How to Create a Content Marketing System That Runs on Autopilot

I think we can all agree that content marketing is both practical and potent.

It’s the ultimate form of inbound marketing and makes total sense when you need to reach 21st century consumers.

I could even spout off a laundry list of stats that prove just how big of an impact content marketing can have.

There’s the insane volume of leads, minimal financial investment, increased audience engagement, high ROI, and so on.

But if there’s any area where content marketers run into trouble, it’s the inherently time-consuming nature of the process.

Creating epic content takes time and energy. And not everyone has the time to devote to this marketing strategy.

And this doesn’t even include the additional effort needed to manage a campaign.

In many cases, it can take so much time that it hinders your ability to oversee other areas of business. Not good.

Here are some stats that put some perspective on just how time-consuming content marketing can be.

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If these trends continue, the time investment required for content marketing will keep growing and growing.

And of course you have to consider that competition levels will continue to rise as well.

With more brands catching wind of the potential of this technique, it will become increasingly difficult to make your campaign stand out from the masses, requiring even more of your time.

What’s the solution?

As a person who’s incredibly busy myself, I’ve figured out some effective ways to run a content marketing campaign that requires the least amount of time but still achieves maximum results.

The content quality remains stellar, but I don’t have to perpetually “stoke the fire” to keep things running smoothly.

In other words, my campaign requires less time (and stress), but everything still operates at a high level.

Here’s how to create a content marketing system that runs on autopilot.

Campaign structuring and organization

In my opinion, a well built campaign starts at the top and trickles down.

You need to keep chaos at bay by having a clear game plan and making sure that all of your team members are on the same page at all times.

How do you do this?

I recommend using an online collaborative content calendar.

Although your basic spreadsheet can be helpful, I’ve found it’s seldom sufficient to meet my needs.

However, an online collaborative content calendar allows you and your team to:

  • Systematically plan and coordinate your content
  • Make edits that can be viewed in real time
  • Keep track of deadlines
  • Monitor progress each step of the way from conception to completion

I also prefer this to a spreadsheet because of the visual element. I just find it easier to keep my ducks in a row when I can visually see what’s happening and what needs to get done.

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By staying organized, you can streamline collaboration, spend a lot less time scrambling to find information, and reduce your mistakes.

Some tools I recommend include CoSchedule, Buffer, and HubSpot.

Brainstorming

I’ve found that half of the battle of content marketing is simply coming up with new ideas for blog posts, white papers, videos, etc.

There never seems to be enough new ideas to “feed the hungry content monster.”

One way you can expedite the brainstorming process is to have a handful of idea-generating resources at your disposal.

I personally love BuzzSumo because it’s perfect for pointing me to articles on practically any topic under the sun.

Take content marketing for example.

By entering “content marketing” into the search bar, I instantly get access to a long list of articles written on this subject.

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As you can see, BuzzSumo also shows you how well each article has performed based on social shares so you can see which topics are clicking the most with readers.

Some other content aggregators and helpful resources I recommend include:

  • Feedly
  • Alltop
  • Quora

You may also want to create a spreadsheet of all relevant industry blogs that you can quickly reference when you need to brainstorm.

I actually wrote an article about how to never run out of ideas, which offers further insight on this topic. Check it out for more details.

Content creation

This is without a doubt the more laborious part of the content marketing process.

You’ve got to actually sit down and consistently pound out quality content. Or do you?

While I definitely write a lot of the content myself, there’s just no way to keep up with the demand while juggling everything else that’s involved with running a business.

That’s why I recommend outsourcing at least part of it to freelance writers.

In fact, “64 percent of B2B marketers outsource writing.”

Some may only outsource a small fraction of it, while others outsource nearly everything.

It really just depends on your budget and content needs.

If content marketing is your go-to marketing strategy (or writing just isn’t your forte), you’ll probably want to outsource a significant portion of your content creation.

I’ve found outsourcing to freelance writers to be a positive thing, and many other brands feel the same way.

In fact, a big reason for the success of KISSmetrics was skilled writers we hired.

I even wrote an article on how KISSmetrics grew to 793,858 visitors a month by using this formula.

However, you don’t want to leave your content and brand reputation to just anyone.

You need to be sure you hire writers who are highly skilled, understand your brand/style/tone, and create quality content that resonates with your audience.

That’s why you need to make sure a writer has these six skills before you hire them.

Content curation

This term is defined as “the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves sifting, sorting, arranging and publishing information.”

As you can tell, this sounds incredibly arduous. And it often is.

But it’s a staple of most content marketing campaigns.

Studies have even found that 95 percent of marketers share other organization’s content in some capacity.

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The problem is it’s like panning for gold. You have to sift through all the dirt and debris just to find something of value that you can share with your audience.

If you’re just blindly curating content without some type of a game plan, it’s going to be a massive time-drain.

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But the way I look at it, there are two main options to streamline this process:

  1. Hire someone else to do it
  2. Utilize a tool to make it quicker

The first choice is good because it can save time, but you lose a bit of control.

The second choice gives you maximum control and still saves time.

