The key to successful marketing, including content marketing, has always rested on getting the right message and offer to the right person via the right media at the right time so that you grab their attention and interest while motivating them to take appropriate action.
But with new media popping up all the time, and different generational segments favoring different media, success is harder and harder to achieve.
And then there is the volume of messages published online every day – combined with the messages still using traditional media – and you must be extremely strategic and efficient with how and when you distribute your efforts unto your target audience.
Content vs Collateral
Just so we’re all on the same page, let’s define a couple of relevant terms that are sometimes used to describe the same thing – and sometimes used to represent different things.
Content and collateral.
In marketing and sales, collateral has long been considered the collection of media used to support the promotion and sale of a product or service. Examples include brochures, product information/sell sheets, checklists, white papers, guides and more.
Content, for many people in recent years, focuses on digital media used to support the promotion and sales of a product or service. Examples include brochures, product information/sell sheets, checklists, white papers, guides.
For this document, content, and collateral mean the same thing.
What Is A Content Distribution Plan?
Your content marketing strategic plan should have within it a plan for distribution of the content – digital/online content as well as offline content that is printed.
And when you think about it, it’s a critical part of the content marketing strategic plan because it addresses the media to be used – which impacts the content to be created because you want to develop content that takes full advantage of the media’s strengths.
For example, colorful, vibrant images for Instagram. An exciting video for YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and more.
But let’s take the video a step further.
Do you post the video on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram…or do you promote it in your emails? On your website? Your blog?
Can you use the audio track as a podcast?
If you go this route, do you submit this to a podcast directory? Do you use excerpts and quotes with images of the participants in your emails or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social platforms to promote it?
Do you ask the participants/guests to promote the content? Do you reach out to influencers so they can make their audiences aware of the video and podcast?
The truth is that most will create the video, place it on YouTube and maybe include a reference with a link to YouTube – but using the audio to create a podcast? Not that many.
Paid vs. Organic Distribution
Most will rely extensively, if not exclusively on organic distribution. And that’s a great way to start so you can determine if the content is useful with those that know you best – your followers, prospects, and customers.
And to be honest, not all content is worth paying to have distributed.
But if the content is successful with those that know you, paid distribution can be a highly effective way to those that should know you better – those that are like your followers, prospects, and customers but have not yet engaged with you.
That said, test the type of successful content because the more substantial the content – original research report or insightful guides – may see greater success than a 500-word blog post. And more importantly, the more substantial content tends to have more links to related content on your site which leads to enjoying more traffic/views as well.
Another less traveled path in the world of paid distribution is to pay a site to host your content – something you may have seen before as “Sponsored” content on publishing sites.
Data Drives Success & Testing Drives Data
I hate soft metrics – likes, and shares, and views are nice, but they don’t pay the bills.
That said, you need to have clear goals and objectives as well as an efficient process for gathering and analyzing the right data so you can answer the all-important question of “Is our content distribution strategy working?”
As part of the distribution plan, set those key metrics and layout what data is needed as well as how that data will be gathered, stored and analyzed.
And I strongly recommend you focus on metrics like ‘qualified leads generated’, ‘requests for a product demo or trial’, ‘proposals’ and ‘sales’ just because that’s what keeps your paycheck coming each month.
4 Steps To Highly Effective Content Distribution Plans
Getting Your Data In Order
The first step to a highly effective content distribution plan is knowing your audience. Notice the key word here is “knowing” – that knowing them versus have a high-level perspective based on your gut.
If you’re working with a business that has sales history, take your customer data and identify your most successful/loyal/profitable customers. This might be based on data in the past 2-years including number of purchases, average order size, total annual purchases and other factors you feel represents “success.”
Then work with companies like PRIZM or Neustar and create segments/personas. Take a look at the image at the top of this article as a great example of a persona I developed for a public university for graduate students.
Time to Watch and Learn
Next, now that you know where your audience goes for content, go there and become familiar with the platforms.
Who is distributing content on those platforms? What are they distributing – white papers, eBooks, checklists, podcasts, video, etc? And what topics are they focused on? What are the comments and responses regarding those efforts? What content do they use organic distribution only and what content is paid distribution?
You Are Ready to Develop Your Strategic Plan
Once comfortable with the platforms, the content being distributed via the platforms, it’s time to lay out your plan for each platform and across platforms and across media (paid, earned, owned).
When does the content hit the paid, earned, owned and social media? How is content promoted across all relevant media for the intended audience? What are the goals and objectives? What data is needed to determine if the goals and objectives have been achieved or exceeded? How is that data captured, stored and analyzed?
Then, lastly, it’s time to create, measure the impact, analyze the results, modify based on the findings and repeat.