Stop making content distribution an afterthought
Content as a Product Series - Post 3: How to plan for content distribution upfront and get more impact out of your content
I usually start newsletters saying something like “here’s the marketing problem you are facing and here’s a great solution”. This is not one of those newsletters. I don’t have the silver bullet for content distribution (someone on twitter might tell you they do, but it’s likely not the case). Content distribution is tough. It’s a grind. It takes trial and error to get people to your content—especially the right people.
In fact, content distribution is so hard and mysterious that many people just write content and then don’t even bother to distribute it. They “build it” and think people will just magically come and consume the content. They won’t. If you don’t distribute content, you shouldn’t bother making the content in the first place.
The best pro-tip I can come up with for content distribution: you need to make distribution plans before you even start creating content, and then you just have to do the hard work of getting it out there. And while I don’t have a silver bullet, I do have frameworks to make content distribution a little easier.
This newsletter is part of my series “Content as a Product”. This first post was about creating high impact content, the next about content roadmapping, and this final post in the series is about distribution.
TLDR of the series: Think of content as a product. It’s not the software product you are creating, but it is another “product” for the same audience. Much like you need to “distribute” or “market” your product, you also need to distribute your content. In both cases, you need to create, and put equal effort into distribution.
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Part 1: The content process doesn’t stop after you hit publish
First things first:
Assess if you are putting enough effort into distribution. You’ll probably realize you are spending disproportionate amount of time creating content compared to distributing content.
Assess if your distribution strategy is a fit for your content and your audience. You’ll probably find you could do a better job aligning content to your distribution channels and audience.
To come back to one of my favorite marketing metaphors, to build a successful marketing function you need to produce great fuel and craft a well-running engine (more on fuel and engine in our previous newsletter). While the fuel and engine metaphor applies to all of marketing, it most obviously applies to creating and distributing content. It’s not enough to create fuel and create an engine though, your engine needs to match your fuel. No one wants to end up with an uncharged Tesla at a gas station.
Your content strategy doesn’t have fuel and engine alignment if…
You make content and just hope people will read it
You drive tons of people to your content, but it doesn’t convert…ever
You distribute content on Twitter and your audience is not on Twitter
Your distribution strategy depends on creating more new content than you can keep up with
You make a traditional B2B white paper, when your audience thinks white papers are from 1995 (note: pretty much every audience thinks white papers are from 1995, unless you are building for web3 or lawyers)
The safest way to avoid the “Tesla at the gas station” problem is to make your content distribution plan before you even make the content.
Create a distribution plan upfront
Start thinking about distribution early. Include high-level content details in your roadmap and make a GACC brief as soon as you select what content to create.
Add distribution plans to your roadmap
When it comes to content distribution, make sure you include these fields: content type (e.g. blog post or case study); primary distribution channel (e.g. SEO, communities); if it will have a gated / lead gen component; potential traffic (e.g. high, medium, low).
I detail everything else to include in your content roadmap in my content roadmapping newsletter and content roadmap template (paid-subscribers only - link below).
Create a GACC brief for every piece of content with a distribution plan
The GACC (Goals, Audience, Creative, Channels) brief should be created before you make anything in marketing—planning a campaign, writing a blog post, deciding the focus of an event, or creating anything longer than a Tweet. The second C in the framework, “Channels”, is where you include all the details related to distribution: Where is this content going? What are you making? How is this being distributed? What are the primary, secondary, and even tertiary channels? Will this link to existing assets or be linked to from other assets? (hint: it should be)
Alignment across all parts of the GACC is essential to creating great content that can be effectively distributed. Your goals need to be realistic and aligned with what you are creating and with your audience. Your distribution channels and creative need to align with your audience’s preferences. And so on. So, when writing the GACC, check that your plans all fit together:
Distribution channel /audience alignment: Your audience must consume content on the distribution channels you’ve selected to be successful. Sounds obvious, but I often see this mistake. (Use the audience analysis template - available for paid subscribers at the bottom of the newsletter).
Realistic goals given distribution plan: For example, if your goal with this piece of content is to drive X # of leads this quarter and your primary distribution channel is organic search, that’s probably not going to work out (SEO time horizon is often many months).
How to speed up the distribution planning process
Step 1: Make a distribution channels list
It’s extremely helpful to have a list of your distribution channels—specific to your business, updated and added to quarterly-ish. This gives you a long list of options, so every time you are filling in your content roadmap or writing a GACC, you aren’t scrambling for ideas. Good news, I’ve started a list for you, but it’s not customized for your business. Here’s a sampling of that list (full list and template available for paid subscribers)
Now you have a laundry list of ways to distribute content you create. But, this still might be overwhelming to go through for each piece of content, so I also recommended creating “Tiers” for publishing and distributing content.
Step 2: Make Tiers for distribution plans
Not all content will be distributed the same way and different content demands different amounts of effort be put into distribution. Given this, it’s helpful to create a tiered system. Tiers simply correspond with distribution strategies.
Additional context: In general, I’m a big fan of tiered processes in marketing. A tiered process also works well for reviews of work (since not everything has the same reviewers) and product launches (drives alignment between marketing, product, sales, etc. on the activities that are going to happen for each launch).
Here’s what your tiers might look like for content distribution, you can then indicate on your roadmap and GACC that this is a “Tier 1: Big Bet distribution plan” for instance.
