How to Give a Content Marketing Workshop that Gets Incredible Results

by Marcus Sheridan

content marketing success

About 3 years ago I was asked by my good friend (at the time she was just a reader of this blog and we’d never met) Krista Kotrla to come out to her company (Block Imaging in Lansing Michigan) and help her solve a problem. Looking back, Krista’s problem was a preview of one of the most prolific issues facing businesses and content marketing today, which, in simple terms, is: How to achieve a company vision, culture, and buy-in of this “new” way of marketing (i.e. content marketing).

And to make a long story short, the reason why so many companies have problems when it comes to this shared vision, culture and buy-in comes down to a lack of understanding of 3 essential questions:

  • What is content marketing?
  • How is it done effectively?
  • Why should each individual within the company be a part of it?

When it comes down to it, companies that take the time and effort to ensure their staff (content marketing participants) can clearly articulate the answers to these 3 questions will, in a very high percentage of the cases, experience exceptional results. (see Simon Sinek for more here)

A photo taken at the first true "content marketing workshop" I ever gave to the great folks of Block Imaging.

A photo taken at the first true “content marketing workshop” I ever gave to the great folks of Block Imaging.

But if this shared understanding will ever be achieved, a content marketing workshop is far and away the most important initial step. In fact, as I’ve taken some time recently to truly dissect my most successful clients and case studies, this is what I found:

On average, a company that starts their content marketing campaign off with a workshop achieves over 300% more growth in traffic, leads, and new customers than a company that does not.

In case you didn’t catch that, I said 300%.

Pretty crazy, isn’t it? In fact, one could easily make the statement, “I don’t see how a few hours talking about content marketing would make such a big difference.”

And the truth is, I may have made the exact statement at one point and time. But as with all marketing experiments, the numbers don’t lie. And by this point, the numbers have sent me a clear message that is literally inarguable.

To make my point on this, throughout this post you’ll see screenshots of a few of my clients and their corresponding web/traffic growth after first taking the time to do a content marketing workshop with their staff and then leveraging said employees to produce content.

What Block Imaging has done with content marketing is profound, but it all started with a simple workshop that would set the tone for incredible success ahead.

What Block Imaging has done with content marketing is profound, but it all started with a simple workshop that would set the tone for incredible success ahead, going from <1000 visitors per month to 60k per month in just over 2 years time.

8 Steps to Giving a Powerful and Effective Content Marketing Workshop

Assuming you want to do a workshop with your staff on getting started with content marketing, I have found there are 8 steps that will give you the greatest results—something that I’ve refined after giving dozens of these workshops to companies small and large over the past 3 years.

Part 1: Consumer Expectations have Changed:

In this section of the workshop, the purpose is to shift the mind of each attendee into “consumer” mode. In other words, we want them thinking about the way they use the internet, how their expectations have changed when they are researching and vetting companies online, and the feelings they experience when a website doesn’t give them what they’re looking for.

Part 2: The Way Google and Other Search Engines Work

Here’s a little secret—Outside of the tech/marketing world, a HUGE portion of people do not understand how search engines work. Nor can they articulate how and why Google ranks/shows some sites(pieces of content) over others.

Ultimately, the key to this section of the workshop is to help every person realize the goal of Google is to give its customer (the searcher) the best, most specific answer to their question (or need, problem, query, etc.) in that very moment. At the same time, even though Google wants to give great answers to their customers,  most companies and industries don’t embrace this “teacher” mentality online, and therefore never get the “reward” from Google and its counterparts.

Segue Technologies is doing some pretty amazing things with their content, something that started off in January of 2013 and have since established incredible traffic, lead, and sales growth by leveraging their employees for content.

Segue Technologies is doing some pretty amazing things with their content, something that started off in January of 2013 and have since established incredible traffic, lead, and sales growth by leveraging their employees for content.

Part 3: The Way Consumers Search and the “Big 5”

Most of you have heard me talk about the “Big 5” in the past, but they are essentially the main subjects that move the needle in every single industry, be it b2b, b2c, etc. The Big 5 are:

  • Cost/price questions
  • Problems/issues questions
  • Vs/Comparison questions
  • Review-based questions
  • Best of questions

The key to this section is to help workshop attendees think about all the times they’ve used each one of these phrases while they were shopping/researching online. When done correctly, everyone in the room will be nodding their head again and again once they realize just how often they use the Big 5 in every aspect of their consumer-driven life. By coming to this understanding, they’ll also start to see how the Big 5 greatly apply to their existing prospects and customers.

Part 4: They Ask,You Answer: Group Brainstorm of Content Ideas

In this part of the workshop, the goal is to answer this question: What should we write about?

Instead of making it a science, the key comes down to listening well, hearing the problems, questions, and needs of prospects and customers, and then having a willingness to address each one (be it via text, vide, etc.).

