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I want to ask you to take a break from the “best of 2013” look-back posts. Give the 2014 predictions and trends a rest, for now.

I don’t mean to be breaking up the party, but please, let’s not worry about where the industry has been and where it’s going and look within. If you need to be tuning into a trend, we’ll call this exercise a “selfie.”

After, I’ll get out of your way and you can gaze all you like into the rear view mirror and crystal ball. Sure, those can be worth your while. But the glass I want you gazing into for the next little spell is the mirror.

I have some questions for you, a self-administered exam. I’ll give you specific guidelines, but feel free to interpret as you see fit and be creative. The goal’s very simple: score your current content marketing and use your findings to inform a proactive course going forward. Here goes.

1. How well do you understand content marketing?

Do you/have you:

  • Attend webinars on content marketing strategy and tactics?
  • Read books and eBooks on it?
  • Subscribe to marketing blogs?
  • Attend conferences?
  • Belong to relevant LinkedIn Groups?
  • Get Google Alerts on topics related to your industry?
  • Read the annual report by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs?
  • Have a content marketing specialist on your team
  • Conduct manager and employee training for content marketing?

[Give yourself 1 point for each. Bonus point if you went 9 for 9.]

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2. Do you have a content marketing strategy?

“Align content creation with business objectives and get stakeholders on board with these efforts. Once you have a clear road map, you really are following a strategy.” — Ahava Leibtag, president, AHA Media Group

  • Your objectives are documented.
  • You have specific objectives for different media.
  • Customer personas have been researched and documented.
  • Short and long-term initiatives are in place.
  • Content marketing is integrated with sales efforts.
  • You have a solid grasp of what your competition is doing.
  • You are sharing your strategy across company to build a content marketing culture.
  • At least one personal brand receives focused efforts.
  • You produce big resources to repurpose into smaller ones.
  • You produce small pieces of content to repurpose into bigger ones.

[Give yourself 1 point for each. Bonus point if you went 9 for 9.]


3. Do you have an editorial plan?

You’re a publisher now. You need an editorial plan.

  • You have content for the top of the funnel, the prospect’s awareness stage.
  • You have content for the middle of the funnel, in line with the needs of interested prospects.
  • You have content to convert prospects to customers.
  • You have content to help retain customers.
  • You have content to promote brand advocacy and referral business.
  • You have multiple topic ideas to inspire 6 to 12 months of content.
  • You curate content from authoritative sources.
  • You gather (and publish) content ideas from departments beyond marketing.
  • You gather (and publish) content ideas from prospects and customers.
  • Your content includes plans for paid, owned and earned media.

[Give yourself 1 point for each.]

 

4. Do you have platforms and processes that work?

  • You have WordPress or another CMS in place.
  • You have a marketing automation platform.
  • You have the ability to publishsame-day content when a big story breaks.
  • You have a collaboration platform or tools in place.
  • You have social media monitoring and content distribution tools.
  • You are always on the lookout for tools to facilitate content creation and distribution.

[Subtract 10 if you have no CMS. Score 5 if you do. The remaining questions are worth 1 point each.]

 

5. Do you have a content marketing team? 

In 2014 (organizations) get serious about building out their teams. Structuring and hiring content marketing and “content operations” will be a huge topic. — Jesse Noyes, senior director of content marketing, Kapost

  • You have a chief content officer (CCO).
  • You have a community manager in charge of social media.
  • You have a blogger.
  • You have multiple bloggers.
  • You have a webmaster.
  • You have an analytics expert.
  • You have a search expert.
  • You have partners in place for content marketing.
  • You conduct content marketing meetings.
  • You have a recognition system for notable contributions.

[Give yourself 1 point for each. The same person can wear multiple hats. The person can be you.]

 

6. Do you create a variety of content types?

Companies with 10,000 or more employees use an average of 18 tactics, while the smallest companies use an average of 11. (Content Marketing Institute/MarektingProfs benchmarks)

There’s no magic number, but you need a variety of content marketing tactics to expand your touchpoints and appeal to differing content consumption habits.

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[Give yourself 1 point for each tactic, up to 10. Give yourself a pat on the back if you know which ones contribute to meeting your objectives.]

 

7. Are you taking social media seriously?

  • You have a Google+ account and have integrated authorship.
  • You syndicate your blog posts via one or more networks.
  • You contribute content to high visibility blogs in your field.
  • You promote your content via email.
  • You repurpose content for SlideShare or other high traffic content networks.
    You are experimenting with sponsored content to increase reach.
  • You have blogger outreach program (formal or not).
  • You use news services to distribute press releases (PRWeb, PRNewswire).
  • You are active on social networks daily.

[Give yourself 1 point for each tactic. up to 10. Score up to 3 for 3 or more networks beyond Google+.]

 

8. Do you nurture leads with email marketing?

2014: The target is the inbox and the killer app is email. — John Fox, CEO, Venture Marketing

  • You have email opt-in forms located strategically on your website.
  • You respond to opt-ins with an automatic “thanks” and or “welcome” email.
  • You have landing pages designed to grow your email list.
  • You respond to landing page conversions via email.
  • You have an auto responder campaign (or multiple) delivering topic-specific emails to interested prospects.
  • You have (and regularly send) an enewsletter.
  • You A/B test email subject lines.
  • You conduct surveys via email.
  • You personalize your email.
  • You track the efficacy of your email marketing.

[Give yourself 1 point for each.] 

 

9. Do you have a handle on analytics? 

  • You have and use a Google Analytics account.
  • You have additional analytics resources.
  • You have established metrics including KPIs.
  • You generate reports at regular intervals and share them.
  • You have defined “conversion” and measure it.
  • You closely measure user web activity from search and PPC.
  • You track traffic generated from social media.
  • You know which website and blog posts perform high, average and low.
  • You have a system to determine content marketing costs.
  • You have a system to determine content marketing ROI.

[Give yourself 1 point for each.]

 

10. Do you consistently refine your content marketing? 

  • You kill low-performing programs.
  • You create follow-on content related to high-performing programs.
  • You modify average-performing programs.
  • You get ideas for new content based on facts and figures.
  • You have strategic keyword lists and refine and update them.
  • You evaluate members of the team and look to improve or replace them.
  • You evaluate your processes and look to improve or replace them.
  • You continuously optimize your content and create new internal links.
  • You grade and upgrade landing pages.
  • You segment content consumers and respond with relevant content.

[Give yourself 1 point for each.] 

Add up your scores.
How’d you do? The basic 0-100 grading system should work.

  • A (100-90) – Congratulations. Your company will be rewarded for its commitment and thoroughness. Don’t ease up. 90% of the field is gunning for you.

  • B  (89-80) – Chances are you’re getting results. A hard look at your shortcomings should catapult you into the top tier.

  • C (79-70) – You’re an average content marketer. Average won’t cut it. Get busy. 
  • D (69-60) – Uh-oh. You’re not putting in the work. Take it seriously or go back to buying media.

  • F (59-50) – Your content marketing is a failure. Don’t despair. Be glad you took the exam and make plans to raise your grade.

Quotes used in this post come from this fine presentation by CMI.

Everyone looks to content marketing evangelists for predictions. I have only one. I predict 2014 is the year you fill in the gaps in your content marketing program. 

#CMMinds
Let's hash this stuff out together. Use #CMMinds anytime to make comments or counterpoints, add your ideas and ask questions. I'm listening. 

Content Marketing Minds is a weekly Social Media Today column written by Barry Feldman about content marketing at its best and its worst. Look for the future installments on Thursdays.