03 Apr 2018

Build Your Content Marketing Strategy Around a Hub & Spoke Model

Over the past 12 years, Vertical Measures has learned a lot about how to be successful with digital marketing. We’ve seen the market shift, and quite frankly have been thought-leaders in content marketing, evangelizing the concept and developing successful methodologies and strategies around it (8-Step Process and now, Build Your Own Audience).

This article will showcase the Hub & Spoke model to content marketing, and how you can deploy similar strategies to generate real, organic traffic and capture leads to boost your list of marketing leads and prospects.

Adopting a Content Marketing Mindset

If you’re serious about growing traffic to your site and becoming a thought leader and authority in your space, content marketing is a must. Put yourself into the buyer’s frame of mind because you, yourself, are a buyer too.

When you want to make a decision, you look to the Internet to search for answers to your questions, to become educated on options and the variety of choices. You also want to know what your friends think and what others think about the product or services you are searching for.

If you, as a business or marketer, don’t have the answers to buyer’s questions, if you’re not educating them, if you’re not having conversations through social media about their concerns, you will not be an option in their decision.

The Customer Journey

We’ve learned many lessons, and one of the most important is to have a plan, a strategy, a detailed roadmap to publishing content. The strategy allows us and our clients to look ahead and plan rich pieces of content in a variety of formats that are promoted and referred to in other ancillary pieces of content.

We call this a Hub & Spoke model of content marketing. Certainly not a unique concept, we’ve embraced it at Vertical Measures and it’s part and parcel of our content deployment. Why? Because it works. In fact, 60% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on their site.

As you look across the customer journey of awareness, consideration, decision, and advocacy, the hub fits into consideration. We want the potential client/customer to engage with our content by entering personal information to ‘trade’ for the great content.

Our goal is to own the potential customer or audience, so we can continue to develop a relationship with them. Once we’ve collected their personal information, we can put them in a workflow and continually reach out to them and move them farther along the customer journey.

Hub-and-Spoke-Customer-Journey

Publishing quality content that someone is willing to trade personal information to receive it is one of the keys to the Hub & Spoke model.

Building Your Own Audience

You need to build your own audience, and then leverage that audience for real revenue growth. And the hub and spoke model is an excellent way to start establishing your own audience that will, in fact, be one of your most valuable marketing assets.

What do we mean? Well, an audience can be defined as anyone who has engaged with your company in some way. This could be YouTube subscribers, blog subscribers, newsletter subscribers, etc. Ideally, engagement from your audience leads to them giving up some personal information about themselves such as their name, business email address, job title and company name – at Vertical Measures, we consider that an owned audience. And, believe it or not, it’s not as hard to obtain as you might imagine. Building your own audience might start with something as simple as a visit to your website or following you on Twitter.

Think about it: Most of your marketing budget is spent on renting an audience – and sometimes for it might last for just a second or two. What if you could turn that investment into your own audience that keeps coming back to your organization for more? Wouldn’t that be more valuable than renting?

According to a Salesforce and LinkedIn study, the average B2B company has a database of 50,000 individuals and spends an average of $150 to acquire a single email address. So, if you think about it, the email database (the owned audience) alone is worth $7.5 million! That’s likely the largest asset under a marketer’s (and possibly the company’s) control.

The goal, then, is to use the hub and spoke model to turn that initial engagement into a true asset for your company.

Creating a Hub & Spoke Model for Yourself

Conceptually, you research, produce and publish a main piece of content, which becomes the actual hub, and then you create many spokes that relate back to that significant piece of content to support, promote and drive significant traffic to it.

The hub is published first, and the spokes are published continuously for 2-3 months afterward (sometimes longer depending on the focus of the piece) in many different formats and many different channels to support the hub.

The spokes are published to drive traffic to the hub, and the hub helps drive conversions to the spokes. The hub is important because, without a hub, the spokes would just be miscellaneous pieces and formats of content and not tied to any specific content marketing goals or strategy. The hub and spoke model are tied together. They need to be done in tandem because without the spoke content promoting and distributing, the hub wouldn’t get enough traffic to be successful.