Now that attendees understand the “They Ask, You Answer” philosophy, as well as how this coordinates so perfectly with the Big 5, the next step is to have them apply what they’ve learned by brainstorming questions they receive every day from prospects and clients.

This activity can have a profound impact on all participants, and as you might imagine, is usually dominated by those persons involved in sales, as they are the ones that generally have the closest contact with existing prospects and clients.

Also, I have found this activity works best when the group is divided into teams, creating a fun “competition” of sorts as to which group can come up with the most content ideas/questions.

At almost 200k visitors a month, Yale Appliance is at the pinnacle of content marketing in their industry, but it all started with a workshop at the beginning of 2012.

At almost 200k visitors a month, Yale Appliance is at the pinnacle of content marketing in their industry, but it all started with a workshop at the beginning of 2012.

Part 5: The Impact Content can have on the Sales Process and Closing Rates

Remember earlier where we said employees need to understand “why” they’re being asked to participate in content marketing? Well, this section is a huge deal. As with everything else in life, people want to know WIIFT—What’s In It For Them.

By seeing the dramatic impact great content can have on shortening the sales cycle while bringing in more qualified leads and greater margins—sales people are generally VERY excited about the possibilities this could have on their bottom line and overall job performance.

Part 6: The Reason Why Everyone’s Voice, Talents, and Knowledge are Critical for Success

The essence of Part 6 is very simple—“Marketing” should not be the digital voice of the company. “Marketing” does not have their finger on the pulse on clients and customers like the rest of the company. Therefore, “Marketing’s” job (from this point forward) is to help employees (that actually deal with customers) produce content.

Essentially, upon hearing this each branch of the business needs to understand their overall value to the growth of the company, and why it’s critical the marketing department is able to lean on them for teaching, information, and other pieces of content.

Focusing on windows, siding, and doors-- Southwest Exteriors of San Antonio took the time to involve all their employees in a content marketing workshop to start the campaign, and the results have been constant, steady growth.

Focusing on windows, siding, and doors– Southwest Exteriors of San Antonio took the time to involve all their employees in a content marketing workshop to start the campaign, and the results have been constant, steady growth.

Part 7: The Editorial Guidelines Going Forward

Although this section won’t take up a lot of time, it’s very, very important. If employees are going to be participating in the company’s content marketing efforts, they’ll need to understand what the entire process and corresponding expectations look like. Here are just a few questions/topics that should be covered:

  • Who is the Chief Content Officer? (the title of this position varies)
  • How often will employees be asked to contribute content?
  • What are the different ways in which the employees will be able to contribute content? (text, video, etc)
  • What are the editorial guidelines for a typical blog post?

After employees are done with this section of the workshop they should have a clear road-map in their head of next steps, their individual roles, and expectations going forward.

Part 8: A Look into the Future as to the Impact this will make—Collectively and Individually

This section basically recaps everything that has been covered in the workshop up to this point, including the benefits to the company as a whole and to each employee as well. Also, I find a very powerful discussion point in this last section can be achieved by asking this simple question:

What would prevent this culture of content marketing from working with our organization?

Your Turn

Well there you have it folks—8 steps that, if done right, can make all the difference in kicking off a tremendous content marketing culture with any company—small or large. And in case you’re wondering, I have found this workshop generally lasts between 3-4 hours.

That being said, I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions on this. If you have experience with the subject of content marketing workshops, what would you add to the list? Also, I’d love to hear from anyone that is having trouble getting content marketing buy-in with their organization. If you fall in this category, I’d highly recommend you consider offering one of these workshops yourself, as you now have the steps to success. :-)

Note: I’d like to thank my amazing clients that allow me to show the great things they’ve done with their businesses. To see more of their content, visit their sites at:

Block Imaging

Segue Technologies

Yale Appliance

Southwest Exteriors

Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth Zive February 4, 2014 at

Marcus, these are 8 fabulous steps, without a doubt.

But all of the fabulous information notwithstanding, there is one overarching reason why your workshops generate results.

Buy in.

Plain and simple. If companies aren’t able to establish a sense of investment and buy-in relative to their content marketing effort, it will fail.

And that’s arguably the greatest value gleaned from your workshops. You move companies, very practically, to invest their teams in content marketing.

Critical stuff, IMO.

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2014 at

As always, GREAT points Ruth, appreciate you!!

Marcus

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Krista Kotrla February 4, 2014 at

You are the Jedi master of content marketing workshops, Marcus. We could not have become an inspired content marketing culture without you. You’re the spark!

Your real life examples and story are compelling. And your engaging teaching style and enthusiasm continue to help make it understandable and inspiring. I am soooo thankful for your very first content marketing workshop… and I look forward to seeing many more of them continue to grow more businesses and change lives.

