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.
1. Hipmunk: Traveler’s Guide to Tipping. Travel booking site Hipmunk creates a wealth of content to answer common traveler questions and conundrums. One blog post called Traveler’s Guide to Tipping is a fantastic resource for tipping practices in countries around the world. It includes guidelines for restaurants, taxis, and hospitality. Other excellent posts from Hipmunk include How Travelers Can See the New Star Wars Movie Two Days Early, 48 Things to Do in Asia, and How Much Does a Disney Vacation Really Cost. The takeaway is simple: know your demographic and answer their questions. None of these posts are interactive or flashy, but they provide important and relevant information.
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.
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.
Start with an outline: Start with just a skeleton of what you want to say. This means having a few lines for your intro and why people should care about your topic, as well as outlining the main points or sub-headers you’re going to use throughout the post. Read through this. Does it make sense? Does your outline quickly answer What, Why, How and Where?
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.
"In the past, we tried to serve all target audiences through content marketing, from investors to journalists, employees, and potential candidates," says Frank Thomas, Adidas’ Director of Content Strategy and Content Marketing, in NewsCred Insights. "But we realized we were all over the place. We rethought the entire setup and who we needed to address, and decided it is the employees, potential candidates, and, in general, like-minded people who can become advocates for the brand."
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.
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.
This past year, First Round launched First Search, which curates the best advice from technology thought leaders. "It's a database of extremely high-quality, curated advice about all aspects of building companies, pulled from across the web and organized to help you find exactly what you need when you need it," explains Maddie Hall, First Search's Product Manager, in Medium. The plan is that First Search will evolve into personalized discovery experience for every user – which will further help First Round achieve its content marketing goals.
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.
Focus on your customers and overall marketing. As a marketer you want to know what works and what your customers need, not the little debates over definitions. Your customers don’t care about your content marketing definition, nor will your CEO. No one is even forced to like or use the term, all that matters are good marketing practices and great customer experiences.
Go back and read the content marketing definition one more time, but this time remove the relevant and valuable. That’s the difference between content marketing and the other informational garbage you get from companies trying to sell you “stuff.” Companies send us information all the time – it’s just that most of the time it’s not very relevant or valuable (can you say spam?). That’s what makes content marketing so intriguing in today’s environment of thousands of marketing messages per person per day.
The best part of a strategy is being able to track it and see it work. Think about how you can track success every step of the way -- from traffic to engagement to conversion. What tools will you need? Google Analytics? If so, will you need to set up goals in Google Analytics? What about link tracking and UTM parameters? Also, will you need dedicated landing pages?
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.