A bad content marketing workflow leads to countless other problems. It means that your content is unlikely to produce sales and leads, leaving not only your content team frustrated but also the c-suite. We're not about to let that happen.
Your workflow isn't just about the process, people and tools.
It's also about the content you're producing, and why.
This post marks our third and final installment in our series on how to build high-performing content teams. Just a quick note before we dive in, if you think your tools or your team might be weighing you down, check out our other posts in this series first.
- Top Digital Marketing Tools and Techniques for Content Teams
- Developing a Content Marketing Team Structure That Works
In this post, we're going to give you the full rundown on developing a content marketing workflow that is not only efficient but also outcomes-driven. So let's do it!
Table of contents:
- What is a content marketing workflow?
- The impacts of your content marketing workflow
- Why status-based Kanban charts aren’t enough
- Basic template for a content marketing workflow
- [Example] Content marketing workflow template for blog posts
- The 5 core steps in content project management
- The best software for managing your content workflow
- Best practices to streamline your content workflow
- Content marketing workflow checklist
What is a content marketing workflow?
A content marketing workflow consists of everything involved in actually executing on your content marketing strategy:
- Your content project (content types or formats)
- Your content channels
- Your content team
- Your content tools
- Your content schedule or editorial calendar
In essence, your workflow is essentially your process. However, the word “workflow” is favored over the word “process” among content marketers because it evokes more of a focus on the team and the work getting done.
The impacts of your content marketing workflow
Your content marketing workflow can have an enormous impact on the success of your content. The stakes are very high. In a Databox survey, 70% of marketers said that SEO performs better than PPC for generating sales.
Your content marketing workflow can enable your team to produce quality content that drives leads and sales, or it can keep your team continually behind.
A good content workflow offers:
- Content get published faster
- The entire team is clear on their and others’ responsibilities
- More bandwidth for content promotion
- Time savings with repeatable processes and templates
- Higher quality content releases (as things aren’t rushed)
A bad content workflow is associated with:
- Weeks or months to publish an individual piece of content
- Lack of clarity on what everyone is doing and when
- Content promotion tends to get overlooked or done inconsistently
- Time is wasted always having to reinvent the wheel
- Ability to release high quality content
The highest performing content teams have a workflow that actually empowers and harnesses their creativity. Low performing content teams, on the other hand, wrongly assume that innovating new content dictates new workflows—or they accidentally ignore the need to optimize their workflow altogether.
Why status-based Kanban charts aren’t enough
Every information worker has used Kanban charts before. This format relies on status-based project management, so that each task (such as a blog post, ebook, or YouTube video), flows from one status to another.
While Kanban charts can be helpful for content marketing teams to keep track of their content projects (so nothing falls through the cracks), they’re not as powerful as a well-defined and well-documented workflow.
The reason that Kanban charts aren’t enough for content marketing teams is that the statuses are too broad. They don’t match up with the steps required to publish content on key channels, and so team members might get confused on what to do with a piece of content in a certain status, or on what status their project falls under.
A workflow template is a much smarter move.
Basic template for a content marketing workflow
You might want to have a template for every important channel or content type. For example, your blog content workflow might might state that the editing should be done by the content manager while your YouTube content workflow states that the content manager needs to get editing accomplished by a freelance video editor.
Your content marketing workflow template should include the following:
- Information about the channel and goals
- Strategy phase
- Assigning phase
- Publishing phase
- Promotion phase
- Analysis phase
Let’s look at these in greater detail.
Information about the channel and goals
At the top of your template, you should include an overview of this channel so that your content marketing team knows the purpose of the channel and the goal metrics for each piece of content.
What to include:
- The goal of the channel or content type
- How the channel or content type fits into the company’s strategy
- Benchmarks for each piece of content
- Examples of top performing content from this channel or format
In the strategy phase section, you’ll detail everything that needs to be done before a piece of content moves forward in the execution workflow.
What to include:
- What criteria the content needs to meet
- How the content fits into the overall strategy
- The purpose of this particular piece of content
- The starting plan for how the content will be promoted
During this section of the template, you should list out what actions need to happen during the assigning phase.
What to include:
- What skills/rolls need to be involved in each piece of content
- The location of the brief to give collaborators
- What tools or process to use when assigning to collaborators
Include everything associated with publishing during this phase, including reviewing, editing, writing meta data, etc.
