Building a Content Marketing Strategy: Assessing Tools

After a few years working on digital customer acquisition, our head of Digital Marketing was able to create a new team to address creating a Global Content Strategy. She asked myself and another colleague to join her in forming it from scratch. We started by creating our mission, taking stock of our assets and defining our future. We then presented our strategy to our business partners and got some great advice. We were the first division in the whole company to have such a team and were taking the lead exploring this discipline for, not only the global Diabetes unit, but for all other business units within Medtronic.

Our team was new, proving ourselves, and tasked on other large website-related projects at the same time. We met with stakeholders across the company to gain input on where the urgent needs were and where they saw the greatest opportunities. Adding to this, we were often communicating with our business partners in other regions across time zones. This didn’t give us much time to brainstorm as a team.

We were managing our action items and deliverables by hand- essentially with shared documents, meeting notes and powerpoint decks. We had several Excel files that we updated to keep track of our content ideas and progress. We would instant message and email updates. New ideas would come up and ideally we would talk about them in our weekly content team meetings and then they would be entered and followed on the tracker. I think many large companies still run content development this way though it is really inefficient, creates duplicate work, and information can get lost.

We knew we needed to nail down our process before we started involving authors from across the company. And we had a big need for instant access to answer questions from management around the status of different projects. Being able to easily see contributor notes, date stamps, content and revisions quickly would allow us to report up and show progress. The content we were creating wasn’t as technical as a clinical paper, but we were certainly aiming to create content intended to add value for physicians, scientists, engineers, investors and patients. The type of content we were creating were articles like a new partnership for manufacturing in China or the launch of new glucose sensors for type 2 diabetes. To get it right we could easily have up to 5 collaborators on a single article.

The process was working fine, but to scale this process would be difficult and there was regulatory risk of important revisions not being recorded. I defined our needs as:

  • Maintain a central repository of content ideas and drafts
  • Be able to hand projects off to collaborators, auto notify when their help was needed
  • Customize a workflow, track status of projects, assign delivery dates
  • Easily report project status/deadlines to management
  • Invite reviewers to make revisions, while allowing the content owner to see revisions, roll back or reply to revisions
  • Allow any team member to submit content ideas, create an outline and seek approval to proceed
  • Define stakeholders for each piece of content

I found some great solutions to our project management challenges. But one stood out after tinkering with it for a few weeks.


“From draft to approval: Streamline your web content production process.”

GatherContent offered a short free trial so we were easily able to see how this software would work for our team. Their product clearly would allow us to manage content in one place, create clear production timelines and responsibilities, tightly control markups, and automatically send due date reminder notifications. GC also had features we didn’t know we needed but loved. The tool allowed us to create a cover page for each piece of content summarizing what we wanted to accomplish with this piece. This would give all collaborators insight into what our core messages and goals were with the content. It would explain why we made the choices we made with each proof point so that others would not re-write or overwrite what needed to be there. For our work we wanted each piece of content to ladder up to our company’s tenants such as “meaningful innovation” so we created a field on the cover page for this. I thought the calendar functionality was exciting with drag and drop for deadline changes. It wasn’t something we necessarily needed because we couldn’t publish this out to non-users (like upper management). Our greatest unmet need was a way to report high level status of all projects to someone who wasn’t a user in the system.

GatherContent Article

The below graphic shows some snapshots of the product (L to R) what projects are active, who’s assigned, and the color box is the status. The second graphic shows the custom workflow and clearly where this piece sits. And last, this is an article detail page where you enter in your headline (and alternate headline options) and the rest of the content/copy and graphics.

GatherContent Overview

But I have some bad news. Not all teams are ready to adopt new processes and our environment was already fully-loaded with processes. We were asking colleagues to contribute content and assist with reviews on top of their existing roles. While the cost of the software wasn’t a big hurdle, we couldn’t get much support from colleagues to adopt the new process. We were really excited about GatherContent but in a large corporate environment, and with teams already slammed with process, we weren’t able to proceed with GatherContent. It was disappointing and we had to find other ways to streamline our work.

Who Wins When Marketing Strategy Conflicts With Sales Goals?

One hint- rhymes with whales. But if we were to turn that answer to Marketing, it would be because those marketing mavens have found a way to turn short term sales into lifetime customers. We may not remember when we started thinking of our customers as acquisitions but it’s time we stopped. We have the tools now to hear consumers individually and broadly- partner with them, create a two way conversation, apply their feedback, understand their current needs, solve their future needs.

The initial abrasion of changing strategies is a challenge and might cause you to miss some KPIs. Now, if you’re a public company and you miss your short term goals (earnings), like Apple did this week, you’ll drop $22 points and have the worst few weeks of your life. If you’re not public, the turbulence is easier braved if you’ve recruited stakeholders to see and implement your vision. You’ll be everyone’s favorite leader again when revenues catch up and build quarter after quarter.

Overcoming the short term reactions and revising goals is all part of change and course correction. It starts with a well-formed focal point on the horizon, followed by specific and tangible goals. And if you don’t want to be the only one headed toward that goal, devising a multi-pronged internal communications plan is key.

Lifetime customers are a win for Marketing and Sales, of course. It’s also a win for the customer.