Traditional marketers have long used content to disseminate information about a brand and build a brand's reputation. Taking advantage of technological advances in transportation and communication, business owners started to apply content marketing techniques in the late 19th century. They also attempted to build connections with their customers. For example:
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).
What's compelling is that it's not all about the world of finance. Goldman Sachs demonstrates its worldliness by featuring influencers from all walks of life. For instance, "Talks at GS" videos include historian and author Ron Chernow sharing his thoughts about leadership, ballet dancer Misty Copeland speaking about breaking barriers in her art form, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on transforming the company so it's primed to lead the future of technology.
My husband was in this camp until he told me about a newsletter that covers trends affecting financial markets. He looks forward to receiving it each day. He explained that the newsletters didn’t have anything to do with the funds the broker was selling, but the information was solid and valuable – and it was useful research for the investments he makes.
What you can do about it: By creating this kind of inclusive content, Whole Foods is attracting new customers and creating lasting connections with its audience at the same time. Healthy living is not an elite club, it’s a choice that Whole Foods wants to help people make, and the content it produces supports that idea. Create content that revolves around how you can truly help your audience.
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.
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.
It frequently updates the prominent Articles & Insights section on its website with topics core to its audience, such as Grow Your Wealth and Plan Your Legacy. First Republic prides itself on offering clients personal, bespoke service, and it strives to convey that on Articles & Insights. The Travel Gallery is a community-driven section where globe-trotting customers share photos and destination advice. In addition, in the past year, First Republic has published many more profiles featuring clients who are bringing positive change to their communities.
This audience segmentation is most often done using buyer personas. There are also other models, for instance in storytelling some like to work with archetypes. We made an overview of several persona models. Note that some people also work with specific content marketing persona attributes. However, if you want an overview to start with, you might want to read it.
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.
Your business case for innovating with content marketing: By communicating your reasons for creating content, the risks involved, and your vision of what success will look like, you are much more likely to gain executive support for your strategy — and to get permission to make a mistake here and there as you figure out what works best for your business.
The Nike team did everything in its power to ensure that the feat was successful. They picked the perfect place – Italy’s Monza F1 track – for its ideal altitude, facility, and weather conditions. The athletes never had to stop for water; instead, perfectly measured amounts of optimal runner juice were distributed to them on the go. An electric car and a team of 30 pacers were on hand to ensure they maintained just the right speed. Oh, and each runner wore a pair of Nike’s specially engineered Zoom Vaporfly Elite racing shoe.
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.
The company continues to impress with its content hub, Out of the Blue, which publishes a mix of corporate- and consumer-interest articles that cover travel inspiration as well as inside achievements and affairs. Like the fact that in December, JetBlue released a limited edition board game called Get Packing! – two rounds of 200, actually, since the first sold out so quickly – along with a string of amusing promo clips poking fun at awkward holiday moments that might make you want to leave town. A certificate for a free round-trip ticket – one in every box – could help with that (not to mention build some serious JetBlue loyalty).
Take one look at The Orange Dot, the brand’s blog, and you’ll see what he means. Every post, video, and social share is paired with a unique and vibrant image, GIF, or animation that grabs a reader's attention. While posts reference meditation, there's no hard sell for Headspace. Rather, a designed call to action is embedded in each post, and there's also a persistent sign-up button on the blog's header.
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.
Many hotel companies use content marketing to grow their brands, but Marriott intends to take it to the next level. They recently created a new global creative studio, which will publish a variety of entertaining content pieces for the travel industry. According to David Beebe, Marriott’s vice-president of Creative, Content Marketing and Global Marketing, Marriott strives to become the number one travel content publisher in the world:
Content marketing attracts prospects and transforms prospects into customers by creating and sharing valuable free content. Content marketing helps companies create sustainable brand loyalty, provides valuable information to consumers, and creates a willingness to purchase products from the company in the future. This relatively new form of marketing does not involve direct sales. Instead, it builds trust and rapport with the audience.
Here’s another example of a brand that does a great job of leveraging different categories of knowledge. First Round, an early-stage VC company, recognized the knowledge among entrepreneurs and leaders that wasn’t being shared -- knowledge that could be highly beneficial to their peers -- and created the First Round Review as a place for it to be shared. It serves, reads the manifesto, to liberate the ideas and expertise that are “trapped in other people's heads.”
Burberry is known for some of the best content marketing examples for a luxury consumer brand. But by far one of their most interesting digital marketing campaigns was the Burberry Kisses. This campaign revolved around their line of beauty products and had a simple premise – you could send a virtual kiss to someone you know after virtually choosing a lipstick.
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.
For one thing, without content, SEOs would have nothing to optimize for search engines. The metadata they add to posts is an attempt to help robots like Google and Facebook wrap their digital heads around the complexities of the content they're indexing. Every link earned by every marketer points to a piece of content, and the keywords that people type into search engines are an attempt to find—yep—content.
Santander Bank’s Prosper and Thrive looks like a glossy magazine, except that it’s entirely digital. The content hub is aimed at millennials — specifically people just getting started financially who might have a lot of questions when it comes to money. Sample articles on the site include tips on building a wardrobe on a budget, and tips for buying a home for the first time.
GE is appearing on our list for the second time, and for good reason. For years, the brand’s content marketing has been best-in-class, pioneering the industry with the launch of its wildly successful digital magazine, GE Reports, back in 2008, and pushing the field forward with consistently creative and relevant campaigns ever since. Like one of our favorites – “What If Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like a Celebrity?” – which aired during last year’s Oscars and staked GE's commitment to hiring 20,000 women in technical positions by 2020.
We've created a template to get you started in writing a strategy. This document will take you through some initial research (beyond the content audit information above) and how to combine that research with your goals and content guidelines. You'll then start to make the strategy concrete by applying all that information to content types. Add in some information about governance and workflow, and you have yourself a fully fledged strategy.
Now that you understand your main audience, place yourself in their shoes. What are they searching for when they need your product or service? Make a list of basic keywords surrounding your brand, as well as any variations (‘New York painters’ and ‘New York painting,’ for example.) You know your niche well, so draw from all possible terms used for what you have to offer. Once you have these keywords, integrate them into your content. There are a few reasons why:
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)