Content marketing offers brands the unique opportunity to create additional value and unique experiences for customers across channels and throughout the customer journey. Those who do will continue to drive sales, retention, and customer loyalty for many years to come.
It seems what is old is new again. However, it should be no surprise, as the cycle of business teaches us many lessons about the rise and fall of both trends and the companies that ride them.
It was 1998 during the dotcom boom that I had the fortune of being the head of marketing for a top-20 website – the tech powerhouse site ZDNet, which prospered with a collection of magazine (PC Magazine, eWeek, etc.), tech news, comparison shopping, downloads, gaming, and help-focused content for tech-interested individuals and businesses. The content was vast and varied – ZDNet embodied both the depth and breadth of information needed to attract millions each month looking to buy, use, and learn more about technology during the great PC era.
These users returned often and stayed for long periods of time, making our site amongst the stickiest in the world. Our users became a community and devoured original content produced by hundreds of journalists and editors. We spent millions on perfecting the user experience for different user segments/communities, launched highly targeted email newsletters for these specific communities, and surrounded that content with robust and innovative advertising opportunities that drove tens of millions of visitors and of dollars in advertising. It was a successful recipe.
In fact, ZDNet was amongst the small and elite group of sites that was actually making money at the time. Content was king and it looks as if there would be no end to our success as I watched the site compete with likes of Yahoo, AOL, Disney’s Go Network, CNET, and more for both more eyeballs and ultimately more advertising dollars. But then I remember getting a call in those early days from a headhunter asking if I was interested in interviewing for the top marketing spot at a new start-up search engine. I asked the name, typed in the address www.google.com, and was taken to the beta site with a simple search box.
I distinctly remembering saying to the recruiter, "Where’s the content?" His reply was there is none. No content? Content was king! I politely declined the invitation to meet the team and well, the rest is history. What I failed to realize at the time and what the headhunter himself did not drive home particularly well was that Google was also in the content business. Google was really in the business of helping users finding the right and best content for their particular needs/interests in a growing sea of sites and information on the Web. It was creating an easier, faster, and better experience than anyone else on the Web and of course remains a dominant force today.
Fast-forward 15 years later and content remains king, as content marketing is all the rage thanks in part to the rise and growing importance of social media networks. In fact, according to a recent Adobe/Econsultancy survey, content marketing tied with social media engagement as the top priority for 36 percent of marketers in 2014. This was followed closely by targeting/personalization (32 percent), conversion optimization (31 percent), mobile optimization (28 percent), and multichannel campaign management (27 percent) as key areas of focus for marketers. But why? Well, very much like they were in the late 1990s, brands are once again recognizing that the single most exciting opportunity for their organizations in 2014 is creating great, individualized customer experiences across all channels. In fact, this will increasingly help brands differentiate themselves in today’s highly competitive, always connected, real-time world. So what can marketers do to create a powerful content strategy to differentiate their brands in today’s overwhelming multichannel, real time world?
Here are my top 10 tips to building a winning content marketing program:
So what is old is new again thanks to the realization that content is once again king in helping brands further distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace. Done well through a precise understanding of your audiences, content marketing offers brands the unique opportunity to create additional value and unique experiences for customers across channels and throughout the customer journey. Those who do will continue to drive sales, retention, and customer loyalty for many years to come.
'Til next time.
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Michael Della Penna is a seasoned marketing professional with a long, proven track record of launching successful marketing, branding, and sales strategies for leading public and private companies. Most recently, Michael was the senior vice president of Emerging Channels at Responsys. His responsibilities included spearheading the overall strategic direction, partnerships, and solution offering across key emerging channels including social, mobile, and display for the company. Prior to Responsys, Michael founded SuiteDialog and Conversa Marketing, a full-service email and social CRM agency that helped brands ignite conversations and cultivate relationships with customers across the social web. Conversa Marketing, was acquired by StrongMail Systems in 2010. Before branching out on his own, Michael served as chief marketing officer for Epsilon, a leading provider of multichannel, data-driven marketing services. Michael's other key marketing leadership roles include CMO at Bigfoot Interactive, vice president of strategic development at CNET Networks, Inc., and vice president of marketing at ZDNet. Michael received a B.B.A. and an M.B.A. from Hofstra University.
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