Though you may not have the time or resources to create a specialized app to market your brand, you can create great content that gets to the heart of your target audience’s biggest challenges. By focusing on creating content that highlights and explains these challenges, providing simple and effective solutions, you’ll be on your way to building stronger customer relationships and influencing more conversions.
Having a documented content strategy will help you work smarter, more efficiently, and more effectively. A good strategy addresses your current business challenges and defines how you’ll leverage content to solve those problems. If you create a comprehensive strategic document, you can ensure all your efforts tackle these elements. In this post, you’ll learn how to organize your ideas on what your content marketing program should be, and how to package those items into a neat and precise document around which you can rally and align your team.
When businesses pursue content marketing, the main focus should be the needs of the prospect or customer. Once a business has identified the customer's need, information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, email newsletters, case studies, podcasts, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, blogs, etc. Most of these formats belong to the digital channel.
Read Joe Pulizzi's excellent book Epic Content Marketing. I started reading it after I wrote this post and it confirmed and expanded what I already knew about content marketing, with much more detail than I could ever go into here. Something Pulizzi emphasizes which I originally left out was the importance of focusing on producing mobile-friendly content, since smartphones are becoming the dominant way in which most of our customers access content. Also read Michael Hyatt's Platform, mentioned above. Frequent websites like those of Content Marketing Institute, Ragan, Copyblogger, Michael Hyatt, and Gary Vaynerchuk and sign up for their email newsletters. It won't take you long to become not just familiar with content marketing, but an expert.
Finally, by looking at the role of content marketing in a strategic way, that’s integrated with overall marketing and customer goals, you don’t need to get buy-in for content marketing or even make the case. You’re most of all being a smarter and more effective marketer. In social media marketing, executives needed to approve budgets that were sitting somewhere else. In content marketing that’s less the case as it’s connected with many other marketing goals and is not something “additional”. This doesn’t mean that a solid content marketing plan does not often require additional budgets but you’ll sell more business and a better brand perception to the C-suite, not necessarily a content marketing strategy.
The respect and admiration of your audience will absolutely take time to build, as they require earning trust. Once you've proven your knowledge and (even more importantly) your integrity, though, you can become the guiding light that people turn to when everyone else is simply contributing to confusion. Sites that don't care a lick about quality—sometimes called content factories—are bound to give bad or misleading advice, making readers scratch their heads and wonder who they can trust. That should be you. The authority you gain then transfers to your products or services, making customers that much more likely to choose you over the competition.
Your content strategy is a comprehensive plan that describes your goals (what you want to accomplish), the tactics you’ll implement (how you’ll accomplish it), and the metrics you’ll use to measure the strategy’s effectiveness. It also includes the data and research that you’ll depend on to make smart strategic decisions. Over time it will grow with more information (especially about your customer), so you’ll want it somewhere editable and easy to reference.
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.
Land Rover's content strategy also extends to social media and video. Last fall, Land Rover created a video series in which it followed an adventurer couple and their eight-week-old baby taking a two-week trip across Europe in a Land Rover Discovery. It also created a 360-degree video where viewers could go sailing with the Land Rover team in Bermuda ahead of the 35th America's Cup.
Ally Bank is a completely online bank that’s made a name for itself through “disruptor” strategies. The bank has a reputation for coming up with creative ways to get people to think long and hard about their money. One example was a game called Ally Big Save, which only worked during the commercials of the NFL big championship game. In the midst of the football game, Ally’s app was downloaded 65,000 times, and more than a million people visited the game’s microsite.
If you’ve ever slogged your way through reading a piece of marketing and only finished reading because you had to, then you’ve experienced bad content marketing. When I speak to companies about content marketing I tell them that content is good if they genuinely want to read it. Content is great if they’re willing to pay to read it. If you want to see great examples of content, just look at what you’ve paid to read, watch, or listen to lately. If you watched The Lego Movie this year, you saw one of the greatest examples of content marketing to date. Oh, you thought they made that movie in order to sell movie tickets? Think again. That was a 100 minute toy commercial, and rather than using a DVR to skip it you paid good money to watch it. Is it any coincidence that Lego recently leapfrogged Mattel, the creators of Barbie, to become the largest toy company in the world? You may not have the budget to make a feature film to promote your company, but you can still give potential customers valuable information.
Prioritize social channels. Focus on the social channels where your audience is most active and engaged. You don’t need to be everywhere all the time; identify where your audience members live, and get your content in front of them on those platforms. For example, Influence & Co. primarily uses Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to connect with our different audiences.
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.
Founder and CEO Clay Collins knew they had to be scrappy to be able to compete against VC-funded giants like Hubspot and Infusionsoft, given LeadPages were a bootstrapped company since inception. Instead of spending $10,000 on customer acquisition as some of their competitors did, Collins developed a growth hypothesis based on the idea that “a content team of four people could outperform an 80+ person sales team at most companies.”
Case studies, also known as testimonials, are your opportunity to tell the story of a customer who succeeded in solving a problem by working with you. A case study is perhaps your most versatile type of content marketing because it can take many different forms -- some of which are on this list. That's right, case studies can take the form of a blog post, ebook, podcast ... even an infographic.
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
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.
“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.”
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.
In January 2017, Visit Seattle partnered with Sundance TV to launch "Project Five by Five," which asked five filmmakers to each create a short film about Seattle, inspired by one of the five senses. One video showed how a local farm produces fresh cream and berries for a beloved Seattle ice cream shop. Another reimagined Seattle native Jimi Hendrix's first skydiving trip. The shorts premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on Sundance TV.
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.
The reality is that just creating content isn’t enough. In many cases, you need to amplify it. You need to market your marketing. This is where social media can help a great deal. Also recognize the many places (and many people: customers, employees, influencers) that can help you amplify your content marketing. (bonus: presentation on the difference between influencers and advocates)