It’s the end of the movie year here in Los Angeles and the studios are calculating their successes and losses from the content they created last year. While not everything is always a big hit, one thing is clear: Hollywood has their content creation process down to a science, even if they make it feel like an art. They may be storytellers, but there are a lot of smart techniques they’ve developed to maximize the success of their product that work well for content marketing. These five Hollywood marketing tips can help your efforts be blockbuster-worthy.
Tell the Story Your Audience Wants to Hear
Screenwriting guru Blake Snyder will tell you that movies should be “the same but different.” In other words, the key to audience-pleasing storytelling is to bring familiar elements together with something that your audience hasn’t heard before. Applied to your content marketing, this means make good use of what you know about your audience via your CRM or surveys and combine it with something new and useful to them. This can enable you to create content in the same way that Netflix’s critically acclaimed and popular House of Cards series was created – it was conceived based on what their audience watched most.
Don’t have that much data yet and still need original ideas? We’re not all William Shakespeare or even John Grisham, so don’t worry about the need to come up with original ideas all the time. Set yourself up with a tool to monitor your industry and you can find new ideas to connect with the needs of your audience and, suddenly, new pieces of content will be born. This method also helps show your thought leadership and can keep you producing at a real-time pace matching the speed at which modern audiences consume content.
Know Your Goal
Studios want every film to be a blockbuster and win awards. But the truth is that those films are rare. Instead, they usually target one goal or another. The same goes for marketers and the purpose of their content. Looking for traffic and SEO (the proverbial blockbuster)? You’ll want to create a BuzzFeed-like title (like the one for this column), keep it snackable in length, and broadly aim your content for social sharing. Do you want thought leadership and authority (like going for an Academy Award)? That might mean deeper research, specific targeting, and even a white paper tone to get the attention of your industry. Or maybe you want to produce content regularly but your resources are limited. Hollywood does this, too – some modestly successful films end up with a bigger payoff because they required less investment. Minimizing your time investment by pairing original commentary alongside curated content can still produce a successful piece of content that meets the needs of your audience and still has a chance to go viral despite you spending a fraction of the time producing it.
Promotion Is Worth the Investment
You often hear about a film that costs $100 million to make and almost as much to market it. While marketers may be reluctant to pour that kind of percentage into promotion of content they produce, remember that you fail to engage 100 percent of the readers who don’t see your content. Make the time and cost investment to promote your work via social (LinkedIn sharing is becoming a big deal and hashtags only cost you characters on Twitter), newsletters to your audience to draw them to your blog post, and post your work to public forums where an audience for your content exists. While optimizing for SEO through white hat techniques is still a worthwhile pursuit, more and more evidence suggests that social recommendations and shares are more powerful ways to draw traffic than Google searches because the content comes from someone you trust, not an algorithm. Furthermore, like movie studios working with theaters to target their trailers before a movie that is similar to their own product, content amplification options like Outbrain can deliver links to your content onto pages of like material to draw eyeballs back to your site that are good targets based on the content they were just experiencing.
Bring in a Star
Ever heard of “boarding“? It’s when a studio helicopters a big star into a movie set for a few days, usually at a high cost per day. But the payoff can be equally big. Sure, they’re not there for the whole project but the film gets to promote their presence. Our content marketing analogy is the guest blogger. While writing your own material is a great way to develop a voice that your audience will learn to rely on, bringing in other experts can lend credibility and special knowledge to your output. Now, much was made about Google-meister Matt Cutts‘ comments about guest bloggers earlier this year, but keep in mind that he took issue with the guest-blogger-for-hire crowd who solicit the chance to come write something on your site as opposed to trusted authorities you seek out because their content will interest and engage your audience. Licensed or content-for-hire options like Skyword also fall into this category and can be great ways to bring a little sizzle to your output.
Repackage, Reuse, Reboot – Hit All Channels
Lastly, Hollywood really knows how to use, reuse, and distribute their content. Theatrical, second-run houses, digital, Blu-Ray, Netflix, cable, TV rights – the list goes on. When you produce content, be sure to seek out ways to get it published widely. Find outlets to re-blog your content (now, you’re the star being “boarded”), excerpt a portion on long-form social options like LinkedIn and Facebook (linked to the original piece), and even transform your content into other formats for outlets like SlideShare, a podcast, or even build a microsite around a content series. This last idea plays into the Netflix-inspired binge-watching habit of modern audiences. A microsite full of related content, like SAP’s Future of Business site, can have the same effect – once your customers get a taste of the interesting, useful content you are creating, they will crave more and making it immediately available can keep them engaged on your site.
Plus, don’t forget the sequel and the reboot. As mentioned above, the familiar mixed with the new is a classic crowd-pleasing tactic. Is there a good follow-up to a piece that performed well that can draw on interest in the original? Can the same angle be applied to another subject of interest to your customers? Maybe an article from last year deserves a reboot to update the information included, a simple revisit of the subject, or perhaps the original just needs to be paired with some current, curated content to bring it back to relevance. You’ve heard of “director’s cuts of popular films, right?
Box Office Results
At its core, content marketing is about storytelling and finding a way to engage your customers and prospects in an authentic way that doesn’t make them feel like you’re selling them something. With these tried-and-true Hollywood tactics, you can produce great, targeted content more often, ensure your customers see it, supplement it with expert input, and bring it back again when the time is right to win big with your customers and prospects.