Last year, Valerie-Ann Leary, Marketing Manager, Client Marketing and Demand Generation, wrote about the reception of a new e-book that they created—The Future of Digital Engagement: 10 Thought Leaders Share Predictions for 2014. Leary said that Live Pearson generated enough exposure to win the Killer Content award from Demand Gen Report for the Best Influencer Campaign. However, while winning an award was a nice affirmation of the success of their content marketing strategy, the real reward was all the new exposure that they generated, which presumably translated into many new leads.
Similarly, USAA launched “The Money Drill” podcast in 2016 as an experiment to attract younger audience members while delivering financial content in an easy, engaging way. It was worth it; the program was met with almost immediate success, and, nearly two years on, draws 24,000 plays per month. "The Money Drill" also gave USAA's content marketing team a major internal win.
Xerox is the world’s leading photocopying company. While that sounds like something to brag about, it has, ironically, created some branding problems for the company. Since Xerox is so widely known for its photocopiers, many customers don’t know anything about its other services, such as IT outsourcing. Xerox solved this problem by rebranding itself with content, which played a huge role in boosting business in its other verticals.
That top-of-funnel position doesn't mean it's impossible to demonstrate the value of content. It just means you need to build a more complex model to understand and show how content really contributes to your conversions. These models can provide a good estimate of the value of your content, but they are, at best, an estimate, so keep that in mind before you tell the boss that if you can get the funds for one blog post it'll bring in exactly $1200 worth of leads.
Though there are links and CTAs to the Acorns site throughout the blog site, the content is not product-focused. Instead, it educates and informs the reader so that they can make better decisions about their finances. Rather than discussing how great Acorns is, it provides relevant and realistic advice about how readers can take control of their financial future.
What existing budgets can we tap into to better achieve the goals using content in areas where return is below expectations (and what are these areas, of course)? An example: you may have an overall budget for your website but maybe it’s better to invest in more relevant content for your buyer personas instead and putting that design makeover on hold this year. Or maybe your organization invests a bit too much in generating traffic and leads but conversions stay behind. You can turn down the volume a bit and invest more in conversion optimization and lead nurturing, using content.
Much of Plated's success hinges upon one factor: subscribers, and Morsel has been optimized to drive them. The tips, recipes, and stories feature large, gorgeous images and clear, conversational copy to engage readers. At the bottom of each story, and on Morsel's homepage, are calls to action with discounted offers for first-time Plated subscribers.
He elaborates, “What’s the thing where when you read the first few search results you say, ‘This is great, but I wish they…’. If you have great answers to that, don’t ask ‘how do we make something as good as this?’ but say ‘how do we make something 10X better than any of these?” That’s the bar that’s been set because it’s so competitive to try to rank for terms today.”
While the goal on social media sites like Instagram or Snapchat is to connect more intimately with your audience, your goal on platforms like Facebook and Twitter is to expand that audience, drive traffic toward your website, and start conversations in your industry. Do some basic market research to discover which platforms your buyers are on, and mold your content to their expectations.
The “marketing” part of content marketing can lead to confusion as content marketing is not just used for strict marketing purposes. It’s also used for sales enablement, public relations, etc. Good programs involve multiple internal customers (customer service, sales, product marketing, brand management, etc.) and content marketing is not owned by marketing (nor by PR or any other division).
Think about it: the average podcast is 35 minutes long, much longer than Bon Appetit’s readers probably engage with a single article on their site. If the content is good, people stick with a podcast much longer than they would linger on a webpage, and they subscribe to receive this content right on their smartphone every week. (If you dig podcasts, check out Salesforce’s new marketing-focused podcast launched in 2015 — the Marketing Cloudcast.)
Your content is only as valuable as its ability to attract audience members and compel them to engage with your business on an ongoing basis — as subscribers, customers, evangelists, or, ideally, all three. Once you have an addressable audience, your content efforts will help increase sales, gather valuable customer insights, and activate your most ardent followers as brand advocates.
A valuable asset that often sets off discovery and awareness for potential SAP customers, FCEC is clearly dedicated to producing high-quality content that drives leads – without pushing sales pitches. Instead, Hatch puts audience needs and interests first, with articles that are timely and relevant to industry executives and the field at large. As a result, her team continues to cultivate loyal readers. The FCEC newsletter has 5,000 subscribers and an approximately 22 percent open rate each month. And pageviews are on the rise, as well, with an entirely organic 20 percent increase back in 2016.
EXAMPLE: Sony’s Alpha Universe is a content platform dedicated to photography professionals. While its purpose is to drive product sales for Sony’s Alpha line of cameras, the content focuses not on Sony products but on providing information the audience will find educational and helpful. After starting as a blog, the brand diversified its content into a podcast and a training program.