Think of this model as an image or illustration (see below). The hub is located at the center and the spokes are all connected to the hub, just like a wagon wheel. As the wheel rolls forward, it gains traction and moves traffic along the spokes directly to the hub. In distributed computing, it’s known as a star network.

Hub-and-Spoke-Star-Network

Not to be confused with a blog section on a website, the hub part of the model we are describing is an eBook, how-to guide, case study, a buyers comparison (versus) guide, a sophisticated, animated infographic, a high-level video or webinar, interactive quiz, checklist, etc.

The commonality of these content pieces is their depth and breadth. The content is rich and high quality. It is a piece of content that a user would be happy to trade their email address and potentially other information for. The hub content should reside behind a lead capture form. By capturing an email address, marketers can start to lead-nurture and develop a deeper relationship with this new contact.

The spokes can be a series of blog posts related to the hub (which include a link or call-to-action to download the hub content), press release announcing the guide, tweets, Facebook posts, infographics, videos, native advertising, paid promotions, webinars relating back to the guide or other rich piece of content, etc.

Often, we’ll take a portion of the hub content, reformat and re-purpose it, making the most out of our time investment in the project.

The spoke content reaches back to revive the hub content and extends forward to create, promote and distribute the new content. You can continually revive this hub content because it is generally ‘evergreen’ and only needs to be refreshed from time to time.

Here is a list of spoke content examples. What would you add to it?

  • A series of blog posts
  • A collection of interviews/videos
  • A SlideShare presentation
  • A motion-graphic video
  • An infographic
  • A series of graphics pulled from the infographic
  • Syndicated articles
  • Guest post(s) on other sites
  • A series of Facebook posts
  • A series of Tweets
  • Include references in an email series

For more content type examples, check out Tom Pisselo’s post where he writes about ‘content leverage’ …using every piece of content in multiple ways and formats in order to get the highest return on investment (ROI) from every piece of content.

How to Deploy a Hub & Spoke Model

The best way to initiate this model is to treat each piece of hub content like a brand or product launch. Promote and distribute it to the widest audience possible based on the keyword focus, the influencers in the space and the appropriate distribution channels you’ve identified.

This is an example of a number of hub content pieces below (see image below). We launch a big piece of content and feature it on our home page, then we market the heck out of it for 90-days – and in many cases even longer. As I mentioned earlier, we treat it like a product or brand launch. It’s a big deal.

Hub-and-Spoke-Gated-Content
Gated-content examples from Vertical Measures

The longer you consistently produce content, the richer your resource library becomes. The screenshot above is from our content marketing landing page where we feature nine hub pieces. We also send emails, distribute press releases, scheduled social messages, and more each time we publish a hub.

Paid promotion is an essential part of the hub & spoke deployment.  We always include paid promotion as part of the overall marketing plan for a hub and spoke campaign.  Getting engagement from paid helps us understand right away how effective the hub content is and from the data, we can test, learn and iterate faster.

Along with paid promotion, we also use social media to promote the hub.  Social media allows us to easily publish information about the hub.  To learn more about how we use social media check out this podcast on Jay Baer’s website – Convince and Convert: Why Content Marketing Hubs Need Social Media. From the podcast Arnie Kuenn talks about how LinkedIn deploys a hub:

“At LinkedIn, they do a similar thing. They talk about the hub as treating it like it’s a product. Launch this hub piece of content just the way you would a software product or anything else, any other product, and then market the heck out of that for some period of time and keep coming back to it. Then roll out another and then another and then another.”

Then, we launch another piece of hub content and do the same thing. Rinse and repeat. Our hub content publishes on the frequency of about once per quarter.

Yes, using this model takes considerable resources to deploy. If you’ve just started down the path of content marketing, don’t feel like you have to jump right into it.

Learn the basics! Get your production resources in place until you have a repeatable, easy to train process. Once you have the fundamentals down and you’ve proven you can create quality content and meet deadlines, then start producing this kind of robust hub content. Another path is to engage with a recommended content marketing partner and get your rich, high-quality content published sooner.

Examples of Hub Content

I’ve included examples of hub content to give you an idea of the quality and scope needed. To view some of these, you will have to give up your email address and, in some cases, even more information. Again, this is the overall advantage of gating the hub content. It allows you to capture a lead that you otherwise would never have a chance to nurture over time. Consider the variety of businesses that are producing these.

