How to Set Up a Content Strategy Without Getting Overwhelmed [Podcast Episode]

Amanda Milligan
By Amanda Milligan
November 10, 2020

As a marketer, you have hundreds of options on how to craft your strategy.

 

Getting the best ROI is about prioritizing what you should work on that will give you the most value.

Michelle Ngome, founder of Line 25 Consulting and the African-American Marketing Association, came on the show to share her tips on how to choose the appropriate marketing channels and approaches, especially for those who are working on their own or in smaller companies.

 

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Want more advice on how to get the best content marketing ROI? Sign up for our monthly podcast newsletter to get exclusive access to bonus interview content and resources!

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why you should consider your own site as your first client
  • How batching your work can make you more efficient
  • How competitor research fits into prioritization
  • The importance of consistency in executing your strategy

Related links/resources:

Transcription:

Amanda: I'm joined by Michelle Ngome, a marketing expert who founded a marketing firm, Line 25 Consulting, and the African American Marketing Association. She's here today to talk about how marketing strategist can set up a content plan without getting overwhelmed. Welcome to the show, Michelle. 

Michelle: Thanks for having me. 

Amanda: Of course. So, I've always said and thought that one of the hardest parts about marketing is the prioritization. Because there's so many different routes you can take, so many channels, tactics, that can be really overwhelming to nail down what is going to be most effective for you. So, before we dive into everything, I wanted to ask if this is something that you've struggled with, have you run into this issue where prioritization is tough?

Michelle: Absolutely, I think more so the timing of it and then my brand has grown, or I've created other brands. So, then it's like, which one's priority? One thing that has worked for me, and I need to do a little bit better is I get a lot of people that reach out to me online, MichelleNgome.com website. So, now the guest post should serve as my blog. So, I mean, so takes time to post it. But, you know, not as much time as it would take me to write something for probably about 30 to 60 minutes. So, I've had to find different ways to become creative with content, because I really do think content is king and we just have to expand how we leverage content.

Amanda: Can you talk a little bit about your experience in the past and provide an example of like one of these types of marketing plans that you've built, either for yourself or for another company?

Michelle: Yeah. So, in the beginning, I started my company in 2013, just trying to figure it out, really just focusing on social media. And I realized that I was actually getting clients because of the work I was doing for myself. So, I always consider myself the first client, like, I'm not I prioritize my work before my clients’ work, because that's how I get clients. So, I really got fixated with the thought of thought leadership or the path of thought leadership. So, I wrote a book, I did a podcast and then from there, other people are like, I want to start a podcast. So, I was fortunate to work with Dr. Reagan Flowers, who has a nonprofit on STEM, costume cast. And the thing with that, the beauty in her project was she had the content, she had the expertise, she had the recognition, but not necessarily the technical ability or taking the time to figure it out. So, we launched a podcast. And from there, it's like, well, what do you want to do? Like, what do you want to convey? My whole thing and I know you speak a lot of personal branding here on this show but two things that are important to me is like, what is your core message and what platform do you want to create, right? So, we did the podcast route, and she was like, everyone knows, I'm a STEM advocate, so we need to interview people on their career choices within STEM and that's all we did. And I was like, okay, well, who are your guests? How many guests? And then we just got to the calendar, schedule those out, the interviews out, as well as the release dates, creating the system. You know, podcast is appealing because people like oh, I have to just pop in my friend. But it's like, now, it's what's going on behind the scenes, right? Once we start recording, it's when the real work comes in. So, I've been fortunate to, in the past, manage a few podcasts with professionals that really want to hone in on their thought leadership within your industry.

Amanda: Got it. So, you kind of touched on this already but I want to come back to it. Like what's the very first thing when somebody is like, okay, I have to build this content strategy? Let's say, they have nothing, like they're new at a company and they have to come in and say, where do I need to prioritize, you kind of touched on, you had a core message you wanted to deliver and is that where you started?

