Ann Handley’s Six Steps to Winning at Content Marketing

Marketing Profs COO Ann Handley called on marketers to embrace a new age where customers ‘own’ brands they use – and even ones they don’t – in her recent webinar Content That Wins!, (available on-demand today).

In this world, brands have far less control, warns Ann. The upside, however, is that customers can take a business’s content further than that business ever could alone.

The key to taking advantage of this new trend, Ann says, is creating inherently sharable content.

Here’s her six-step guide for producing content that inspires customers to share. Try it and see.

1. Sell the experience

People don’t want the piece of technology your business offers, Ann says. People want what the technology does for them. Connect with people using content that focuses on what a product can do for them.

Ann uses the example of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board establishing the Grilled Cheese Academy. By offering recipes for gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, the marketing board is connecting their product with the customer.

2. Get your community involved

Expedia could have marketed itself like other travel websites using messages about finding the best fares. Instead it focused on the amazing travel stories its customers had after using it. They posted photos, videos, and stories of how their travels transformed them.

Your community includes your employees. Levenfeld Pearlstein differentiated itself from other law firms by posting videos of the partners answering unconventional questions, such as what they aspired to be as a child.

Missed Ann’s webinar? View it on demand, free,  here!

McKay Flooring's Top Search Result

3. Prepare for the long haul

“The most daring content marketers don’t aim for viral,” Ann says. “Rather they’re looking for a longer term play for their brand. They’re looking to have a longer term relationship with their customers.”

Success, like rising to the front page of search results, takes time. McKay Flooring is reaping the benefits of patience. The Scottish company highlights unusual flooring ideas, like using reclaimed whiskey barrels, with microsites and now is a first-page Google result for “unusual flooring”.

Ann also advises that playing for the long term means having the right staff. Find a lead strategist who will own the idea of content as part of marketing and pair him/her with a supporting cast who can deliver.

4. Learn to see content moments everywhere

Feel that you don’t have a lot to share or your product doesn’t lend itself to making connections with customers? There’s always something, Ann says.

Giving people behind-the-scenes views of how things are made or designed is often a big draw. Oscar de la Renta does this at bridal shows. Instead of pictures of the runway show, the dress designer uses Pinterest to show the models preparing. His board has more than 30,000 followers.

5. Take Risks

“You have to get at least a little bit comfortable with things not going exactly to plan,” Ann says.

Marketing Profs recently started an unusual email marketing campaign for its B2B Forum. It sent an email as Mad Men character Don Draper, explaining why he planned to boycott the forum. Sure, it earned Marketing Profs some negative feedback, but it increased email opens between 25 and 30 percent. They even earned publicity by having their innovative idea featured by several blogs.

6. Create the unexpected

Go against the grain and see your business connect with customers. Take, for example, how Grey Poupon has an application for people hoping to “like” the brand on Facebook. The mustard company scans education, interests, and books read to see if you cut the mustard. Ann says the unconventional way of building a fan base works because it’s consistent with the larger Grey Poupon story.

Want more help with content? Check out our expert guide to content marketing here.

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