The essential guide to visual content marketing

by Jake Athey, December 12, 2016

Essential Guide to Visual Content Marketing

Recently, I had the pleasure of co-presenting our webinar, The Essential Guide to Visual Content Marketing, with Peg Miller of the B2B Marketing Academy.

The webinar offered a deep dive into content strategy, and included trends and actionable tips to give an organization’s marketing efforts more horsepower. Since these strategies have become so critical to marketing and content pros, we wanted to share them here, too.

So, let’s get started with our essential guide to visual content marketing with an overview of what we’ll be talking about.

5 major components of visual content marketing strategy

Although every organization is different, there are certain things that must be done well in order to have consistent success with one’s content marketing campaigns. As you may have guessed, I’m talking about the five major components of content marketing strategy:

  1. Planning
  2. Strategizing
  3. Executing
  4. Evaluating
  5. Optimizing

We’ll be covering each of these components in detail shortly, but before we jump in let’s take a moment to answer a couple of questions …

What is visual content?

Visual content is more than simple images, videos, documents and creative files, because it carries messaging and context — with intent — to inform or influence a particular action or reaction.

What is visual content

We’re in this incredibly awesome time where we can do so much with visual content to build stronger connections with our audience.

Here’s a representation of some of the top visual content types today. They go way beyond photos and artwork accompanying text heavy pieces. This content carries much more meaning to your audience, and impact to your business.

Your business may utilize a mix of rich content types such as:

Types of Visual Content

As marketers today, we have all of these big content opportunities to deploy different content types for different channels and audiences to tell our story and influence action. And with these opportunities come great challenges, which go beyond the fact that your teams can’t find, access and share the content they need when they need it, everyday.

Digital Asset Management Solves Content Problems

The lack of structure leads to a lack of visibility among other key content creators and consumers, connectivity to other audiences that you want to reach, a lack of measurement into what’s working and what’s not — and a lack of understanding just how well you’re doing as a content pro.

This is no way to work!

Here’s what Joe Pulizzi, of the Content Marketing Institute, has to say: “Enterprises have visual assets all over the organization. They are hard to find, challenging to access, and impossible to share. The time has come when enterprises need to treat visual assets like, well, assets.”

So, just, what makes visual content, digital assets?

Digital assets are professional assets that are:

  • Reusable for different groups
  • Able to be repurposed for different types and purposes
  • Adaptable for different channels and devices
  • Trackable in alignment with your key performance indicators

What Makes Visual Content Digital Assets

For this reason, digital asset management is mission critical in dealing the growth of visual content in all types of content operations, not just marketing. In other words, it’s a key component to success with both your internal and external customers.

CMI Chief Strategy Advisor, Robert Rose had this to say: “It’s as simple as this: the successful content marketing approach of the future will depend heavily on a true enterprise competency to understand, develop and execute smart digital asset management.”

Today’s most successful organizations have mastered the ability to link their DAM systems with their public-facing content marketing strategy, providing the right content at the right time, in a format easily consumed by future and current customers. In other words, DAM has become their content marketing hub, their “one source of truth” for every bit of content.

Content marketing strategy is the core of any high-functioning marketing team, and digital assets are the foundation of all content.

Visual storytellers and content strategists must come together

It’s imperative for visual storytellers and content strategists to come together within an organization to build a cohesive go-to-market content strategy.

Perhaps most important is the creation, storage, organization and retrieval of high volumes of supporting graphics, images, videos and creative source files needed to execute everyday content marketing tactics — all while maintaining brand clarity and consistency.

Nearly every piece of content produced today — if it’s done well — has at least one corresponding image, logo, graphic or video to help boost interaction and performance, which is why …

Digital asset management is the foundation of your strategy

A robust DAM is more than a simple receptacle for your assets. Instead, it’s your content marketing hub — powering the content that builds your brand. It’s literally the foundation that supports all of the work you do with your assets.

If you think of your visual content marketing strategy like building a house, there are several DAM-centric components to keep in mind. Once you’ve laid the DAM foundation (proper system setup and training), sketched out your blueprints (content marketing strategy), and collected the building materials (content inventory), it’s time to begin constructing the home itself (content execution), which brings us to those components we talked about earlier.

Five major components of content marketing strategy

With a solid DAM foundation in place, you can get started with your content marketing strategy.