Michelle: Yeah. So, what is your core message? What are you known for? What do you want to be known for? You know, where you are in that stage. From there, what is your preferred platform? So, we have blogging, podcasting and video, right? I believe you have to play to your strengths. From there, it's like okay, so we know what we want to say, we know how we want to say it or the channel we want to say it on, right, and we get a little bit more technical, right. And I like to tell people to start with the topics. One of my favorite tools is Ahrefs, I like using their keyword explorer, because when you type in the key word, it will give you some of the top 10, well, it'll give you top 10 questions that are being searched, right? So, I can take those questions or rephrase those questions, and create a content list. From there, you know, if it's a blog post, we can, you know, just start writing, you know, outline the, when I say writing, I mean, like going in a spreadsheet, listing the topics, putting dates, assigning them to individuals, etc. If it's a podcast, it's a little bit different, you might have, you might start with your guests, like, who are the people I admire that I would like to interview and then next to that, you have their expertise, you can reverse it, maybe there's topics you want to address, and then you find those people within your network and then once again, schedule it with potential dates. Podcasting is a little bit different, just because you're corresponding with two people and trying to align those schedules. But once you get that system in place, and I also encourage people to batch their process, if possible

Amanda: What do you mean by that?

Michelle: So, if you can set aside about two to three hours, in a week, or at least one time a month, and kind of knock out certain tasks, I think that's great, right. So, if you can knock out three or four interviews, on Thursday, or say four or five interviews on a Thursday, that's pretty much your episodes or your articles for the month, you know, if you release it on a weekly basis, but you dedicated five hours that one day to kind of take care of all of that, right, and you do your part, you can put it through the system, if you're delegating tasks to different people, or you can just, you know, automate it through WordPress, and, you know, social media platforms, and etc. So, I really believe in the batch process, I think it's efficient. I think that's the best method. We're all, well, to each his own, but I understand, we're all busy. But I do encourage a lot of my clients to batch the process as possible.

Amanda: It's funny, you mention that, because I've come to start doing that myself. It helps me, not only focus on those tasks for those few hours, but it gives me a sense of what I can actually achieve and helps with prioritizing. Like, if I think, like I record on Thursdays for this podcast, I know how long that's going to take me, I have other days where I write articles, and I have a better sense of when it's not scattered and filled into my schedule, I'm like, this is how long these tests take me. So, when I am prioritizing, I have a better understanding of what my schedule looks like.

Michelle: Absolutely. And look, I had to learn the hard way when I started my podcast, because I would have a flex schedule. And I'm like, I'm trying to rush home to interview this person or is making special accommodations for certain people and I was all over the place. And I was like, Michelle, this is not going to work, you know, pick a day or two out of the week  and schedule, block of time, and people just have to get in where they fit in.

Amanda: So, I want to go back to something you mentioned a little earlier, which was this concept of, depending on where anybody who's listening is at their company, it's, some people know what they're already known for and some people are trying to make themselves known for something that they're, have no like, kind of authority in. How did those two paths, like how does the strategy look different, for whether you're trying to kind of double down like, I guess, let's start there, like say you kind of have a sense that you're known for something, how can you verify that? How do you actually know that you're already effectively known for a certain topic?

Michelle: Yeah, that's always a tough situation for side-preneurs or side hustlers. I always tell them, you know, try to find a group of people that can validate your, which you are known for, whether you send a text message, or you put it on Facebook or LinkedIn, like, hey, what do you know me for? Let's see what their responses are. I actually had one of my good friends, she text me the other day, I want to say yesterday, and she was like, if you could hire me, what would you hire me for? Because she's trying to figure out what kind of course she should create, you know. So, hopefully you have a core group of professional friends or just, you know, friends, co-workers within your network that you can tap into and then if you're feeling really bold, you can put that on social media and see what the responses are. But if you are starting from scratch, and I'm saying like if you are, I want to say something off the wall. But you know, if you're a known as an HR professional and you want to sell religion based t-shirts, you know, it's like, okay, so how are you going to, you know, I like to say galvanize the troops, how are you going to validate that? Once you validate it, what's the buy-in? You know, and I would encourage people, like, maybe you need to start sharing some quotes on Facebook and Instagram, right? Like, how are you going to come across people? I've been very fortunate to do everything marketing related. So, now I'm like, I'm just all things marketing. But I understand everyone's, they have passions that they want to pursue, just know if you're going to go rogue, which nothing's wrong with that, it just takes a while to climb up that mountain.

Amanda: Yeah, I can definitely, it would be tough, but not impossible. So, how does that translate to like companies? So, say, if you have a new brand, like maybe you have some clients who are newer, and they are trying to break into a certain industry, whether our competitors, like how do some of those lessons for individuals translate on the brand level?

