EXAMPLE: River Pools and Spas changed its mission from being a pool installer to being “the best teachers in the world about fiberglass pools” — and then started to answer specific customer questions in blog posts. As Marcus Sheridan explained, that decision was “one of the most prosperous days of our lives,” as that was when customers started coming to them. View the case study:

But, when we recently launched a new e-book that answers common content marketing questions, we learned that many of our readers are just getting started. As such, we want to make sure we continually cover the basics. Whether you are new to the practice, need a new way to look at what you’ve been doing, or need help explaining this to your relatives, this post is for you.

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 isn’t hard to do, but it does take some creativity. If you are selling anything related to cooking; run recipe awards, video tutorial contests or give away free items to people who post great videos using your product. If you are in the service business, create incentives for customers to give you video testimonials, reviews or product demonstrations.
Last year, IKEA also made a foray into the AMSR world with a 25-minute video that showed a woman decorating a dorm room with IKEA products. (AMSR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, is the pleasant, tingling feeling some people get while hearing soothing sounds like whispering – or, in the case of the IKEA video, bed sheets being smoothed.) The video has been viewed more than 1.4 million times on YouTube.
By 2014, Forbes Magazine's website had written about the seven most popular ways companies use content marketing.[16] In it, the columnist points out that by 2013, use of content marketing had jumped across corporations from 60% a year or so before, to 93%[17] as part of their overall marketing strategy. Despite the fact that 70% of organizations are creating more content, only 21% of marketers think they are successful at tracking return on investment.

But with nearly 88,000 subscribers on YouTube, it’s video that’s a clear win for the brand. Clips range from workout how-tos and style tips to interviews with athletes and astronauts. A particularly successful recent effort explores celebrity training routines, with the spot “Could You Survive Nick Young’s Workout?” garnering 806,000 views in just the last two months and driving more traffic back to the site. And it’s a good thing, given how great the content is. With a scientific bent and a thought leadership streak, new articles like food and fitness forecasts set readers on the right foot for a healthy new year – with lots of inspiring and enjoyable reading ahead.
In the latter category we also find platforms that are closely connected with, for instance, marketing automation platforms. The industry of content marketing software is growing fast but also evolving fast, with some players being acquired by large marketing software vendors. At the same time, we see several marketing software vendors but also content management firms and others including content marketing features.
EXAMPLE: River Pools and Spas changed its mission from being a pool installer to being “the best teachers in the world about fiberglass pools” — and then started to answer specific customer questions in blog posts. As Marcus Sheridan explained, that decision was “one of the most prosperous days of our lives,” as that was when customers started coming to them. View the case study:

In contrast to the other two, a content plan is very tactical. It documents the specifics of how you will execute your strategy, and who on your team will be handling each task. It’s important to understand that you need a content marketing strategy BEFORE you build your content plan. Think of it as a marketing plan that specifically relates to content; thus, it should include details such as the key topic areas you will cover, what content you will create, when and how to share your content, and specific calls to action you will include.
All based around how to provide effective customer service, the team at Help Scout are great at creating eBooks – which is why they have made our list today. Their ’10 Customer Service Stories’ in particular stands out because it shows their clients what other people are doing, and how they can learn from it. It’s really well designed and well written, and you can view the entire eBook here.
The purpose of content marketing is to show customers how your product or service can be used in their lives. Think about a time that you visited the website of your favorite clothing store and saw an article or blog post that listed the current trends. Did you notice that many of the items mentioned were available for purchase on their website? This is one example of how a company would use content marketing.
It doesn’t really matter what content marketing stands for. The debates around the definition of content marketing and even its value will not make the lives of your customers better nor will they improve your business. Content marketing is not a holy grail, it’s a popular term for a way of working with content to do better. On the other hand the debate does matter in the sense that often you will read things about content marketing that aren’t correct because the definition was wrong to start with. And misinformation can lead to wrong decisions.
Of all the car rental companies, Zipcar has best mastered this strategy. Since Zipcar's target audience is people who live in the urban areas where it has a presence, Zipcar tailors its content specifically toward city dwellers. Its content hub, Ziptopia, has sections about city living and the future of cities, as well as travel inspiration stories (many accessible by car from major cities). While most posts don't mention Zipcar, calls to action at the bottom of each give readers the option to join Zipcar or book a Ziptrip. 

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.

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.

By 2014, Forbes Magazine's website had written about the seven most popular ways companies use content marketing.[16] In it, the columnist points out that by 2013, use of content marketing had jumped across corporations from 60% a year or so before, to 93%[17] as part of their overall marketing strategy. Despite the fact that 70% of organizations are creating more content, only 21% of marketers think they are successful at tracking return on investment.


Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of The 20 Media, a content marketing agency specializing in content & data-driven SEO, and co-founder of MoveoApps, a mobile apps development company. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, and Digital PR. As a passionate marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge in publications like Entrepreneur, The Next Web and Fast Company. Onalytica has named Pratik one of the top content marketing influencers three years in a row. Recently, Pratik has been awarded one of the 100 Smartest Digital Marketers of India by World Digital Marketing Congress.
13. Jack Daniels: The Single Barrel Standard. Jack Daniels’ blog the Single Barrel Standard shows an innate understanding of its core audience and the content they want to read. Seven Steps to Master Drinking Outside? Sounds like a winner. And what goes better with cocktails than snacks? Jack’s team penned Best New Ballpark Eats of 2015. Jack Daniels is committed to a regular cadence of content, showing customers with every piece that they share the same values and pastimes.
“We’ve always made really deliberate design decisions to break the stigma and peoples’ misconceptions about meditation,” says Chris Markland, a Senior Creative and Artist at Headspace. “The mind is often an overwhelming and scary place [and] illustration has been a really useful tool in breaking that down to people in an engaging, fun, and relatable way.”
More emphasis on individual content pieces. A business that has a million website visitors a month isn’t going to double its traffic through a single piece of content—but a small business can. A small business can often afford to make great content and distribute it through limited channels, because it doesn’t take much extra traffic to boost revenue significantly.
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.
This isn’t hard to do, but it does take some creativity. If you are selling anything related to cooking; run recipe awards, video tutorial contests or give away free items to people who post great videos using your product. If you are in the service business, create incentives for customers to give you video testimonials, reviews or product demonstrations.
The site is bright and bold in its design – finally giving corporate a chance to look and feel like consumer publishing – with a balance of sports, business, and lifestyle content that works to engage the athletes among today’s workforce. Long-form writing hits it out of the park as well, like the team’s visually stunning interactive site, The GamePlan A Guide to Creativity, which has racked up 3,500 social shares and counting, and is packed with valuable information, ideas, and illustrations.
12. Bon Appetit Magazine: Foodcast. Bon Appetit’s podcast “features interviews with chefs, writers, and, well, anyone who has something cool to say about food.” Topics include holiday baking, why chefs hate brunch, and FAQs for Thanksgiving dinner. Not every company needs a podcast, to be sure, but if you can schedule great guests and figure out the tech specs, this can be a meaningful channel to engage with storytellers over the long term.
“We’ve always made really deliberate design decisions to break the stigma and peoples’ misconceptions about meditation,” says Chris Markland, a Senior Creative and Artist at Headspace. “The mind is often an overwhelming and scary place [and] illustration has been a really useful tool in breaking that down to people in an engaging, fun, and relatable way.”
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.
Content marketing is the publication of material designed to promote a brand, usually through a more oblique and subtle approach than that of traditional push advertising. Content marketing is most effective when it provides the consumer with accurate and unbiased information, the publisher with additional content and the advertiser with a larger audience and ultimately, a stronger brand.
I use a combination of personal branding, consistent social audience building, and support in creating authentic and ongoing thought leadership content. I’ve done it for myself. I’ve done it for the companies I’ve worked for. I’ve helped activate hundreds, even thousands of thought leaders to tell better stories. I’ve done it for numerous clients. And I can do it for you. 

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).
Since then, Marriott has delivered on that goal, with many of its brands releasing bespoke films dedicated to further their reputations and drive revenue. The 2015 short film, "French Kiss," for example, drove more than $500,000 in Marriott bookings in less than 60 days. Renaissance Hotels has released two seasons of "The Navigator’s Table with Andrew Zimmern," which highlights the chef meeting with tastemakers in different cities. Courtyard by Marriott showcases its status as the official hotel for the NFL through a video series that has racked up more than 1 million YouTube views.

We know this is a lot of information, but the work has just begun. It takes time, organization, and creativity to grow a successful content marketing strategy. From building the foundation of your content marketing plan to adding tools to better manage your content, setting up your strategy for the new year won't be a hassle if you follow the steps and explore the resources here.


“It put content marketing, as a program, on the map for USAA, where it had never been before,” says Mollie Walker, Lead Marketing Manager and Content Strategy Lead, USAA. “Over time, we hope to show that the more we grow our content marketing as a program and discipline, the more we can save on the awareness media that we have to purchase. We’re filling that gap and telling a story in between awareness and buying stages.”


Take advantage of the availability of off-site content platforms. As my colleague, Sam Mallikarjunan, writes in “Why Medium Works,” it can take up to six months of consistent publishing on your company’s blog before it gains significant traction. (And we’re not discouraging that -- stick with it, and find ways to supplement those efforts.) But off-site content diversifies your audience by engaging readers who might not have otherwise found your website.
This information should come partly from doing the steps above. If you’ve determined your audience is primarily on LinkedIn, then they might like in-depth articles, whitepapers or slide decks. If they’re on Facebook, then video and list posts might fit their style. If they spend a decent amount of time on Medium, long-form storytelling might be a good fit.

Last year, Glossier added hundreds of employees and moved to a large headquarters in New York City. Content marketing is an even bigger part of the success formula. Glossier employees have created FaceTime makeup tutorials and Facebook Live videos. The brand has a large presence on YouTube, including the “Get Ready With Me” series, which features someone's morning routine.
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.

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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