According to a recent study from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, although 90% of all companies employ some form of content marketing, the majority are still struggling with creating content that truly engages their customers and delivers results for the company.
So, what separates the good from the great when it comes to content marketing? Well, that's not an easy question to answer. That said, through all the research (both quantitative and qualitative), there are six differences that are separating the Have's from the Have Not's.
1. The Focused, Educational Content Platform
Great content marketers have developed (some for many years) targeted, educational content platforms similar to what media companies have been doing for decades. A best-of-breed example is consumer-packaged good leader Procter & Gamble (P&G):
What is key about these sites is a laser-like targeting of a super niche category. Where most average content marketers fall down is by going too broad with their content focus. A key to P&G's success is very specific content targeted to a very specific buyer and a relentless focus on useful and entertaining content meant to truly engage readers and customers.
2. Opening Up New Content/Media Markets
The best content marketers are helping to shape the story, and the terminology of their respective markets. Citrix launched Workshifting.com years ago as the online answer for those people whose offices are anywhere -- the coffee shop, the airport, the home office... anywhere. The site is chock full of amazing stories to help this buyer, and is perfectly aligned with Citrix products like GoToWebinar and GoToMeeting.
The site and company, through the creation and distribution of compelling and relevant content, have defined the content market for themselves, their customers and the media. So much so, that leading media publications such as BusinessWeek use Citrix's own terminology of workshifting. Citrix now reaps the rewards of thousands of Google searches around the term that they clearly own for themselves.
3. The Chief Storyteller
We are seeing more brands embrace the role of the Chief Content Officer within the marketing organization. In many of our interviews with marketers, the heads of these departments were unaware of the stories being created and distributed in other marketing silos. This type of content workflow does not set up for a working customer experience, as content often does not align.
Leading organizations are hiring individuals with strong storytelling backgrounds (often journalists and editors) to help coordinate and fine tune the content marketing process inside and outside the organization. Examples include:
- Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing at marketing automation company Eloqua
- Rob Yoegel, Content Marketing Director at website optimization software company Monetate
4. Leveraging Employees in Content Creation
Best of breed content marketers are looking for ways to engage employees in the content creation process. Probably no better example exists than Boston-based VC firm OpenView Venture Partners.
OpenView has gone from literally no original content creation just a few years back to becoming a content marketing powerhouse by leveraging its expert employees. A full 90% of OpenView employees now blog on a regular basis. That blog is a major part of their content platform, OpenView Labs -- built specifically for entrepreneurs looking for early stage funding (their target prospect).
5. Removing the Brand from the Story
For top of the funnel, attraction-oriented content, stories are shared at a significantly higher rate when the brand is removed from the story. That means, at this stage, a removal of sales pitches entirely from the content to engender trust and credibility. Examples include:
6. Building a Community by Leveraging Outside Experts
More and more, leading brands are working to dominate a content niche, not solely through internal content creators, but by leveraging outside industry experts as the majority of their thought leadership content creation. According to CMI research, over 50% of brands outsource some part of the content creation process (rising from 55% to 58% year over year). Great content marketing means that leveraging outside content experts is a must.
Examples of influencer and expert community sites include:
It's Only Just Begun
Although these activities are newer to most brands, all six of these in some way relate directly to what media companies have been doing for years. As time rolls on, we should continue to see the gradual evolution of the marketing department start to look and feel more like a publishing entity.
But the great news? If content marketing was a baseball game, we are just getting out of the dugout for the first inning. As internal expertise and channel development continue to change, we should all be in for quite a rollercoaster ride.