What to include:
- Who handles reviewing and editing and when
- What tools are involved in preparing to publish and publishing
- Specific steps and actions that need to happen before or during publishing
One benefit of a well-defined content marketing workflow is that your team will get more consistent with how they promote content.
What to include:
- Channels used to promote this specific content format
- Roles/skills involved
- Tools and actions required during promotion
In the analysis phase section of your workflow template, add everything your team needs to know about how to review the success of the content and where to report it.
What to include:
- The frequency or schedule of analysis (after each piece or monthly)
- What tools are used to analyze performance
- Where results are reported or stored
- Actions triggered by meeting or not meeting benchmarks
Here’s an example content marketing workflow template for blogging, which is among the top 3 most popular content channels.
[Example] Content marketing workflow template for blog posts
Ready for an example? Here’s a content marketing workflow template you can use for publishing blog posts.
The goal for the [Company Name] blog is to bring in targeted search traffic and drive signups for free trials and downloadable assets.
Blog channel goals:
By [date], the blog traffic should be [number] per month and should deliver [number] leads per month.
Individual post goals:
The blog is considered a publishing success if views reach [number] and leads reach [number] within two weeks. The blog is considered an SEO success if the post ranks in the top 5 results of [country] Google within two months and if leads reach [number] per month.
Example posts that performed well on social media:
Example posts that rank in search and continue to drive traffic and leads:
- Solves a problem for our core audience.
- Is not too beginner or simplistic.
- Relates to one of our top-performing downloadable assets.
- Has strong SEO and/or social sharing potential.
- Can be reasonably and successfully promoted with our resources.
- Choose the appropriate content creator.
- Use StoryChief and the StoryChief brief template to assign the content.
- Add item to content calendar.
- Review the blog post inside of StoryChief, adding comments or suggestions as needed.
- Check and review all meta data.
- Add on-brand blog post header image.
- Schedule the blog post to be published.
One benefit of a well-defined content marketing workflow is that your team will get more consistent with how they promote content.
- Create post sets in StoryChief based on 3+ post ideas or quotes.
- Promote the blog on social media over the course of 4 weeks.
- Add to evergreen promotion campaign if the piece is evergreen.
- Schedule an email newsletter to send out via StoryChief at the same time as publication.
Blog analysis is conducted monthly for all posts published the month prior.
- For posts with social engagement of [number] or more, consider running ads to the post.
- For posts with collected leads of [number] or more, consider running ads to the post.
- For posts with leads under [number], consider changing or revising the CTA.
The 5 core steps in content project management
Now that we’ve explored the content workflow template, let’s dive deeper into the 5 core steps:
1. Strategize your content channels
Did you know that content marketing is used by 91% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers?
But without a strategy, your content becomes a hodgepodge mess of ideas and abandoned campaigns. After a year of producing content without a documented strategy, you'll have a huge list of blog posts and podcast episodes without a whole lot of revenue to show for it.
Of course, creating a content marketing workflow takes time and devotion. Content marketing isn't a quick win. But if you fail to strategize, it won't ever be a win.
Content strategy requires these steps:
- Fully understanding your target audience
- Determining your goals for content (in terms of quarterly impressions and conversions overall, as well as benchmarks for every piece of content)
- Reviewing your existing content — what's delivering traffic and what isn't, what's delivering leads/sales and what isn't
- Choosing your best channels
- Coming up with new content ideas based on all of the above and improving the middle of the funnel to be sure that as much new traffic as possible moves through your funnel
If you think the strategy isn't a part of your content marketing workflow, you're wrong. Sorry to be blunt. Considering strategy as separate is how marketing dollars go to waste. Before anything moves to the assigning or publishing stages, it should have been fully vetted.
For every new content idea, you need to ask yourself the following...
- Will it resonate with my audience?
- Do I have a plan for sharing it with my audience?
- Will it deliver the right kind of traffic? Is the topic suited to my ideal customer?
- Do I have a plan for converting that traffic into leads or customers?
💡Tips for strategizing
Your content strategy (who you are communicating with, why, and how) allows you to develop a content plan that you can assign to writers, designers, etc.
To make your strategy foolproof, follow these tips:
- Include senior leaders (VP of marketing, marketing manager, CEO, etc.).
- Get feedback from colleagues.
- Use an editorial calendar to plan quarterly or monthly. This saves time and helps content stay on track with the company's overall strategic vision.
