Are there really 100 questions to think about before your kick-off meeting?

We think so. Why? To effectively create content, you need a good plan.

And to have a good plan, you need to understand what you’re getting into. The more prepared you are, the smoother everything will be at your kick off meeting.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to solve all these at your kick off.

But, it’s good to know them up front so you don’t get caught off guard. Now, on to these questions!

100. How will content help your customer?

Don’t fall into the trap of creating content that only supports your business agenda. Great content always solves a customer problem. If you’re not helping your customer, they won’t engage with your content.

99. What business problem are you solving?

Why is this important? Once you identify the problem, this will clarify your investment. And once you have this clarity, you’ll have a better chance of getting your leadership on board.

98. When should you start seeing results?

Most people think they’re going to have success in the first couple of months; this is usually not the case. Creating an effective program takes time. Make sure you set these expectations up front.

97. How much budget do you need?

Don’t just think about the cost to create content. Factor in things like marketing automation tools, resources to analyze the program, and research.

96. Who’s going to create it?

Do they already work at your company? Do you need to hire a content marketing company? Finding great talent is hard, so make sure you have a good plan in place.

95. Do you have the right marketing automation tools?

This one can get confusing. The good news is there are a lot of options based on your budget. Many times, you can use free, or low-cost tools. If you need something complex, there are more expensive enterprise solutions.

94. Do you have a privacy policy?

This seems pretty basic, but some companies still don’t have one. Make sure you’re familiar with CAN-SPAM, as well as GDPR if you operate in Europe. You need a clear plan for how to store and use data.

93. What kind of internal governance is needed?

Do you work at a large company? If so, you’ll need a clear governance plan to align everyone. You may think governance will slow you down, but it actually helps you in the long-term.

92. Will you have someone from IT?

Make sure you don’t take on everything yourself. Things can get tricky with the tools you need and how you’ll integrate them into your current technology stack. Have someone from IT support your team.

91. Does your leadership team believe in inbound marketing?

Make sure they know the philosophy of inbound marketing and that it takes time to see results. If you don’t set their expectations, they’ll lose interest before your program can succeed.

90. What channels and formats will you use?

There are many ways to share and distribute content. While you don’t need to figure everything out up front, you should have a general idea of how you want to tell and deliver your story.

89. What will your content look like?

Does your company have brand standards in place? Do they cover what different content formats should look like? If not, you’ll want to create them. This will save you time and create more consistency for your audience.

88. Who should you invite to your kick off?

Make sure the right people are in the room, but limit it to 5-8 people. You can always send a recap of the kick off to others. Or, you can have a follow-up session if needed.

87. Will you focus on lead generation or branding?

Why do you need to decide this up front? First, it brings clarity to why you’re creating content. Second, you want to make sure your team has relevant experience based on your goals. Lead generation and branding require unique skill-sets

86. How will you organize your editorial calendar?

This can range from using a simple Excel spreadsheet, to a full enterprise software solution. The tool doesn’t matter, it’s more about making sure you plan everything out 3-9 months in advance.

85. How will you share results?

Who will you send it to? What format will you use? You’ll want a simple update for your leadership, but the core team should have something more robust so they can optimize the program.

84. How will you work with Sales?

Don’t ignore Sales. Why? Your content will help them be more successful. Plus, once they see the value, your budget conversations will be easier. Make the relationship investment with Sales – your content will get better and you’ll have more support.

83. Who is your target audience?

Seems like a pretty basic question, right? Make sure you’re clear about the main audience. If you end up creating something for everyone, your content won’t work as well.

82. How will you balance content and distribution?

Ever hear the saying “Content is King, but distribution is Queen, and she wears the pants?” Before you start creating, know how people will see your content.

81. What will you spend on paid media?

Don’t be fooled into thinking people will magically discover your content. That may happen, but it takes time. You may want to invest in buying keywords, targeting specific buyers on LinkedIn, or partnering with a media company.

80. Will you feature your customers?

If you’re putting together case studies, identify your top customers. You’d be surprised how willing they are to help.

79. Does Legal know about this?

You’re probably not creating anything too controversial. But not involving Legal or Compliance can get you in trouble. Ask them to provide some guidelines up front.

78. Will you use an employee advocacy program?

Looking for additional distribution? Employee advocacy programs are a proven way to increase reach. Once you have enough content, you’ll want to set one up.

77. How much will you invest in SEO?

Optimizing your website helps with long-term performance. Don’t think of this as a one-and-done effort, though. You’ll need to constantly optimize the content to maintain your rank.

