In marketing, as in life, situations will inevitably arise that require a certain amount of scrappiness. And a spur-of-the-moment, quick-turnaround-required content push -- while not ideal -- is a situation you ultimately might end up facing.
Maybe it’s the end of the month, and your boss is freaking out. “We need more leads!” is the battle cry. ”And we need you, [your name], to create and promote some new content pronto so we can generate those leads!"
Or maybe you’re facing that classic, high school-era, “Oh-crap-I-totally-forgot-my-presentation-was-due-tomorrow” scenario, where, for whatever reason, you completely forgot that you were supposed to be launching a content marketing campaign the next day. And instead of confessing to your boss that you messed up, you decide to dig down deep and get this ish done.
For such situations, when perhaps you’re a bit panicked; a bit all over the place; a bit ready to lose it because there are only so many hours in the day and you need to launch this thing tomorrow and you’re on your fifth espresso and you don’t even know where to begin ...
For situations like those, here’s what to do.
Step 1: Assess and Create Your Content (1 Hour)
Ideally, you'll always have a completed piece of content on standby for emergency situations (like the ones I outlined above).
Assuming you do have a piece of backup content ready to roll, your first step in launching a campaign will be to retrieve and review said backup content.
Maybe you keep it in one of those glass cases labeled "In Case of Emergency ...." Or maybe, like HubSpot, you store your backup content deep under ground in a radiation-resistant inbound marketing bunker, right next to your stockpile of blog posts. And Twinkies.*
*Editor's note: HubSpot does not actually have a subterranean bunker filled with marketing resources and Twinkies (but please don't tell Erik, he still thinks it's real).
Regardless of where you store this "emergency" content, you'll want to devote some time to reviewing -- and, if necessary, updating -- that content to ensure it's still relevant.
Specifically, you'll want to be able to answer these questions:
- Who is this content for? Which of your buyer personas are you trying to target with this content?
- What stage of the buyer's journey is your target audience in? The awareness stage, where people have realized or expressed symptoms of a potential problem or opportunity; the consideration stage, where people have clearly defined that problem or opportunity; or the decision stage, where people have arrived at a strategy or solution for that problem/opportunity? (Not sure? Our Content Mapping Template can help you get that all figured out.)
- Does the title of your content clearly convey what the content is about? Have you optimized your content's title for organic search? (Pro tip: Do some keyword research to figure out which phrases get the most search volume. The goal here isn't to keyword-stuff your title, but to make sure you're using the precise language that your prospective customers are using. Tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Planner and HubSpot's Keyword Tool can help.)
Of course, there's also the chance that when faced with launching a last-minute content marketing campaign, you won't actually have any content ready for promotion. In which case, you'll need to create some new content on the fly.
It goes without saying that this is not an ideal scenario. In a perfect world, you should always take as much time as you need during the content creation process to ensure that you're creating something you're proud of.
But alas, we don't live in a perfect world. In some cases, you may not have enough time to create the greatest content, and may instead need to settle for creating content that's good enough.
With that in mind, here are some quick and dirty ideas for creating a good piece of content in an hour or less.
The Blog Post Compilation Ebook
Let "copy and paste" be your mantra for this super simple piece of content.
Start by thinking of a topic that you've already written about on your blog. Then, search through your library of published posts to see if there are a few posts on that topic that you could combine to form a (loose) narrative for an ebook.
I did this exercise just for fun by searching through old HubSpot posts, and within five minutes came up with six posts that I think we could combine to create a decent ebook about QR codes:
- Intro/Foreword: Are QR Codes Dead?
- Section 1: Everything a Marketer Should Know About QR Codes
- Section 2: How to Make a QR Code in 4 Quick Steps
- Section 3: 9 Unique Ways to Generate Leads With QR Codes
- Section 4: How to Track Your Offline Sources with QR Codes
- Conclusion: 4 Mistakes Marketers Make With QR Codes
Once you have your outline, creating the ebook is as simple as copying and pasting the text from the blog posts you've compiled into an ebook template and giving ebook one more round of edits. FYI: My colleagues have created a bunch of free ebook templates you can use for this (and she explains how to use them in this post).