Michelle: Yes, I think you have, companies have to do a lot of spying, right? I don't think they look at their competitors enough, in my opinion. I think like, oh, yeah, they're out there but they don't really go into the system and kind of figure out, okay, what are the platforms that they're leveraging? What are some of their media mentions that they've received? And I know, there's some great programs like SEMrush, or maybe SpyFu, that marketers can use to see what their companies are doing, at least online, right? So, once you figure out what your competitors are doing, it's like, okay, well, how can I be different, right? So, that kind of goes into a gap analysis, I think sometimes like, oh, well, I want to do this, which is fine. But are you doing this because it sounds good and it's a hunch? Are, you know, what's the research behind it? And lots of times we've researched what we want to do but, we don't research what our competitors are doing, right? So, I think it's important to research our competitors, find those gaps, and try to provide that solution to your audience. Because when your audience is looking, that's what's going to make you different. All right, so when I was working at the law firm, my boss was fixated on backlinks. And I'm like, okay, and you know, there's only a handful of link legal websites and so once you get these 20 to 30 websites, it's like, we have to tap into the business websites and we have to write business content. But one thing I had suggested, I was like, you should podcasts or if you don't want, I say you should be a guest on podcast, because they're going to link back to your website and all that type of stuff. But that's a time-consuming process. And I was okay, well, you should advertise on particular podcast, because it's going to link back to your websites. And in this case, a couple years ago, as a podcaster, I think we're kind of bias, everyone's like podcasting is still new. But my thing is, I was able to suggest that because it is rare for attorneys to be featured on other shows, right. And I base that on, you know, my searches in Google podcasts, Apple podcasts, and things of that nature.

Amanda: So, a really important distinction that you're making, because I think people are aware that competitive research is important. But sometimes they try to replicate what they're doing, rather than looking for the gaps like you're saying, and trying to figure out where they can speak to their audiences in a way that their competitors are not doing. Is that where you start? It's kind of two questions. So, in terms of prioritization, since that's what we're trying to get out here so that it can be less overwhelming. Do you start with that competitive research side? Is that like a good place to begin exploring those options?

Michelle: I think so. I think it's research in general, as well as competitor research. The research in general is kind of like, what is going to go into this process, right, when trying to figure out, you know, all of the information, all of the data, you know, or that you need to know and then from there, you take that and you create the system's, you know, the instructions and the systems you need in order for you to operate effectively. And then the competitor research, once again, is to see, obviously, to see what they're doing and more so a gap analysis, that if you do find that gap, that hole, you're able to provide a solution to it. So, one thing, I will love to work with this client, just came across them yesterday, as far as the time that we're recording this and I'm like, this is 14:59 [inaudible] product and I was like, this is great because there's something new. There's nothing like this out here but you need to do X, Y, Z, right? You have to do more outreach; you have to get more media attention. Like no one knows about you, you have this great product, and no one knows about you and this is my industry and as of right now, I don't see that you have any competitors, right? Like, I could have a field day with you as a client, like, there's just so much potential, you know, but I know that because once he introduced himself to me, I started Googling, you know, I started Googling off with keywords, and not necessarily his company or his brand, because it's so new. And I think outreach is important as well. So, it's kind of like you're digging, you're digging, digging and then you're sending emails to your audience\ potential ideal customer, like, hey, what are you doing, what are you working on right now, of course you formalize it. But, you know, what are some of the problems you're having or, you know? And I think I have a solution. But once I get that feedback from you, I'm able to tweak that solution. And this is a content show, right? So, it's like, what is the best way that you receive your information or how do you like to receive your information? So, you also want to make sure you're, so content is pretty much the digital communication to your audience, right? So, you want to make sure you're reaching the audience the way they want to receive information.

Amanda: When it comes to these, especially when you're like, internal at a company, and you want to do some of these longer term tactics, I think it can be scary sometimes because you know, you might not know, for a while if it was worth the effort, right? So, how can somebody feel like they're comfortable prioritizing something? I mean, podcasting really is an example of that, you might not see for months and months, like the real payout of it.

