A content marketer’s work is never done. We’re constantly updating and optimizing our strategies based on our latest learnings, observations, insights, and technology. At NewsCred, this is one of the reasons we find our work so exciting. We’ve been in business for nearly a decade and it’s been gratifying and fascinating to evolve with the space. In keeping with our annual tradition, we’ve taken a look at the state of the content marketing industry, plus our strategy and learnings, and put together a case study on ourselves. Here, our best practices for using content to drive business results.
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.
Though Chanel was late to join the digital brouhaha in comparison with other luxury brands, it’s one of the few brands that has made the most progress in the recent past. Burberry still holds the coveted top spot for digital customer experience proficiency, as per a report published by Contactlabs earlier this year, but brands like Fendi, Hugo Boss and Chanel have significantly climbed the charts as well.
Great article Sarah. I think that a key theme all of these great content marketing strategies have in common is humour; humour has universal appeal and is a very effective way of getting audiences to talk about and share your content. Of course your content marketing strategy needs to be comprehensive and well executed, and for businesses without the staff capacity I would recommend outsourcing your digital marketing needs to skilled freelancers.

In this pursuit, content helps companies equip their customers for success. Content shows buyers optimal uses for companies’ products and services, encouraging customers to see the good more than the bad. With a content strategy focused on customer success, businesses can devote fewer resources to putting out fires and more resources to growing their brands.
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.
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.

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. 

Red Bull, which sells a high-energy beverage, has published YouTube videos, hosted experiences, and sponsored events around extreme sports and activities like mountain biking, BMX, motocross, snowboarding, skateboarding, cliff-diving, freestyle motocross, and Formula 1 racing. Red Bull Media House is a unit of Red Bull that "produces full-length feature films for cinema and downstream channels (DVD, VOD, TV)."[19] The Red Bulletin is an international monthly magazine Red Bull publishes with a focus on men's sports, culture, and lifestyle.
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 somewhere else. It’s the best way to turn your product, no matter how common, into something that is not like everyone else’s.
Are you taking local placement seriously? Content marketing isn’t just for an international audience, but for local clients and customers as well. According to recent statistics compiled by Bright Local, 97% of consumers use online search for local products and services. In other words, local placement should dictate part of your content marketing strategy.
Videos are a highly engaging content medium that are shareable across social media platforms and websites alike. Videos require a bigger investment of time and resources than written content, but as visual marketing increases in popularity -- after all, it's 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content -- it's a medium worth experimenting with.

Which organizational processes, stumbling blocks, competitor data, management goals, customer insights, business stakeholders, teams, external partners, overall marketing priorities, etc. do I need to know in order to succeed? Before even thinking about content strategy, content inventorization or content production, these crucial questions need to be known.
Marketers are now moving toward a more centralized mode of social sharing, putting their investments only in proven platforms they’ve actually found traction on. This correlates to higher line-item ROI and a more consistent experience for social followers. Integrating social distribution directly into the content marketing supply chain amplifies the total reach of your assets and allows you to quickly see how engaging your content is, while receiving real-time feedback from online users.
“I’ve always liked to share with others what I have learned. That’s why I wrote my first book, to correct what I saw as an incomplete understanding of what was possible with concrete as a design element. Everything I’ve done has been a product of not trying to start a business, but just trying to improve the design environment. The whole motivation was not to make money. Just the opposite.” 
'When it comes to business blogging, there’s no doubt that consistency is important,' says Vaughan. 'Just consider the fact that companies that increase blogging from 3-5X/month to 6-8X/month almost double their leads. That being said, consistency must also be applied to the quality of your content, not just the quantity. If you pay any attention to the increased emphasis Google is placing on quality content, this comes as no surprise. Because marketers must also make a commitment to quality in all the content they create, increasing frequency alone won't get you very far. Quality and quantity must go hand in hand, and this will become even more important in 2013 and beyond.'

9. For Dummies: The ubiquitous yellow books go B2B. The For Dummies brand is recognized the world over, so Wiley’s marketers and product team capitalized on that with a new content marketing venture. Dummies’ B2B offering gives companies the chance to craft their own branded Dummies content, and from the looks of the case studies, it seems to be working. For example, Glassdoor used the Dummies solution to create a custom “Employer Branding For Dummies” piece.