The content lifecycle process generally includes most or all of the following stages.

Digital Asset Management & Content Marketing Strategy

As you plan your strategy, it’s important to factor these stages into the process and identify the various teams or resources who touch content at each stage. Understanding this allows you to create a more collaborative environment, and get the most out of current and future content creation efforts.

1. PLAN

Getting started with your content plan starts with knowing your content niche and opportunity.

It’s important to clearly define your expertise early in your content planning, because defining your area of expertise very specifically helps separate your brand from the competition.

Your content niche is something you want to own

In the planning phase, it’s important to identify which areas of the market you will own — from a thought leadership and execution standpoint. This will tie back to your company goals or overall business goals, and will cascade from your marketing goals.

As you move into the strategy phase, consider the following factors when planning and documenting your content strategy:

  1. Start with “Why” — why are you trying to achieve your business goals?
  2. Focus on people and process before technology decisions
  3. Think beyond your team; Leverage influencers or customers

How a DAM system can help:

  • Make content strategy, brand guidelines and a content calendar accessible right from your DAM dashboard
  • Track ideas, requests, creative briefs and project timelines alongside your DAM and work management tools
  • Start with DAM Insights to bring your planning and strategy full circle

2. STRATEGY

Next, it’s time to further develop and document the “What” and “Who” of your content marketing strategy. This is a chance to set your brand apart by developing its personality and reputation using content themes built with an appropriate voice and tone, complemented by on-brand images and graphics.

Ideally, your strategy document should cascade from your overall business goals and work hand-in-hand with your branding guidelines document. Here are some guidelines for what to include in your content marketing strategy document:

  • Business goals
  • Content marketing strategy goals
  • Content tilt — areas of expertise and market ownership
  • Direction on tone and voice
  • Recommendations for image use / visual brand
  • Thought leadership goals and/or industry positioning goals
  • Content audit — summary and metrics
  • Content calendar — this may need to be compiled during the execution phase

Write it down!

According to the Content Marketing Institute, nearly 70% of your peers don’t have a documented strategy. Be a part of the high achieving minority and document your strategy.

Define the “What” with a content audit

Conducting a content audit is a great way to determine what content you already have in place or what may be missing. There are several free resources to help scrub the web for your published content.

Although web crawlers can get you part of the way there, much of your existing content is living unpublished in your DAM system or sitting on team members’ hard drives or network directories where it’s difficult to access.

SiriusDecisions estimates that 28% of content is unfindable within an organization. Don’t forget hidden content in areas all over your organization. Be sure to include both published and unpublished content during your audit.

Three key steps to follow in any content audit:

Uncover

  • Inventory — What assets do you have?
  • Location — Where are the assets located?
  • Access — Who has access to them? Who should?

Digital Asset Management Content Audit

You can leverage your DAM software in this regard to see all that you have.  

Ideally, assets live centrally within your DAM as your content marketing hub, but you can also see where assets are published online using asset referrer URLS.

Review

  • Branding — Do these assets present a consistent brand?
  • Consistency — Do the messages speak the language of your personas?
  • Buying stage — Where does each piece fall in the sales funnel or customer journey?

Digital Asset Management Content Audit

You can use your DAM to help in evaluating consistency and messaging with a quick skim of search results for specific collections or criteria.

This is another opportunity to use and evaluate your metadata schema as well.

Improve

  • Gaps — What content gaps do you have at each stage? What gaps do you need to fill?
  • Metrics — How often are your content assets viewed and shared?
  • Results — What actions have come as a result?

Digital Asset Management Content Analytics

Once you track which content has been the most successful, it’s easier to replicate more successful content. For your less successful pieces of content, identify what’s missing, lacking, or off-message to see if you can upcycle this content for better results.

Your DAM can be helpful in this process by using Insights content analytics and engagement score to determine performance across like content.

You can use the following worksheet to help identify ways DAM software can assist with your content audit. And be sure to schedule an annual content audit, so you’re constantly honing and improving your content pool.

Visual Content Marketing Strategy Worksheet

Define the “Who” — Know your customer journey!

Let’s explore WHO you are trying to appeal to with your content.

Remember to take a customer-first approach to your content marketing strategy. Understand the customer journey and buying process. If you have developed personas, choose the top three most profitable personas and make them your first priority.

