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What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the art of creating, curating and distributing valuable content, combined with the science of measuring its impact on awareness, lead generation and customer acquisition.
Simply put, it's business-relevant communications … minus the selling. It's the antidote to "interruption marketing." Instead of pitching products or services, a content marketer equips buyers with the knowledge to make better-informed decisions. Central to content marketing is the belief that if businesses deliver consistent, helpful information to buyers at the right time, then prospects will ultimately reward the company with their purchase and loyalty.
And they do.
Content marketing is used by some of the greatest marketing organizations in the world, including P&G and Cisco Systems, and by small businesses around the globe. Why? Because it works.
Why Does My Business Need to Understand Content Marketing
According to research by Junta42 | Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, the average organization spends a whopping 26% of its marketing budget on content marketing.
Such a commitment – in the form of capital, personnel and executive sponsorship – is required if a company is going to stand out in the crowded, noisy social Web. The public's attention to ads has calcified. Buyers have steeled themselves against marketing messages – and they've had to. A famous study by research firm Yankelovich found the average person is exposed to about 5,000 ads or offers per day. Buyers have tuned out marketing, and businesses must respond by reaching prospects in new ways.
Content marketing is that new way.
Businesses that succeed in developing timely, relevant, non-promotional content reach potential buyers both directly and through the most persuasive channel of all: word of mouth. Exceptional content, like remarkable products, induces conversations and incites sharing. In March 2011, researchers determined that word of mouth to be the single most influential factor in driving purchases (Experian Simmons), underscoring the need to create content that spurs conversation.
Content marketing doesn't end at "awareness" or "buzz." Companies that develop compelling content through all stages of the buying cycle are more effective at nurturing leads, acquiring customers and reducing churn. Although content marketing remains a cottage industry, the cottage is expanding to include turrets, balconies, and the like. In other words, the industry is maturing and becoming more interesting. Thought leaders like Seth Godin have concluded that content marketing is "all the marketing that's left." Wow.
Content Marketing Fundamentals
Effective content marketing requires practitioners to shift their thinking from marketer to publisher. This shift consists of four new emphases:
"Critical" is the, well, critical word. Some companies publish generic content that speaks to overly broad an audience. Content marketing is most effective when it's written, designed and distributed for a specific reader, such as a pre-determined business persona, a prospect facing a particular challenge, or an active lead that meets certain criteria. Only by identifying the audience can the marketer create an asset that will educate, entertain or inspire the right consumer.
Content marketing doesn't end at creation. A thoughtful distribution strategy is also a prerequisite for success. Let's take a look at some of the most popular types, as identified in a recent Junta42/MarketingProfs survey:
What it is:
Marketers should think of the company's blog as the sun in their content's solar system. Returning to the "think like a publisher" concept, the blog is the business's the flagship publication. It's where new content gets distributed, conversations (via "comments" field) are hosted, context for news is provided, and personal brands are born. It's where even small companies can rocket to the top of search rankings through sophisticated optimization practices.
3 key play points:
Examples to Check Out:
What it is:
A permission-based means of recurring communication with current and prospective customers, delivered at regular intervals. Available electronically in text or HTML formats, eNewsletters can include complete articles or brief descriptions with links to articles on a Website.
3 key play points:
Examples to Check Out:
What it is:
The "granddaddy" of content, a white paper is a topical report, typically 8 - 12 pages long, that addresses technical issues or subjects that require intensive explanation. White papers are a popular format for B2B companies that market sophisticated products.
3 key play points:
Examples to Check Out:
What it is:
Think of it as longer format, less technical white paper. eBooks may be truncated versions of actual books, or they may be stand-alone assets created to help introduce a potential customer to an unfamiliar subject. eBooks tend to present complex information in a visually attractive, reader-friendly format. The content is often both informative and entertaining; the tone, collegial; the format, "chunky" rather than linear, to facilitate skimming and scanning.
3 key play points:
Examples to Check Out:
Examples to Check Out:
Content Marketing is Important in the B2B World Too
By: C.C. Chapman, co-author (with Ann Handley) of Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (Wiley, 2011), and prominent blogger, speaker, consultant.
