It’s standard practice in content marketing to say 'brands must act like publishers'. But many brands ask: What kind of publisher? The New York Times? The Huffington Post? One model won’t work for all B2C and B2B businesses. So it’s key for content marketers to find the right publisher analogy for their business. Simply put, what kind of publisher do you need to be?
For most brands, there are two sides to the content marketing coin:
Many brands are investing in content as a smart way to build trust and authority with their audience as opposed to typical sales-focused advertising. Unfortunately, just creating content doesn’t guarantee that readers are going to engage in your content experience or react to your call to action.
When I was at Edmunds.com, we became an “Informational Publisher” like CNET, Bankrate.com or WebMD. We worked hard to ensure our content was delivering on both sides of this coin – attracting audiences through high quality content while ensuring it was also optimized to help consumers convert in our business model (connect with car dealers, financing and insurance options, etc.)
Delivering with the Conversion Content Funnel
In the case of Edmunds.com, the website is built to help customers move through a purchase funnel (awareness, consideration, etc.) that is becoming more complex and less linear. News, reviews, advice, and more are seamlessly tied together across a host of auto-specific categories and topics with marketing pitches from car manufacturers, dealers, financing, and insurance companies. Everybody wins because there’s high-quality, useful content for the buyer and the marketer’s messages are presented in the most engaging, contextual way possible. This is a tight content package designed to engage and inform, not just close a sale.
Keep in mind that the conversion need not be a traditional purchase funnel like car buying. Content can help you gather newsletter subscriptions, website or event registrations, Whitepaper or eBook downloads, or even contest submissions to generate leads. Some great examples of using content without a traditional sales conversion:
The scale of your efforts can be as small as a high-quality post or as large as a new microsite or blog. And if you can’t create enough content for your funnel, you can leverage a content mix strategy that includes editorialized curation and community-based content approaches to scale your efforts. If you want the benefits of publishing without the risks, curation provides real-time content without setting up a large editorial team.
Well implemented, the conversion content funnel leads the customer from one quality click to the next, adding value to both the conversion and brand credibility sides of the coin.
Driving Brand Credibility
For brands, the relationship between earned and owned media is increasingly important. A strong conversion content funnel can also deliver brand-level benefits, especially if the messages are being distributing deftly across a variety of channels including brief “content teasers” on social networks that can drive readers to articles, newsletters, product information on your website, and a regularly updated blog.
Higher content frequency increases your chances of social interaction, sharing, and more links back to help Google notice you. To build on that, you can also use content networks like Outbrain or Taboola to amplify your content and deliver your message to potential customers on top publisher sites like CNN, Forbes and USA Today.
Connecting your brand with trusted industry voices works at both levels by emphasizing your principles and showing how you put them into action with your products and services. And the timely use of available web content can show your brand is engaged and listening, especially when there is an opportunity to tie it specifically to what you are selling.
Leveraging Content for Both Conversions and Brand Building
Even well built conversion content funnels have some intangibles (e.g., the value of thought leadership, social reach). But when you tie the benefits of building your brand’s personality along with hard numbers on how well content can feed your conversion funnel, investment in scaling your content efforts becomes an obvious win.
Some quick suggestions to measure your funnel:
The savvy content marketer can get real value out of both sides of the content marketing coin by blending the conversion and brand-building needs when they produce, package, and distribute their content. I’m curious to hear your answers for these questions and welcome them in the comments section:
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Matthew has worked in the software and Internet industry for over 18 years and has extensive experience building data, content, and publishing-oriented digital businesses.
Prior to founding PublishThis, Matthew served on the executive management team at Edmunds.com, where as EVP, Media he was responsible for helping grow the Internet's leading automotive site from 2001-2008. While at Edmunds, Matthew oversaw the company’s flagship website, Edmunds.com and led product development for the company's successful web expansion, including its syndication platform that powered the automotive channels for AOL, The New York Times, iVillage, and About.com.
Before that, Matthew helped develop and grow The Studio System, the entertainment industry's premier film and television database. Matthew started his career at Andersen Consulting and received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas in Austin.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT