The HubSpot content marketing machine
The HubSpot content marketing machine

Everyone seems to want to create a perfect content marketing or content machine nowadays. At least if you look at the titles of many recent blog posts and eBooks. Personally we believe it’s better to have a profit, customer experience and customer satisfaction machine but knowing the importance of content marketing, let’s take a look at how to build such a content machine (and what it is).

In a new eBook, (obviously) titled ‘How HubSpot Does Inbound: Creating a Content Machine’, HubSpot promises to explain how the company is able to put out so much content so fast. The secret: that famous content machine. We know you all dream of having such a content machine so here goes: a summary, the usual food for thought and some context/remarks.

A first warning: what works for HubSpot and its’ target audiences doesn’t have to work for you, on the contrary. That’s why the eBook also says “How HubSpot does inbound” on the cover.

Essentially, HubSpot’s content machine is a planned strategic mix of creating a ‘content culture’, targeting and segmenting (including buyer personas) and lots of repurposing as you probably know when you follow the company a bit. It’s certainly a machine that contributed to the culture of noise if you ask me.

The perfect content machine is made of flesh, bones and brains

In the end, HubSpot’s content machine is not a machine of course. And even though the term ‘machine’ seems popular all of the sudden in content marketing, we advise you to think ‘people’, ‘connections’ and ‘human needs and experiences’ instead of ‘machines’. That’s what HubSpot’s secret content machine really is as well: applying a common-sense content marketing strategy targeting and using the right people.

Focus on the collaborative, social, customer-centric and human dimensions of content marketing, spiced with a good dose of strategy, targeting, lead management and processes. The ‘content machine’ title of course refers to the overwhelming volume of content output at HubSpot and that’s a matter of good planning, consistency and solid editorial calendars.

However, again, without people actually making it all happen, your content machine will not work. People (creators, curators, coordinators and most of all customers in the broadest sense) are the fuel of your content machine. And volume is not always what you need to achieve your business and customer goals. Quality and results always trump quantity and volume, unless you maybe want to be a real publisher instead of ‘thinking like one’ as the modern content marketing credo says.

Some takeaways from the ‘Creating a Content Machine’ eBook

  • Get your employees on board. Very true but make sure you get the right employees on board as well. And don’t forget cost of opportunity and ROI. Also look at your individual context. While in general it’s good to involve employees, maybe motivating and rewarding everyone is not really what you need. Remember that HubSpot sells software for marketing and content is all about its proposition. So, don’t build a content machine if you really just need a darn good approach that fits your needs and those of your customers. It’s not about the output as such. BTW: one of the challenges HubSpot had/has in many countries it wanted/wants to grow in is that people perceive the company as a medium instead of a marketing automation vendor.
  • Source your content well, both internally and externally. This cannot be underestimated and HubSpot provides some good tips but it’s still a lot about volume. As a tip to fight writers block, the eBook advises to talk to your support and other teams now and then. That’s good but most of all listen to the needs and questions of your audiences (and their audiences) across all touchpoints. As HubSpot focuses a lot on content creation and output, it also uses newsjacks. If you come to think of it: the sheer volume of content HubSpot creates makes it harder for ‘inbound marketers’ using blogs to get their content and services found in the increasing competition for attention. But the same goes for other solutions and products for marketers too, just look at how Scribe and CopyBlogger rank in search engines for the term ‘content marketing’. Nevertheless: it’s a fact to think about.

The eBook also emphasizes the importance of:

  • The process and internal organization with, for instance, editors and proofreaders.
  • Style guides and editorial calendars.
  • The – obvious – alignment of content with strategy.
  • Experimenting, testing and improving.

The perfect content machine is the one that works for you

If you’re not new to marketing, you probably already know this. However, the eBook does offer some peeks into the company’s own content approach now and then.

To be honest, on top of the mentioned tips much of it really boils down to this:

  • Go for quick content formats.
  • Repurpose and repurpose.

While there’s nothing wrong with that, you have to do it for the right reasons. Repurposing content in a persona alignment exercise or to adjust to channel preferences, for instance, is good. However, don’t repurpose for the sake of being everywhere to avoid marketing and even brand fatigue.

And maybe your customers need more than quick formats. A good way to see the latter two tactics at work is actually the eBook itself. If you want to create many eBooks, follow HubSpot’s example and stop writing lengthy posts as we do. They can all be turned into eBooks with the necessary images, pictures, bullet points and quotes. And make sure you create slideshare presentations as well. Finally, repurpose for social channels, as HubSpot advises. It’s certainly true that social content optimization (or adapting content for social channels and audiences is undervalued)

However, again: in some industries (such as marketing?) this may work very fine, in many others not that much. It all depends: context trumps content. And don’t forget that the ‘middle of the funnel’ (if you still use the funnel model) is at least as importance as the content you need for awareness and the actual buy, so dose and segment really well. Avoid being caught in the reach mania as a B2B marketer. Traffic is one thing, what you do with it another.

So, what’s your perfect content machine? The one that works for your business, goals and customers.

In the end it’s all about conversion as the content marketing machine model of content marketing software vendor Kapost reminds us (and HubSpot as well). Conversion depends on the value of the content and the overall customer experience, across all contact moments that really truly matter for your prospects and customers.

Update: also marketing automation vendor Marketo and Kapost now have their content marketing machine eBook. Although it’s a nice overview of the content marketing strategy and planning process, I keep wondering why marketing automation vendors love machines so much. Don’t answer that.

The content marketing machine by content marketing software vendor Kapost
The content marketing machine by content marketing software vendor Kapost