Step 3: Create a “Launch Plan” template for big bets
I talk a lot about doing things that will drive step-change growth–aka big bets. You need to select things that you’re going to try to knock out of the park (sorry for the sports analogy) and that you think can be winners for driving traffic and conversion. These are the things that should go in the “Tier 1” content distribution category.
For these big bets / Tier 1 pieces of content, you will make more assets, in more formats for the same content idea or theme. Then you can distribute it the work in more places. I call this concept mileage.
Treat these big bets as you would a product launch. You should create a full on “launch” plan. This plan is basically a much more in depth GACC.
Additional context: Mileage is our term for taking one content idea and expanding upon it, repurposing it, using the same research to create a new piece of content, formatting it for more channels, and continuing to distribute it. It means doing more with content you’ve already created and I’ll mention it a handful more times in this newsletter. More on mileage in our Content ≠ Blog posts newsletter.
Part 2: How to actually distribute content
Here’s what we’ve covered:
You understand the importance of both creating fuel (content in this case) and building the right engine for the fuel (your content distribution strategy).
You’ve planned for distribution planning—by making distribution tiers and a list of possible content distribution channels upfront—so it’s much faster to make plans for each piece of content.
You're set on making a comprehensive content roadmap and including high-level distribution plans.
You’re more than convinced to use the GACC brief on all marketing work for focus and alignment, and you totally understand what goes in the 2nd C, the “Channels” section.
You recognize that to have success with your big content bets, you need to make a full-on launch plan, much like you would for a product launch.
Now it’s time to distribute. Warning: this might be a marathon, not a sprint. Here are some tips to make distributing easier:
Nail the hand off from the “fuel” team (or person) to the “engine” team (or person):
Often, the person making the content isn’t the best suited to distribute it.
Make sure you have clear handoff processes and a clear owner for the content distribution tasks.
Make an Asana task with sub-tasks for the necessary distribution tasks so it's easy to track. (Would it even be an MKT1 newsletter without an Asana plug?)
Distribution isn’t a one day thing: You need to get mileage out of content and distribute many times. It’s an iterative process.
Create tasks with due dates days, weeks, or months out to remember to redistribute content.
Set a clear cadence for distributing “old” content as you scale
Make a system for doubling down on big bets (I’ll cover this below)
It’s a grind: Sometimes content takes on a life of its own, sometimes it never will be a hit, and sometimes you have to work for it.
Knowing how to identify what might become a hit and having the endurance to make it successful comes with practice…but there are things to look for (keep reading).
Double down on the hits
Identifying the hits
Often marketers do a decent job of distributing content after they hit publish, but then they forget about it and focus on the new shiny thing. Instead, it’s important to identify the content hits and try to get more out of them. Here’s what content you should double down on and how to get even more out of it—using movie metaphors, as content is a game of blockbusters.
For more on how to create impactful content that can become a “hit”, check out the first newsletter in this series.
Don’t just distribute the hits, increase conversion from them too
After you create a traffic driving piece of content, there’s an opportunity to go back and make it a lead magnet too. But after something is a lead magnet, how do you convert those leads into customers?
In short, you create mini-funnels or flywheels off your best content. Much like you’d design an overall funnel for how your audience becomes aware of your company, becomes a qualified lead or free user, and eventually buys or upgrades; you can map this out for individual pieces of content too.
After a lead “converts” or fills out a form based on a specific piece of content you can:
Nurture them with a customized email drip or SDR sequence (if they read something related to a “meetings” feature for example, make a drip about “meetings” specifically)
Make a custom onboarding experience for your free product (Products like Airtable do this will for conversion off a template–the first use experience is specific to that template)
Invite them to a relevant webinar on a related topic or the same topic with an expert guest.
Target them with a targeted, personalized web experience when they come back to your site using Mutiny (I’m an investor, former customer, and big fan).
Make a focus list of published content
I think it’s helpful to have a list of content you are trying to “milk” (“Milk” is the less popular name for the mileage concept).
Make a list of content you want to keep an eye on to see if it should be elevated to double down or tier 1 status.
Think of this like an SEO focus keyword list you want to improve rankings for.
Look at data for each item on this list individually on a monthly basis at least, in addition to looking at content performance data in an aggregate view.
You can create a report for this that includes each piece of content and include sessions, new user sessions, page views, shares, conversion rate, etc. over time.
Create distribution plans upfront—from the time you start roadmapping.
Make a GACC brief to ensure your content idea, content goal, audience, and distribution channels all align—before you start making the content.
Set yourself up for distribution success by making distribution channel list, Tiers, and “launch plan” templates for big bet content in advance—this will save you a ton of time later.
Distribute all content, then monitor for and double down on the hits
Get mileage out of the hits by repurposing, redistributing, and optimizing for conversion
This concludes my “content as a product” newsletter series…for now at least. Become a paid subscriber to access all the templates I reference across the 3 posts in this series.
Templates for paid subscribers include:
Distribution channel & planning checklist
Content, product, and/or campaign launch guide and planning template
Audience analysis template (do this before you create anything)
Content roadmap fields and example
Inventory: Anchor content by funnel stage example
Examples of great content, by type and why
Recommended jobs, links, tools, etc.
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