This presentation is drawn from our work here at Convince & Convert, where we create content marketing strategy for some of the best-known brands in the world. (if we can help you, please let us know). In practice, of course, creating a fully functional content marketing plan requires meaningful time and effort (usually 60 days or so for us), but I sincerely hope that this presentation and the seven steps it outlines for how to do this kind of work, will help you take your own content marketing plan to the next level of success.
Through content that brings that ethos to life, Clif Bar has nurtured legions of fans. Recent stories include a profile of two Clif Bar-sponsored athletes who set out to raise $100,000 for Bears Ears National Monument, an article on Clif Bar employees achieving 100,000 hours of volunteering, and a big rock piece of content about The Great Trail, a 15,000-mile network of trails across Canada.
Now is an exciting time for content marketers. We are currently in the performance era of content marketing. We no longer have to choose between creating inspiring content (that’s hard to measure) and ads (that annoy customers but are easy to track). Technology has evolved to the point where we can produce incredible content and measure business results.
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.
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.
While all the ways American Girl connects to its audience are too numerous to cover in this one post, I’m particularly amazed by its print publications. For instance, The Care and Keeping of You is a book all about growing up for girls. It ranks second in its category (and 71st most popular among all books on Amazon). It’s from a brand selling dolls – but the subject has nothing to do with the dolls.
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.
It goes hand in hand with content sharing, social content marketing, social media, copywriting, visual content, you name it. Storytelling is also closely related with word-of-mouth, recommendations and the simple act of sharing and connecting, since long before digital marketing, let alone content marketing even existed. We know why: storytelling is one of the most human ways of passing along knowledge and traditions, mesmerizing audiences and, in fact, human nature as such. What does storytelling mean in a content marketing context? Below are a few resources on storytelling and content marketing.
Content marketing is different than traditional product-marketing efforts like sales collateral and other product-specific info. Content marketing includes things like educational articles, e-books, videos, entertainment, and webinars that answer specific questions people have and provide them with something they can’t get elsewhere. It’s the best way to turn your product, no matter how common, into something that is not like everyone else’s.
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.
Whether it’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly, never leave your content without tracking the results. This can include monitoring view and click rates, reading customer comments and responses, or even tracking ecommerce stats in relation to your content releases. Data tracking will allow you to analyze the results of your content marketing efforts and learn what’s effective and what isn’t.
To help you build your content marketing strategy for next year, I teamed up with Skillshare to curate a list of their top online classes that’ll teach you how to build a content marketing strategy from the ground up. They were even generous enough to offer us all two free months of access to their 17,000+ online classes (normally $8-15 a month) so you can get a jump start on building your content marketing strategy (and more) in 2018.
If you thought a company like Twitter doesn’t need content marketing, think again. The social media giant has been building up its Twitter Business Outlook blog with original and licensed content centered on how-tos and best practices for advertising on the platform. After all, while countless other websites and agencies counsel on how to tweet to your fullest potential, where better to hear it than straight from the source?
Whole Foods does a great job of living those brand principles in its content marketing. Articles about how to save money but still eat healthy or tips to change your diet for the better make Whole Foods’ products and lifestyle more inclusive. On top of that, it uses a lot of proactive language (“I want to learn/do/both” as a search option in its navigation bar) which makes the audience feel like they have an active role in the experience.
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.
While this is obviously so, this goes for all forms of “marketing” from an integrated perspective. Nevertheless, content marketing, regardless of definitions and terms, can be clearly differentiated in many ways from other marketing tactics and approaches. Even if phenomena and activities such as corporate blogging – and, going back far more in time, storytelling – are older that the term content marketing, they are often mentioned in a content marketing context. This also means that often definitions overlap. Corporate blogging is a good example as it is defined as a content marketing practice but also as social media marketing and inbound marketing. More about the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing here. Finally, as new – mainly digital – evolutions (also driven by consumer adoption), it’s clear that content marketing will continue to evolve, as will media evolutions, as the increasing focus on “converged media” clearly indicates.
Setting a theme also helps you create several streams of content. For example, if my theme for the month was content strategy, I could turn each of these five steps into their own blog post. Then I could create additional content like a sample content calendar or audience analysis spreadsheet to supplement each post that readers could download for free.
This same phenomenon was found in other countries, such as the UK and even in research in smaller countries such as Belgium, in which there was an apparent link with the fact marketers said to be ready to break out of the cycle of short-terminism. As mentioned, content marketing – indeed – is not about short-terminism and thus cannot be defined in a pure campaign perspective if correctly used.
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.
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.
Please, please, please don’t neglect to incorporate visuals into your content strategy. Of course, having a presence on visually-focused channels like Instagram and YouTube is vital -- but when it comes to your written content, don’t afraid to use visuals there, as well. After all, articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images.
