Content marketing has taken hold in the integrated marketing world – becoming a key component in marketing strategies. According to Demand Metric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads. Because most of your new members have researched and reviewed content prior to joining your organization, your content marketing strategy should be active and visible whenever your audience is searching.

Associations and Association Management Companies (AMCs) are experiencing major disruption due to the complexity and the skill sets required to master successful content marketing strategies. While they’ve been doing content marketing, is it a formalized strategy? What elements are missing? Too frequently, associations make content marketing unnecessarily hard. AMCs must drive these strategies across multiple association types and a wide variety of industries and professions, which makes integrating content marketing even more challenging. These six elements of content marketing strategy are important to keep in mind:

#1: Perform a Content Audit & Archive without Hurting SEO

Every year, associations should inventory their content, where it lives, its relevance and traffic and if it should be archived. Revise, republish or archive stale content. Most content management systems (CMS) allow you to hide or un-publish content, removing it from a website and making it unsearchable (but available as a record). Each department within your association can conduct an audit to ease the load.

#2: Scale Your Content Marketing to Budget, Goals & Realistic Resources

As you create your marketing budgets, plan for writers and content distributors – people who know and understand SEO, social media, and website content structure. While content marketing takes time and resources, the benefits are starting to outweigh those of traditional methods. If you need to scale back on the amount of content produced and distribution methods, focus on the platforms that will yield the best results. Marketing Land has three scenarios for scaling content. Its third scenario focuses on organizations with limited resources and focused on a single or few social media platforms (I recommend this scaled-back approach for associations with limited resources.) Once you have a focused plan, use the time and resources to help your valuable content get repurposed and spread organically.

#3: The Definitive Guide to Content Calendar Planning

Buffer has an incredible guide on how to produce a content calendar to organize social media efforts. In addition to tips (what to include, how far ahead you should plan, etc.), it has a hyper-visual outlook that provides a birds-eye view of what’s ahead. I use an Excel template of all marketing activities with tracking metrics and would be happy to share it; just email me: jsheehy@bostrom.com. I also use Trello and Basecamp for a few clients where volunteers and virtual staff are involved heavily in the effort.

#4: Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is an example of the real person who buys, or might buy, your membership, programs or products, based on what you’ve learned from direct interviews with real buyers. Think about how much associations survey their membership; you may need to tweak those surveys or make a few calls to build a persona — but it’s well worth the effort. Personas include:
• Personal or organizational circumstances that cause a prospective member to join, attend a meeting or buy a program/publication/certification.
• Results a prospect expects to achieve by engaging with your association.
• Barriers prospects face about engaging with your association.
• How your prospects are influenced.
• Aspects of other associations they find valuable.

#5: Thorough Creative Brief

Marketing agencies produce creative briefs; associations should too. Who knows your members better than you do? Because content is key to integrated marketing, set aside time during planning to build briefs for content that prospects/members will use to decide about membership, meetings, programs, and/or products. A creative brief is the basis for communications; it is the agreed-upon focus and expectations for all stakeholders. A creative brief will include: objectives, primary audience (and their personas), tone, key messages and… always always, always: a call to action.

#6: The Pitfall of Rework

Planning a content marketing strategy ahead of time will make your overall effort more productive, relevant and lead to better implementation. Jed Simms, founder and co-creator of TOP (Totally Optimized Projects), says 30-35% of project time on average, is spent on rework, including revising reports, revisiting decisions, redoing work, correcting errors, checking again, and repeating steps. Simms shows that reducing the need for rework releases 15-20% of project time for productive work. Associations can gain an amazing amount of time just by planning, setting roles and responsibilities, laying out workflow and approvals, and letting the work happen without misdirection and revisiting the strategy only to end up at the start.