The Audio/Video Compilation Site Page
You can apply the same blog post compilation strategy for creating an ebook to your audio or video content in order to make a site page (i.e. an instructional page on your website).
Run a podcast? Try organizing some of your episodes around a common theme or topic and embed those episodes on your page. You can then write (or record) an introduction and a conclusion for the top and bottom of your page.
Create a lot of videos? It's the same process as above, just embed your videos instead of podcast episodes. (Note: We've tried this "video site page" idea before with our Essential Crash Course on Modern Email Marketing.)
To retain the lead generation value of the campaign, just make sure to put your site page behind a landing page form (like we did with the example above).
Externalizing Your Internal Content
Chances are you use internal content on a weekly (if not daily) basis. Whether it's an excel spreadsheet that you update, a style guide that you refer to, or a checklist that you use to track your work, that content has the potential to be valuable not just for you, but for your audience as well.
Search through your internal content and see if there's a piece that'd be a good fit for a content marketing campaign. If you find something suitable, just be sure to A) remove any sensitive data or company information that you don't want external people to see, and B) add in some instructional copy (or a separate instructional PDF) so people know how to use the content.
Regardless of the format you end up using for your content marketing campaign -- be it an ebook, a site page, or an internal template -- the earlier bullet points still apply: Your content needs to align with your target audience and your content's title needs to be optimized.
You could spend 60 days making your content as pretty and as buttoned-up as possible. But if you skip the essentials, your campaign could suffer.
On the other hand, if you spend 60 minutes nailing down those essentials, you can still run a successful campaign -- even if your finished piece isn't as completely polished as you would've liked.
Step 2: Create Promotional Images (1 Hour)
If your content already has a well-designed cover image or title page, use that as the basis or thematic center for your promotional images (i.e. the images that you'll use to promote your content on your blog, via email, via social, etc.).
Don't have a solid cover image or title page to start with? No problem. You can design your promo images from scratch.
To begin, I recommend coming up with some type of visual metaphor or icon that represents your content's topic.
For example, a few weeks ago I had to design a cover image and promo images for The CMO Guide to Resourcing Your Inbound Strategy. Since the content focused on the resources and tools a CMO needs for inbound marketing, the visual metaphor I decided on was a toolbox.
After about 5 minutes of playing around with a toolbox icon in Adobe Illustrator, I decided it'd look cool to have a bunch of other icons (representing tools and resources) sort of flowing out of the main toolbox icon.
And about 15 minutes after that, I was finished with the flat cover image you see to the right.
Once you've created an initial, flat image for your content, you can use that image -- and the elements that comprise it -- to make all of your other promotional images.
For example, I took that flat image I designed (above), brought it into Photoshop, and used the "Transform" > "Distort" function to stretch it over a 3D image of a book. The end result -- a 3D book with a transparent background -- is now the landing page image for this particular piece of content.
(Note: for a more in-depth look at creating 3D promo images, check out this great post from BetterBlogImages.)
I also took some of the elements from my original flat images and rearranged them to create other promo images, like the Twitter image below:
Wish there were a checklist of all of the different promo images you might need for your campaign, along with the corresponding pixel dimensions? You've come to the right place.
Here's the checklist that the HubSpot content team uses internally to make sure we have all of our promotional bases covered.
- Twitter post image: 1024 x 512 pixels*
- Twitter cover image: 1500 x 500 pixels
- Facebook link sharing image: 1200 x 637 pixels
- Facebook cover image: 851 x 315 pixels
- Pinterest image: 735 x 1102 pixels
*Given our higher posting frequency on Twitter, we typically create (at least) two different versions of Twitter post images.
Not included on the list: You'll also want to create images for your landing page, emails, and blog posts. The specific dimensions of these images will vary depending on the dimensions of your landing page, email, and blog post layouts.
