Can the success of British cycling in the last few years be applied to the world of b2b content marketing?

A little tenuous. But let’s explore the back story.

It’s 2010 and British cycling is nowhere. A Tour De France victory or a clean sweep at the 2012 Olympics is not realistically on anyone’s radar.

Except for Dave Brailsford.

When he took over as Performance Director of British Cycling, he took a different path to received wisdom. He looked at the talent at his disposal and asked a question:

Just how much better can these elite athletes really become?

Can we double their performance? Make transformational leaps? Reinvent the sport in the same vein as Dick Fosbury?

Not likely. These guys were all peak performers at the top of their game.

His realisation was that if you could improve everything by just one percent, then those small gains would add up to a remarkable improvement.

So he looked at the whole chess board. Not just the race track.

Special pillows were provided to ensure that the athletes had a proper night’s sleep whilst on tour.

Training was provided for hand washing to avoid getting infections.

Every conceivable marginal gain was identified and improvements implemented.

The fruits of this obsessive labour? 70% of the medals available at the 2012 Olympics. Bradley Wiggins at the Tour De France…

So how does this help us improve the performance of our content marketing?

Take a step back and think about how much time, effort and energy goes into your content production.

Think of your content as the high performing athlete. It has to be remarkable.

Creating content ‘so good you’d pay for it’ is a major investment. But there reaches a point where you need to draw a line:

Just how much better can we actually make this content?

Racing around getting input from 27 internal stakeholders may help with internal politics, but probably won’t double the potency and impact of the content piece.

Switch the focus to identifying the marginal gains. The one percents that all add up.

There is a sentiment kicking around this year that 2015 sees the shift from content marketing to the marketing of content.

Look at promotion not production for the real marginal gains

We can devote all our time and energies into developing content themes and exploring new jazzy formats, but ultimately it’s the sum of the promotional parts where we can make the most marginal gains.

It takes a new level of prioritisation in the planning psyche:

  • Who are our audience? (Buyer persona definitions)
  • What do we want them do? (Conversion goal hierarchies)
  • How do we reach them? (Persona profiles)
  • Which marginal gains are we going to identify and implement? (Experiments and A/B tests)
  • What are we going to give away? (Content themes, formats and calendar)

The list of potential marginal gains is as exhaustive as it can be tedious. Just ask any Conversion Rate Optimisation guru to explain.

So start small. One percent at a time. Experiment and test.

  • Rephrase blog titles to cater for both readers and searchers.
  • Test content packaging formats and descriptors.

We’ve just tested a ‘Free Guide’ Vs ‘Quick Guide’ with a campaign. A 23% CTR uplift for ‘Quick Guide’ seems to indicate that prospects value their time more than their company credit card expenses.

  • Build a keyword profile outside of the Google Keyword Planner. Ubersuggest is a great additional resource.
  • Develop an engagement plan to win that coveted guest post opportunity.
  • Test some new industry authority figures to target with a new ‘Follower’ campaign on Twitter.

Many small experiments

A marginal gains philosophy sits well with the Agile Marketing enthusiasts. Developing marketing strategies around a few large bets and many small experiments.

Content marketing success is a marathon not a sprint. Identify and experiment with a new marginal gain with every content promotion.

No gold medals but still a little piece of glory worth grabbing.

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