This article is part of our Blogtober event, which features blog posts in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In this article, we summarize sections of the Salesforce Marketing Cloudcast episode in which Heike Young and Joel Book talk to Joe Pulizzi, the godfather of content marketing. We encourage you to listen to the entire podcast for even more insight from Joe.
Content marketing as a discipline has been around for hundreds of years. It revolves around creating valuable, relevant, compelling information on a consistent basis for a target audience in order to see some kind of profitable action.
We see the benefit of customers knowing, liking, and trusting us—they’re more willing to buy from us. And because there are no barriers to entry for brands that want to get in the content marketing industry, they can publish on pretty much any platform, at any time, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money to do it. More brands are realizing they need to cut through the clutter and start creating amazing information on a consistent basis.
Look at anything from Gartner, Forester, or Altimeter: They all say that more than 60 per cent of the buying journey is complete before potential customers ever reach out to the company. Think about that in historical terms: We’re not used to that as brands. We’re used to, “We’ve got a sales rep. We can give all the information to the customer. They can make an advised decision on this based on what we tell them.” That’s not the way it is anymore. We might not even talk to a customer before they make their decision.
How do we stand out and reach customers with our message? Don Schultz—the father of integrated marketing—says your competitors can copy everything you do as an organization. They can copy your products, your services, you processes. The only thing they can’t copy is how you communicate.
This is why content marketing has become so important. It’s really the only way we can differentiate ourselves, and it may be the only way that we can get included in the buying process—the buying journey. If we don’t have worthwhile content, we’re probably going to be left out of the decision-making process altogether.
With so many brands using content marketing, its effectiveness rate for many companies’ content marketing efforts is going down. I think a lot of that has to do with two underlying, but important reasons. The first is that the company has no documented content marketing strategy. The second is that most marketers don’t know what success looks like with content marketing. Companies are creating lots of content, on lots of different channels. They’re looking at a lot of vanity metrics, and yet they have no idea what is actually changing behavior. They don’t know how to tie those metrics to business goals. Some don’t even know what the business goals are.
It’s up to you to figure out why you’re using content marketing. Important questions marketers need to answer include:
Most of the content that’s being created in B2B or B2C marketing is still about products and services. People are going to tune that out. You actually have to focus on the needs of the audience.
If we don’t know what success looks like, we’ll never be successful. There are three primary reasons why we’re doing content marketing. One: Is it going to drive sales? Two: Is it going to save costs? Three: Is it going to create happier, more loyal customers? We have to figure out the business goals and the business objectives, and then we can base our metrics on one of those three things.
The average enterprise communicates with their audience in 13-15 different ways: on Twitter, Facebook, webinars, in magazines, the news, whatever the case is. List the business objective of your presence in each communication method. What are your goals?
Activity does not equal success. Figure out what the goal is. This means a lot of communication has to happen in your organization.
Once you know your strategies, your goals, and how your metrics measure the success of your efforts, how do we tell a differentiated story? Traditionally, a story revolves around products and services; that isn’t as effective anymore. In my new book, Content Inc., I talk about the content tilt, which is finding an area of little to no content competition where you actually have a fighter’s chance of breaking through the clutter. You must figure out how to get to a content niche focusing on your customer that actually makes a difference in their lives in some way. Get really, really small. So many companies want to go big and wide. Go small so you can actually be the leading informational expert in that particular content niche.
Successful content marketing is built on four basic steps.
1. What’s your main content type?
Is it audio, video, textual? Most successful marketers are focused on one of those three. Figure out your main platform: the company blog or website, iTunes, YouTube.
2. Consistently deliver on that platform.
Whatever that consistency is, it’s even more important than quality content. It’s the consistency, and then do it over a period of time. This is not a campaign. This is a marathon: It often takes over 12 months to build a loyal relationship with your audience. You have to be patient.
3. Create something that has a point of view.
If your content is for everybody, it’s for nobody. You want the personalities in your organization to come out, and you want your subject matter experts to tell it like it is. Be a little edgy. If you’re not, you’re going to fall in line with every other piece of content that’s out there and get ignored.
4. Get insight from your engagement.
I don’t care about engagement unless it tells me something. What does it mean when someone engages in a video for a minute and 45 seconds, or five minutes, or 10 minutes, or however long the piece of content is? Do those people who engage for 10 minutes have different behaviors than those who don’t engage, or who engage for just one minute? Those are the questions you have to start asking, and that’s where it all comes together. Go a step deeper and actually look into what the difference is between those who subscribe and engage in your content versus those who don’t.
Talk to your customers on an ongoing basis, whether it’s through online discussions or meeting with them on an ongoing basis. Talk to them, and that’ll go right into your content and your communications. You’ll understand that audience better than anyone else.
The feedback you get from this content is where all the value is, because then you’ll adjust your content ongoing. What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? Get all that information that’s all part of the strategy. If you want to be successful, focus on one audience; understand their needs, and then you’ll understand how to publish to a particular channel over time.
It’s a very simple model. Your content marketing strategy needs to revolve around creating valuable materials and consistent communication over time. Build a strategy, find your target audience, identify your content niche and your tilt, and then publish to one platform with one main content type. Distribute it. Be indispensable for your audience, diversify once you’ve built this audience, and then work to increase your ROI on your content marketing. It’s not going to happen right away. Be patient, build your audience, and then monetize.
Joe Pulizzi is founder of Content Marketing Institute (Inc 500), a Cleveland-based education and training organization for content marketing, which hosts the annual Content Marketing World event. He has written four books, including the most recent, Content Inc. (McGraw-Hill, 2015). You can read his blog here.
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