A Sample Hub & Spoke Schedule

Review the following six-month content marketing plan. It includes hub and spoke content. What do you like about it? What tweaks would you make? What content and formats would you add to it? Can you share your thoughts on hub and spoke along with how you would implement a plan?

Month 1

  • Create eight (8) blog posts
  • Create one (1) Free Guide
  • Promote Free Guide on Social Media channels
  • Promote Blog Posts on Social Media channels

Month 2

  • One (1) Press Release for Free Guide created and published month 1
  • Create five (5) blog posts
  • Create one (1) guest blog post and link back to Free Guide
  • Create one (1) graphic to support Free Guide
  • Promote Free Guide in Social Media channels
  • Promote Blog Posts on Social Media channels
  • Publish a slide deck on SlideShare.net about the Free Guide
  • Use LinkedIn or Facebook to promote the Free Guide

Month 3

  • Create five (5) blog posts
  • Create one (1) guest blog post and link back to Free Guide
  • Create one (1) Case Study
  • One (1) Press Release for Case Study
  • Promote Case Study on Social Media channels
  • Promote Blog Posts on Social Media channels
  • Use LinkedIn or Facebook to promote the Case Study

Month 4

  • Create five (5) blog posts
  • Create one (1) Webinar to support the Free Guide
  • Promote Free Guide in Social Media channels
  • Promote content on Social Media channels
  • Use LinkedIn or Facebook to promote the Free Guide/Case Study

Month 5

  • Create six (6) blog posts
  • Create one (1) guest blog post and link back to Case Study
  • Create one (1) Infographic
  • Promote Infographic on Social Media channels
  • Promote content on Social Media channels
  • Use LinkedIn or Facebook to promote the Infographic

Month 6

  • One (1) Press Release for Infographic created and published month 5
  • Create six (6) blog posts
  • Create one (1) guest blog post and link back to Case Study
  • Create one (1) Free Guide
  • Promote Infographic on Social Media channels
  • Promote content on Social Media channels
  • Use LinkedIn or Facebook to promote the Free Guide/Case Study/Infographic

A Hub & Spoke Variation

Depending on the goal of your hub content, you may want to consider a variation that will allow your content to get indexed in the search engines for ranking purposes and get users to enter their email address for your lead nurture.

This is an example of the variation: The OODA Loop: How to Turn Uncertainty Into Opportunity

It is not gated. It is rather long, perfect hub quality content.

Throughout the article, there is this call to action:

Hub-and-Spoke-Variation

This hub & spoke variation serves 3 purposes:

  1. No barrier to the user if they want to read it.
  2. It is a truly a great piece of content, who wouldn’t want to eventually download it.
  3. SEO value.

To gate or not gate content, that is a question that comes up quite often from our clients.  Again, it revolves around your content goal for the piece.  To learn more about gating and whether or not it’s appropriate to your content, read this article:  Gated vs. Non-Gated Content: Why, How and When?

Your Homework

Give the following some thought:

  1. What 4 hub pieces of content can you create this year? Four hub pieces would allow you to publish one per quarter.
  2. Name 5 experts in your industry or community that you could interview for either a blog post or video interview and link back to your hub content.
  3. What 3 presentations have you given recently that you could post on Slideshare.net and link back to your hub content?
  4. What 3 customers can you interview for either a blog post or video interview and link back to and/or promote your hub content?
  5. Name 3 major events, conference or holidays you could create content around and use to promote your hub content.
  6. What 3 webinars or podcasts could you create in the next year to promote your hub content?
  7. What social media channels would be appropriate to promote your hub content?
  8. What high traffic websites in your industry could you guest post on and promote your hub content?
Content-Calendar-Book-250x250

Organize Your Hub & Spoke Content

Vertical Measures created a FREE content calendar template to help get you started in your planning for the Hub & Spoke model.

It serves as a roadmap for the months ahead to ensure your content is optimized to meet business goals, capably targeting the right audience, and that your contributors, stakeholders and distribution channels are working in concert.

Download the Template