By now, most marketers are convinced that content marketing is a powerful tool when it comes to building an audience, bolstering demand generation, and promoting your brand as the go-to place for valuable information.
But those sorts of benefits only result from content marketing when it's wielded correctly. The line between relevant, engaging content and over-promotional "crap" can at times be difficult to discern.
So how do you toe the line of drawing attention to your brand while also delivering meaningful, educational, and enjoyable content? First, understand what truly effective content marketing is.
I define content marketing as the process of creating and distributing highly relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage clearly defined and understood target audiences -- with the objective of driving profitable customer action. Once you feel confident in what you want your content marketing to accomplish and look like, build your dream content team. Find people who are not only creative and excited, but also ready to operate like a newsroom that's consistently putting out quality content. Once you've formed that group, it's time to start cooking.
Inject Some Quality Control
It all begins with quality. There's been much backlash in the past year against content that's essentially devoid of quality. Research from Moz and others have shown that having a few pieces of awesome "big content" can attract more traffics, leads, and links that have lots and lots of throw-away articles.
Too often, low quality is too much about the company, instead of thought provoking and relevant. Instead of pushing products, your content should offer your readers (or viewers or listeners) something of value outside of your brand.
Ask yourself, is this piece of content valuable to my target audience even if they never purchase a product from me or my competitors? If the answer is no, start over. You want content that contributes to the process of genuinely building a relationship with your customers and prospects by engaging them in non-sales, industry-relevant conversations, ideas, and entertainment.
You're investing in a longer-term benefit when it comes to content. Think: If you build it, they will come. If you take the time to curate consistently available, quality content over a substantial period of time, people are going to consider your company the go-to source for everything from research and news to interpretation and insight into the latest industry trends. If you can become a prominent thought leader in your industry, you'll have a leg up when it comes to brand preference. Prospects that already love and trust your content will turn to you over your competitor when it comes time to purchase. A stream of low quality crap content won't develop that kind of love and trust.
Take Risks and Don't be a Robot
Don't be afraid to get creative. Part of the overall goal of content marketing is to humanize your brand. Unlike the old days of controlled, traditional media, today's consumers can get all the information they need and more through online and social channels. Prospective customers interact with companies and organizations in a more personal way than ever before, so having a relatable, humanized brand image is crucial. Engaging, creative, and out of the box content marketing can be an excellent way to achieve that.
Your prospects are already consuming content in innumerable forms throughout the day, and your own content should reflect that. Come at them with more than the standard blog post, adding content-rich ebooks, visual infographics, informative slide decks, and even funny memes.
Maybe a big chunk of your customer base loves lists of gifs paired with a theme. Take a risk and - in between a couple regular blog posts - find some hilarious gifs to relate to an industry-relevant topic. (Here's an example.) You might just delight your readers and get them to share with others.
Also, you can humanize your content by giving it a face. Instead of tacking on a robotic-sounding "Company Writer" byline, pair your content with the name of the real person who wrote it, along with a short bio and photo. Ultimately, allowing your customers to connect will make them feel that much more engaged with your brand and more likely to purchase when the time comes.
In the end, it all comes back to drawing special attention to your brand by offering your customers awesome content: memes that make them laugh, articles that make them think, and ebooks that teach them how to do something new. Turning content marketing into profitable customer action isn't always a quick or easy process, but if you have a strong content team alongside you and the creativity it takes to be both relevant and valuable, your customers will notice.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Jon leads strategy and execution for Marketo. Before co-founding Marketo, Jon was Vice President, Product Marketing at Epiphany and held positions at Exchange Partners and Gemini Consulting. He is executive editor of the popular Marketo blog, Modern B2B Marketing, and author of the comprehensive handbook, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics and Analytics. In 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies under $250 million revenue. Jon holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business
March 19, 2014