One final (but by no means less important) image you'll need to create: a call-to-action (CTA) image that you can embed in your blog posts and other web pages. Your CTA should clearly but concisely explain what your content is about and/or what people who download your content can expect to learn.
If you need a little help putting this together, we have 50 pre-designed CTA templates you can download for free. (Note for HubSpot customers: you can use our CTA tool to create CTAs for your content. This Academy post will guide you through the process.)
Now, as you're counting up all of these promo images I've listed out, you might be thinking to yourself: "There's no way in hell I can create all of these in an hour."
But just remember: You don't have to start from scratch with each image. Instead, you can copy, paste, and resize different elements to match the different dimensions you're working with.
For example, once I had my landing page image created, it only took about two minutes to incorporate that landing page image into a Twitter image. And then it only took about 30 seconds to resize that Twitter image into a (nearly identical) Facebook image.
If design isn't your strong suit, don't worry. We have some tools and resources that can help:
- No Photoshop? No Problem: 10 Visual Content Tools for Beginners
- 21 Free Design Tools for Marketers on a Budget (Blog Post)
- The Marketer's Crash Course in Visual Content Creation (Guide + Social Media Templates)
- How to Create Top-Notch Visual Content in PowerPoint (Blog Post)
Step 3: Create a Landing Page, Thank-You Page & Kickback Email (1 Hour)
Once you have the creative pieces of the campaign completed (i.e. the content and the promo images), you'll want to move on to the core infrastructure of your campaign: the landing page. And, by extension, the thank-you page and a "kickback" email.
In case you're a bit rusty on how all of those pieces work together, here's a quick breakdown:
The Landing Page
Anyone interested in downloading your content must first go through this page: your landing page.
The typical landing page consists of a headline, some explanatory copy, an image (which we covered in the previous step), and most importantly of all, a lead capture form.
For a more detailed look at the elements that comprise the ideal landing page, check out this "Anatomy of a Landing Page" graphic from our illustrated guide, The Anatomy of Inbound Marketing.
The form on your landing page is the gatekeeper of your content. But unlike Cerebus, the mythical three-headed monster guarding the entrance to the underworld, you don't want to scare people away; you want them to get through. More specifically, you want the right people to get through.
As a general rule, the more fields you include in your landing page form, the fewer leads you can expect get. However, the leads you do get will be of a higher quality overall.
Oppositely, the fewer fields you include in your landing page form, the more leads you'll get. However, those leads will be of a lower quality overall.
So, when setting up your form, think about what the goal of your campaign is: to generate a decent amount of good leads, or to generate a large amount of so-so leads. (HubSpot customers: You also have the option of making your forms more intelligent and personalized by using smart fields and progressive profiling. This Academy post walks you through it.)
When crafting the explanatory copy for your landing page, think about the main takeaways people can expect to get from your content and list those takeaways in a bulleted list. This makes it easy for people to quickly grasp the value of what you're offering.
Also, make sure to remove any and all clickable elements that could distract people from filling out your landing page form. This means no top (or bottom) navigation and no social sharing buttons (you can save those for the thank-you page).
As a final rule, give some thought to optimizing your landing page URL for search. You'll typically want to use the same keyword phrase in the URL as you do in the title of the content. For more information on optimizing URLs for search, check out this blog post.
The Thank-You Page
After someone fills out your landing page form, they should be automatically redirected to a separate thank-you page where they can:
- Download the content you've promised them
- Share that content via email and social
- Navigate to other pages on your site (via the top and/or bottom navigation, which can be included here)
- Move further along the buyer's journey by opting into a demo, assessment, or sales call
Here's a screenshot of a typical HubSpot thank-you page so you can see what incorporating all of those actions/elements looks like:
Notice that the bottom-half of the page essentially mimics the look of a landing page. That's intentional: We're using that valuable real estate at the bottom of the thank-you page to help guide people further down our funnel.
