The most influential voices in the industry appear to agree: 2013 was a big year for content marketing. With more companies shifting away from online advertising banner ads and looking for more effective and authentic ways to connect with customers, smart marketers turned to a number of content marketing strategies and tactics highlighted by industry thought leaders such as Joe Pulizzi, Michael Brenner, Robert Rose, and Ann Handley. They and others emphasize how brands can better engage and delight customers with content.
As we look ahead to 2014, I thought it would be useful to review the best ideas from the last year to help inspire and influence our content marketing game plans for the New Year. My content marketing resolutions list for 2014 combines expert views along with some of my own, including ideas on how to use new technologies to scale content, build more effective conversion funnels with content, new forms of content amplification, and more.
1. Get Customer-Centric with Your Content
Michael Brenner gave us many powerful insights in 2013 and one that really resonated was his focus on customer centricity. While this move will put a strain on brands to segment and speak to various parties within their customer audience, it will be worth it to put time into content nurturing that makes a brand’s customers a continual part of the story they are telling.
2. Build Content That Answers Customer Questions
Joe Pulizzi does an amazing job of cataloguing great ideas for novice and experienced content marketers alike. But he recently shared a list of top ideas that can work for everyone by paying better attention to questions your customers are asking and answering those questions.
Content marketers are so frequently writing about what they think customers want to hear but often fail to address open questions their own customers are asking about. This is a great strategy to build brand authority, to ensure that you are being informative and useful to your audience, and to draw more readers to your publishing channels.
3. Scale Content Production with Curation
Robert Rose, a top voice at the Content Marketing Institute, took a deeper look at content curation as an effective way for brands to meet the challenge of feeding fresh content across modern marketing channels. He composed a list of leading tools to help brands expand their voice, stay agile, and cut through the clutter online and focus on content that is specific to their audience. I wrote an article on how to build the perfect content mix for your brand, including some examples using my company’s platform, which was also featured in Robert’s report.
4. Use Content to Convert
Jeff Bullas wrote a fine article about turning your Facebook fans into leads through the right mix. This resonated with my own thoughts on the content funnel, and the type of content needed for different points in the sales process. Jeff’s focus on getting quality fans and the way to direct them down the path to lead status can really help brands ensure they get maximum value out of the time they invest in the Internet’s most used social network. David Germano also provided a thoughtful piece that delved deeply into the value of content in conversions and clever ways to optimize the storytelling in your marketing efforts.
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5. Innovate Your Content
Ann Handley wrote a great post about how forward-thinking brands like Chipotle and AirBnB are finding creative new ways to tell powerful stories that barely feel like advertising (read: audiences love them!).
While not every brand is willing to turn over production of their content to the crowdsourced community, there are new ways to incorporate different sources for content into the standard content marketing arsenal. The right content mix can incorporate original work alongside community-created content, and other sources you trust and admire.
6. Tap Employees for Content & Commentary
I’ve heard that when you work for Disney, they say that “everyone is in marketing!” to encourage every employee to think about how their actions affect and promote the brand. You can capture a bit of this idea by creating your own brand newsroom. The brand newsroom became a common theme in content marketing circles during 2013. With the right tools in place, you can make it easy to turn your employee roster into a curation machine that will feed your content to your publishing channels regularly, giving you broader voice and perspective, the opportunity to unlock the content intelligence of your network, and the volume of content you need to meet the always-on demand of your customers.
7. Integrate Marketing Across ALL your Channels
Pam Didner, a highly influential thinker on content marketing, wrote a great article about marketing integration. She lays out why brands need to think about how what they produce can flow to all channels before they start producing it. By doing so, brands can deal with the challenges of a highly-informed customer base, the massive number of channels to cover, and the fear of getting lost in the information overload world we live in.
Pam encourages sensible planning, mixed with community-driven communication and creative ideas, to find the message that will break out of the pack.
What were your favorite articles on content marketing in 2013? Share your links in the comments section so readers can draw on a wide range of ideas when planning their 2014 content marketing calendar.