We know this is a lot of information, but the work has just begun. It takes time, organization, and creativity to grow a successful content marketing strategy. From building the foundation of your content marketing plan to adding tools to better manage your content, setting up your strategy for the new year won't be a hassle if you follow the steps and explore the resources here.
Yet, not everyone is ready to sign up for Plated on the first visit, and the company takes that into account. A newsletter subscription button allows people to sign up by simply entering their email addresses. Or, they can become one of Plated's 279,000 Facebook followers, 99,200 Instagram followers, or 21,000 Twitter followers. To engage its community – and show how easy it is to create Plated meals – Plated often reposts images from users who have cooked Plated meals and shared them with the hashtag #platedpics. In addition, Plated shares the five best photos of the week on Morsel, in an ongoing blog series.
Starting a podcast will help audiences find your brand if they don't have time or interest in reading content every day. The number of podcast listeners is growing -- in 2018, nearly one-third of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast in the last month. If you have interesting people to interview or conversations to host, consider podcasting as another content format to experiment with.
Who are the buyer personas and what are their content needs and preferences? This questions looks at the type of information different ‘archetypes’ of buyers seek during their buying journey and maps the customer touchpoints, preferred communication channels, and – to some extent – the content formats, although that’s a question for the content strategy too. Buyer personas haven’t been invented for content marketing. They are used for an overall marketing strategy. But in a content marketing strategy you take a more complete look at them.
Content marketing is an umbrella term. This means that it can be used for numerous reasons and can mean many things to many people. It’s less tangible than search engine marketing, for instance. This is exactly the reason why you need to think about the strategic role of content marketing within your organization and its ecosystem. Without a content marketing strategy, you risk focusing on the content – and content strategy – too much and not seeing the overall goals anymore. In fact, this is one of the most crucial and deadly mistakes in content marketing. Unfortunately, this disconnected view on content marketing happens very often and leads to a focus on the wrong things.
When content marketing started becoming increasingly popular, it was believed by some that content marketing would be a passing fad, among others given the huge increase of content created. Early observers and practitioners called this the ‘content marketing backlash‘. Another term – that expressed this sentiment, was introduced later and was contested by Joe Pulizzi – was ‘content shock‘.
Because Better Everyday isn’t attached to the company’s main URL, it provides an opportunity for NextView to experiment with different tones, voices, and stories -- all from a variety of experts that might already be using Medium to discover and contribute unique content. Plus, with Medium’s built-in ability for people to recommend, highlight, and search internally for relevant content, it makes the work published there that much more shareable.
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.
But more importantly, GoPro is getting tons of free marketing from the customers themselves. By promoting customer uploads and targeting an audience looking to record their exploits, the company sees thousands upon thousands of users upload branded content every month. These uploads are then constantly edited and compiled by other users into “People are Awesome” videos and non‐sponsored “GoPro Compilations” like the one below.
If you’ve ever seen a growth marketer on the heels of a successful optimization experiment, you know that her energy is electric. Unbounce, a landing page software company based in Vancouver, understands that excitement and decided to leverage it to create an engaging microsite, Page Fights, in collaboration with optimization company Conversion XL.
You should place sharing options above and below content to increase visibility and give readers access, wherever they are on the page. If you’re company blog runs on Wordpress you can also implement auto-detection plug-ins that prompt users to share or subscribe to your content depending on the platforms they are logged into when they are viewing your content.
As the U.K.’s largest tech company, Sage specializes in financial software that enables small and medium business owners to run their companies on laptops or mobile devices. Sage's mission is to help these organizations and entrepreneurs flourish in the face of harsh statistics – like the fact that half of all new businesses fail within their first two and a half years, according to Sage’s EVP of Digital Marketing Neil Morgan.
Web hosting is one of the most competitive sectors in the technology industry. There are hundreds of companies trying to reach the same customers, many of whom aren’t that tech-savvy. Not only that, many compete on price, rather than features or quality. Competing on price lowers the margins of the industry as a whole and makes the competition play hard in acquiring each customer.
Research is great, but it never hurts to try something new if your content marketing timeline (and budget) allow for a little experimentation. Jump on social media trends, try out a new technology, or reach out to your audience and ask them what they’d like to see. Just make sure you’re always tracking the results so you can revisit and potentially add something new as part of your successful content marketing strategy.
When you think of social media influencer marketing, your first thought is probably not General Electric. However, GE provides one of the best content marketing examples for B2B brands. Rather than highlighting their consumer products (like washers and vacuum cleaners), the company decided to use social media influencers to highlight their other business – like jet engines and wind turbines.
It's content that helps people find you. It might even be content that makes people fall in love with you a little. But discovery-level content is not usually the last touch before a big sale. There are many more layers of content that usually finesse that conversion. (More on that when we discuss how content can represent various stages of the funnel in ch. 3.)
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.