No matter what approach you choose, it’s still going to be much more efficient than manually sifting through piles of content just to find the diamond in the rough.

If you’re looking for a tool that works well for content curation, check out DrumUp.

It “analyzes tens of thousands of stories every day from across industries, interests and niches,” so you can quickly find great content to share.

Even if you’re in an extremely small niche, this will help you find suitable content for your audience without having to painstakingly search for a needle in a haystack.

Automating posting

The final piece of the puzzle is posting.

If you’ve only got one or two accounts, this is no big deal. You simply post your content manually and boom!—you’re done.

But what if you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and more?

Posting the same piece of content across multiple channels can quickly eat away at your time.

This is especially true if you’re posting nearly every day.

Fortunately, you can automate much of your content distribution by using a tool such as Zapier.

This easy-to-use platform connects your apps and allows you to post content across multiple channels with only a couple of clicks.

In turn, it can eliminate a lot of tedious busy work (while saving your sanity).

Conclusion

Creating an effective content marketing system involves addressing five key areas:

  1. Organizing and structuring your campaign
  2. Expediting the brainstorming process to come up with new ideas
  3. Creating the actual content
  4. Efficiently curating content
  5. Automating your posting

By taking measures to simplify and streamline these areas, you can create a system that essentially runs on autopilot.

This isn’t to say that it requires no effort or maintenance on your end whatsoever. But you can definitely eliminate a lot of the tasks and dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend on the tasks you still perform.

The outcome should be a content marketing system that produces equal or even greater results than the ones you’ve been achieving so far—while spending only a fraction of the time managing your campaign.

Are there any content marketing “hacks” that have worked for you?

Comments

  1. I’ve recently been experimenting with outsourcing some blog posts and content creation to writers.

    As mentioned above, finding a writer with a similar tone, style and understanding of my brand is essential to connect with the audience that I’ve built.

    These are great tips especially when it comes to syndicating content and curating other people’s content throughout the web as well.

  2. Neil, another great article. I think a good followup to this would be a step by step guide on setting up an automation system.

    Have a great day.

  3. Neil, you don’t mention keyword research in your brainstorm section. Is that intentional? Do you have a different approach to content brainstorming that doesn’t involve them?

  4. You are awsome bro

  5. Thomas Wooldridge :

    I was surprised to see that over half the companies post content daily, then at the sametime it was close to the same percentage of them outsourcing it.

    Instead of outsourcing it, they should insource it by asking employees to share some best practices and insights that could be shared for the public to see

  6. Hephzy Asaolu :

    Excellent post Neil. I agree with you. Finding good writers like me who understands the dynamics of content creation/marketing is difficult. I create exceptional content that resonates with client’s audience. I make it a priority to make my clients happy and satisfied.

  7. Hi Neil… Zapier’s a good resource, but we love using eClincher as our automated platform for social content syndication. The best part is you can recycle and republish your best performing content in an evergreen fashion…

    I also use the RSS feature to follow the most engaging content creators… which is how I knew you composed another great post!

    Congrats on Hustle becoming a NY Times Bestseller!

  8. Brian Campbell :

    Nice article Neal. Felt like the title was a little bit of a link bait, as it’s really about saving time and not really dedicated to running on autopilot. Just some honest feedback. Great tips though. Where do you look to hire writers?

    • Appreciate the feedback. I have seen sites like iwriter, copify, copyblogger and few others that are worth a look.

  9. Elvis Michael :

    Neil, thanks for letting me know about DrumUp, as I had no idea such a thing existed.

    For organization, I primarily rely on “Todoist” — although I understand others may need something more full-fledged like the collaborative system you mentioned, and not merely a notification tool.

    In any case, I will be reassessing my approach to semi-automation and it’s all thanks to your post.

    Enjoy the rest of the week 🙂
    Elvis (still in the building)

  10. Great write-up, Neil. We’re a strong advocate of working backwards from a single goal so that we can break it down into manageable steps.

    When businesses outsource content to us, they usually don’t even have their goals defined…so we often become part consultant / part ghostwriting agency. It’s a weird little niche we fill.

    As far as automating posting….why no mention of IFTTT?

  11. Yep, the first important step is a publication plan.

    The second good idea is to have at least some 3-5 articles ready ahead (!) of schedule in case something goes to hell – which often happens.

    Once you have a good team, pay them fairly, raise them pay when you raise your revenue. Help them, teach them.

    Dont forget to have a great illustration/photos. These help a lot on social networks.

    I use a Hootsuite for social posting, also Buffer can be used.

  12. It’s amazing that some people are calling for a “content fatigue” because there is just so much information already out there. I totally agree with you that content is what can set a person apart from the crowd, and establish them as a thought leader in their area of expertise. Things keep changing, that new and improved information is going to be necessary.

    I’m especially committed to great content because in the health and wellness area, there is just SO MUCH BS out there. I think one of my life’s goal is to set the record straight so people can improve their health with real solutions, and not misinformation from people who probably mean well, but just simply don’t have the scientific background.

  13. Edvin Lofgren :

    Outsourcing is basically hiring someone to do your job for you. But depending on budget I would say maybe do the work yourself if you can. I would first and foremost put my money into scaling the business.

