What do content marketers need to be successful?

The 7 essential elements for better content marketing ROI

You’re a content marketer in 2021, there’s a war for attention among your competitors (they are, of course, all creating content as well), and you’re trying to figure out how to win. How do you set up for success? We’ve spent the last few years obsessing over the tools the best content marketers use — or wish they had used — to stay ahead in a landscape where content is a commodity. 

We’re not talking about creation tools (at this point, they’re table stakes). We’re talking about staying so aligned with your audience that you know what’s on their minds. You intuitively understand what they need from you. You can nearly predict what they’ll be sharing, or googling, or consuming. We’re talking about turning that data into action, quickly and meaningfully.  Here are the tools content marketers most need to do that:

  • A Framework to Find Your Reason for Producing. Most marketers have a hard time getting their colleagues to see what they see: An audience that’s overwhelmed, conserving their time and energy only for the most relevant information. We’ve worked with many teams that struggle to get peers to understand how critical it is to start with an audience need (not a corporate desire) and work backwards to find the reasons for producing content in the first place. The existential question “What value am I providing to the audience I’d like to engage with?” must first be answered and embraced by your team.
  • A Strategy for Uniqueness, then Consistency. The next tool is a strategy for setting your brand apart from its competition and staying on a growth path that’s true to that plan. You must be unique to be noticed; you must be consistent to gain a following. Like your product or service, your audience wants to know you for something, and they will expect that consistent delivery in your content. (Some examples: day-in-the-life features, advice columns, bold statement op-eds).  
  • A Regular Pulse on Your Audience. What is your audience talking about on social this week? What are they searching for on Google? Has their online behavior changed from last month or a year ago? What content are they reading from news organizations? What are they commenting on? All of these questions are critical to answer on a regular basis. One of our newest products in beta is a data-backed, analyst-filtered pulse report, which helps clients find real insights in crowded search and social environments. 
  • A Data-Informed List of Concepts. How do you triangulate all of these signals into something that’s on-strategy, necessary and interesting? You need a regularly generated, detailed list of the best content ideas for your audience, that takes into account the top three frameworks (your audience’s behavioral signals, your strategy and your goals). This “pitch memo,” as we call it, should be a menu of content ideas, formats and rationale to power your content creation efforts.
  • A Network of Creators. Having the best data to create the most informed content is great, but who’s actually going to bring it to life? We strongly believe having a diverse network of reliable creators is the way to stay relevant to your audience. The most successful marketers have access to a fully vetted, briefed network of writers, videographers, photographers, illustrators, animators and other creatives who can make their dreams a reality, and can be quickly pulled into new projects.
  • A Distribution-Minded Packaging Process. Anyone who started life as a web producer knows how much muscle it takes to mold a raw piece of content into something that will rank in search, be shared on social, embraced by your sales team, etc. The most successful programs focus on the grind to get to the glory: unglamorous elements like metadata, multiple headline options, subheads, email copy and social copy you need to fulfill your strategy.
  • A Measurement Framework that Makes Sense. Finally, we need to prove all of this is working. Only 1 in 10 marketers are sure that their content efforts contribute to business growth, which hurts our hearts. Marketers need smart dashboards and regular analytics reports — along with informed discussion on what the metrics mean for business, and how to improve them. We also deeply believe in quarterly look-backs that tie your content outcomes with your business goals. These tools help guide short- and long-term decisions (What should I promote in email vs. on social? What types of content are most engaging? What topics are resonating at what times of day/week/month/year?). And they help us and our clients remain focused on the ideas and outcomes that matter most.

Imagine this list as a system: It sings once it’s all in place, and it’s forever strengthening itself by learning more and more about your target audience, then feeding those findings back into the process. R

Interested in speaking with us about applying these tools to your organization? Drop us a line.


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