There’s really no single way to create a content marketing strategy – you have to do it in such a way that aligns with your budget and business goals. However, the main thing to bear in mind that, with digital marketing, you’re looking for engagement and conversations that are a two-way street. So, you’re going to pay attention to what genuinely draws people towards your brand.
Podcasts. Michael Hyatt, author of the best-selling book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, practices what he preaches. His “This is Your Life” podcast is downloaded 250,000 times each month. As Hyatt elaborates on his blog post 4 Reasons You Should Consider Launching Your Own Podcast, “A podcast gives you visibility in a completely different world—primarily iTunes. I have had scores of new people say they had never heard of me until they stumbled onto me in iTunes.” Hyatt gives valuable information and advice in his podcast--all for free. But that podcast leads to more sales of his books, signups for his courses, and requests for him as a speaker.
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Deirdre Breakenridge and Shel Holtz are two of the world’s best-known PR experts and strong advocates of content marketing and social. They have been innovating and leading the way. When we met with both it was a great opportunity to look deeper into what was once known as PR 2.0 and is really about PR evolving as other business functions in a connected, social and content-intensive reality. The key principles remain, the hybrid PR professional is here. Read more.
That’s why it’s exciting to see a brand like Farmers Insurance offer a modern and engaging content hub, plus consistently creative and engaging video – like a recent effort from last Halloween. Starring J.K. Simmons as Professor Nathaniel Burke (Farmers’ brand mascot since 2010), and spinning off from the success of an earlier campaign – Hall of Claims, which pokes fun how wide-ranging and far-fetched these reports can be – "The Stranger Claims" series takes on the same theme, complete with a nod to the hit Netflix show "Stranger Things."
Most people start out with blog posts, but if you want to venture out and try producing other content pieces, consider which ones you want to make. For instance, if you've been doing weekly blog posts for the past year, creating an ebook that distills all your blog posts into one ultimate guide would be a one way to offer information in a different format. We'll go over several different types of content you can use further down on the list.
Companies need to get creative and enthusiastic about getting their content in front of the right people. Passive distribution — or, worse, distribution you do as an afterthought once you realize no one is engaging with your content — won’t cut it. Don’t let your investment in content go to waste by sitting on some of your most valuable marketing assets.
Determine where you’ll submit your content. This could be for your own blog or another publication in your industry. Create a list of potential publications, and carefully research the guidelines for each outlet. Putting together an article and shopping it around to half a dozen publications won’t get you anywhere; however, by understanding what each publication is looking for, you can create custom content that provides value for the audience and increases your chance of acceptance.
First Round Review, the branded publication from venture capital firm First Round Capital, has made a name for itself with exceptional long-form content. With a captive audience of startup founders and business leaders, its content addresses common pain points and shares in-depth strategies from successful executives. The content hub is comprised of nine digital magazines that zone in on a specific aspect of business growth, from product to engineering to fundraising.
22. Kayla Itsines: Exercising Instagram and blogging prowess. Kayla Itsines was a personal trainer in Adelaide, Australia with an average number of social media followers just a few short years ago. Now her Instagram boasts more than four million followers and she owns one of the top apps on iTunes. How’d she do it? Amazing content, especially in the form of before and after shots of ladies who purchase her fitness program. She also regularly posts how-to exercise videos on Instagram and healthy recipes on her site.
Hexagon used augmented reality (AR) to spruce up their written company report, giving investors a more interactive experience when learning the latest updates on the company. How does it work? A mobile app, based on technology from Samsung and zSpace, displays a virtual demonstration of a product when readers hold their mobile device over a "trigger image" of that product within the report.
And from the looks of Here, Away’s impeccably cool, new digital magazine, it's not kidding around. A curated selection of hip photography and the occasional illustration invites readers to explore everything the site has to offer, with striking typographical choices drawing attention directly to the headlines (each appearing in a distinct yet complementary font).
Staying updated on social media trends is great, but social is just the tip of the distribution iceberg. Email marketing helps; still, brands need to dig deeper to discover the distribution channels unique to their audiences. Could you include physical copies of content with certain products? Maybe sales and marketing can work together to target specific accounts and get relevant materials directly into their hands? Or maybe a speaking engagement is the best way to share your message with your audience?
Use pivot tables to your advantage here. If you haven't learned how to use them before, now would be a wonderful time (here's a pretty decent video primer). They're a wonderfully powerful tool for this sort of data analysis, allowing you to compare large sets of data to each other. With a bit of skill, you can make Excel (or Google Spreadsheets) do the hard work for you, giving you (for example) a list of the average traffic for each topic category you'd assigned.
Content marketing focuses on the tactics and execution—the actual creation, curation, and editing of content that's specifically created for the purposes of marketing. This could be anything from blog posts to the confirmation page, and is aimed at building a trusted connection between a company's products or services and the market that might end up purchasing them. It's about creating content that people not only want to consume, but that will also help them through the sales funnel.