- Also, plan ahead for one to three pieces of ad hoc content (newsworthy or trending items that you want your company to cover for good branding). Don't create more "extra" pieces in a quarter than what your plan and budget allow.
2. Assign content to the right team mates
Now that you know what content you are creating and why it's time to assign content pieces to your team! You need help in creating quality content. Longer, in-depth posts generate 9x more leads than shorter content, and yet 18% of blog posts are longer than 750 words. Get the help you need with content writing and other skills.
Depending on the size of your team and what channels matter to you, you might be working with writers, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, video editors, proofreaders and more.
For some deliverables (like video), you may need to provide more information in your content brief, but at the very least, here's the information to include in your task management tool whenever you assign something:
- Intended audience segment (if you have multiple)
- Purpose (such as generating new leads or nurturing existing leads or educating existing customers)
- Content format, length, etc.
💡Tips for assigning content
Fortunately, since you've taken the first step for your content marketing workflow (strategizing), you're already light years ahead of other content teams. But even still, things can get tricky when it comes to assigning work out to colleagues and freelancers. Here are some tips to make things run smoothly:
- Use a collaboration tool to not only help keep other people on track but to help you remember what work you've assigned and what is still outstanding
- Organize your collaboration tool into a board view with columns that represent your process. Columns might be something like drafting, proofing, final drafting, publishing, promoting, etc.
3. Publish your content
Let's not make publishing content harder than it has to be. 71% of B2B buyers surveyed in 2018 said they consumed content as part of their buying journey. This is up 66% from 2017, meaning the influence of content on sales is clearly on the rise.
If you want to make it difficult to publish content consistently, go ahead and have writers deliver blog posts via Google docs or Word.
But if you want to make it easy, request that writers submit content using a tool like StoryChief, so you can automatically publish it to your blog (and many other places) as soon as it has been approved. This helps you skip the hassle of having to copy and format blogs from the Google or Word docs turned in by your writers.
With content publishing, another important thing to keep in mind is to maximize your content's reach. Don't just publish it on your blog and stop there. Look into opportunities for blog syndication to spread your content to outlets with large amounts of relevant traffic.
💡Tips for publishing step
- For written content, use StoryChief to publish or schedule blog content in the same dashboard where you plan, edit and write!
- Use StoryChief to publish to multiple places at once (Medium, your blog, LinkedIn, etc.) so you don't have to worry about copying and pasting now or about version control later.
- For audio and video content, make sure you have the necessary technical skills on your team. If pushing content takes you (as the content manager or marketing manager) a large amount of time, you are likely better off spending your time optimizing and analyzing content and outsourcing the technical aspects of publishing to an assistant.
4. Promote your content
Like strategy, promotion is another crucial step that so many content marketing teams leave out of their workflows. B2B marketers use an average of 5 social media platforms to share content, but as you'll learn effective promotion is about more than sharing. Unfortunately, only 24% of B2B marketers partner with other companies to expand their audience reach.
Things happen. People get busy. But even still, promotion should always have a place in your content marketing workflow.
Content promotion consists of (but is not limited to):
- Organic company social media posts the day that the content goes live
- Organic ongoing company social media posts for evergreen content
- Employee advocacy: employees sharing content from their personal accounts
- Paid company social media posts to boost views
- Co-marketing opportunities (when content managers share content from non-competing companies in their industry or partner to create content and then both share it)
- Influencer marketer shares
- Press coverage: notifying press of new content so they can cover it and link to it
- Warm and cold outreach for backlink building
You're not expected to do everything on the list for every piece of content. If you've done the strategy phase right, you should have a doable promotion plan in place for every piece of content.
💡Tips for promoting content
- Have two or three tiers of content promotion with a documented process for each tier. For every piece of content, choose which promotion tier it falls under ("standard" or "aggressive" for example) and follow that plan. A standard plan might include organic social media promotion, while an aggressive plan would include organic and paid social media as well as email outreach. For each piece of content pick the right tier.
- If someone other than you handles the promotion stage (such as a social media manager or a marketing assistant), make sure you regularly meet with that person to discuss what forms of promotion result in the most content views and engagement. That way you can work together to improve the promotion plan as you go.
5. Analyze your content results
Analysis is another step that too many content teams skip. Conversion rates for companies who do content marketing are 6x higher than those who don't. But that isn't a statistic you can show to your boss. You need to know exactly how content is impacting your marketing results.
