Your company has a blog that publishes several posts a week? Excellent. You have hundreds of people signed up for RSS subscriptions and frequent comments? Superb. You've got this content marketing thing down? Well, not quite.
"A lot of times the blog is sort of synonymous with content marketing," says Brendan Cournoyer, content marketing manager for Brainshark. "This rings true with companies that don't have an understanding of it. Even the blog itself is just a tool. The concept behind content marketing is really answering questions and communicating with potential and current customers."
What this means is that, in order to succeed, your company needs a full-blown content marketing strategy that stretches across several platforms and tools in order to interact with potential customers at every possible turn. And content marketing strategy does not equate to an advertising campaign.
"Most brands, when they first start any kind of content marketing program, are thinking of it as an advertising program," says Joe Pulizzi, founder and CEO of Content Marketing Institute (CMI). "They put a theme around it, they start putting the content elements together, and when you say ‘campaign' there's a stop date. But with a content marketing program there is no stop date. Just like a publisher, you always change based on feedback, you might even change your channel usage or even the stories you tell, but you never stop."
Content Marketing Strategy
Research at CMI shows that anywhere from 8% to 10% of businesses have a documented content marketing strategy. Pulizzi says that this is a problem: "Basically, you have brands that are creating all these content elements and have no roadmap for where they're going to go. It's not integrated into the organization." Pulizzi adds that this makes sense because "we just woke up a couple of years ago and now we have to be publishers. It's a whole new muscle for most organizations, so it makes sense that we're sort of experimenting our way there."
However, what Pulizzi calls "filling buckets"-such as filling the Twitter bucket with a certain number of tweets per week or filling the blog bucket-is not working. Companies that understand this see content from outside the advertising bubble.
According to Cournoyer, the approach to content has changed because consumer access to information has changed. "Customers go through so much of the buying cycle on their own now, so there are no cold leads anymore," he says. "They're doing the research themselves and are looking for information so they can make better buying decisions. They need content to do that. You want them to find you. You're creating the content, you're controlling the message, and you're leading them and nurturing them down your own sales funnel."
Pulizzi suggests starting with the development of the content marketing mission statement. Businesses need to understand the information needs of the buyer, but they also need to understand the core objectives for the content marketing strategy. Tricia Travaline, vice president of marketing at Skyword, agrees.
Travaline also points out that you should know what's relevant to your audience, as well as what makes your company different from the rest. Once all of these elements are developed, Travaline recommends a 70/20/10 content strategy. "Twenty percent of your content should be premium, thought leadership content," she explains, which consists of items such as ebooks and whitepapers. "It's like a seven course meal, and few people have a seven course meal every night. Rather, it's more like every three months."
Once the 20% is established, the 70% is the premium content broken up into snackable bites that align with and amplify the 20%. "The 70 percent is not necessarily always about your product, but it has to deal with guiding your customers through the funnel and giving them the types of content that they are really interested in, while leading them back to the premium stuff," Travaline says.
The remaining 10% in Travaline's 70/20/10 content strategy is being experimental and thinking outside the box. Experimental content helps you to learn, but Travaline emphasizes that, in order for it to work, you need the analytics to understand exactly what's working and what's not working-what's feeding into your lead engine and what's not-and how you can tweak things. "Without the analytics on the backend of everything, you can't experiment with new forms because you just don't have the immediate results," she says.
Using various channels gives you the opportunity to reach out to potential customers, regardless of their mood. "Despite all the targeting that exist[s] on the web, it's really not easy to know if the user is in purchase mode, and what kind of product the user may be looking for," says Sharad Verma, CEO of Piqora. You need multiple platforms to spread your content, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, as well as your own website, to reach anyone at any given time.
Pulizzi adds that consumers are in complete control. "In the past, brands could utilize something like seven channels for people to get their information," he says. "Now consumers have all the information and they can ignore any advertising they want to. The only way you're going to get attention is to stop talking about yourself so much. What you need is more content that positions you as a go-to resource for XYZ. If we deliver amazing information to help our customers' lives and jobs in some way, they will reward us with their business."