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.
With so many channels, platforms, and methods of communicating with audiences, it’s easy to overlook the classic email — but email is very much alive and well. In fact, email drip campaigns are one of the simplest, most effective ways to provide targeted, high-performing content directly to your readers, enhance their experience with your brand, and enable the sales process.
While this is certainly the case (and no one ever claimed content marketing was now) and while Joe Pulizzi picked the term ‘content marketing’ among several others he launched, deciding to use the term that worked best, the definition debate overlooked what distinguished content marketing – no matter how it can be called tomorrow. One of the pioneers in content marketing, Doug Kessler, expressed this very well in an interview.
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.
“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.” 

What do your audiences need to know from you? Use search and social media, plus conversations with customers and your internal personnel (sales and customer service, especially) to better understand the information and persuasive requirements of your customers. Then, organize those needs by persona and funnel stage to create a map of necessary content.

Use pivot tables to your advantage here. If you haven't learned how to use them before, now would be a wonderful time (here's a pretty decent video primer). They're a wonderfully powerful tool for this sort of data analysis, allowing you to compare large sets of data to each other. With a bit of skill, you can make Excel (or Google Spreadsheets) do the hard work for you, giving you (for example) a list of the average traffic for each topic category you'd assigned.
In 2016, the company launched GamePlan A, a digital magazine uniquely developed to build company culture and attract and retain employees. “Designed for those who believe in the power of sport, GamePlan A is here to make work life better, more inspiring, and fun, be it at Adidas or anywhere else,” reads the site. It’s “a mindset – and a platform…tackling work life with an athlete’s heart.”
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.
A valuable asset that often sets off discovery and awareness for potential SAP customers, FCEC is clearly dedicated to producing high-quality content that drives leads – without pushing sales pitches. Instead, Hatch puts audience needs and interests first, with articles that are timely and relevant to industry executives and the field at large. As a result, her team continues to cultivate loyal readers. The FCEC newsletter has 5,000 subscribers and an approximately 22 percent open rate each month. And pageviews are on the rise, as well, with an entirely organic 20 percent increase back in 2016.
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.
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.
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.
While the goal on social media sites like Instagram or Snapchat is to connect more intimately with your audience, your goal on platforms like Facebook and Twitter is to expand that audience, drive traffic toward your website, and start conversations in your industry. Do some basic market research to discover which platforms your buyers are on, and mold your content to their expectations.
While sharing company updates might be helpful for you and your employees internally, your blog can speak to a broader audience, and hyperspecific news really isn’t all that helpful to your readers’ efforts to solve their problems. To truly attract and engage your target audience, your blog has to be entertaining, address questions and pain points, and serve as an educational resource for your readers.

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.
First off, it allows you to have an “always-on” relationship with your customers. This means that you can engage with them every day, even when they’re not in the market for a purchase. With advertising, you typically see major peaks and valleys. Your traffic, engagement, and sales spike when you’re running a campaign. Those numbers fall when the campaign ends.
USAA is another example of an insurer that is thinking big, in terms of content. The financial institution has been around for more than 90 years, serving a client base made up primarily of military members, veterans, and their families. It’s a specific audience and one with which USAA knows just how to communicate. But beyond its content hub, USAA Stories, which features family, personal finance, and service-specific topics, as well as newer themes like travel in an effort to attract a broader readership, the company isn’t afraid to explore other forms of content.

“Content is the emotional and informational bridge between commerce and consumer. Building that bridge requires more than a budget, editorial calendar, and vision. It requires people who care, who love content, and what it can do for people. Not just what it can do for revenue, but rather how it helps people live their lives.” – Jay Baer, Convince & Convert
27. Vitamix: Be Inspired. Everyone knows a high-speed blender boasts many applications, but Vitamix attempts to explain every use case possible on its Be Inspired site. From champagne cocktails to raw foods, Vitamix’s articles are an incredible resource for creative types with high-speed blenders. (And judging from the smashing popularity of Vitamixes, that’s a growing subset of the population.)
'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.'
Blog Posts: Posting informative content on your business' blog can continually bring in new traffic as well as improve your organic search engine optimization (SEO) results. It also offers a great opportunity to converse with new prospects and past customers. They’re already on your site to read that blog post, so your design could lead them deeper into your sales funnel. Popular posts can boost traffic rates as well as provide great SEO results.