User-Generated Content: Soliciting reviews, comments and content from avid online users and social followers cycles fresh ideas into your content production schedule and presents a more genuine relationship between your brand and the public. UGC allows followers to speak on behalf of your brand through digital vehicles like contests, giveaways, hashtag campaigns, video stories and other visual means.
If you’ve ever slogged your way through reading a piece of marketing and only finished reading because you had to, then you’ve experienced bad content marketing. When I speak to companies about content marketing I tell them that content is good if they genuinely want to read it. Content is great if they’re willing to pay to read it. If you want to see great examples of content, just look at what you’ve paid to read, watch, or listen to lately. If you watched The Lego Movie this year, you saw one of the greatest examples of content marketing to date. Oh, you thought they made that movie in order to sell movie tickets? Think again. That was a 100 minute toy commercial, and rather than using a DVR to skip it you paid good money to watch it. Is it any coincidence that Lego recently leapfrogged Mattel, the creators of Barbie, to become the largest toy company in the world? You may not have the budget to make a feature film to promote your company, but you can still give potential customers valuable information.
Most people count on incorporating popular holidays such as New Year's and Thanksgiving in their marketing efforts, but you don't have to limit yourself to these important marketing dates. If there are niche holidays that might appeal to your audience, it could be worth publishing content on your blog or on social media. HubSpot's Service Blog Editor Sophia Bernazzani compiled this ultimate list of social media holidays -- keep an eye on it when you're planning your calendar.
We love how this newsletter illustrates the willingness of CB Insights to not take itself too seriously. Yes, it shares some of the finest insights on technology, venture capital (VC), and emerging businesses, but it does so with fun images that ultimately relate back to the subject -- e.g., the above photo of Oprah that’s been adapted as a meme, since, well, that was the topic of the newsletter.
In the past year, Headspace has launched a few new content initiatives designed to make meditation more accessible – and drive and retain subscribers. One is a "How to Meditate" section that includes answers to frequently asked questions, plus videos that help people solve common meditation challenges. Headspace now also offers “packcasts,” which are recordings that feature Headspace employees discussing certain packs, or sets of meditations, while “trying to build a meditation practice that works for [them]” and showing how personalized one's meditation journey can be.
Live Person is an online voice and chat solutions provider that also uses content marketing to connect with new customers. The company is currently pioneering the realm of digital engagement, which is helping them to rapidly grow their brand. Their new technology has also inspired some remarkably innovative content, which is accelerating their growth even further.
19. American Express: Departures. Departures is a content brand that encompasses travel, fashion, shopping, arts, and culture advice for American Express cardholders. It’s available in both print and digital formats. I personally enjoy receiving the print version every season; it’s a photogenic taste of what’s of the moment around the world, and it gives me aspirational ideas of where I’d like to visit.
Books. Like movies, people often think of books as selling themselves, but savvy marketers don’t sell books just to sell books, they sell books as marketing tools. Michael Port’s sales manual Book Yourself Solid is a great read for entrepreneurs, salespeople, and marketers, and while I’m sure Port enjoys selling his book, the book is a tool for driving customers to his coaching and speaking services. Although with self-publishing it’s easier than ever to publish a book, there is still the perception that it’s difficult and that only reputable professionals can publish a business book. Publish your own, and even if people don’t read it you can still use it as a form of content marketing every time you’re introduced as “Author of…”
EXAMPLE: River Pools and Spas changed its mission from being a pool installer to being “the best teachers in the world about fiberglass pools” — and then started to answer specific customer questions in blog posts. As Marcus Sheridan explained, that decision was “one of the most prosperous days of our lives,” as that was when customers started coming to them. View the case study:
3. Farmers Insurance: Inner Circle. According to Kapost, Farmers Insurance “features an extensive library of helpful tips around home maintenance and repairs, budgeting, auto care and insurance, and more. The content is easily navigable, succinct, engaging, and well designed.” It’s a perfect example of a brand prioritizing being helpful to people (anyone — not just Farmers customers) instead of selling to them.
It doesn’t really matter what content marketing stands for. The debates around the definition of content marketing and even its value will not make the lives of your customers better nor will they improve your business. Content marketing is not a holy grail, it’s a popular term for a way of working with content to do better. On the other hand the debate does matter in the sense that often you will read things about content marketing that aren’t correct because the definition was wrong to start with. And misinformation can lead to wrong decisions.
"Our ambition is fairly massive," says Jay Curley, now Ben & Jerry’s Global Head of Integrated Marketing, in New York Magazine. "We're trying to create a new model for how businesses can use their voice to have an impact on important social movements, and show that you can do that and it doesn’t hurt your business. As a matter of fact, it may help."