76. Will you customize your content by vertical?

If you want your content to work harder, consider creating unique versions for your top verticals. This way you can provide relevant information based on the specific audience you’re connecting with.

75. What topics are important?

Once you have an overall strategy in place, map out different topics. Ideally, share these with your customers beforehand to validate their importance.

74. What are your competitors doing?

Don’t be obsessed, but you should have a general understanding of how they’re using content. You can use basic SEO tools to gather quick insights into how their content performs.

73. What customers do you want to attract?

It’s rare that you’ll have one audience type. Make sure you have a good understanding of your different segments. If you have a Research department, tap into their insights.

71. Do you have a CRM system?

Hopefully, you already have one. This is essential to storing your customer information. Long-term, this will be your biggest asset, so make sure the one you have works well.

70. When will you publish your content?

There’s no magical answer here. Each company has different nuances. Think about things like what day should you publish. Also, think about how you might anchor your content to industry or seasonal events.

69. How will your content be unique?

What’s the one thing your company is really good at doing? Try using that to stand out. It’s not just about having a unique design. The DNA of your content should be unique, as well.

68. Have you quantified the value of a lead?

If you know how much your average lead is worth, you’ll be able to better justify your investment. Work with your Sales or Finance team to get this critical information.

67. How good is your relationship with Sales?

If you don’t have a good relationship with Sales, you’re at a big disadvantage. Sales is a great source of insights. They can also connect you with customers to talk about content needs.

66. Do you have the right team?

Sure, your existing team might be able to stretch into new areas. But you’ll need highly qualified content creators. If you can’t build this function inside your company, consider working with a content collective like 26 Characters.

65. Who is in charge?

Make sure there’s one person in charge. There will always be multiple internal agendas to balance. Having one leader will maintain the focus of your program.

64. Will you need a steering committee?

If you work at a big company, the answer is yes. Make sure to balance your steering committee with PR, Research, Sales, and Customer Service. You’ll also want an Executive Sponsor.

63. Will your employees create content for you?

Many companies will use their employees. If you use this approach, make sure you have editorial standards in place. This ensures every piece of content feels connected.

62. Where will your content live?

Will the content live within your website, or is it a microsite? Who maintains the content? Make sure you weigh the pros and cons of each. This can get tricky, so make sure you polish up on your diplomacy.

61. What metrics are most important?

You should have one or two metrics that determine success. Yes, you’ll need to measure a lot more, especially to understand engagement. But make sure the team knows what your top measure of success looks like.

60. What existing marketing programs can support this?

Don’t build your program in a vacuum. Think about how you can integrate your content program into existing marketing efforts.

59. How will you launch your program?

Be smart about how you start off. Pilots are a great way to start small before making big investments. Positioning something as a pilot gives you more flexibility if something doesn’t go as planned.

58. Will you need research?

Great content marketing programs are always grounded in customer insights. Do you really know what your customer needs? If possible, invest in research. It will increase your chances of success.

57. Who will pay for everything?

Marketing usually provides most of the budget. But you’ll quickly learn that everyone wants in on the action. You may want to setup an approach where other departments split the costs. Figure this out up front so there are no surprises.

56. How will you roll out the program?

Think about how you announce your program internally. Will it be one big announcement? Or are you going to have individual meetings with different departments? Manage this carefully to make sure people support it.

55. Will there be an author for each piece of content?

You’ll need to decide if your content comes from the voice of the brand, or individuals, or both. There are pros and cons for each. Have a point of view about this going into your meeting. And know that content from people comes across as more authentic and usually performs better.

54. Do you have editorial guidelines?

Just like all brands have graphic standards, you should have editorial standards, as well. These outline your overall messaging approach and communication style.

53. Will you need to hire anyone?

Think about the talent you’ll need. You may want to borrow existing employees to help. However, be careful about this approach since creating content is a full-time job.

52. Do you really know what you’re getting into?

Content marketing is not something to try on a whim. Make sure your leadership knows this when you decide to build a program.

51. What content exists today?

You don’t always have to start from scratch. There’s usually an abundance of existing content you can leverage. Look for it and repurpose it.

50. Will you need to setup new processes?

Content marketing is complicated. Make sure that you or someone on your team has a knack for creating processes. This will minimize confusion and increase efficiencies.

49. Will you need agency support?

The good news is you’re not alone. There are plenty of content marketing companies that can help. For example, 26 Characters can help you with training, building your overall strategy, or creating content.

