Capturing audiences today requires far more than strong copy and appealing creative. Brands and agencies are striving to keep up with the rapidly growing need for high-quality content that’s both relevant and personalized. It has evolved into a $44 billion industry and is widely viewed as a top priority by 39 percent of client-side marketers. With this in mind, we created this whitepaper, packed with detailed case studies and how-to tips for your content marketing education needs.
Finally, by looking at the role of content marketing in a strategic way, that’s integrated with overall marketing and customer goals, you don’t need to get buy-in for content marketing or even make the case. You’re most of all being a smarter and more effective marketer. In social media marketing, executives needed to approve budgets that were sitting somewhere else. In content marketing that’s less the case as it’s connected with many other marketing goals and is not something “additional”. This doesn’t mean that a solid content marketing plan does not often require additional budgets but you’ll sell more business and a better brand perception to the C-suite, not necessarily a content marketing strategy.
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.
To get the word out, the startup has invested in content and taken its message all over social. Beyond the standard Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (where ClassPass cultivates a hip, color-forward feed that boasts 106,000 followers), Tumblr and Pinterest serve as fun and engaging visual platforms. The former gives “a peek at what energizes and motivates us to be active,” while the latter showcases a collection of self-improvement and lifestyle inspiration boards – one of which links entirely back to The Warm Up, the company’s consumer-facing publication centering on strong, fitness-fueled content.
The key word here is “valuable.” It’s what changes this definition from one that could describe almost any form of advertising or marketing. You can tell if a piece of content is the sort that could be part of a content marketing campaign if people seek it out, if people want to consume it, rather than avoiding it. So was VW’s 2014 “Game Day” commercial, which has been viewed on YouTube almost 18 million times as of the writing of this post, an ad, or content marketing? The answer is it’s both, depending on how it’s received by each individual who is exposed to it. The same will apply to any piece of content marketing you create, depending on whether the recipient received value from it or not. Of course the goal is to provide as much value from your content marketing to as much of your target audience as possible. At this point, despite this definition and explanation, you’re probably still wondering what exactly content marketing is. We can get more clarity by considering a few examples.
18. Nasty Gal: Behind the scenes on the Nasty Galaxy blog. Nasty Gal is the glamorous and unreasonably hip fashion brainchild of #GirlBoss Sophia Amoruso. Its blog, Nasty Galaxy, takes fashion fans behind the scenes of company parties and even photo shoots. Guess what lurks behind the scenes of this cool company? Even more enviable coolness, increasing affinity and likelihood to purchase even more.
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?
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.
Prioritize social channels. Focus on the social channels where your audience is most active and engaged. You don’t need to be everywhere all the time; identify where your audience members live, and get your content in front of them on those platforms. For example, Influence & Co. primarily uses Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to connect with our different audiences.
But Barclaycard isn't stopping there. This past year, it launched The Fast Track, an impressive, interactive online course for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Each of the five learning modules spotlights a local business, plus video, audio, written content, and downloadable guides. Module 3, for instance, is on "Building profile and customer loyalty," featuring the owners of Blok London, a boutique class-based gym, and how it's competing in a saturated fitness industry.
With more of a journalistic bent (Editor Kenny MacIver was the former Editor of Information Age), and barely a mention of Fujitsu, I-CIO is a great example of what content marketing should be. I-CIO even has its own dedicated social media handles for Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube – though for those who are interested in learning more about the company behind the publication, I-CIO's About Us page includes a map so people can access the Fujitsu site in their country.
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.
Burberry partnered with Google to offer image capturing technology through an app that allowed users to press their lips to the screen and capture their kiss. Then they could send that virtual kiss to another person located anywhere in the world. Using Google’s Street View and Google Places, the user could visualize the path that the kiss took to get to its target.
As a marketing technology company, DemandBase has invested a lot of time trying to optimize their content marketing strategy. Rachel Balik, the senior content marketing manager, has provided an overview of the evolution of DemandBase’s content marketing strategy on the company blog. Balik also says that she attends Content Marketing World regularly to learn more about best practices in the industry to improve their overall strategy.
