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What Is Systems Engineering and What Does It Have to Do with Marketing?
In conventional terms, systems engineering is the methodical design, integration, and management of complex systems. While it's often associated with fields like software development or aeronautical engineering, it also has undeniable applications in marketing.
Marketing is, after all, a complex system—an intricate web comprised of various channels, strategies, goals, constraints, opportunities, target audiences, and technical and industry-specific realities.
It's all too easy to get lost in content marketing. Between SEO, social media, newsletters, podcasting, and the nuanced interplay of these elements with paid media and branding—the terrain can quickly become overwhelming. However, by stepping back and adopting a holistic view—strategically applying methodical design, integration, and management—you set the stage for a finely tuned marketing system optimized for maximal growth and efficiency.
How It Works
Applying systems engineering principles to your marketing strategy is as simple as adopting the V-model—a framework for disciplined, systematic planning and execution. Starting with discovery and progressing to implementation, the V-model loops back during validation, ensuring everything aligns with the initial objectives. This iterative process fosters continuous improvement and efficiency, setting the stage for sustained, organic growth.
- Discovery: This phase sets the objectives and requirements of your content marketing strategy, typically grounded in market research and competitive analysis. Clear, measurable goals are established to align with broader business objectives.
- Planning: Using insights from Discovery, a strategic roadmap is developed, including the types of content to produce and the channels for distribution. This phase ensures actions are aligned with set goals and measurable via Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
- Implementation: This is the action phase where content is produced and campaigns are launched. Ongoing monitoring allows for adjustments as needed, keeping the strategy on course.
- Validation: This final phase involves assessing results against the original objectives and KPIs. Metrics like engagement and conversion rates are used to evaluate effectiveness and inform the next cycle.
Whether you're an established business, agency, bootstrapped startup, or solo entrepreneur, here's how a systems engineering approach to content marketing can benefit you:
- Resource Management: Adopting a systems view minimizes misallocating capital and resources, ensuring each content-related investment aligns with the broader mission.
- Efficiency: With optimal resource allocation, you'll root out ineffective strategies and uncover more content opportunities—saving time and money.
- Competitive Edge: By aligning your efforts through a systems engineering approach, you optimize for growth and efficiency, enhance your organic reach, and amplify the impact of your paid campaigns. For instance, a boosted post can drive immediate conversions with a well-crafted landing page featuring a CTA followed by FAQs and internal links to relevant blog posts—squeezing as much juice as possible from your ad spend.
Now that we've explored the benefits, let's delve into actionable steps.
A Systems Engineering Approach To Content Marketing (Actionable Steps)
The ultimate goal is discoverability—capturing more traffic to drive more conversions. To align your content marketing channels and create the ideal content marketing system, follow these general steps:
- Develop an SEO Strategy: SEO is the base layer of your content marketing efforts. It provides the guiding framework for other downstream content initiatives. Regardless of your business, if you have an online presence—even just a basic homepage—it's worth noting that SEO is always in play, making your site discoverable when potential customers search for you online.
- Picking A Primary Channel: Based on your niche, existing outreach, or personal preferences, identify a primary marketing channel to focus on. This could range from an SEO-friendly blog to social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube. Determining what aligns most closely with your goals is the key.
- Picking Secondary Channels: Your secondary channel serves a dual purpose: it can either complement your primary channel or act as a 'second pass' that recycles your core content. Sometimes both. For example, engaging Pinterest pins could funnel traffic to specific blog posts. If you're a Substack writer, a complementary podcast could amplify your written content by adding interview elements. An informational blog post might provide valuable insights to frame podcast interview questions.
- Tertiary Channels and Beyond: Tertiary channels in a content marketing system are low-effort avenues with potential future rewards. Aligning with the V-model of systems engineering, these channels provide a 'test and learn' framework. They allow you to experiment with elements like repurposed content, hashtags, and posting schedules, helping you fine-tune your overarching strategy. These channels are easy to maintain and could elevate to secondary channels if they prove effective over time.
Real-world Example: What Bitcoin Did
What Bitcoin Did, hosted by Peter McCormack, is a podcast in the Bitcoin space that explores the intersections of Bitcoin with economics, technology, politics, human rights, and culture. This makes it a valuable resource for both seasoned Bitcoin enthusiasts and newcomers. Below is a quick overview of What Bitcoin Did's content channel mix, followed by exploring a tertiary opportunity—a blog.
- Primary Channel: The podcast is the central focus, distributed on YouTube with high-quality video production and audio-only versions distributed across all major podcast platforms.
- Secondary Channels: Instagram and Twitter function as secondary platforms. While both platforms offer unique audience engagement, Twitter is particularly impactful due to host Peter McCormack's extensive reach.
- Tertiary Channel Opportunity: Introducing a basic blog could enhance What Bitcoin Did's content offerings without requiring a significant shift in the existing workflow.
Since the current workflow already involves crafting detailed show descriptions and selecting noteworthy clips, transitioning into creating blog posts would be relatively easy. Notes taken during the clip creation and show description phases can serve as foundational outlines. By utilizing ChatGPT, these outlines can be transformed into polished blog posts. These posts can then be easily distilled into optimized YouTube descriptions. Over time, insights from Google Search Console could help refine this tertiary channel, potentially elevating it to a more prominent role within the content strategy.
For instance, if blog posts were created from the Troy Cross interview series, their performance could be monitored through Google Search Console. If these posts gain ranking traction for "Troy Cross"-related queries, creating an SEO-optimized bio page would then be justified. This page could compile insights from different interviews, serve as a high-quality resource for other content creators, drive traffic to earlier podcast episodes, and create valuable real estate to promote more of Troy Cross's work and projects he is involved in—like The Bitcoin Policy Institute—which would benefit from that organic backlink.
Is A Systems Engineering Approach To Content Marketing For You?
The flexibility of a systems engineering approach to content marketing means it can be adapted to suit your specific needs. It can serve as a mental model to guide strategic decision-making or be implemented as a structured workflow to manage your content initiatives. Either way, adopting this approach allows you to streamline your efforts, optimize resource allocation, and enhance the effectiveness of your overall content strategy.