If you lead a small content team, you might feel as if you’re swimming with the sharks. Every day you’re competing for eyeballs with teams that have more staff, higher budgets, and greater brand recognition.
But the truth is, 76% of content professionals working today are employed by organizations with less than 5,000 employees. In other words, many content pros work on lean teams—and have found success doing so.
I would know. I’ve worked as a content team of one, and I’ve worked as a member of a content team with 15+ staff. And what I’ve learned is that there are just as many advantages to being a small content team as there are to being a big one.
Let’s take a look at what some of those advantages are, and how your lean team can leverage them to maximize the impact of your lean content team.
The Benefits of Being a Lean Content Team
When it comes to content, bigger isn’t always better. Your audience doesn’t care if a piece of content took 20 people to create it or 1—they just care that it’s good. With that in mind, here are some advantages to being a lean content team.
Have you ever watched a cruise ship come in to dock? It takes a while. A speedboat on the other hand can zip right up to the dock and tie up. Lean content teams can be like speedboats. They’re easy to maneuver, and they can change course quickly. This allows them to take advantage of new trends and adapt on-the-fly.
Large content teams can sometimes be like cruise ships. They are big and luxurious, but if they see an iceberg coming, it sometimes takes longer to change course.
Collaboration is required with a content team of any size, but it comes a lot more easily when there are only a handful of stakeholders that need to be looped in. This makes it possible for everybody’s voice to be heard, and for everybody to remain aligned on key priorities.
Furthermore, as anyone who's worked in a small organization knows, lean teams offer a lot of opportunities for knowledge sharing and bonding, which can lead to better outcomes.
The smaller the content team, the bigger the impact each member has. And when each individual member can see the outcome of their input, it fosters a greater sense of ownership, which in turn creates better engagement. Understanding how every little thing you do ladders up to success makes it easier to focus your efforts on the things that matter, and strip away the things that don’t.
Content in general costs roughly 62% less than traditional outbound marketing tactics. And smaller content teams are obviously less expensive than large content teams. And as we said previously, good content doesn’t take 20 different people to produce. That means that a lean content team can have an big impact at a relatively low cost.
But that only happens if your lean content team is smartly organized, highly engaged, and has clearly defined goals to execute against. Let’s learn a bit more about how to organize your lean content team for success.
How Lean Content Teams Can Find Success
Maximizing the advantages lean content teams possess requires careful planning, management, and organization. Here are some of the steps you should take to ensure success.
A small content team still needs to be able to cover all facets of the content creation process—including strategy, creation, SEO, distribution, and measurement.
But obviously it will have to do so with limited headcount. This makes the hiring process crucial. You need to find content experts who know how to create content and then some. If you can only hire one person, make sure they are a “big picture” thinker who can handle both the strategy and execution phases of content creation.
If you can hire several team members, we recommend having a manager who can handle the strategy plus at least two content creators who execute on that strategy.
Remember, the smaller the team, the more impact each individual member has. Which means having poor performers will have a substantial negative impact. Therefore, it may be necessary to offer salaries above the market rate to attract the best and brightest.
Document Your Strategy
A content strategy is required regardless of team size. This will keep all team members aligned and moving in the right direction. With a lean content team, a strategy is extra important because if even one member of the team isn’t aligned, it could derail the entire team.
Elements of a good content strategy include:
- A deep analysis of your target audience
- An audit of your existing content
- An audit of your competitors’ content
- A budget
- Clearly defined goals
- KPI metrics that roll up to those goals
- A distribution plan
- Content measurement
When you’ve completed all the steps needed to create a content strategy, share it with your team and review it closely. Make sure everybody understands the audience they’re targeting, the business outcomes they’re expecting, the means by which they’ll be promoting their content, and the results their performance will be measured against.
A team that is well-aligned on strategy is a team that has minimal wasted effort.
Develop a Workflow
Another way to minimize wasted effort is by developing clear workflows that create efficiency. This way, everyone starts their day knowing exactly what they need to focus on.
Of course, workflows will need to be perfected over time as you learn what inputs drive the best outcomes for your team. At this step, it also helps to use a project management system that will help keep everyone on track. At Knotch we use Monday.com to organize our editorial calendar. There are plenty of other great ones too including Asana, Trello and Workfront. We also create all content in Google Docs so it can be easily shared and edited with other stakeholders on the team.
For communication, we use Slack and Zoom so we can quickly sync on projects and provide status updates. Together these tools minimize friction, allowing us to spend more time on content.
Because lean content teams have limited resources, they need to be transparent about what they can or cannot deliver on. There’s no such thing as having too much content, but as a small content team you need to make sure you’re not overextending yourself and publishing bad content.
This means looping in stakeholders on the level of output they can expect, and being open about what your team needs to hit its goals. Having a continuous feedback loop will prevent your team from being inundated with too much work, and provide you opportunities to advocate for more resources.
For some large teams, content is a numbers game. The more content they produce, the more engagement they get. Lean content teams can’t play the same game. Instead, they need to focus on having each individual piece of content work harder for them.
This means prioritizing quality and distribution. There are many ways to distribute content, and the right approach varies based on your brand and your goals. Here are some common channels available for content distribution:
Content distribution can ultimately help your content rank more highly in Google Search—which will make it that much easier for users to find your content. Having one piece of content own the number one position for a keyword related to your business is infinitely more valuable than having 10 articles that rank further down in search results.
In short, focus on creating high-quality content, and then put all your effort into promoting it to your audience. Remember: One quality piece of content is better than 10 mediocre ones.
Build a Culture of Content Within Your Organization
The content creation process shouldn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of your team. Most of our customers encourage other members of the company outside the content team to create and submit content for publication. This allows other staff to build their profile as thought leaders, and gives the content team authoritative information they can use to help the organization be seen as a thought leader.
Furthermore, content can help every department reach their goals. HR teams write articles that markets career opportunities, executives can share LinkedIn posts that highlight exciting new initiatives, and salespeople can create collateral that highlights products for consumers.
Building a culture of content enables everyone to become an ambassador for the company, while simultaneously helping the content team maximize their impact.
Leverage Content Technology
When it comes to small content teams, having the right tools can streamline workflows and in some cases automate responsibilities that would otherwise require additional staff.
We already spoke about workflow tools like Monday.com, and Google Docs. At Knotch we also use Webflow to power our content hub and SEMrush for keyword research and tracking. But the most important piece of our content technology stack is Knotch (duh!).
The Knotch Content Intelligence Platform allows us to plan out our entire strategy, including competitive content analysis with our Blueprint product. This way we can see what content our competitors are creating, what topics are popular with our audience, and where there’s whitespace in the market.
After we’ve distributed our content, we use our Measurement product to see if the content we’ve created is connecting to our desired business outcomes. Measurement provide us with a holistic dataset of all quantitative metrics related to content performance. Knotch also provides sentiment analysis that tells us how our content is changing the user’s perception of our brand (qualitative metrics).
Using this information, we’re able to refine our strategy in a way that will drive more meaningful results for our brand.
Content intelligence can save weeks of guesswork, allow you to pivot quickly to take advantage of new opportunities, and pinpoint how your content is impacting your brand. This can make all the difference for lean content teams with limited resources.
In short, content intelligence allows content teams to focus less on planning, and more on execution.
Try Knotch For Your Lean Content Team
Knotch allows brands of all shapes and sizes to plan, measure, and optimize their content programs to achieve desired business outcomes. If you're a small content team interested in connecting content to outcomes, increasing your content ROI, eliminating the need for third-party data, and eliminating wasted effort, request a free Knotch demo.