My greatest concern in 2016 is businesses becoming cynical about content marketing because it does not work. As was referenced in this article ‘Content Marketing – It’s Going to Get Weird’ by Joe Pulitzzi (the benevolent father of content marketing), the nay-sayers are definitely starting to rise, and yet, content marketing is the greatest opportunity of our time – if you get it right!
So how do you achieve that?
The first and most important part of succeeding is defining your content marketing strategy, and it starts and ends with the customer. Get your executives, marketing, sales, business development, customer service and communication teams into a room for a day and talk this through.
The most important attendees are the people who know and touch the customer (i.e. sales, customer service) because they need to become your biggest ally.
You cannot be successful at content marketing if you operate in a marketing silo.
The focus for your strategy session? Here’s some ideas
- Who is our customer today? Who buys from us? Who influences our buyers?
- Has our buyer changed? What are their top concerns?
- What does the whole customer look like today – i.e. the human at the end of our marketing? (The goal is to move away from the customer just in relation to what we sell)
- Where and how are our customers engaging? Online and off
- How do we align our priorities to the customer and the stories we tell?
- What are the best examples of customer engagement from our competition?
- What problem do we solve and how are we presenting this in relation to customer need?
- What do we need to change to put our customer story at the center of our business?
This is just an essence of what a strategy discussion would look like, and off the back of this, you define your customer persona, and then your plan of attack. Your next job is…
- Build a Content Hub
It doesn’t need to be all bells and whistles. You can start with a simple blog – focused on the customer and topic you defined in your content strategy workshop – you grow from there. But you need a destination and you need to include CTAs on this site – read more, call you, attend an event, download a whitepaper, subscribe to an email, etc. This is how you measure ROI.
Also if you’re part of a global company, you need an asset you own and control. It’s a massive challenge in Asia getting your content featured on global sites. Time to create your own. This is the same with social media assets. LinkedIn does not recommend multiple company pages and I agree with why they are saying this. However, if you do not have assets for your voice in this region, it’s very difficult to be successful.
Examples of Content Hubs: Adobe’s CMO.com; GE Reports; Gap Gemini Content Loop; IQ by Intel; Think With Google; and ANZ BlueNotes from Australia. But equally, check out the Jabra blog and its focus – work life balance – remembering what Jabra sell. I love this.
Who owns content marketing? Who is going to bring all of the parties together and make this work? It’s a great opportunity for inspired professionals within brands to step up and become the rock stars of their business. Content marketing needs central ownership inside the brand to succeed and it needs a powerful character owning it.
- C-level buy-in
Hopefully your execs were in the content marketing strategy session, because they must champion this. They also need to champion you, the owner. Content marketing is about business transformation, so they’re critical.
- Employee advocacy
Get your employees trained on personal branding and launch an army of employee advocates for your business. The average person has 500 connections, so if you have 500 employees engaging on social media, that’s the ability to influence 250k people. Add it up over time! But the content has to be good. They have to be proud to share it. It needs to reflect well on them.
- Social media assets and focus
A challenge in Asia is integrating social media into the content marketing strategy and team. The head of content marketing needs to have overall responsibility of the digital assets. You need smart social thinkers too, those who fundamentally understand customer communication and what makes it impactful. This is a weakness in Asia. It’s too marketing focused.
Look at your company social assets – is the content 80% focused on helping the customer, 20% on selling your business? I bet it’s 20/80.
You’ve got your people on board, they’re supporting your content marketing, but you need an amplification strategy. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc? Outbrain? Your advocates and influencers? Your eDMs? Offline? You can start small, investing more as you grow and demonstrate ROI.
Content marketing is revolutionary when done right, but it requires your business to transform into a storytelling organization first. Then focus on the customer, build their loyalty to you, be patient, invest for the long term, be committed, build an internal community of champions, have fun, stay agile, be engaged.
This article was initially published in Marketing Interactive.
Image heart on feathers courtesy of Shutterstock.