  14. Hi Neil,

    Do you have a recommendation for an app or plugin that can source content by keyword and then create automated posts with that content from other blogs or social channels in a WordPress blog?

    I’m sure there’s some sort of moderator interface to allow for the best content to get selected and posted. Something like this would surely help keep things fresh and updated.

    Thank you for you help and all the great work you do.

  15. Can you go into more detail on Zapier? How do you set that up when posting to WordPress?

  16. How sharing someone else content on my social media network helps me?

  17. Very helpful, in terms of how you lay everything out in a straightforward manner – set up the processes so that they work for you. It’s tough to keep it all running without outsourcing some of the labor. Thanks!

  18. Shane Pollard :

    Automation – IFTTT or Zapier both are great
    Curation – Scoop.It is decent as well and affordable for the upgrade

    Thanks Neil great post

  19. Thank you for you help and all the great work you do.

  20. Teddy Tech - SEO & Digital marketing in Kerala Alleppey :

    Thanks Niel, Very helpful article.

  21. Angela Higbee :

    It will be interesting to see how AI comes into play in the content industry when the technology has advanced, particularly with automation being such a high priority for marketers.

    Loved that you mentioned Zapier in the post – automation tools really do make a big difference in picking up the pace of content marketing efforts.

  22. Hey neil, I’ve gotten addicted to your articles, and your lectures. I really liked the talk you did on growth hacking at the Pioneer Festival.

    I really like reading stats, they give insight and perspective.

    I just wrote a whole article on statistics that businesses tend not to pay attention to. Check ot out when you get a chance, and tell me what you think!!

    /7-powerful-social-media-statistics-small-businesses-are-not-paying-attention-to/

  23. Hey Neil,

    Now that you’ve mentioned content on autopilot, would you happen to know of such a plugin for vB that site owners can install to automate the content posting process on certain days and times like some WordPress plugins do?

  24. ASEEM BHARADWAJ :

    Most content marketer consider internet as the only medium to do research. But it shouldn’t be. There are a lot of resources outside the web world. It may be real time work, live events, seminars, or any conference. Thanks for this article Neil.

  25. Thanks Neil for the wonderful post! I completely agree with you that it takes a lot of time to come up with mind blowing ideas. I personally prefer Quora to find the latest topic and ideas to create engaging content for readers.

    I am really sorry Neil, if I am going out of the topic, but I actually want to know your personal inspiration to draft content.

  26. Gestor de Redes Sociales :

    I love autopilot marketing systems. After an initial amount of work, you can get results during months or years later.
    Thanks for sharing!

  27. Neil, your calendar looks good. Thank you for the article. Looks like you don’t take any vacations right? 🙂

  28. Thanks a lot Neil. Being a newbie content marketer, whenever I have tough times, your articles give me enough motive to carry on. I just want to quit sometimes, but literally it’s only you from whom I get the kick to keep going. Thanks again for such a nice article.
    Being an Indian teenager, I want to kickstart my content marketing career. I’m in dilemma which bunch of blogs to follow? What things should I focus on at first? Need your advice.

  29. Arifuzzaman Arif :

    Thanks Neil. Those statistics are great. But the best thing is your calendar.

  30. This are great tips for me. i am learning different Articles this was great Thanks for sharing

  31. Great article indeed. You always provide quality stuff, withour content marketing means waste of hardwork, really thanks for open our eyes about content marketing, you know i was create quality content but no one knows about that beacause of marketing falure.

  32. Great article neil. Is there any best wordpress plugin to do same things in wordpress blog also. Can you please suggest good wordpress plugin for this.

    thanks .

  33. Provided a great and informative article

    Thanks

  34. Great read, Neil. I’m aiming to reduce my PPC costs & begin focusing on content marketing instead – first up is our very first infographic (feedback appreciated: http://bit.ly/2hgK8to), which we hope educates & entertains the niche.

    My main issue is that it took around 2 months to create a high quality piece of work & I really am looking to reduce that to 3 weeks. Main issue was the research time & edits however you have laid out some systems which I am willing to try.

    • That is great visually but I would maybe break it down a bit into sections and you can make it more interactive being music based with sounds.

  35. Cabs in Hyderabad :

    Hello after hosting the fresh content on my website my website is not listing in google

  36. Menaka Bharathi :

    I am good with content creation Neil! However I somehow seem to fail when popularizing it is concerned. Though I share on all social media I find lesser and lesser response. How do I deal this?

  37. such an amazaing articles, excellent neil for providing great quicksprout.

  38. Hi Neil,

    Awesome blog. Thanks for sharing.

  39. klakson telolet :

    Yep, the first important step is a publication plan. The second good idea is to have at least some 3-5 articles ready ahead (!) of schedule in case something goes to hell – which often happens.

  40. I have failed several times with planning content and publishing it at a particular time, though its necessary but still i feel automation is required these days. What do you say Neil?

  41. Great article Neil. Am your blogging friend and always follows you.

  42. hello neil

    very helpful and useful article from you thanks

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