One important point to consider before we move on: Your thank-you page should be as undiscoverable as possible, since the primary goal is to get people to fill out the form on the landing page that precedes it. There are two major steps you can take to keep your thank-you page hidden:
- Instruct Google and the other search engines not to crawl and index your thank-you page (this blog posts explains how to do it)
- Have the sharing buttons on your thank-you page link to the landing page URL, not your thank-you page URL
Once you've created the landing page and thank-you page, the final piece of the puzzle is the kickback email.
The Kickback Email
Also known as a thank-you email, a kickback email should be sent automatically to anyone who fills out your landing page form.
In addition to using the email to thank folks for downloading your content, you should use the email to provide a direct link to your content -- not to the landing page URL, but to the actual file URL. That way, if someone forgets where they saved your PDF, PowerPoint file, or other resource, they can simply search through their inbox to access it again (without having to re-fill a form).
The goal here isn't to provide any additional information, but to simply provide people with the content they've already filled out a form to redeem.
Here's a screenshot of a typical HubSpot kickback email so you can see what I mean:
When time is of the essence, the best way to create a new landing page, thank-you page, and kickback email is to clone an old landing page, thank-you page, and kickback email. If you know a particular layout has performed well historically, stick with it! Just be sure to update all of the copy, images, links, and meta data (like your landing page's title and meta description).
Note for HubSpot customers: Now would be a good time to jump into the Campaigns tool so you can tie all of these elements together and monitor your campaign's performance in one place.
Step 4: Write a "Launch Post" for Your Blog (30 Minutes)
A "launch post" is simply a blog post that introduces your content. It's short, it's sweet, and it lets your blog readers/subscribers know that a new resource has become available.
At HubSpot, we typically use the title of our content as the title of our launch posts, but we also write out the format of the content in brackets at the end so people know what to expect. Here's an example of what that looks like:
Also shown in the screenshot above: the promo image I designed specifically for the blog (which we talked about in Step 2).
Your launch post should reiterate the main points outlined in your landing page, but the copy can be a bit more fun/informal. Try to think of an example of how someone could use your content -- or think of a problem that your content could help solve -- and tell that story as part of your post.
Make sure you link to your landing page somewhere near the top of your post, and then embed that CTA you created (which should also link to the landing page) at the bottom of you post.
Sticking with the same example as above, here's what a blog CTA might look like:
For some more general blogging best practices, check out these resources:
- How to Write a Blog Post: A Simple Formula (Blog Post)
- 5 Free Blog Post Templates (Microsoft Word Templates)
- The Marketer's Pocket Guide to Writing Well (Ebook)
Step 5: Craft a Launch Email (30 Minutes)
Just like your launch post introduces your new content to your blog subscribers, your launch email should introduce your new content to your email subscribers.
Not sure that everyone in your email database would be interested in the content you've created? Not to worry: You can create a list segment that consists of just the people who you think would benefit from it. (Note for HubSpot customers: This Academy post will walk you through the process of segmenting your contacts.)
Your launch email's copy should be brief but descriptive. As was the case with your landing page, you may want to use bulleted lists to highlight the main takeaways of your content.
Of course, the whole point of the email is to drive people to your landing page, so make sure you link to it (ideally more than once). You can also use a CTA image/button to help encourage people to get there.
Here's an example of a typical HubSpot launch email:
Looking for more information on email marketing? These posts from the HubSpot blog can help:
- 19 Quick Tips to Improve Your Email Marketing Subject Lines
- 7 Data-Backed Tips for Sending Better Emails [Infographic]
- 6 Email Tips and Tricks That Don’t Actually Work
Step 6: Create Social Media Posts (30 Minutes)
Remember all of those promo images you created back in Step 2? It's time to attach those to some social media posts so you can introduce your new content to your social followers.
Of course, you could send out simple, text-only social media updates, but considering that social posts that include visuals get 94% more views than posts without visuals, this one's a no-brainer: When promoting new content, you should always attach visuals to your social posts.
Wondering which social platforms you should post to? That really depends on where your audience is / where you've been able to build up an audience.
For example, if you work in the trucking industry, and you know that hardly anybody from that industry is on Pinterest ... don't even bother posting there. Alternatively, you might discover that Instagram happens to be super popular among the trucking crowd. In that case, you should definitely be posting there.