Most of her content marketing strategy has been coordinated through Tumblr. She created a post about her upcoming album “West Coast”, which featured several beautiful pictures of herself and Kylie Jenner. Within a year, the post received over 27,000 likes and shares on Tumblr. While her celebrity status and strong fan base undoubtedly played a role in her blog’s success, the posts she’s created have definitely helped to build her brand.
19. Content marketing is using any type of content (newsletters, blog posts, white papers, videos, Tweets, podcasts, wall posts) to attract an audience you wish to market to. Capturing their attention through great content gives you the opportunity to present calls-to-action to them to purchase or try your product or service. Jason Falls – Social Media Explorer
A winning strategy succeeds when technology and people work together. Automation and semantics can help to filter, facilitate and uncover hidden treasures, but it is the human touch – thoughtful selection and consideration of content – that will create a truly new and engaging brand experience for audiences to discover, enjoy and share. Kelly Hungerford
Acorns Investment is a popular investing app that helps you round-up your spare change from debit card purchases and invest these small amounts of money over time. This approach to investing is ideal for anyone who doesn’t feel like they have enough money or time to invest, but they still want to be work toward building wealth. Their blog called Grow from Acorns, is just of the best content marketing examples of an effective blog.
28. Home Depot: Spreading seasonal knowledge. Home Depot shares excellent content year-round, but I especially admire how their content is hyper-focused on what’s top-of-mind for customers in the changing seasons. Energy-efficiency during the holidays, selecting a Christmas tree, and how to create a wreath were all recent articles as I wrote this post in late December. To ensure timeliness, Home Depot is always thinking ahead to the next few seasons and anticipating customers’ future needs — a great reminder for all brands who create content.
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.
A content marketing strategy (not to be confused with a content strategy) analyzes the different ways content marketing can be used across the buyer’s journey, the customer life cycle and/or the different customer experience touchpoints but it goes beyond that. Essentially a content marketing strategy looks how content marketing (not content) can be used in a strategic way as such and for and with other marketing, customer and sales strategies.
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.
Content marketing is not fundamentally different than marketing itself, because you can’t communicate or persuade without content. But content marketing tends to focus on free and gated formats to attract attention and website traffic, generate leads and to aid in the sales process. It can get super sophisticated with marketing automation and may require advertising to get traffic, as SEO has become more and more difficult with every passing year. Brian Carter, Author of The Like Economy
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.
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?
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.
19. American Express: Departures. Departures is a content brand that encompasses travel, fashion, shopping, arts, and culture advice for American Express cardholders. It’s available in both print and digital formats. I personally enjoy receiving the print version every season; it’s a photogenic taste of what’s of the moment around the world, and it gives me aspirational ideas of where I’d like to visit.
Use keywords (naturally): Identify your main keyword for the content, a few synonyms, and a few related keywords. Then make sure you’re actually using them in your content, headers, and page content. Don’t over-do it, though. Search engines have been cracking down on content that is “stuffed” with one or two keywords. Write for the reader, but do make sure those important words are present.

By asking people to share the product with someone they know, the campaign also worked to make an emotional connection with its consumers. Coca-Cola followed up the printed and social media campaigns with videos that showed friends getting together and sharing a Coke with their name on it. This strategy helps the brand go beyond just showing the value of the product to showing how the product can bring people together.
One of the reasons some companies have hesitated to allocate resources to content marketing is that it can be difficult to really understand the benefits of content marketing. Getting people to think more highly of your business certainly sounds great, but the results are quite nebulous. In this case, it helps to begin thinking about just how many benefits content marketing can bring. Let's start with the ones that are more intangible (though no less important):
But the messaging remains relevant, even among the hint of silliness. After all, CB Insights designs technology for people in the VC space, so it’s tasked with creating content that will appeal to a broad audience: customers, prospective customers, tech enthusiasts, and investors. And so, under such subject lines as “so sad: tough to have a VC dad,” it includes relevant data. Yes, gifs are hilarious -- but in some contexts, they’re also worth $147 million.

Sometimes, the simplest option is the best option. The Content Marketing Institute has put together the layout for a one-page marketing plan that will help your brand assemble its first content marketing plan. They stress the importance of sticking to just a single sheet of letter-sized paper. Otherwise, it’s possible to go too in-depth and get bogged down in the details.
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.
You can use a scheduler like Hootsuite for automated posting however it’s important to keep tabs and update things manually as you test and share so don’t get in over your head. You also want to make sure that a social expert is on hand for engaging in real time – just “posting” several times a day without engaging will not be effective at relationship-building in the long run.
During the baby boom era, Kellogg’s began selling sugary cereal to children. With this change in business model came sociable animal mascots, lively animated commercials and the back of the cereal box as a form of targeted content marketing. Infographics were born in this era. This represented a new approach to make a brand memorable with the audience.
NewsCred’s inaugural #ThinkContent Awards celebrate best-in-class content marketing brands. Their approaches are fresh, innovative, and creative. Even better, these brands have found solutions to some of content marketing’s most pressing issues, including using personalization to give people the right content at the right time, leveraging new content formats, and measuring ROI.
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