48. Why are you going to be successful?

Not all content marketing programs are successful. Why will you have what it takes to build a solid program? Will you have the right distribution? Will you have quality content creators? Make sure you convince yourself before you convince others.

47. What partnerships can you form?

Creating content is hard, but the real challenge is getting distribution. What companies can you work with to get your word out? Can you put a barter agreement in place? Are you going to submit content to media outlets?

46. How will PR be involved?

Working with your PR team is essential. Some PR teams might actually own the content marketing function. Make sure you work with them to maximize your exposure.

45. Does your CEO know what you’re doing?

If your CEO knows about the project, chances are you’re going to have more success. In big companies, this also helps when rolling out the program because people will take it more seriously.

44. Will you need to conduct research?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know what your customer wants. Research provides great insight into what content you should be creating. Don’t underestimate the value of research.

43. Did your content help your customer?

You’ll want to build some feedback mechanisms into your program. Without these in place, internal debates about “did it work” will go on forever. Rating systems or surveys are a quick way to gather these insights.

42. Do you have the right culture?

Culture can be tricky. Hopefully, your company values customer centricity and is open to exploring new ideas. Why is this important? Your content needs to be about genuinely helping your audience.

41. How will you organize your content?

Do you have a taxonomy in place? If not, are you going to create one as part of this project? How you organize your content can take weeks and months to determine, so think about this upfront.

40. Who will measure your results?

Once your program is in place, who will actually be doing the tracking and reporting? Anyone can pull a basic report, but you may need someone with more complex skills to generate additional insights.

39. What’s your overall mission?

Don’t just jump in and start creating content. Make sure you have an overall mission. Is it inspiring? Is it bold? Otherwise, your content will feel like a bunch of one-offs.

38. How will you work with other teams?

Do you have the bandwidth to support other teams? The key is to set clear expectations up front. Don’t just start creating free work for everyone. You’ll eventually have to come back later and tell them you can’t do it anymore.

37. What’s your definition of success?

While you should have a consistent definition of success, don’t think you’ll achieve it within a couple of months. Content marketing takes time. Make sure you set short and long-term goals.

36. Who will be the project manager?

Hitting your publishing deadlines is part of building a winning content team. You can designate one person as a producer, or you can provide tools for the team to manage their own schedules.

35. Will you refresh your brand standards?

You’ll most likely need to create new branded templates to bring your content to life. Make sure you partner with your brand team. They can either create the templates for you or you can have someone on your team design the templates with their guidance and feedback.

34. Will you gate your content?

There are two schools of thought: The first is to gate your content so you understand who is accessing it. You’ll use this approach if your main objective is lead generation. The second approach is to not gate it to ensure more people see it.

33. What content will be shared by Sales?

Not all your content needs to be published for everyone. It might make sense to share some of your content exclusively through your Sales team. Why use this approach? It makes the customer feel like they’re getting access to exclusive content.

32. Will you allow guest posts?

Not all your content needs to come from your company. Are there other companies you can partner with? These types of shared guest posts can go a long way. Think about how you can increase the reach of your content with a win-win partnership.

31. Will you optimize for mobile?

While mobile optimization isn’t new, you’d be surprised how many people overlook it. Always test your content on mobile devices. Or even better, design your content primarily for mobile.

30. How can you leverage existing events?

Think about what existing events are happening within your company or industry. Once you find them, attach your content to them. This will increase the utilization of your content.

29. Do you know what you’re getting into?

Content marketing is not for the faint of heart. Understand what you’re getting into. If you’re in charge, you need to set the right tone from the start. Also, know that you’re never actually done creating content.

28. Are you going to curate any content?

Some companies use curation as a way to engage an audience. This approach makes sense if you want to provide a neutral perspective. If curating content helps your customer, you should do it.

27. Will you need stock photography?

Make sure you have a budget for photography. You don’t necessarily have to use photographs in your design, but if you do and don’t budget for it, you’ll find yourself up against the wall.

26. Does your team have publishing experience?

Don’t assume your designer knows publishing and don’t assume your writer knows long-form content. Can they learn it? Sure, but it might take a while. Understand what you’re getting into if you don’t bring on new talent.

25. How will you inspire your team?

Setting the right tone from the beginning is critical. Creating a team culture that values problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity is essential.

24. Who has the most editorial control?

While there isn’t always an easy answer, be prepared to think through difficult situations. Who is the editor-in-chief? And under what circumstances do they not have the final say?