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2014 at

Big smiles KK, thank you!!!

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Jeremy Abel February 4, 2014 at

Hey Marcus,

That’s an incredible outline for running content marketing workshops. Well done on fine-tuning your process to develop such an effective system (and kudos to the success of your clients who are now rocking it with content)!

When meeting with businesses who are new to inbound marketing I’ve followed a similar process- starting with an overview in consumer behavior, how people find businesses, how search engines rank websites, and then gradually shifting into how these businesses can share their knowledge/insights through a company blog to get found *throughout* the consumer decision making process.

The one area I’d also suggest entails using content (either from a company’s blog or other websites) to fuel a brand’s social media presence since many consumers discover brands’ products/services through social media as a result of having subscribed to a brand’s page or with the help of their social connections’ activity. While I’m a much bigger proponent of investing in content creation on a platform you own (i.e. company blog), I believe social networking sites can be seen as tool for amplifying the reach of all the great content being produced (that’s the icing on the cake after you’ve convinced a business that content marketing is an imperative since their customers are looking for answers on search engines).

Again, excellent post Marcus. I was half expecting to see a SlideShare version of your outline at the end of this post (similar to the Laws of Content Marketing) – you’re setting the bar higher and higher :)

Keep changing lives,

Jeremy

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2014 at

Dude, sorry for my late reply on this but really appreciate the comment. It’s funny you mentioned the slideshare thing, as it’s something I’ve got in the works! ;-)

Cheers brother!

Marcus

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Vinay kakumani February 5, 2014 at

Hi Marcus, i am really thankful to you because you gave me a wonderful article about content marketing. I am really impressed with the 8 steps, moreover that ‘big 5′

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2014 at

Thrilled they’ve helped a bit Vinay, best to you!

Marcus

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Bank Exams Easy February 5, 2014 at

I agree with you for the the Part 2, as Google is been changing consistently and so as other search engines…! And the rest of the points are interesting as well…!

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David Zadareky February 5, 2014 at

As always, great info. A quick question on your case studies… In your case studies are any of the clients using paid promotion to attract more visits, or are they only using organic SEO?

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2014 at

The green you see in the charts is organic SEO traffic David. The red is pay per click.

Hope that helps and good luck!
Marcus

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Doug Kessler February 5, 2014 at

Brilliant.
Thanks for sharing what you might easily have considered your proprietary intellectual property.
Now I want to go run one.
Or maybe first attend one of yours…

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2014 at

Sorry for my late reply on this Doug, but thanks so much for the kind words. I hope you use this piece again and again :)

Marcus

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Antoinette February 5, 2014 at

I’m on the run … Have to have one and be done!

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faisal February 8, 2014 at

this is very helpful post.
you deliver very great article it was very helpful for me and other like me.
thanks for sharing this great article

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Donna Krizik February 10, 2014 at

Hi, great information, thank you for sharing. Is there a legend for the charts? I want to be sure what the different colors represent. Thanks.

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2014 at

Thanks for bringing that up Donna, I should have mentioned that in the post. Green is organic search traffic. Red is pay per click. Dark Blue is direct traffic. Yellow is referral traffic and aqua is social media.

Hope that helps a bit!

Marcus

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Alexandra Nicola February 11, 2014 at

I actually think that even if you don’t have the budget to organize a content marketing workshop it’s absolutely important to have at least a meeting to discuss this aspects. It should be the first step when a company decides to apply a content marketing strategy and you gave great points to start from here, Marcus. Thank you!

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2014 at

Alexandra, very good point. What we’re really discussing here is a principle of shared vision and buy-in. There are many ways to achieve this, some big, some small.

Continued success and thanks for stopping by!

Marcus

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David Zadareky February 11, 2014 at

Rock on! We just had our first content marketing workshop via webex and I think it helped the team understand our objectives more clearly. I’m happy to share the powerpoint content with anyone that wants it.

https://rmxevo.box.com/content-marketing-workshop

We also recorded the the workshop to show new team members when they come on board.

The biggest breakthrough was showing the team how the whole process works from content creation, to publishing, the promotion, to tracking, to salesforce integration. Now everyone knows; 1. why it’s important 2. how it’s done 3. how they each benefit.

A great suggestion. Thanks Marcus!

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2014 at

David, that is AWESOME news!! Totally stoked for you!!

Marcus

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Brittany February 13, 2014 at

Wow this is a great outline for online marketing! It really was nice to read and understand some problems that other people have faced that I have been facing as well! You give great tips and ideas and I’m very glad I read the article.

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Hannah March 14, 2014 at

Thanks! This was great reading as I’ve just been asked to give a content marketing workshop and was looking for some ideas of how to go about it – absolutely perfect.

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