How a DAM system can help:

  • Embrace persona and customer stages as metadata fields for your finalized content assets
  • Include intended or “permitted uses” as metadata — track it!

3. EXECUTE

In step three, it’s time to define the “When,” “Where,” and “How” of your strategy.

HOW will content get produced (what is our process), and WHEN (what dates and frequency)?

Create a WHERE list of all the various publishing and distribution channels you will use to present your content to prospects and customers.

Execution is the most important stage, and often where companies risk falling flat.

Take a crawl-walk-run approach to your content marketing strategy. Show progress at regular milestones before you commit the team to additional content commitments. Commit to consistency, and use the power of your digital asset management software to help you along!

Practical tips to build your content calendar

When building your content calendar, here are some important things to consider:

  1. Develop overall guidelines with anchor dates, key milestones, and industry themes
  2. Create an inventory of who is creating what types of content for which channels
  3. Build a content calendar — monthly/quarterly/annually — with editorial assignments
  4. Inventory current content and perform a gap assessment

Be thorough, but you do not have to be 100% perfect — this is a living document!

How a DAM system can help:

Moving downstream, DAM can help with execution and distribution in a number of ways…

  • You can create collections for key themes and events on your content calendar.
  • Use portals to distribute assets to different teams of people responsible for different distribution assignments.
  • Set up intended use tracking mechanisms for content deliverables.
  • Leverage structured data (categories, collections, metadata, governance controls) for inventories and gap assessments.

4. EVALUATE

Now it’s time to evaluate the “Why.” After we begin to execute our strategy into our marketing, it’s important to evaluate what we’re doing against our original goals.

Evaluate the metrics you use to measure effectiveness of your content marketing programs. Metrics will vary from company to company, and should cascade from your overall business strategies and goals.

Common metrics

Here are some common metrics we see companies using to measure their efforts:

  • Monthly unique visitors
  • Click-thrus
  • Social shares and following
  • Engagement
  • Content views
  • Name acquisition
  • Conversion rates (marketing and sales)
  • Days to close
  • Annual contract size (ACV)
  • Customer lifetime value

When building metrics dashboards, err on the side of simplicity and brevity. Pay attention to the gems, and repeat the winners. Give yourself permission to stop doing work that is ineffective.

How DAM can help:

When it comes to evaluation, Insights content analytics can be a big help.

Digital Asset Management Software & Analytics

  • Tie content analytics to other business analytics.
  • Integrate content marketing and business intelligence (BI) tools.
  • Track DAM metrics for usage, repurposing and engagement.
  • Leverage Insights analytics to understand top content.

This is a real big trend only expected to increase and we’ll see more linkages of web/content analytics into business intelligence tools.

5. OPTIMIZE

As we learn more through execution and evaluation of metrics, it’s time to optimize our content marketing strategy.

In other words, it’s time to use the knowledge you’ve gained to find a faster path to success, and maximize your best-performing content.

This is a great to time start running at scale. Increase the volume or frequency of your team’s content commitments. As you get better at upcycling current content, choosing the best-performing content and exploiting it through omni-channel exposure, you’ll be able to create more efficiently without having to start from scratch.

It might also be time to experiment with more proactive persona-based content. Remember, DAM software can make this easier if you use metadata to attribute content to personas.

Technology and tools

You definitely want to choose processes and tools that fulfill your business drivers. It’s wise to document your drivers so you don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish along the way.

Here’s a great starter list to help you define what “abilities” your tools need to accomplish everything we’ve talked about:

  • Enable collaboration among teams and partners
  • Create a central repository of finished content and source files
  • Make it easier to reuse and upcycle across all audiences
  • Offer appropriate access to existing inventories
  • Allow for ongoing updates and refresh cycles
  • Establish status tracking and version control
  • Get an overall view of content at all stages
  • Evaluate performance at a content asset level

These are just some of the things to look for in a digital asset management solution, and complimentary content management technology.

Pitfals to Avoid with Visual Content & Technology

Get more info

We’ve covered a lot today. Hopefully you’ve found some practical tips you can implement right away. For even more info and tips, download our essential guide to visual content marketing whitepaper.

essential guide to visual content marketing

Topics: Resources, Featured, Content, Marketing, DAM

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