Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

If you’re going to be putting valuable resources into growing your content strategy, then you have to make sure your efforts are actually paying off. The last thing you want is to spend time budgeting for content marketing and then discover later that you don't have any way of knowing whether your investment paid off. Many marketing teams struggle in this area because there are so many different metrics you could track to determine your content’s performance. However, before you can even begin to set these key performance indicators accurately, you must be crystal clear on your purpose for creating content and how it fits within your strategy.


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.
Whether in a team or on your own, be realistic about your time. If blogging once a week and sending a newsletter twice a month is the most you can manage, don’t shoot for any more than that. Setting yourself up for failure breaks trust with your audience that expects what you’ve promised. You don’t want burnout here, you want a streamlined process that works for your schedule.
14. Square: A Town Square for small business owners. Credit card reader Square’s “Town Square” is a resource center for growing businesses. Many small business owners rely on Square readers for credit card readers, and now they can also rely on Square for super valuable SMB content, like how to do better social media marketing and whether a company holiday party is tax deductible. Compared to many other companies’ blogs, it’s very frequently updated.
Though you may not have the same advertising budget as Coca-Cola, you can still take a few things from this popular campaign. Personalization can go a long way into helping your consumers feel special and appreciated. Whether it’s sending a personal message through email or making product recommendations based on a consumer’s buying behaviors, the more personalized your marketing is, the more effective it will be.
With so many ways to publish content as a brand, inspiration always helps. That’s why we created this list of our 30 favorite content marketing examples of 2015. Whether it’s an individual campaign, a new podcast, or an overall blog property, these companies demonstrate what it means to be customer-focused in every content creation effort. As you plan content marketing campaigns for 2016, consider emulating the spirit of these brands who already do it well.
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.”
This is particularly critical in large organizations, as it can help keep siloed teams on the same page, minimize duplicated efforts, and ensure that everyone is working toward the same content goals. But sharing your documented strategy is also good practice for businesses that are just starting out with content marketing, for content teams that rely on internal or external subject matter experts, or for companies that outsource any part of the content creation and distribution process.
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). 

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.

He is the co-founder of Neil Patel Digital. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies. Neil is a New York Times bestselling author and was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations.

You’ll want to take existing insights and try to determine which of the different social platforms is most effective, and then choose one or two KEY platforms to work your content. Be sure that your brand and product fits your social media channel itself as well as the demographic. For instance, you’re better off sharing yoga clothes on Instagram and Pinterest, perhaps even via an influencer marketer, then on something like LinkedIn.

"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."
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.
Cisco launched a new router a couple years ago and decided to use it as a case study to measure the ROI of its content marketing and social media strategies. Executives were stunned to discover that their digital campaign allowed them to reach their lead goals for $100,000 less than anticipated. LaSandra Brill, senior manager of global social media at Cisco, said that the company will use these results as the basis for future product launches:
17. Bumble and Bumble: Video style guides. Regardless of if you use Bumble and Bumble’s hair products, its website answers a multitude of questions about blowdrying, dealing with curls, straightening hair, and much more. The company’s robust library of step-by-step videos show how to create any look with any type of hair imaginable. It’s free content that’s as useful as it is memorable when you want to buy your next styling product.
The Italian Generali Group is the third largest insurance company in the world, on the Forbes best employee list as of last year, and, as it turns out, a major player when it comes to content. With its image-forward design and variety of articles, for instance, Generali Spain’s homepage looks and feels a lot like a digital magazine instead of your typical insurance website.
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.
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.
Whether you’re building a business case to launch a content marketing program or improving your existing one, it’s important that you and your stakeholders align on what, exactly, content marketing is – and what value it can provide your brand and target audience. We put together this resource to help you do exactly that. Here, you’ll find the definition of content marketing and other frequently asked questions. You’ll also find examples from top brands, as well as statistics to articulate the ROI it can have on your business.

Some of the brands covered here are newcomers to the market, while others are household names that have been around for more than a century. However, they all have one thing in common: they recognize the value of creating great content to engage their audience and generate new leads. Get inspired by their examples and use their success to fuel your own content marketing efforts.
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