I'm sure that most B2B marketers are not trying to make excuses. But it feels that way to me every time I'm on stage and someone raises their hand and challenges me that what I'm talking about does not apply to the B2B world. I'm here to tell you what I always tell them: It doesn't matter what business you are in, content marketing must be part of it. Before you dismiss, just hear me out. I know I'm right, and I'll tell you why. I know that B2B is very different then B2C, but at the end of the day both types of organizations are trying to sell something to someone else. Because of that, I know content must be part of the mix. Here are four of my reasons why:
better than any B2C company because you only sell to certain types of businesses. Few B2B companies sell products needed by every imaginable company. Over time, you've developed a detailed customer profile and thus can create content you know will engage and educate your target buyer. Instead of viewing this focus as a challenge, view it as an advantage. With such a clearly defined audience, everything you create can be done with a hyper-focus on what the potential customer needs to know. Start with the top ten most common questions that your sales team gets asked and answer them with detailed blog posts, an answered-focused eBook, or a series of informational videos. In doing so, the next time someone asks one of these questions you can point them directly to what you created.
3. A content strategy doesn't mean you have to create everything.In fact, I believe you should make part of your plan to curate content from other sources to add variety and thought leadership into your marketing mix. Every day there is new content being created and shared by others online. There's no reason you shouldn't share that with your customers. Once a month, choose the top few pieces you've found, add your own thoughts and share the curated content with your community. By doing so you'll be keeping your customers up to date on the industry and begin serving as a gatekeeper to the best information for them. You'll be helping them, while keeping you and your company on the top of their minds. Just always remember to link to and give credit to the original content creators.
As you create a variety of content, you should always be thinking about how you want the person on the receiving end to share it internally. This will raise the collective awareness of what you have to offer and build momentum behind you. While you may have a single contact, you can be sure that internal constituents influence that buyer. Your content, either unique or curated, will be shared if it is engaging enough. And don't forget that people still buy from those with whom they've built a relationship. Be sure to let what makes you unique come through your content. We all know that price, functionality and other factors play into the final decision making process, but it's equally important to remember that buyers want to do business with those they know and trust. Creating content that shows your human side is an ideal way to remind buyers that they are doing business 08 The Grande Guide to B2B Content Marketing www.eloqua.com/grande The Grande Guide to B2B Content Marketing Subscribe to our Blog with real people...even in this B2B world.
Content Marketing Best Practices
Perhaps the ideal way to identify best practices is to discuss where companies go wrong with content marketing. Here are 10 reasons why a content marketing program may not be working...and some suggestions on how to overcome.
1. Lack of Goals. Maybe because content marketing is so broadly defined, sometimes the goals are similarly farreaching. Other companies may be latching onto the latest buzzword without a clear understanding of objectives. Whether the aperture is too wide or too narrow, the end result is a fuzzy picture of performance. Here's an example of a killer content marketing program with a laser-sharp goal: GM's Corvette Quarterly magazine exists solely to convert Porsche buyers into Corvette drivers. FIX: Start with a specific objective. (And obey speed limits.)
2. Generic Content. It's okay, desirable even, to create content for not only your buyers, but also for those who influence your buyers. But at some point you need to draw a line. For example, why does this HVAC company blog about breadsticks? FIX: Identify personas before creating content.
3. Self-referential Messaging. "Me" is the enemy of "we." Remember, your customers care more about your knowledge than they do your products. Self-referential content is marketing collateral with a new name. FIX: Create content about what you know, not what you sell.
4. Good Enough Ain't Good Enough. You aren't just competing against similar vendors when it comes to content. You are competing with every publisher – bloggers, trade journals, Twitter influencers, even daily newspapers. FIX: Invest in your content; create a unique point-of-view; don't forget to market your content.
5. Lack of a Content Calendar. Break the fixed, serial campaign mentality. The content you create should be planned, yet flexible enough to adapt to inspiration. It's also vital to think about creating multiple uses out of a single asset. FIX: Create a content marketing editorial calendar but leave room for inspiration.
6. Going It Alone. Former presidential candidate Al Gore said, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." Content marketing is a team sport. Your colleagues are vital to the creation, distribution and socializing of your content. FIX: Identify employees who are active content creators, and inspire them to join your effort.
