There’s never been a better time to start content marketing!
Creating and publishing useful content extends your business’s reach, makes you more visible, connects people to your business like nothing else – and thanks to the online tools now available, keeps getting easier.
Of course, everyone needs a hand getting it right. So we brought in four of our favorite content marketing experts to help: Joe Chernov (Eloqua), Ann Handley (MarketingProfs), Scott Stratten (Unmarketing) and Adam Singer (TheFutureBuzz).
The result: a treasury of 15 solid gold content marketing tips. Enjoy!
We’ll be publishing this in three parts – here’s Part One: Planning and Preparation!
1) Content should help people – Joe Chernov
Create something interesting that is a prescription to help people do their jobs better. You should try to create content that helps people become proficient in an area of their lives (hopefully related to your business) that they knew little about before engaging with your content.
Don’t let your content suffer from the ‘IBU’ dilemma: interesting but useless; don’t create a “The History of Some Nonsensical Business Issue” infographic that a few people pay attention to and fewer still forward along. Hold your content to a standard that makes it more than interesting, and offer practical advice or teach people something they didn’t already know.
2) Make your content about customers – Adam Singer
Don’t be too brand-centric with your content. Many marketers and PR pros think about the brand first and, their messaging and their talking points – and that’s great when you’re making a media pitch or doing an interview with the media where they will tell your story. But when you tell your story yourself, make sure you do it in a customer-centric way. Customers need to understand the relevance to themselves of what you’re saying.
Always think about the audience first – that’s the golden rule. If you’re writing content that is all about yourself, not only will that one piece of content suffer: all of the content that you’re going to publish thereon after is going to suffer because you will lose the reader’s trust. Take the long-term view and write for the reader first and your marketing purposes second. Think of your goal as being to zero out your brand; you’ll never achieve it, but you need to be the counterbalance to to those who live to “make the logo bigger”.
4) Pictures can be better than words – Joe Chernov
Infographics, videos and highly visual presentations allow a large amount of information to be consumed in a blink. They are a limited time commitment and they’re immensely shareable. At Eloqua, we’ve doubled down on infographics because they are immensely spreadable. When we host them on our blog, those particular blog posts are far and away our most heavily trafficked posts. People like them.
5) Give your whole team the freedom to get involved – Scott Stratten
I think it’s everybody’s job to create awesome content – so create an environment where they feel able to do that. Make it top-down driven: explain that you buy into the idea and you want them to buy into it too. You need to give your colleagues or employees the leeway to create or they won’t feel able to do it. If they feel your thumb pressing down on them the entire time, they’re not going to do it.
6) Get creative: you can make awesome content around anything – Scott Stratten
I don’t know what company can’t make good content. I worked for two years as a national sales training manager for a bubble wrap company, flying around the country for two-day training classes on how to be awesome and sell bubble wrap. I can make bubble wrap awesome, you can make awesome content too. Blendtech is a great example. Blenders – how boring a domestic product can you get? And then they came out with ‘Will it Blend’ and started making videos of themselves blending iPhones and brooms and anything else. They made awesome content.
7) Don’t shy away from being personal. It builds trust – Ann Handley.
Stories are very compelling. We all love stories; however, many companies think story-telling is a squishy, kind of amorphous thing, like fairy tales or literature. But it’s not about that. It’s really a chance to express the soul of your brand. Who are you? Tell stories about what’s unique about your employees. Show pictures of what the after-party looks like – that kind of stuff builds empathy and trust and it’s what story is about.
8 ) Learn to find stories to tell – Ann Handley
There are a million stories in your company – all you have to do is pull them out and bring them to life. I talk to B-to-B companies all the time, for example, who say, “we have a really boring product and it’s really hard to explain what it is.” And I talk to other companies that tell me they have nothing to talk about. But there’s always a story to tell! Look at what you’re all about. Start by going back and looking at your marketing to see what you have been talking about already. You may find stuff in there that sparks some inspiration right away.
9) Learn to tell a story bit by bit – Adam Singer
Your challenge is not just to be interesting. It’s to be consistently interesting. I know that’s asking a lot but you have to realize it’s no longer about working for three months on a campaign, issuing it and being done. You need to build a narrative over time and be agile with Web publishing so you can tell your story bit by bit.
I tell a lot of clients: your news is important and we’re not going to stop telling people about your news – but it’s equally important to tell your audience all the stuff that happens in between your news. When you do that with your content, it resonates more and humanizes your brand. Where your competitors only talk when they have big news or are releasing a product, you’re positioning yourself differently.
10) Use your blog as a hub – Joe Chernov
If you’re not blogging yet, start. For Eloqua, the blog is without question the hub of our content wheel. Make your blog the starting point for all your content; if it’s housed there, you can give your content life, context and edginess.
11) When choosing your channels, focus on the ‘why’ to determine the ‘where’ – Ann Handley
You really have to think about why you’re doing what you’re doing first. A lot of time, the tendency is to go toward the tools. We need a blog. We need to be on Facebook. We need a Twitter stream. But you really don’t. What you really need to do is say, “why are we doing this?” and then let that strategy question and its answers drive what channels and tools you are going to use and what you are going to do.
12) Give yourself the first bite of your content – Adam Singer
Don’t spend the majority of your time on other people’s platforms. Facebook and Twitter aren’t your platforms – they’re platforms run by other businesses. There is definitely value there for your business, but your content should be published first on a channel owned by your company. I call it the Right of First Publish. When you really have good content, publish it on your own channels first, then syndicate it to other channels while linking back later.
13) Don’t over-commercialize your content when you publish – Scott Stratten
With awesome content, what you leave out is as important as what you put in. Minimize the commercial messages and the branding statements and don’t trademark something every time you speak. I saw a blog post once where they mentioned their company name and that they were award-winning, and then they trademarked it with a little symbol seven times in one post. It’s like… stop it.
14) Don’t go straight for the kill (or the lead form) – Ann Handley
Don’t always go for the kill right away. Don’t produce an awesome piece of content and then automatically hide it behind a registration page. That’s not neccessarily the best way to do it. Try building a relationship over time through content, then maybe asking for just a little bit of information, and then a little bit more over time. It’s not about going in for the kill right away– it’s about slowly building on your relationships with good content.
15) Stay committed – it pays off! – Ann Handley
You’ve got to be able to sustain this long term. Content isn’t a one-and-done thing; it’s a long-term commitment. A lot of the time, companies say, “yeah, let’s get a blog!” And they get it running, and then a month or two down the road, its like: “This blog is such a drag and no one is coming. Let’s just abandon it.” It’s a bit like having a baby. It’s really awesome but it’s long-term. It really does pay back, but at the same time, it’s a commitment that you’ve got to keep, and whatever you do has to be substantial.
To find out how you can start publishing your own content in justminutes a day – including online news releases that reach customers directly – check out the new Vocus Marketing suite here.