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Doing more with content: how tagging can help you survive a downturn

Abstract image representing tagging content

Downturn. Headwinds. Rough patch. Turbulence. Slump.

Recession. (Gulp.)

Whatever label you put on the current economic…pickle, the truth is that companies across the world are quickly adapting their revenue-generating strategies to match. 

How marketing teams think about your content should adapt along with them. 

Don’t get me wrong, content creation remains vital, but we need to rethink how to better engage audiences with existing content to deliver more direct value in a shorter span of time. 

That’s where content tagging comes in. By taking stock of the content you already have—whether it’s all living in one place or scattered across the web—you can use it to create engagement engines that defend from (inevitable) churn, bolster cash reserves, and even accelerate your sales pipeline. 

A comic graphic plotting "pressure to show value of content" against economic headwindsThere are no guarantees in life, but tagging is one small step you can start implementing today that can make a big difference to your ability to execute meaningful campaigns over the long run. 

If you want to learn exactly how to do it, jump straight to our blueprint for getting ‘er done. Otherwise, let’s dig a little deeper into why taking the time to plan is so important right now.

The marketer’s pickle: same challenges, intensified🥒

Marketing in a downturn differs by degrees, and not in kind, from the better times. If you ask people about the common marketing challenges they face in good times versus the bad, you’ll get very similar answers. 

Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough people. 

  • Not enough money—because as the market gets softer and profits shrink, budget cuts across the company become necessary. This is usually done with the best of intentions, but a smaller purse puts pressure on marketers to pay closer attention to their investments.
  • Not enough time—because a renewed focus on revenue is accompanied by a stronger sense of urgency. Marketers may be asked to compromise on processes, quality standards, or even company values to deliver more results, faster. 
  • Not enough people—because hiring freezes and layoffs make it difficult to find the talent you need. Some specialists are indispensable, but marketers often find themselves stretching to cover skill gaps on their team. (“Hey social media manager, you can handle all our SEO too, right?”) 

You’ve heard of a vicious cycle. I call this the tragic triangle. Without money, you lose people. Without the right people, you lose time. And–if you’re not laser-focused on returns–without time, you lose money. And so on. (Cue the sound of a toilet flushing.)

An illustrated version of the tragic triangle

In all cases, your team faces diminished resources. If you’re a content marketer, you’re likely to be more accountable for mid and bottom-of-funnel performance than you’re used to. Other teams across the organization will similarly be pushed. Whatever your role, though, you’re on the hook to do more with less.

Proving your worth—internally to stakeholders and externally to future customers—should be your focus in tough times. So your content is going to need to work it, baby.

That’s where content tagging and planning comes in.

Content tagging: your blueprint for revenue-generating content

How does “doing more with less” translate to content?

The goal here is to serve and upcycle the content you’ve already created to drive go-to-market in the most efficient way possible. Let’s be clear here: this shouldn’t require a ton of overhead. It shouldn’t be more work, just different work than you may be used to.

You’re not building out an inbound strategy meant to foster growth for the next ten years, after all. You’re after more immediate gains. Even if you’ve never taken steps to centralize your content, as long as you’ve got material of good quality at hand, you can follow these steps to plan out content experiences that serve the bottom line in ways that’ll keep your bosses happy.

1. Get a grip on your existing content

At a moment’s notice, can you recall 60-70% of the content you’ve created in the last 3-5 years? If you can, hey, you either work for a very young company or you’ve been in your job for a while. 

For the rest of us, content planning starts with an audit or assessment of what you’re working with. This exercise will be most effective if you pair a list of your content with some performance data. So, if available, I’d recommend exporting from your tool of choice, whether that’s Google Analytics, an SEO tool like ahrefs or SEMrush, or Uberflip Analytics

Here’s an example of a doc I put together for Uberflip, pulled from our analytics tool:

Screenshot of a content assessment document

Call me childish, but I like switching to big fonts and adding color coding. It helps when I need to explain it to less analytical stakeholders as well. (“Red bad, green gooood.”)

If you’re staring down the barrel at twenty years of content, the raw export may look quite messy at first. But remember, the goal here isn’t to clean up every single thing you’ve ever published. That chili recipe your founder posted to the blog for some reason back in 2008? Ignore it. 