7. The Work Ends at Creation. Even the best content needs a push if it's going to be discovered en masse or by the right audience. Unless you are a rock star – and we mean an actual rock star – finding an audience requires time, patience and effort. As JESS3 co-founder Leslie Bradshaw says, "Never trust someone without calluses on his hands." Content is the blue collar branch of marketing. FIX: Find out where your customers are hanging out on the social Web and get active in those communities. (And buy a lunch box.)
8. No Chief Content Officer. All great media brands have a chief editor who owns the content mission. FIX: Find a chief editor internally or hire one. While everyone in a company may be responsible for content, one person needs to be accountable for it.
9. You Lack Content DNA. Most brands aren't inherently publishers. It's a new strand of marketing DNA. That's okay. Bring a "content native" into your company. FIX: Hire a journalist or a specialty agency.
10. No Senior Support. Little known fact: Companies that lack senior level support for content marketing are 3.94 trillion times more likely to stink at the practice. FIX: Do the previous nine steps and, as Matt Heinz says, "Don't invent new metrics. Track more but report less. Just because you can track it, doesn't mean you should or that you should report it."
5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be a Content Marketer
by Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and the co-author (with C.C. Chapman) of Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (Wiley, 2011).
Sometimes I get a little fed up with this whole "every company is a publisher" business. The truth is that some companies just don't have the chops for it.
So you shouldn't even think about producing content as a cornerstone of your B2B marketing if ...
1. You've uttered the sentiment "Why would they buy the cow if we're giving the milk for free?" Some companies worry that by creating content and sharing it freely, they are giving away their thought leadership or trade secrets. They worry that their competitors are trolling their blog and gaining valuable insights or (worse!) poaching clients from the comment threads.
In other words, a Certified Public Accountant, say, might worry that a blog post decoding some new FASB rule for the small business owner might result in potential clients' deciding they can handle their taxes on their own this year.
Of course, the truth is that giving away free content to your prospective clients and customers will do a few things, but none of those things will dissuade the purchase of any metaphorical milk. Rather, educating prospects about the products you sell and underscoring your own expertise actually increases your credibility and fosters trust (along with traffic). You show that you know what you're talking about, and those who dig your stuff will become more educated and ready leads for sales.
And anyway: the kind of clients who are inclined to do their own taxes (so to speak) would never buy accounting services anyway. Just sayin'.
2. You're starting a blog because the CEO always wanted to be a writer. This is a tricky one, because getting executive buy-in for a content program is critical. And a CEO blog might well be a good thing for your company, and it's cool that the CEO is all for it.
But for the love of Mike, please don't start with this reason. Rather, take a step back and ask some broader questions: Why are we going to create what we want to create? What are our goals? What do we hope to accomplish?
That sounds obvious, right? But it's a critical, fundamental step that most companies completely miss. They start a blog because the CEO wants one, or they launch a Twitter stream because their competitors are there. They jump right to tools and tactics, without any sense of the strategy behind the tactics.
So first answer that Why question—and perhaps later incorporate the CEO's voice in a blog that's founded on a stronger footing, for far more compelling reasons. Doing so is going to be a handy chisel to have at your workbench when the CEO gets bored or too busy to pen posts consistently.
3. You think there's already too much stuff out there, and creating more content is just creating more noise. Well, that's true. Google Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt has been quoted as saying that every two days there's as much information created as since the dawn of civilization to 2003. That's a lot of stuff, right?
It is. But that's why the quality of your content is so critical. That's where telling your story well becomes so important. As Eric points out, we are flooded with content on a regular basis. So the stuff that cuts through is the stuff that's truly awesome. Companies that simply repost their press releases on their blogs and then wonder why they don't get any comments aren't the ones that are going to succeed.
Of course, content that "cuts through" isn't content that's "viral." (It might be, but "viral" is serendipitous, and rarely the result of strategy.) Rather, content that "cuts through" is content that (as Len Stein says) is "packed with utility, seeded with inspiration, and is honestly empathetic." Content that meets the needs of your customers in whatever way resonates best with them. In other words: How can you help your customers and prospects with your content?