As a general rule (but again, this will vary depending on your particular circumstances), you should always announce your new content on the "big three" social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Check out this SlideShare presentation for some best practices on posting to each of those networks:
Regardless of the networks you decide to post to, be sure to use a shortened URL when linking to your landing page (since the full URL could use up characters unnecessarily).
However, depending on what kind of social publishing software you're using, you may want to set up some tracking links before you shorten your landing page URL. Each link should correspond to a different social network so you can more easily monitor how much traffic each network is sending you. For example, you could make one tracking link to use on Facebook, another tracking link to use on Twitter, and so on.
Note for HubSpot customers: our social media tools shorten links -- and track clicks -- automatically. You can read more about that here.
Step 7: Prepare for Launch (30 Minutes, 29 Minutes, 28 Minutes ...)
Congratulations! Your content is prepped. You've designed some beautiful promotional images. You've spun up a landing page, thank-you page, and kickback email. You've written a glorious launch post for your blog as well as a launch email, and you've crafted a bunch of social media posts so you can share your new content with your followers ... all with 30 minutes to spare!
So, now it's time to push that big, red button labeled "LAUNCH" so you can sit back and watch the leads start rolling in. Right?
Now that all of the pieces of the campaign are laid out in front of you, it's time to make sure that A) all of the pieces are working correctly, and B) all of the pieces are scheduled to launch at the appropriate times.
First things first: If you haven't already, publish your landing page, thank-you page, and kickback email. Then, test, test, test. Fill out the form on your landing page and make sure it redirects you to the thank-you page. Then, check your inbox to ensure you've received the kickback email.
Next, you'll want to schedule your blog post and email to go out. At HubSpot, we typically have these go out on the same day, and we tend to schedule them in the morning (around 7 a.m. EST). We've found that launching earlier in the day nets us more new leads.
You can schedule your first batch of social posts to go out at the same time as your blog post and email, or you can optimize the launch timing for each network you're posting to (if you're so inclined). This post/infographic walks you through the best times to post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.
Of course, you should continue to promote your content across your social channels (and on your blog) well after the initial launch date. Spend some time brainstorming relevant discussion questions that you can ask on LinkedIn. Pull out some interesting stats, quotes, and/or excerpts that you can turn into shareable images for Twitter and Facebook. Think about potential co-marketing partners who could help expose your content to a new audience.
Ideally, you would've planned all of those things out before you launched. But remember: We were operating under the assumption that this was an unplanned, last-minute operation -- there was some sort of content or lead generation emergency, and your deadline was ridiculously short.
With more time, you could've done things much differently. In addition to putting more hours into the production/refinement of your content as well as into the design of your promotional images, you could've ...
- Used marketing automation to add people who downloaded your content into a workflow/email series.
- Planned out (or even written) a series of blog posts related to your content.
- Scheduled social media posts for days/weeks/months into the future.
The good news is there's nothing stopping you from doing most of those things after your launch. (Better late than never, right?)
You should also dedicate time to regularly monitoring and reporting on your content's performance, and -- if performance stagnates -- you'll need to implement a strategy for historically optimizing that content.
But that's a topic for an entirely different blog post. And actually, that post is right here (my coworker Pamela Vaughan wrote it). FYI: The post deals primarily with optimizing blog posts, but you can apply many of the insights to landing pages as well.
One final disclaimer: In this post, I explored the bare essentials of what you'd need to launch a content marketing campaign if you had absolutely had to. For the record, I do not recommend spending a measly five hours on all of your campaigns; you should spend considerably more time to ensure everything measures up to your individual (and team's and/or company's) standards.
So if your boss comes up to you later and says, "Hey I read this post on this marketing blog and based on my calculations you should be creating and launching 10 content marketing campaigns per week!" -- please point your boss to the paragraph above.
Thanks for reading! Have any last-minute or "emergency" content marketing tips you'd like to share? Sound off in the comments section below.