The number of ways in which content benefits SEO is far too great to count here. In summary, great content attracts editorial links, which tell Google you're important and authoritative. Google can also crawl your content, getting a far better idea of what your company is about, allowing it to return your site for more relevant queries (including a great many long-tail queries). The list goes on, but it can all be boiled down to this: Without content, what is there to optimize for search engines?
Traditional marketers have long used content to disseminate information about a brand and build a brand's reputation. Taking advantage of technological advances in transportation and communication, business owners started to apply content marketing techniques in the late 19th century. They also attempted to build connections with their customers. For example:
Content marking is creating content that can be shared with customers through various forms. Examples include videos, blog posts, and how-to guides. The content shared must be relevant, engaging and informative. Businesses use content marking to reach new customers and retain existing customers. Traditional marketing and content marketing are not the same!
One of the reasons that ADP’s content marketing strategy has been so effective is that the company provides detailed estimates of the amount of money that readers can save using ADP’s solutions. For example, their search engines estimate that a human resources coordinator in a firm with 50 employees would save $13,370 by employing ADP’s solutions and strategies, giving brands a compelling reason to download the firm’s white papers.
It’s important that every piece of content has a Call-to-Action (CTA) that’s direct and brand-focused – otherwise, your content isn’t really likely to generate leads. The cool part about social marketing, however, is that you can get creative with this. Instead of just saying, “Buy this product,” for example, you can offer a free e-book or trial offer to let users have access and decide for themselves whether or not your product or service is valuable.
Another reason? People are just not that into ads. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust In Advertising report, people trust text ads less than any other content medium, especially on mobile. What’s more, on the list of trusted mediums, editorial content outranked ads on all traditional channels, including TV, radio, billboards, newspapers and magazines.
Crowe Horwath is a leading accounting and consulting firm. In 2013, the company launched a content marketing process for reaching financial institutions with $1 billion or more in assets. Their strategy consisted of generating nearly 50 different pieces of content centered around several topics of interest to their target customers, using all the following formats:
Although native advertising might not look like marketing, the content should explicitly state that it was provided by the advertiser. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for all advertising emphasizes transparency and includes stipulations that advertising claims must be truthful and supported by evidence. The more content marketing is similar in format and topic to the publisher's editorial content, the more important a disclosure is, in order to prevent deception.
The personal finance site Mint.com used content marketing, specifically their personal finance blog MintLife, to build an audience for a product they planned to sell. According to entrepreneur Sachin Rekhi, Mint.com concentrated on building the audience for MintLife "independent of the eventual Mint.com product." Content on the blog included how to guides on paying for college, saving for a house, and getting out of debt. Other popular content included in-depth interview and a series of financial disasters called "Trainwreck Tuesdays." Popularity of the site surged as did demand for the product. "Mint grew quickly enough to sell to Intuit for $170 million after three years in business. By 2013, the tool reached 10 million users, many of whom trusted Mint to handle their sensitive banking information because of the blog’s smart, helpful content."
Influencers: Letting others speak for you is sometimes more valuable than tooting your own horn, and audiences may find it more authentic as well. Creating a rapport with prominent industry influencers and having them share your content through their own social feeds streams your content to potentially thousands or millions of new followers. That means more brand ambassadors than you could have ever organically created.
By 2014, Forbes Magazine's website had written about the seven most popular ways companies use content marketing. In it, the columnist points out that by 2013, use of content marketing had jumped across corporations from 60% a year or so before, to 93% as part of their overall marketing strategy. Despite the fact that 70% of organizations are creating more content, only 21% of marketers think they are successful at tracking return on investment.
Once you’ve selected your thought leaders, it’s time to create a process for extracting their expert knowledge. Remember, your SMEs are busy people, and the last thing they probably want to do is interrupt their everyday workflow to ideate, write, edit, and publish an article. Make the process as simple for them as possible by following these steps:
So you're familiar with content marketing and its importance in an effective inbound marketing campaign, but are you doing them correctly? As mentioned in our intro, this is usually the area that most marketers struggle with, but thankfully, by following a few basic best practices, we can help you in your quest to get started in creating quality, relevant content.
So what is content marketing, then? Well, it's pretty simple. Content marketing is the use of that content—any of it—to help meet a marketing goal for your organization. That could be acquisition of potential customers, retention of existing ones, making more people aware of your brand or your products, or really anything else. We'll go into many of the most popular and effective ways of doing all of these things throughout the rest of this guide.
Celine Roque of Contently recently wrote a very insightful piece about American Express and its longstanding commitment to content marketing. Roque points out that the world’s largest travel company has been using content for brand building for the past 100 years, beginning with a series of engaging travel guides in 1915 that played a prominent role in growing the company.
Providing the content in different formats, each with their specific calls-to-action, depending on individual stages. Offer a variety of content types and formats. Not for the sake of it but because different segments and personas have different needs. Furthermore, if you can avoid message fatigue, several touchpoints are good, certainly also from a brand perspective. There is nothing wrong with repetition, variety, choice and multiple formats. As long as it’s relevant.