Michelle: Yeah, I think that's the thing about marketing. I think that's why people are so scared when it comes to marketing and putting their dollars by marketing. It's like this black hole. And lots of times when people start to market, it's in a sense of urgency. I'm like, look, we all have rent due on the first, I get it. But now, it's going to work necessarily, depending on your product service, and the price level, and all that kind of stuff. So, I think we have to have an understanding of, you know, what is the so-called ROI and how long will that take? But also, asking, within your system asking your client those questions like, how did you find this? You'll be surprised on how many people don't ask that question. And asking that one question and having those options or hearing that feedback is going to let you know what you need to double down on, right? So, it's like, oh, I googled you, like, okay, great, maybe we need to spend some money on PPC, right. But oh, I read the blog post. Okay, great. Maybe we need to write two blogs a week, and obviously, for sharing that more and more social media, and maybe things go viral. So, that is so important, and it goes overlooked. It gets overlooked. And also, word of mouth is important, too and I don't think, we don't give enough credit for that as well.

 

Amanda: Those things are harder to track. I mean, you're absolutely right, everybody should be asking their current clients or customers how they heard about them. But like word of mouth, maybe sometimes, like even for me, I see the leads we get Fractl and sometimes people say, okay, we heard about you through so and so but I know a lot of the time they've heard about us, but they don't even remember like the original time that they did or who introduced them.

 

Michelle: Yeah and that's the thing and you know, has to, like, take seven times to make a brand impression. And that's true. And we, as a consumer, we definitely have our own vetting process. Like I just bought something and I was on the website for weeks, the tab was just open, and I was looking at competitors and the competitors had free options, but I decided to spend $150, you know, and that was through a Facebook ad. So, I think, like that simple question is so important, because unless you know what the next move is because if you're, if people hear you from word of mouth, it's like, okay, well, do we need to  offer a referral program? You know, or maybe we need to send a thank you card, to especially if it's a client that you have in your system, you know, maybe you need to send a thank you card to that client. You know, so there's little things like that that can enhance your business, because people or certain marketing tactics are allowing you to stay top of mind.

 

Amanda: So, to sum up what we've already talked about in terms of prioritizing, if you're sitting there thinking, I don't even know where to begin. One way is to see how it's already working and amplify those efforts. So, if people are saying, we're hearing about you via blog, like you said, double down on it. So, that's one prioritization. And then another is to dive into that competitive side and see what your competitors are doing. and explore that's a little more creative, I would think that you have to try to find these new messages\ channels that are different, that can reach that audience. So, if somebody picks one of these, or both of them, ideally, they're able to pick some efforts, and they move forward. What do you do like check in? So, we're talking about how these are long term and so scary, how do you like check in to see, okay, this is going well, or I want to make some tweaks, or I want to scrap this altogether?

 

Michelle: Yeah, so I think this is where the metrics come into play so, it's important to create those metrics in the beginning there, in the planning, the strategy phase, because then it's easier to track, depending on what you're doing. You know, just reviewing those numbers on a weekly or a monthly basis, finding, hopefully a right platform that's going to allow you to track that information or consolidate that information. Because a lot of it is provided on, honestly, Facebook, Instagram, Google Analytics, Google My Business, there's so many things depending on how you have your setup, it's important. And I think when you're able, after three months, you're able to get a good idea of the progress you've made on all of your marketing efforts, if you're tracking it, effectively.

 

Amanda: Three months? That's good. I think it's just good for people to have a gauge of when they can expect to see a direction.

 

Michelle: Yeah, you start seeing a trend in three months, like you'll see stuff in a month. But I think after three months, you kind of start to see the trend and then from there, you can decide on how you want to allocate funds, time, resources.

 

Amanda: So, you mentioned the tools, I feel like that's a whole separate side that can be overwhelming, there are so many options. So, many, not only are there so many tool options, there're so many things you can track. And you're absolutely right but it depends on the goal you set out. Like, how can somebody, they figure out the strategy and now they have to figure out how they're going to track the strategy? How can they keep from getting overwhelmed the bed stage? 

 

Michelle: Oh, my God, I don't know if you can, to be honest. I don't know if you can, it's a lot. I tried to use as many Google products as possible, because they just have so many free products. So, there's Google Analytics for your website. Of course, the social media products, for the most part, you know, those insights are free. When we started getting into niches and expertise, I know I mentioned Ahrefs and SEMrush, those are both $100, a piece, a month, you know? So, depending on the tools, that can be costly, and that's just the marketing aspect, we're not talking about other business operations that play a factor. So, you know, I think just like anything, kind of, find as many free items and free trials and kind of build slowly and work your way up because marketing is expensive and we already talked about investing in that black hole. So, just allocate your resources the best way possible.