4. You own the Yellow Pages. You're right. Forget it.
5. You're sick of all the blather by so-called Content Gurus about blogs and e-books and the YouTubes and blah blah blah: What, did they invent words or something? Actually, this is a trick, because you in fact should be sick of all the blather by so-called Content Marketers and high-minded Content Strategists and the like who act as if content just sprouted legs and is walking upright on land for the first time ever.
The truth is that content as a marketing asset is nothing new: In 1900, tire-manufacturer Michelin began producing the Michelin Guide to help drivers maintain their cars, find decent lodging and great food while touring France. Jell- O's recipe books helped push Jell-O sales to $1 million—a fortune in 1906. Though the smartest content marketers and strategists understand that this an exciting time for content, they know that they didn't exactly birth it.
But there are several reasons why content is suddenly new again, among them:
First, that technology thing: We now have the tools to create content platforms easily and cheaply. (Notice I didn't say "content" but did say "content platforms"—like blogs, and eBooks, and tablet apps, and audio, and webinars, and video, and the entire content kitchen sink, so to speak!)
Second, this social media thing: The rise of social media tools and platforms means that your customers and prospects are connected to each other and you in unprecedented ways.
And finally: the Google thing. Your customers are searching online for you along with the products and services you sell.
Those three things mean that a new model is emerging for brands. Brands have become media properties, certainly. But it's more than that … if you allow yourself to really think about it more deeply. What we have is a new model: One of the exciting and interesting opportunities that allows for true innovation.
To do what? To mine the stories from within our organizations and bring them brilliantly to light. To bond with customers in collaborative ways. To put some flesh on the bones of a company in a way that's human and connective, rather than dry and corporate.
To have some fun. To do something unexpected. To be original. To show how our products and services live in the world...how they solve problems, help people do their jobs better, improve their lives, or make them smarter, wittier, better-looking, taller, better networked, cooler, more enlightened, and with better backhands, tighter asses, and cuter kids.
To me, "content" doesn't just mean stuff we create. It means creating unprecedented opportunity.
Or not. It all depends on your perspective
Measuring Content Marketing
Bifurcate your measurement. There are many "counting stats" that you as a content marketer will need to track (views, tweets, Fan growth, "Likes", mentions, favorites, embeds, etc.). But these data points are unlikely to impress your C-suite. Senior executives are likely to care about four metrics:
The reports you show to your CMO and CEO need to answer these types of questions. If you need to show counting stats like growth in followers to earn their confidence, that's okay. Simply try to weave in more strategic metrics over time, and watch the credibility of content marketing surge.
Return on Objective
All content initiatives need to have a goal, and those goals can be measured in a few ways.
Primary Content Indicators
Primary indicators are the types of measurements that the CXO wants to know about.
Secondary Content Indicators
Secondary indicators are the types of measurements that help us make the case for primary indicators. These can be:
Shorter sales cycles
Increased customer awareness
Lift in forms completed
Additional cross-selling opportunities
Qualitative customer feedback on the content
Bounce rates (decrease)
Tweets or Facebook shares
Search engine rankings
Share of voice for key terms
Content Augments Adjacent Functions
When painting the full picture of a content marketing effort's impact, it's helpful to remember that content is an accelerator. It improves performance of adjacent functions like public relations (more press/blogger coverage, awards, speaking engagements), analyst relations (more opportunities to engage with analysts, influencers), social media (more mentions, Likes, Fans, followers; higher EdgeRank), even recruiting (more/higher quality candidates).
But no relationship is more vital to the measurable success of the content marketing function than alignment with the demand generation team. A tight content marketing/demand gen relationship can increase campaign volume and quality; it can add nurture paths that never existed before; it can reawaken dormant segments of the marketing automation database. All of these functions benefit from an active content marketing effort, and all should factor into the way performance is measured.
Content Marketing Case Study
OpenView Venture Partners
OpenView Venture Partners is a venture capital firm that never did any content marketing until 2009. Since then, the business has changed dramatically due to the integration of a content marketing strategy. Here is an overview.
Why would a VC care about content marketing anyway?
The real question should be, "Why wouldn't any company care about a content marketing strategy?"
Since OpenView was new to content marketing, the company started simple. For OpenView, it was important to:
Better communicate with their prospective portfolio companies.
