In all my years of education and business, I’ve never met a person who genuinely LOVED taking notes – like, couldn’t get enough of it, woke up with a pen and paper in hand, annoyed their friends with their constant note-taking. Most people I know do it out of necessity and obligation; a means to an end.
Something else I’ve learned is that it takes a very unique breed of person to be in love with building processes. Most people begrudgingly create a process, and often only after that process has already been up and running for awhile (for better or worse).
Put these two things together, and what can we assume?
The last thing most people want to do is sit down and write out their process.
So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that in the 2013 survey by Content Marketing Institute, just 44% of businesses said they had a documented content marketing strategy. The hilarious part is that 6% said they were “unsure” if they had a documented strategy.
(Side note: Every stat I cite in this piece comes from this study. Read it when you have the time. Got it? Great, let’s keep rolling.)
Because documenting your strategy is a rather intensive process, I’m going to go ahead and lump those people in with the “No” camp, meaning that 56% of businesses have no strategy written down.
Here’s why that’s bad:
Only 42% of B2B respondents considered their content marketing “effective”, while 84% of those who felt their efforts were ineffective admitted they hadn’t documented their strategy. Conversely, 66% of the most effective marketers said they did.
And perhaps the most confusing stat of all is that 73% of businesses claim to have someone in charge of their strategy. I can only assume that person must be very busy indeed, because you’d think that writing out the strategy would be part of their job description.
One last cringe-worthy stat before we continue…
B2B businesses, on average, throw just shy of a third of their budget (30%) at content marketing, while 58% of marketers plan to increase that number over the next 12 months. You read that right – nearly a third of their marketing budget (and growing) is going to what is on average an ineffective (for 58% of them) and undocumented (by ~56% of them) process.
Something’s gotta give.
Five Perfectly Good Reasons to Document Your Content Marketing Strategy (Even if it’s a Pain in the Butt)
Ready to be hassled a bit? It’s for your own good, I promise. On top of the fact that the numbers show you’ll be more effective, here are 4 more critical reasons you might not have thought of that make documenting your strategy critical:
1. Documentation Encourages Collaboration
Being forced to sit down and write out your strategy includes defining your personas, charting out the buying cycle, mapping out need-states to each point and taking stock of holes in your content with an audit. It also forces you to set goals and benchmarks.
To do that, you need to involve different members of your team, from your owners and management to (arguably the cornerstone) your salespeople and creatives. Put someone in charge and give them the final say – then watch as having multiple perspectives in the room yields far better insights than having a willy-nilly strategy that lives in the mind of just a few team members.
2. Documentation Enforces Ownership, Ownership Creates Accountability
Putting someone “in charge of the content” is rather meaningless until you’ve defined what the outcomes of that role are supposed to be in specific and clear terms.
Writing it all down means creating benchmarks, goals and ideals that the person will need to own and be accountable for achieving. It creates an incentive to track things more closely down the line, and gives the person in the driver’s seat tangible metrics to celebrate and measure against.
3. Documentation Creates a Frame of Reference
Similar to the above, having your strategy in writing gives you the ability to look back a year from now, two years from now or even a decade from now and understand the intent and plan you had set out in the very beginning. It creates a starting point on the map; a means of peeking back through history to see where you were compared to where you are.
When personas evolve, you’ll know how they evolved relative to where you began, giving you the ability to ask “Why” in more meaningful ways. It gives you an at-a-glance way to evaluate how spot-on or way-off your planning has been, acting like a compass for the future.
4. Documentation is Easier to Share than Daydreams
A document is a fast, clear and simple way of sharing your strategy (and all of those juicy components like personas, style guides, benchmarks, key metrics and so on) with your entire organization, without having to call a meeting with the person who has the strategy living up in their cranium. If that person gets run over by a bus, you’ll still have everything they had planned and been responsible for in one place, making it easier for others to carry the torch (or just get on board).
5. Documentation Narrows the Degrees of Separation
64% of B2B marketers outsourced copywriting, 54% outsourced design, 30% outsourced distribution and 13% outsourced measurement and analytics.
Sometimes, even when a single agency is hired to manage your content marketing, they too will outsource components like writing and design. That means that in those relationships, there are multiple degrees of separation between your business and the people actually doing the content work.
No documentation? Bummer, because those people will have to go on heresay and thrown-together briefs and instructions. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a document you could show them to get them on board?
Repeat after me: “Yup.”
Documentation is a Pain… and it’s Essential
No matter how you slice it, nobody (sane) is wildly over the moon about the documentation process. But hopefully, you can see the enormous importance of taking the time to get it right.
So now, my friends, we’ll turn to Nike for a bit of wisdom: