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):
It's content that helps people find you. It might even be content that makes people fall in love with you a little. But discovery-level content is not usually the last touch before a big sale. There are many more layers of content that usually finesse that conversion. (More on that when we discuss how content can represent various stages of the funnel in ch. 3.)
What you can do about it: By creating a unique, shareable experience, Coke basically inspired its audience to do the marketing for the company. People get excited to find their name or their friend’s name on a can of Coke at the store — so excited that they end up posting pictures of the cans on their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Personalize your content in a way that resonates with your audience.
Hexagon used augmented reality (AR) to spruce up their written company report, giving investors a more interactive experience when learning the latest updates on the company. How does it work? A mobile app, based on technology from Samsung and zSpace, displays a virtual demonstration of a product when readers hold their mobile device over a "trigger image" of that product within the report.
Once you’ve selected your thought leaders, it’s time to create a process for extracting their expert knowledge. Remember, your SMEs are busy people, and the last thing they probably want to do is interrupt their everyday workflow to ideate, write, edit, and publish an article. Make the process as simple for them as possible by following these steps:
"Our ambition is fairly massive," says Jay Curley, now Ben & Jerry’s Global Head of Integrated Marketing, in New York Magazine. "We're trying to create a new model for how businesses can use their voice to have an impact on important social movements, and show that you can do that and it doesn’t hurt your business. As a matter of fact, it may help."
The Ones features stories celebrating artists, skaters, musicians, designers, and inspirational creatives who embody the scene. Other stories, like "Meet Stan Smith" and "Who Is Chuck Taylor" share the backstories of the people behind today's iconic kicks. Embedded within the stories are modules that let readers shop the sneakers referenced or endorsed by subjects.
EXAMPLE: Sony’s Alpha Universe is a content platform dedicated to photography professionals. While its purpose is to drive product sales for Sony’s Alpha line of cameras, the content focuses not on Sony products but on providing information the audience will find educational and helpful. After starting as a blog, the brand diversified its content into a podcast and a training program.
On Instagram, Taco Bell posts original illustrations and photos commissioned for the brand. On YouTube, Taco Bell has a number of fan-inspired series, like "For Here or To Go," which shows how to take menu items to the next level through creative ordering in-store or easy cooking hacks at home. On Twitter, Taco Bell often retweets or responds to fans' posts. In addition, Taco Bell uses Twitter to drive people to its presence on other platforms, like Snapchat. (Speaking of Snapchat, you may remember that on Cinco de Mayo 2016, Taco Bell released a filter that turned users' faces into giant tacos. It was viewed more than 224 million times that day – and no, that's not a typo!)
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.