Establish themselves as "thought leaders" in specific industries.
Improve awareness of the firm within their industry by increasing Web traffic.
Speed and dexterity mattered. OpenView set initial goals and quickly formed a core internal team to focus on producing and maintaining a steady "drum beat" of content – a value that continues today. The main components of the OpenView content marketing program are detailed below.
The OpenView blog is one of the core components of the content marketing program.
How they do it:
Each of OpenView's 24 employees is required to submit a weekly blog post on topics within each person's subject matter of expertise. OpenView has 100% commitment from everyone – from the senior managing director to their analysts.
The company uses an external editor only to help polish their posts because they want each employee's personality and point of view to come across.
OpenView uses a business blogging platform that manages the keywords they want to target for every blogger.
Each week the organization pushes every employee to market his or her blog on social networking sites to boost traffic.
By focusing on SEO OpenView saw a 120% increase in search traffic in a period of just 3 months, and almost 1000% since inception of the program
Because content marketing is the art of storytelling, OpenView placed a high priority on video. The company created a tremendous number of video assets in a short amount of time.
How they do it:
Each quarter OpenView holds forums and workshops for their portfolio companies. During that time they plan what video content they want to capture, given the composition of the attendee list. The firm also captures longer format videos during these sessions, mindful that this footage can be used to make multiple short-form videos, which can be released over time. Here is more on OpenView's plan for creating videos.
Every week OpenView releases a newsletter full of the latest tips and tricks targeted at senior managers of expansion-stage companies.
How they do it:
OpenView showcases the best employee blogs from the previous week.
The team handpicks several outside resources – curating content that subscribers will find valuable.
The firm then studies the results of each eNewsletter and fine-tunes their approach.
OpenView uses Twitter to connect with followers and find interesting and relevant content for their eNewsletter.
How they do it:
OpenView searches by keywords and hashtags on Twitter and tracks content posted by industry experts they follow.
While sharing valuable content is the main focus on Twitter, the company regularly tweets some promotional information for OpenView. They follow TippingPoint Labs' 4-1-1 rule when using Twitter.
The firm includes auto-tweets in their newsletters to make it easier for subscribers to share the content they like best.
OpenView Venture Partners has positioned them as an educational leader communicating with expansion-stage technology companies. After 18 months, the OpenView Labs site has produced over 1,000 individual pieces of content – blog posts, videos, articles and podcasts. This quantity of valuable, relevant content has helped OpenViews establish itself as the online resource for its niche industry.
Results Hit List:
Traffic increase of approximately 1,000%
eNewsletter subscribers over 6,000, with a 25% open rate
Closed business through online lead generation
Shorter sales cycles
Happy, engaged employees
Content Marketing Resources
Blogs / Publications:
Chief Content Officer magazine – The first and only magazine focused solely on the content marketing industry.
Content Marketing Institute – Daily updates and in-depth research/resources on content marketing.
Junta42 | The Content Marketing Revolution – Joe Pulizzi's original blog covering the practice of content marketing.
Content Marketing Labs – A faithfully updated weekly catalogue of must-read stories and tweets.
MarketingProfs – The hub of all fresh and marketingrelevant content.
MarketingSherpa – One of the Web's richest resources for case studies, research and data.
Savvy B2B Marketing – Founded by six independent marketing consultants, this blog offers inspirational ideas and practical strategies on all things B2B marketing related.
Velocity Partners' B2B Marketing Blog – Compelling example of a B2B corporate blog.
Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman
Content Marketing by Rebecca Lieb
Get Content Get Customers by Joe Pulizzi
Managing Content Marketing – Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi teamed to write "Managing Content Marketing"
Templates / Presentations / Infographics:
The Content Grid v2 [Infographic]
Is Your Content King? [Infographic]
A Case for Content [Presentation]
The Art of Social Design [Presentation]
The Content Marketing Playbook [Presentation]
A Brief History of Content Marketing [Presentation]
Content Rules Blog Post Template [Template]
Content Rules Content Checklist [Template]
Content Planning Template [Template]
Content Questionnaire [Template]
Content Mapping Template [Template]
Editorial Calendar [Template]