By linking keywords in your guest posts to valuable on-site content, such as blog posts that expand on points mentioned in your article, you can capitalize on the exposure and credibility your earned media offers and reel audiences back to your site. Then, if you’ve been practicing our top tips for successful blogging, the linked blog post will contain a CTA to download your latest gated content — and bam! Lead generated.
You may be thinking, wow that seems like a lot of writing! Don't worry, there are other forms of content marketing outside of print. Another example of content marketing is video. Have you ever searched for information about a particular product and found a video that was so wonderful it convinced you to buy? That is another example of content marketing! The content in the video was most likely informative, engaging, and relevant. This persuades you to purchase the product or service from the company that presented the video.
Zendesk might be an expert in the solutions provided by its product, but behind that product is a chorus of highly skilled experts -- the people who build and engineer the software. The company realized that there’s an audience to be tapped that’s seeking insights and expertise on the technical side of the product, so it used that to build an entirely independent content property.
Some parts of your strategy should stay consistent even as your content marketing program grows and evolves — namely, your mission and business goals. In fact, these two things are so key that you may want to put them on a Post-it note so you can keep them in view whenever you are working on your content. (For example, at CMI, we use them as part of our acceptance criteria for every editorial content submission we receive.)
11. House of Cards: The alternate Frank Underwood reality. Netflix’s political drama House of Cards adopts the marketing mindset that Frank Underwood and HoC characters are totally real. With a full election website and commercial that aired during a presidential debate, you forget that these people are acting — and isn’t that the whole point of TV? House of Cards creates a steady stream of content build-up to generate excitement for the new season. It’s a great example of how a few key content pieces released strategically can drum up anticipation for a big launch.
Add value. That’s the secret. It’s not really a secret at all. We've already talked about it throughout this piece. Although when you look at some of the marketing companies engage in you wonder if they’re purposely avoiding the obvious. We skip advertising when it provides little to no value. If you want to learn about advertising that doesn’t get skipped, find a skateboarder and ask him if you can watch him look through a skateboard magazine. You’ll see that he spends as much time looking at the ads as he does looking at the articles and photos. Or check out The Berrics website. Much of the content is advertisements, but skaters don’t skip these videos, they watch them just like they watch the other videos, because they’re getting the value they want--good skating. As a skater I’d like to say skateboard companies pioneered content marketing decades ago, but I know they were only doing what came naturally, and selling more product was secondary to the fun of creating videos and magazines. If you want to hire someone onto your marketing team who understands content marketing intuitively, hiring a skateboarder might not be a bad step.
Of course, generating revenue is a key goal for many marketers, and content marketing can be a powerful driver. When you build an audience that trusts you and wants to hear from you, they are more likely to purchase your products. For instance, CMI subscribers are more likely to take advantage of CMI paid offerings such as attending Content Marketing World than non-subscribers.
This information should come partly from doing the steps above. If you’ve determined your audience is primarily on LinkedIn, then they might like in-depth articles, whitepapers or slide decks. If they’re on Facebook, then video and list posts might fit their style. If they spend a decent amount of time on Medium, long-form storytelling might be a good fit.
GE is appearing on our list for the second time, and for good reason. For years, the brand’s content marketing has been best-in-class, pioneering the industry with the launch of its wildly successful digital magazine, GE Reports, back in 2008, and pushing the field forward with consistently creative and relevant campaigns ever since. Like one of our favorites – “What If Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like a Celebrity?” – which aired during last year’s Oscars and staked GE's commitment to hiring 20,000 women in technical positions by 2020.
Content marketing attracts prospects and transforms prospects into customers by creating and sharing valuable free content. Content marketing helps companies create sustainable brand loyalty, provides valuable information to consumers, and creates a willingness to purchase products from the company in the future. This relatively new form of marketing does not involve direct sales. Instead, it builds trust and rapport with the audience.
Of all the car rental companies, Zipcar has best mastered this strategy. Since Zipcar's target audience is people who live in the urban areas where it has a presence, Zipcar tailors its content specifically toward city dwellers. Its content hub, Ziptopia, has sections about city living and the future of cities, as well as travel inspiration stories (many accessible by car from major cities). While most posts don't mention Zipcar, calls to action at the bottom of each give readers the option to join Zipcar or book a Ziptrip.