 

Amanda: So, starting to wrap things up, I want to go back to, kind of the overall discussion of how to prioritize and feel good about moving forward with the strategy you're building. Are there any other elements? We talked about how you continue doing what you're good at, you look for new opportunities. When you're building this out, we had talked before the show about like consistency, and how that needs to be a factor in how you're prioritizing because presumably you have to be doing anything you choose to do on a regular basis for it to work. We talk a little bit about how consistency plays into these decisions and any other elements that you think are important to think about at the beginning that should go into any strategy building?

 

Michelle: Yeah, consistency is important. So, with that strategy, you want to create, you know, a content calendar or some kind of plan on how frequent and on what days you will be posting. You know, this is blog post, website, podcast, through Apple or video on YouTube. Like especially once you start building an audience, they look forward to this content. So, you want to make sure you deliver, on the same day and hopefully the same time, so be mindful about that. Make sure your team is also aware of that schedule. Even for the newsletter, same thing as well. So, make sure you have people assigned, you can automate certain things, about social buffer and a couple other tools. And I had to learn this from a very old boss, and he said the cream always rises to the top. I was like, what does that mean? But the consistency, because there's so many people that will fall off, that allows you to rise, not that you're doing anything better, it's just that people fell off. And I know there's a lot of, I think people underestimate social media, they're like, depending on your business, they're like social media, there's a brand-new business. And I'm like, yes, but you have to stay consistent on social media, because more than likely your competitors are not consistent on social media.

 

Amanda: Yeah, it goes back to the whole long game thing, people bail out a little too soon. If that month point hits them, like where are thousands of followers, or I haven't gotten any money from this and they abandon it. And it's kind of sad when you're the person who advocated for it in the first place.

 

Michelle: Yeah and then clients look at that, clients look at who has the most recent website, or social media pages and things of that nature, like, okay, they're up to date, I can give them a call or reach out to them and kind of go through that process.

 

Amanda: So, can you offer any words of encouragement to people who are building content strategies, and are a little nervous about, maybe even having imposter syndrome about the whole thing? What would you say to them?

 

Michelle: I would say, you have to start, start where you are and then you can make progress. I think lots of times we try to plan to perfection, which we have no idea what perfection is because you never started. So, start where you are, make progress. If it's a podcast, start recording on your phone, you know, and then go from there, you know, whether it's your laptop, or things like that, start writing yourself, and then you can hire other writers, but you have to start.

 

Amanda: God, I know that to be true just in my personal life, so many things I want to do, but I just don't start them, that's the hardest part.

 

Michelle: 27:23 [inaudible] to make progress.

 

Amanda: You got to literally start. Oh, man. So, just to add on to that quickly, there's a little more pressure, I think, when you know that you're being beholden to results at a company, right, if you're working internally, what advice do you give to those people who are a little nervous about like, yes, just getting started, but how can they kind of like continue to get that buy-in as things progress?

 Michelle: Well, if you're in a company, I encourage you, like, do your work, do your work, work well, build rapport with the leaders, the decision makers, also get the team on your side. If you have a group of people, you want to make sure that you're a united front? And also, figure out what appeals to your boss, right? So, if they're a numbers guy, you know, make sure you have those numbers, the dollar amounts and all that type of stuff. If they're an emotional person, make sure maybe there's some type of social cause or, you know, something that pulls on the heartstrings to win them all over. So, try to find a way to appeal to their emotion or how are they operate, that way, when you do make those presentations, hopefully, you go in there and come out winning

 

Amanda: Awesome. So, Michelle, knowing the objective of the show, who do you recommend to be a future guest on the program?

 

Michelle: Yes. So, I have my good friend Henry, he just came out with a book called The Marketing Pivot, A Practical Guide in a Downturn. I think he will be a good guest. I think, honestly, this pandemic has shaken everyone. But I'm here in Houston, you know, we avoided a hurricane earlier this year, so I think crisis comes in a different form. And we, you know, everything doesn't have to be a global crisis when it comes to affecting our business.

 

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. Before I officially let you go, I realized I didn't mention your podcasts at the top of the show, tell people about your podcast so they can listen.

 

Michelle: Networking with Michelle, it should be next to yours on Apple, I don't know.

 

Amanda: All right, Networking with Michelle, check it out everybody and thank you so much for being here. 

 

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