The Moonshot Strategy to Make Effective Creative Content Marketing

by Katy French

Last year we decided to entirely revamp, rebuild, and reshape our creative content marketing strategy. For years, we’d been lucky enough to rely on a steady stream of word-of-mouth business, but as we expanded and our team’s creative goals grew, we realized we needed to take a more aggressive approach to our marketing. We needed some moonshot thinking—and a strategy to help us turn that thinking into reality. 

If you’re not familiar, the “moonshot” philosophy derives from President Kennedy’s famous remarks about the ambitious attempt to put a man on the moon: “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” In a business context, moonshot thinking is grand, ambitious thinking meant to achieve previously inconceivable results. You can see Google’s moonshot philosophy here:

While this thinking is most often applied to tech and product innovation, a moonshot strategy can easily be adopted by any marketing organization. For us, it was a focused approach to reset and jumpstart our marketing with a burst of creative energy, breaking it all down and rebuilding bigger and better than we ever thought we could. (As Experiment Often is one of our values, it also gave us a chance to walk our talk.)

Moonshot Thinking and Creative Content Marketing

So how did we make a moonshot strategy work? It began with a single commitment to bulldoze the obstacles that had been holding us back, sabotaging our previous efforts, or wasting our time. In short, it was an agreement that we would go full-force toward increasing leads.

The result? In only 6 months, we increased our leads 78% by adapting a 7-step framework for moonshot thinking outlined by Lisa Goldman and Kate Purmal in The Moonshot Effect: Disrupting Business as Usual.

If you need a major jumpstart in your creative content marketing, we’d recommend you follow the same. Here’s how. 

1) Assemble the Dream Team

To start, we broke apart and rebuilt our team, focusing not on job titles but on roles. (We believe this is the key to assembling a super effective content marketing team.) Each person was given total ownership over their domain, removing micromanaging or approvals processes, so that we could work freely and aggressively. That didn’t mean we worked in a silo; it meant we were empowered to hold on-the-spot brainstorms, recruit people who had specialized knowledge to help create content, and experiment with everything from ideas to distribution.

2) Name the Concrete Goal

When it comes to moonshot thinking, choosing the right goal is key. For us, we decided our goal was to rank no. 1 in Google for every one of our work types (or related keywords). That no. 1 spot was our moonshot, our North Star. But how to do it? With the team, we looked at the landscape of all of our marketing efforts and determined that better creative content was the way to get there. 

Tip: When choosing your moonshot, it should be highly ambitious. But, as Scott D. Anthony and Mark Johnson note in the Harvard Business Review, there are three criteria for a good moonshot goal:

  • It inspires: For us, having had practically no marketing, garnering a ton of more leads was an exciting prospect and an inspiring goal. 
  • It’s credible: Increasing rankings was a goal that, although difficult, was something we could conceivably achieve.
  • It’s imaginative: We were going full out to get that coveted no. 1 spot—a goal that at another time would have seemed out of reach.

That’s when we called in the team.

3) Identify the Plan

With this ambitious goal, we vetted all ideas for how we might increase our rankings, detailing a keyword strategy and looking at opportunities we may have overlooked. Once we determined the keywords we would target with creative content, we clearly outlined the publishing strategy we would need to pursue to increase rankings. This included drafting targeted marketing personas, specifying the volume of posts, identifying ideal word count, etc.

4) Validate the Plan

When we had “the plan” on paper, we did our due diligence to spot flaws, calculate budget, seek counsel from an SEO specialist, and run it by every in-house expert, from art director to distribution strategist, who may have input. This review process helped us consolidate our efforts and divide duties evenly.

5) Finalize the Plan

One of the biggest challenges before this experiment was siloing. People were pursuing projects individually, projects were pushed back if a designer wasn’t available, and there was no umbrella thinking. To move this plan from planning stage to real life, we had discussions with leadership and stakeholders from all departments to approve the plan and ensure we were supported and empowered to get the resources we needed—no questions asked.

6) Dive in to Your Creative Content

With a green light, we dove into content full force. To avoid holding up publishing, we collectively adopted an agile mentality, experimenting right and left to maintain momentum. If a post failed, we kept moving. If something needed improvement, we did it with the next one. If a weekly scheduled meeting was wasting time, we canceled it.

The plan was our blueprint, but we colored it in as we went. This affected everything from the way we brainstormed ideas and edited articles to the way we tracked metrics and implemented a paid social strategy. It was an aggressive relay. We could course correct, but we couldn’t slow down. That was the deal.

7) Track Your Results

We began to see results almost immediately, and as the months went by, we saw tremendous growth. We also got better at determining what was working (targeted content batches), where we could improve (keyword strategy), and how we could course correct when needed (focusing on fewer social platforms for content distribution). So how did it all work out? While we didn’t entirely hit our moonshot goal, we are still pretty happy with the results. Since we started the strategy:

  • 3 of 10 work types rank no. 1 on Google
  • 6 of 10 work types rank on page 1 on Google
  • 4 of 16 related keywords rank no. 1 on Google
  • 10 of 16 related keywords rank on page 1 on Google

What We Learned from Our Moonshot Experiment

Sure, we didn’t hit no. 1 for every keyword, but we made huge, gigantic jumps that we would have surely failed at had we not committed our team, resources, and vision to this lofty goal. And the more we worked at it, the more we learned, so we’re confident we can continue to make headway.

The experiment wasn’t without sweat, struggle, miscommunication, or frustration, but it absolutely showed us the power of our thinking. The more ambitious we became, the more focused our thinking, the more agile our approach, and, ultimately, the more effective we were.

We hope you’ll try a moonshot of your own (and please let us know how it goes!). And if you want more inspiration on creating better content marketing, here’s some extra reading you might like:

And if you need a little help, let’s talk about it.  

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