There are many firms that offer content marketing services, often paired with SEO or PR. If you’re simply too busy to do it yourself and aren’t ready to manage it in-house, then hiring a firm may be your best option. But if you want to jump in and do your own content marketing the easiest way is to start blogging. It will likely be hard at first, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Following tips from websites like Copyblogger you’ll quickly learn how to craft content for your website or blog that will engage readers and turn them into customers or clients. But while technically good writing and the right headlines can help, it’s not the key to creating great content that is the best form of content marketing.

Crowe Horwath is a leading accounting and consulting firm. In 2013, the company launched a content marketing process for reaching financial institutions with $1 billion or more in assets. Their strategy consisted of generating nearly 50 different pieces of content centered around several topics of interest to their target customers, using all the following formats:
Which marketing and other organizational goals can we realize or improve by better using content marketing? An example: traffic building, conversion optimization, event marketing, lead generation and management, email marketing, social media marketing, marketing automation, customer service, etc. can all be improved by a better usage of content and content marketing. Your content marketing strategy looks at this. As a matter of fact, don’t just ask what organizational goals content marketing serves as in the chart. Many people, especially those calling the buying shots, have no clue what content marketing is and so do many executives, even in marketing. So, ask what organizational goals you can support and strengthen instead of trying to separate content marketing from the overall equation.

Content pillars on Ellevest's Insights hub include Your Finances, Life & Career, and Reach Your Goals. In addition, readers will find many posts by Sallie Krawcheck, Ellevest's Co-founder and CEO, who is also the former CFO of Citigroup and former CEO of Smith Barney. When you dive in, there's no mistaking the fact that the content is female-focused.


Stitch Fix is also a social media powerhouse, especially on Pinterest. Its Pinterest account has more than 1 million followers, but it finds a lot of value in encouraging users to create boards of their own as well. In fact, following customers on the network helps the Stitch Fix stylists to get insights about the looks that its customers like most.

Books. Like movies, people often think of books as selling themselves, but savvy marketers don’t sell books just to sell books, they sell books as marketing tools. Michael Port’s sales manual Book Yourself Solid is a great read for entrepreneurs, salespeople, and marketers, and while I’m sure Port enjoys selling his book, the book is a tool for driving customers to his coaching and speaking services. Although with self-publishing it’s easier than ever to publish a book, there is still the perception that it’s difficult and that only reputable professionals can publish a business book. Publish your own, and even if people don’t read it you can still use it as a form of content marketing every time you’re introduced as “Author of…”
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.

He elaborates, “What’s the thing where when you read the first few search results you say, ‘This is great, but I wish they…’. If you have great answers to that, don’t ask ‘how do we make something as good as this?’ but say ‘how do we make something 10X better than any of these?” That’s the bar that’s been set because it’s so competitive to try to rank for terms today.”
In 2011, the brand created a “Smart Community” in an effort to promote awareness of its renewable energy solutions. They optimized their platform for the keyword “smart community” and invested in a massive SEO campaign to boost their rankings. Their campaign proved to be remarkably effective, helping to generate 160,000 global followers on LinkedIn through the Smart Community campaign.

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.
The Burberry Kisses campaign was a fun and innovative idea that consumers took to. It captured their audience’s love of mobile technology and interactive experiences to deliver a unique content marketing campaign. By appealing to the audience’s emotions and desire to connect, they captured their target consumers’ attention, making sure that the Burberry brand would be in the back of their mind next time they wanted to purchase cosmetics.
But one of the newest and most successful strategies Random House has embraced has been using Medium to aggregate content from their active publishers. They also launched a new consumer discovery website to help people find relevant content. Random House CEO Markus Dohle says that content marketing has played an important role in maintaining and growing Random House’s brand image:
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.
“Making work simpler, more pleasant, and more productive” since 2014, Slack helps business teams communicate and function more efficiently while bringing them closer to their goals. The company’s blog, Several People Are Typing, looks and reads like a top digital magazine while successfully balancing product and company information with a selection of industry stories. And its bi-monthly podcast, “Work in Progress,” explores the meaning and identity we find in work, from the gig economy to Silicon Valley and the corporate world, and how technology is affecting us all.
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