Instead, you want to get an overview of your best performers, the stuff you’ll have the most success with repurposing and feeding into your campaigns. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Look at top-of-funnel performance metrics like unique page views, sessions, or new users. Click-throughs to the content, especially from organic sources, are also an indicator that the topic of the piece is likely resonating.
  • Take a look at engagement metrics like time of page, bounce rate, pages per session, and how far down the page your visitors are scrolling. 
  • Track conversions or click-throughs on CTAs and links to product pages or important pieces of content further down the funnel, like gated content, webinar sign-ups, etcetera. Content that inspires continued, down-funnel engagement is rare but extremely valuable.

Having 100 or more pieces of content ready to go is a good start for a medium-sized organization with 2-3 segments or personas to target. If you’ve got enriched data or want to dive deeper into attribution, feel free. But remember the point here is to get a quick and dirty overview of the content with the most potential, so don’t spend too much time.

2. Make a tagging structure that works for your needs

Next, you’ll want to come up with a tagging structure. This is just scratching the surface of what you could do, but at Uberflip we started by creating a structure that answers some of these questions:

  • Who’s this content for? What accounts are being targeted? Tag content by buyer persona or ideal customer profile. Tag it for a segment of your audience. Tag it for specific verticals. The idea, regardless, is to be able to identify who it’s for at a glance in a way that fits your current segmentation strategy. 
  • Where in the funnel is this content situated? Tag content for TOFU, MOFU, BOFU, etc. You can also use awareness stages, or buyer and customer journeys together. Choose whatever framework here makes sense for your goals.
  • What’s the format? What channels are being used? If you’re creating content across a lot of different channels or in different formats to grab your audiences’ attention, you can also make that clearer for yourself by using tags. 
  • What’s the topic? Titles aren’t always that helpful, so tag with broader topics aligned to your editorial and/or marketing strategy. This will also help you see how each piece of content relates to the others.
  • What’s the use case for your product being discussed? What specific product or feature is being showcased? What benefits are you highlighting? What solutions are you offering? These could be separate sets of tags, or you could pick one. 

In the end, you’ll want your team to sign off on a diagram like this one:

A sketch of a content tagging structure answering the above questions

A single column of labels is purely organizational–it’s like dropping a document into a folder. That can be helpful for an overtaxed content manager, sure, but it’s not what we’re after. You're labeling pieces that make sense for your best customer groups, common verticals, and stages in the buyer journey, so you can target and engage prospects with more relevant content further down the funnel. 

Imagine, for instance, you were running a prestigious, Ivy League clown college. (Hey, I guy can dream, can’t he?)  Individual pieces would get multiple tags depending on their content, with an outcome like this one:

Two examples of content labelled using the tagging structure above

At this point, try to lock in as much of your tagging structure as possible. We’re after immediate wins, but it makes sense to anticipate longer-term strategies. 

3. Use your content tags to help map out campaigns

You should have your list of content and you’ve got your tags ready. Now we’re ready for the good stuff: tagging your top-performing and most recent content, then mappings content destinations for go-to-market campaigns on the fly. Content tagging might seem like a chore, but what it ultimately lets you do can be magical. You're a wizard, Harry.

If you’re working from a spreadsheet, build this out by creating columns for each category of tag, then sorting as necessary by one or more columns. Unless you’re very crafty with filters and pivot tables, you will have to deal with a little manual sorting, but it’s totally manageable. 

Take a look at the example below for a fairly unsophisticated way of doing this:

A Google sheet with content tags added

At Uberflip, we’ve been more recently using a go-to-market matrix devised by Randy Frisch to dig our way out from under a mountain of previously under-used but still quite excellent content. (You can access the matrix, along with Randy’s instructions, if you follow that link.) 

Though it takes a touch more learning, it allows for more robust tagging and automates much of the process, including letting you add multiple tags to multiple pieces of content at once. It also pulls content on the fly into campaigns. 

Plus, it just looks nicer, y’know? More profesh.

A screenshot of the GTM matrix

Whether or not you’re using a matrix or a spreadsheet—and whether or not you take the next step by using enhanced tagging features in your content platform of choice—this tagged resource allows you to quickly conjure up the right content based on your campaign’s need. 

