connect your email marketing tool with Facebook, and have the former send the information you require to the latter. Thanks to this automation, your team has saved two hours they can now spend creating and promoting more content.
The tasks you automate may not be too complicated or time-consuming, but aggregated, they can represent dozens of hours wasted in low-value activities. Some other opportunities for automating your content marketing process include:
- Getting transcriptions of new podcasts for republishing in your blog
- Adding new leads generated through Facebook ads to your CRM
- Sharing new blog posts on every social network
- Republishing content from one social network to another
If a tool is missing in Automate.io, Zapier, or IFTTT, or if these tools don’t let you create the automation you desire, then you have two options:
- Use built-in integrations when they are available.
- Create a custom-made API-based integration.
The former is almost identical to using any of the automation tools mentioned before, while the latter will take time and cost money. Regardless of the investment needed to automate your content development process, your goal is to increase your efficiency – getting more tasks done in less time. In the long run, the productivity gains will override almost any initial cost.
Are you ready to scale your content production?
There will be a moment where you will have to decide whether to increase your content production or keep it as it is. If you think other priorities are more important than scaling your content production, there’s little you can learn from this article.
But if you decide to scale your content production, you will need to shift your existing content creation process accordingly.
Today, you learned some of the basics of what it takes to scale your content production. The question to you is, are you willing to make the effort?
Guest author: Ivan Kreimer is a freelance content writer for hire who creates educational content for SaaS businesses like Leadfeeder and Campaign Monitor. In his pastime, he likes to help people become freelance writers. Besides writing for smart people who read Jeff Bullas’ blog, Ivan has also written for sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, TheNextWeb, and many other influential websites.