Content Marketing

Content Marketing Strategy, Part 2: The In-Depth Content Analysis — Audit

For an organization that has some content marketing efforts underway — whether it’s a scattered approach or a fully planned program — a detailed analysis of where you are is a great place to start the strategy process (and measure success after you’ve been running for a while).

I divide my analysis into three stages: Audit, Listen and Evaluate. Today, let’s talk about the Audit.

An audit is basically just an accounting of what you’ve done or currently have out there in terms of content marketing. I like to take the near look and the long look back (or What have we done this year? and What have we done this quarter?). It can be as simple as a laundry list:

  • What topics did we have content for this year?
  • What formats did we publish in? (Don’t just think of “permanent” content like papers, blogs or videos — include webcasts and presentations too.)
  • Who were our target audiences?
  • How did we distribute the content?
  • Which “owners” and subject matter experts within our organization participated and produced content?
  • What were our key messages?
  • What were our desired outcomes?
  • Where are the materials now? (Both the external facing homes and the location of any design or production files)
  • What were the key publication dates or events?
  • How much did we spend on production and distribution?

One thing to notice here, is that there isn’t a lot of measurement —yet! Right now we’re looking at the full scope of what’s out there and how things were developed and distributed. It’s important to be thorough, and try to look at all efforts with unbiased eyes. You might already know that such and such piece of content was a huge success and another was a failure, but if you don’t know the full range of what you’ve done, you can’t really do a great comparison to find out why, or look at how you can make changes to get better results.

Next, we’ll take a look at the feedback and measurement to get a better grasp on strengths and weaknesses of the content and the content marketing efforts as a whole.

Content Marketing Strategy, Part 1: Conducting a Preliminary Content Marketing Audit

The first step for any content marketing program is getting a clear idea of what your organization is already doing and how successful these efforts are. This is known as the content marketing audit. Next week, I’ll come back with a post about what goes into a content marketing audit for an established or robust program, but today I want to talk about doing a preliminary audit when you’re looking across your organization and you aren’t sure who has been doing content marketing, which audiences they are targeting, how or even if they are measuring results, etc.


I tried to hike at this lake, Echo Lake in Colorado, with a friend on Memorial Day weekend. But it was still too snowy so we had to move down to a lower elevation for the hike. Consider this the lower elevation version of the content audit, for when it’s too early for a deep audit.

This is what I ask when I’m starting from scratch and don’t know what efforts have been going on throughout the organization.

First, I try to make it clear what I want us to be talking about when I talk about content marketing. You can find my outline of what it means and what it does here and a basic list of definitions I use here. Shared understanding about what we’re talking about when we discuss content marketing is a key first step. (For example, I went into a meeting a few weeks ago where a colleague said “Well, we’ve been doing a lot of content marketing. I mean, it’s all content for marketing.” She then went on to discuss a direct mail campaign that highlighted product features and website copy, neither of which is content marketing as I, and our program, define it.)

After you’ve established that you are all talking about the same thing, the next step is to get a basic idea of who has been producing content marketing materials and what they’ve been doing. I recommend a multiple choice format:

What types of content marketing materials did your team produce in FY2014?

  • We did not do any content marketing in FY14
  • White papers (produced and distributed by COMPANY)
  • White papers (partnered)
  • Articles through owned channels
  • Articles through external channels
  • Blogs through owned channels
  • Blogs through external channels
  • Research reports
  • Videos
  • Ebooks
  • Infographics
  • Webinar or webcast
  • Live event

I created my list based on what I know we do and what’s considered content marketing at my company — your list will vary based on what your organization prefers. I also ask which formats they feel were most successful.

Next, I ask them who their key targets were and include a list of our customer types (again, something that will vary by organization).

I go on to look at what their primary topics were by quarter, if the topics were tied to other marketing efforts (such as an ad campaign or sales initiative), and which topics got the most attention both internally and externally.

It’s only after all of this that we get to the question of measurement. I ask if they’ve been formally measuring and, if so, which methods they’ve been using. This is another good opportunity for a multiple choice question. It’s also good to know if there are additional measures they’d like to use next year.

Lastly, I ask the open ended question: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about your Content Marketing efforts for the year?

Now, I use a questionnaire for a first pass at this because I need to gather information from multiple regions globally and different marketing roles and departments within those regions (Communications, Marketing, PR, etc.). There’s well over 20 people who might be doing content marketing. After I do the survey I either have a global call to talk about results or conduct a bunch of smaller meetings with individual groups, depending on what the situation warrants. If you have a smaller organization, an actual conversation is probably a better/easier way to go. I find that having the follow up conversation is vital because you get to move into the listening phase of the audit, which is where the intel that helps you garner internal support and understand past successes and failures surfaces. I’ll talk about that phase in more detail soon!

Intro to Content Marketing

I’ve been working on revising the content marketing strategy for my company, and as part of that, I’ve been on a quest to educate some of my colleagues about what content marketing is and how it benefits our company. Since programs vary from organization to organization, I thought it might be useful to share our approach here.

What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the creation and distribution of materials that provide value to the customer, with the purpose of building brand credibility, showcasing leadership or expertise and influencing customer behavior. It is a “soft sell” approach, focused on thought leadership rather than product pitches. At its best, content marketing is an integrated part of an overall marketing plan, strengthening customer relationships and sales efforts while promoting industry leadership and insight by delivering the information the audience wants. Content marketing materials can include articles, blogs, videos, papers, social media content and more.

The benefits of content marketing
The sales cycle is evolving, and customers are more likely than ever to do preliminary research before reaching out directly to a company or sales representative. With a thorough understanding of customer desires and questions, our company can use content marketing to build trust and credibility with potential and current customers by providing meaningful, insightful and informative content that enhances our reputation as an industry leader and innovator.

A well-executed content marketing program is not just a reputation- or awareness-building effort. It can create a foundation of understanding that helps both customers and employees discuss our company and our products, technologies and services and make more intelligent and informed decisions. When properly integrated with strategy and communication efforts, content marketing can help provide a framework for discussing the ideas and offers that underlie our tactics and messaging.

For my fellow content marketers out there, I’d love to hear your thoughts on our approach. Is your definition different? Is there a benefit that I missed?