Our clown college, for example, might make it a goal to drive enrollment in a particular class (say, Contortion Skills 101). Using tags relevant only to this goal, they can generate swathes of content on the fly.

A "who-where-when-what-why" formula like this one can help you think it through:

An example of the formula

The output here, ideally, would include a list of content pieces that speak to the target prospect (aspiring clowns in the circus industry) interested in a particular topic (getting into really small cars) that connect to a particular offering (the class). Clowns, man.

This list can then be narrowed to match the channel or marketing program it’s supporting. 

An important side benefit of this planning is that it highlights content gaps. These are the places you should prioritize for immediate production. You can always return to that original spreadsheet to see if there’s any existing material you’ve missed—or, better yet, if there’s something that can be updated. 

Using your content tags to plan campaigns

Now you’ve got everything labeled, there are several things your team can do to support and scale your go-to-market activities. 

I won’t go into great detail today—stay tuned for a future piece that dives deeper—but it’s worth noting that the resource you’ve just created brings your content into the revenue-generating realms of demand gen, ABM, sales, and customer marketing: 

  • Fuel demand-gen campaigns. Having content that comes already tagged lets your demand gen team easily access content that they can then weave into campaigns, whether they’re syndicating content in newsletters, building out educational experiences, or running webinars. 

    Depending on the channels they target, there’ll inevitably be additional needs—copy and creative for display ads, maybe a new visual CTA or two, and perhaps a few adjustments to liven up those old pieces that aren’t exactly evergreen. But overall, the lift required should be much lighter than planning campaigns from scratch.
  • Quickly build account-based marketing (ABM) destinations. Account-based marketing takes things a step further. Here, your ABM team pairs the existing account data with content they have tailorized—yes, that’s a word now, we’re making it happen—for more specific audiences. 

    The goal here is to create hyper-personalized experiences, so curating your most exceptional and relevant content within a “made for you” wrapper can be very effective. Again, depending on your team’s needs, custom content will be needed, but again the work required is comparatively light and can often be done by people other than your writers.
  • Feed sales (and customer) teams relevant content. Some content marketers seem to do nothing but create enablement material—which sounds, uh, fun. Ultimately, it’s more important to think about what you should be enabling them to do with your content: like engage target accounts, tackle questions and objections, and provide prospects with vivid illustrations and inspiration about your product or service at work. 

    By accessing your tagging database, sales teams can call up relevant content and either digest it themselves or pass it along to high-value accounts in a speedy manner. Similarly, customer marketers can feed themselves on content to support onboarding, feature adoption, or retention activities—an awesome way of defending your existing revenue streams in times when converting new customers is tougher.

A quick word about tagging and targeting

Level one of content planning is a spreadsheet. Level two is the GTM matrix. Both let your teams generate content destinations for various campaigns on the fly.

But the final boss here is definitely tagging your content for use with marketing automation and intel tools. When paired  a platform like Uberflip, you can use tagging to do two other things: 

  • First, tagging lets you dynamically personalize content experiences based on the intel you have about your visitors. This is a great way to scale your campaign activities without hiring additional team members or tearing your hair from your head.
  • Second, content tagging works with analytics for even richer insights into performance—this is intel that can then feed back into your campaign strategy and content production plans. (The opposite of that toilet flush I mentioned earlier.)

Do more with your content

Around these parts, we like to say that "content is king." (We might say it too often.)

When financial outlooks are grim...well, people start sharpening their guillotines. 

As I put it in a recent article for RollWorks, “Survival mode kicks in, and companies start jettisoning anything not immediately showing returns. For B2B marketers, it can be smart to refocus from building brand equity to activities that generate revenue and stop the bleed.”

One temptation, though, can be to burn yourself out generating net new content, kicking inbound strategies into overdrive that just aren’t going to drive immediate gains. A lot of otherwise great marketers flounder when it comes to something much more foundational—like tagging and recycling content to support GTM. 

Venn diagram contrasting everything a content marketer could be doing with those with direct impact on revenue

Content tagging lets you speed up the time it takes to launch new campaigns, support bottom-of-funnel (and customer success) activities, and scale to match a turbulent marketplace. 

And when the hard times are over? Break out the champagne, surely.

But don’t forget the lessons you learn today…  

You can do more with content.