What can marketers learn from gardeners in spring?
Like gardening, content marketing is a long slow game.
Spring is when gardeners plant trees. Now is a good time for marketers to plant content trees.
Take the long view. The work we do now can pay off for years and years.
Plan your work and work your plan.
Update your marketing plan, just as gardeners update their landscape plan each year:
- Think about, what are you trying to transform over the long term?
- Write down your content marketing mission.
- Write down your content marketing strategy.
Scrutinize every inch.
Marketers, look at your content assets as a gardener would. Examine every inch to see what’s going on. At least once a year, walk the land to take a hard look at everything, wondering:
- Are the plants in the right place, getting enough sun?
- Are they getting too crowded?
- Where do we need to clear and prune?
- What to plant in bare spots?
Consider each piece of content you offer today, its performance metrics and analytics:
- Which content should you keep?
- Which do you need to cut or clear out?
- How competitive is it?
To find out, perform a competitive content audit.
Move content that’s been overshadowed to sunnier locations. Link old content to new content that performs well, and vice versa. Rearrange content to build a simple, logical path to purchase for buyers.
Plant content trees.
What ideas do you have for long-life content? The big ideas that could grow larger year after year are your content trees.
When’s the best time to plant a tree? Ten years ago. The next best time: today.
Start with big elements first. As the biggest elements in a landscape, trees and shrubs take the longest to get established. It’s the same with content trees.
Carefully pick the best spot for each tree. Make sure it’s a place the tree can grow into, to avoid having to move it later.
Think about which kinds of trees you want to have. Ornamental (or shade) trees make the place pretty and inviting. They’re nice to have.
Good marketers also plant trees that bear fruit – in the form of sales pipelines, customers and revenues. They’re need to have.
Gardening and marketing demand patience. In my garden, I’m replacing shade trees with fruit trees.
This spring I planted 7 new saplings – honeycrisp apples, persimmons, paw paws, and a Chicago fig. Right now they look like pitiful little sticks in the ground.
It will take 3 to 5 years for the new trees to produce fruit. In the meantime, they need work — constant pruning, watering and care — and the faith to keep going.
Enrich the soil to strengthen everything.
What global actions can you take to improve all your content? Gardeners take global actions, such as adding compost to enrich the soil and mulch to protect the plants.
Start where you are. Make the most of your existing content:
- Make long-form content into bite-sized content.
- Collect little bites of content into an E-book.
- Make blogs into a series of videos.
- Turn PowerPoints into SlideShares.
Edit all your content to make it easier to read, and reach a wider global audience.
Rewrite content to make it all speak in one consistent brand voice. If you haven’t defined a brand voice yet, now’s the time.
Share content with friends. Which content can you remix and share as guest posts?
Balance evergreens, perennials and annuals.
Start with content that affects the most buyers over the long run — your evergreen content.
One benefit of a great editorial calendar is that it’s easier to attain a good balance of evergreen, perennial and short-life content.
Balance your content to get better results over time:
- Start with long-life content that yields repeated harvests.
- Add perennial content that lives 2 or more years.
- Keep content fresh with news and curated content.
Diversify your content.
How can you diversify your content to make it more resilient?
My new fruit trees replace 3 ash trees that all fell prey to the same invader – emerald ash borers. So, they not only bear fruit, but they also add diversity and resilience to the garden.
I diversify big time in the garden with a wide variety of fruit trees and bushes – including apples, pears, Asian pears, peaches, plums, cherries, persimmons, paw paws, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants.
To create your own garden of great content, answer every customer question. One question well-answered can yield results year after year, the way asparagus can yield for 20 years.
Success in the spring depends on doing the right prep work over the winter.
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.