For parents, think about BabyCenter. When I was pregnant and then raising my older daughter, I considered BabyCenter to be required reading. It’s a perfect example of content marketing. According to its website, it is the No. 1 pregnancy and parenting digital destination, and eight in 10 new and expectant moms online use BabyCenter each month. The site is owned by Johnson & Johnson, which sells products for babies.
We don’t consider marketing campaigns, even if multi-channel and customer-centric, with lots of content as content marketing either as 1) they have existed forever and are not an indication of content marketing maturity and 2) content marketing is an ongoing effort. An example of why this makes sense: we often notice that brands winning content marketing awards for campaigns have websites – their predominant online presence – that don’t even respect the basics of offering the relevant content potential and existing customers in the broadest sense HAVE to be able to find. Again, this doesn’t mean that good marketing campaigns aren’t characterized by the right content, among others.
Businesses focused on expanding their reach to more customers will want to pay attention to the increase in volume of visitors, as well as the quality of those interactions. Traditional measures of volume include number of visitors to a page and number of emails collected, while time spent on page and click-through to other pages/ photos are good indicators for engagement.
However, you don’t need to work with influencers to utilize user-generated content as part of your marketing strategy. Whether you create a contest or just consistently ask for feedback through social media, you can encourage your fans and followers to post pictures of themselves using your products or services. When you repost this content, you are showing your leads and customers what others think about your brand while showing the customer themselves your appreciation for their business.
Burberry’s latest digital venture is the fashion chatbot they launched at the London Fashion Week last month. It complements their entry into the “see-now-buy-now” trend made popular earlier this year by Tommy Hilfiger. The Facebook Messenger based chatbot lets the company sell their latest collection as soon as it hits the runway. Viewers can watch shows real-time, interact with the bot to inspect a collection more closely and even request a connection to a real human to help with the purchase.
Last January, Marriott released the 35-minute "Two Bellmen Three," set in Seoul, Korea. The goal of the film: to highlight Marriott's Asian properties and capture a piece of the wedding market. As part of the release, Marriott offered "Two Bellmen"-themed wedding, food, and spa packages at participating hotels. To date, "Two Bellmen Three" has more than 9 million YouTube views.
Infographics. These are generally long, vertical graphics that include statistics, charts, graphs, and other information. If you need some examples, here are 197 infographics on the topic of content marketing curated by Michael Schmitz, head of Content Lab at Publicis, Munich. Infographics can be effective in that if one is good it can be passed around social media and posted on websites for years. You can get a professionally designed infographic by hiring a contractor on a site like oDesk or if you want to remove some of the risk you can go with a company like Visua.ly. A decent infographic will usually cost you at least $1,000 to have designed, but can cost several thousand dollars if you are hiring a contractor or agency to include strategy and planning, research, copywriting, and design. There is also the matter of promoting that infographic to bloggers and the media. Or you could set up a board on Pinterest and curate infographics on a topic related to your business. That is also a form of content marketing, and it costs nothing but your time. Hey, it worked for Michael.
One thing you'll need to know right from the get-go is that none of these benefits is going to show up immediately. Content marketing is a wonderful example of what's referred to as flywheel marketing: At first, it takes quite a bit of effort just to get the wheel turning. Over time, though, the wheel's own momentum lessens the effort required of you to see the same results. Don't expect results tomorrow, and think now about whose expectations you may need to temper, and what that'll mean for your work. But don't let that fool you into thinking it isn't working.
You know what segmentation is. In general, it means that your content should appeal to prospects/customers in function of their profile, behavior, journey, personas, etc. You probably think “I am doing that” but instead of targeting people in function of demographics or job functions take it further: industry, expressed needs and challenges, past behavior, triggers, digital signals, cross-channel customer data, whatever. But, most importantly: look at the pain points, questions and concerns of your prospects.
30. Tortuga Backpacks: Power Trip Travel Podcast. In their words: “A weekly podcast at the intersection of travel and entrepreneurship. The show is hosted by Fred Perrotta and Jeremy Michael Cohen, the co-founders of Tortuga Backpacks. Join us for the stories behind your favorite travel gear, products, websites, and apps from their creators… Plus, we’ll share the best ways to travel better, cheaper, and with less hassle.”
Cheng’s how-to training exchange delivers on Fu-tung’s passion to share his knowledge to help others. The concrete content HQ includes tips, techniques, videos, and step-by-step directions to help Cheng’s potential customers complete their projects. Cheng’s content mission? “To provide information and design inspiration for building and making your own concrete projects.”
There are as many types of content marketing as there are types of content--far too many to cover here. My intent is to give you an introduction to content marketing and get you thinking like a content marketer so you’ll see the opportunities all around you. Soon you’ll be coming up with 50 content marketing ideas every day. You won’t be able to stop seeing opportunities to create content. Here are five examples to help your mind start percolating.