Strategy isn't separate from your content marketing workflow, and neither is analysis. You should be in the habit of regularly checking performance and figuring out how to improve.
Take a look at all of your posts for the last month or quarter.
It's wise to keep an excel spreadsheet for every large piece of content (such as a blog, ebook, video or podcast). The spreadsheet can include the content's URL, target keyphrase, channel, and more to help you do reviews quickly and to also help you find an existing piece of content fast, in case you want to link to it or share it again. Once those basic details are added for every piece of content, you can add additional columns for your quarterly reviews.
Use your favorite reporting tools (such as StoryChief's reporting insights and Google Analytics) to find the following information and then input it for every quarter for every high-value piece of content.
- Unique page views
- Top 2 traffic sources
- Conversion rates
- Time spent on the page
- Number of shares
It might seem like a bit of work, but you'll be amazed at how much you learn during these quarterly reviews. You see what content formats work best, as well as what promotion channels and content topics.
You can see what brings in traffic versus what converts traffic to help you architect better funnels.
💡Tips for analyzing content
Analyzing content results directly impacts your strategy. After this step you reiterate and go back to step 1, so don't skip this part. Here's how to make it a reality:
- Set up a spreadsheet with every large, high-value piece of content. Review performance quarterly. After a year, you can stop reviewing content that is not evergreen.
- Look for trends in: top traffic sources, top channels, audience segments, and topics, including customer goals and customer problems.
- Get help from a Google Analytics guru if you need it. Once you have your review process set up, it will be quicker to run.
- Once your quarterly review process is in place, get in the habit of checking in on big recent projects at the end of the month. Why wait to find out results? If you've invested a lot in a piece of content, you'll want to know whether it's getting traction so you can increase promotion if needed, or pivot those resources to something else.
The best software for managing your content workflow
As mentioned, Kanban charts aren’t very helpful for content marketers. They’re confusing, and can create more work because you have to log everything in the Kanban chart in addition to actually doing the task.
Instead you should use software designed for content marketing.
Look for the following features in a content marketing software:
- Content briefs and assignments
- Works for internal employees and external contractors
- Includes content review and commenting
- Includes content approval workflows
- Can publish content to all of your top channels
- Allows you to manage your content calendar
- Includes promotion as well as publishing features
- Includes content analytics for impressions, views, and leads
StoryChief is a content operations platform that helps content marketers get better results in less time.
Best practices to streamline your content workflow
Consolidate tool usage
This 5-step workflow can help any team get better results from their content marketing, and yet too often, teams skip the most important steps: strategy, promotion, and analysis.
Do you know WHY so many companies skip the important steps?
Because their team is weighed down with the tasks of assigning and publishing. 🤷♀️
But guys, it is not 2010 anymore. Assigning and publishing do not need to be a headache. With writer/editor collaboration, automatic publishing, and instant promotion, StoryChief makes the middle of your content marketing workflow so much faster. That way you can spend more time on strategy and analysis, and get better results overall.
Work well ahead of schedule
The most successful content marketing teams complete content anywhere from one to three weeks before that content needs to go live. (With the exception of rapid content needs for trends of news, of course.)
This provides ample time for task handover, and keeps the engine running smoothly.
Batch all tasks as much as possible (including assigning and promoting)
Make sure that individual collaborators, especially content managers, batch their work whenever possible. For example, a content manager can assign new pieces from 9 am to 10 am, review incoming content from 10 am to 12 pm, and promote existing content from 1 pm to 3 pm.
Document and review your content workflow
Since you’ve glanced at our content marketing workflow template above, you might have guessed the documentation is important.
However, it’s worth mentioning again because many teams don’t document their workflows.
Have a Google doc or PDF with the agree-upon workflow, and make sure everyone on the team has access to these. When there are issues that need to be addressed, you can review your documents as a team so that everyone is communicating on common ground.
Without process documentation, it’s that much harder to make improvements.
Content marketing workflow checklist
Use this checklist to help you create a content marketing workflow that helps your team work smarter and get results:
☐ Your content marketing workflow is documented for each major channel or format
☐ Everyone on your team understands and agrees with your content marketing workflow
☐ Your content marketing workflow reduces the number of required tools
☐ Your content marketing workflow encourages batch processing
☐ Your content marketing workflow includes all core phases: strategy, assigning, publishing, promotion, and analysis
The bottom line? Create an amazing workflow, and you’ll produce better content than faster before.