23. What’s your balance of push vs. pull?

Effective programs use push and pull marketing. Know how to combine both to engage your customers.

22. Does your team know how to tell stories?

Creating content isn’t as simple as putting pen to paper. You need to tell a story. Make sure your team knows at least the basics, like how to create tension, withholding information, or how to hook your audience up front.

21. How much will it cost?

Probably more than you think. Make sure you understand what should be accounted for in your budget. Don’t forget about software licensing, proofreading, or stock photography.

20. Will you have anything interesting to say?

If not, people aren’t going to be interested in your content. You can get all the other things right, but if people think your content is boring, you’re not going to get any traction.

19. Do you have original data?

People love when data is incorporated into content. It gives them the proof they need to form an opinion. Make sure to share compelling data if you have it.

18. Under what circumstances will you remove a post?

Think about what scenarios would justify removing a post. Would you take it down because it’s not performing? At what point should a controversial post be removed? All things to think about before you publish.

17. How will you engage your customers?

Publishing your content is half the battle. Make sure you spend just as much time promoting and engaging with customers. That’s the real way to get more exposure.

16. How will your content help people buy?

Have an honest conversation about how your content is helping your customer. Are you too focused on your product or service? Make sure a majority of your content is focused on the customers needs.

15. Who is responsible for ideas?

The answer, of course, should be everyone. But make sure there’s a clear person in charge of organizing the ideas. Make sure people know that everyone is expected to bring new ideas to the table.

14. Do you know what your customer needs?

This is an easy question to ask, but a hard one to answer. When was the last time you sat down with your customers and really listened? Make sure you know what they need.

13. Who will sign off?

Each piece of content will probably have a different answer. Ask this question up front so you know how to plan. If someone outside your company needs to review it, factor that into your schedule.

12. What type of reporting do you need?

Have a plan for how often you’ll look at results. Most likely, you’ll want to check performance on a new campaign several times a day over the first couple days. After that, weekly and monthly reporting should work.

11. How will you re-engage a customer?

Once your content is read, are you going to do anything? The best content marketers can string multiple pieces together. For example, “we noticed you read this article… you might also like this.”

10. How is your content performing over time?

Make sure you know how your content performs over time. For example, you may have a piece of content that works really well 2 months after you launch it. If so, think about ways to promote it again.

9. How much time will you spend optimizing for SEO?

You need to know the basics of SEO to make sure your content will be seen. But don’t go too far with keyword stuffing otherwise your content won’t make sense.

8. What’s the shelf-life?

You’ll want to decide up front so you can plan accordingly. If it’s an evergreen piece of content, make sure to avoid examples that might date your piece.

7. When’s the best time to publish?

If you’re going to send out emails, or distribute your content though social media, timing can be everything. Make sure you know what days and times work the best. You should test this over time.

6. How will your content translate between channels?

You may need to repurpose your content so it works in multiple channels. Don’t think it’s as easy using the same copy and design for everything.

5. Are you going to refresh old content?

If your content lives on a website, you should update it. Why? Google will know your page has been refreshed and they’re more likely to drive additional traffic.

4. Are you performing any tests?

This question should actually say, “what test are you going to perform?” Make sure you have a testing plan in place to optimize content. Start by using known best practices in the industry, and then see what works for you.

3. How savvy is your Sales team?

You’ll want to work closely to make sure they understand and appreciate what content can do. Some may resist implementation because they lack technical skills. If this is the case, invest in training to help them.

2. Who is your biggest supporter?

Tap into this person and their enthusiasm. Think of them as an influencer who can get other people excited. This will only help your program build more credibility.

1. Who is your biggest skeptic?

Not everyone will embrace content marketing. If you know who they are, meet with them one-on-one and talk about their concerns. It’s better to have the conversations individually instead of a group setting.

Bonus question #1 –

How well can your company embrace change? Some rely on the CEO to drive it down from the top. Others make it more from the ground up. It helps to talk about the idea of change up front so people understand this is a big shift from how you’ve done things in the past.

Bonus question #2 –

Did you really finish all the questions? Alright, so this isn’t a question like the other ones. But you know we had to ask it. If you took the time to read through all these questions, you’re taking this seriously. What does this mean? You’re probably going to have more success. It will be tricky along the way, but if you have a good plan, and surround yourself with a solid team, you’re going to do great! Need any help along the way? 26 Characters might be able to help you out.

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