Books. Like movies, people often think of books as selling themselves, but savvy marketers don’t sell books just to sell books, they sell books as marketing tools. Michael Port’s sales manual Book Yourself Solid is a great read for entrepreneurs, salespeople, and marketers, and while I’m sure Port enjoys selling his book, the book is a tool for driving customers to his coaching and speaking services. Although with self-publishing it’s easier than ever to publish a book, there is still the perception that it’s difficult and that only reputable professionals can publish a business book. Publish your own, and even if people don’t read it you can still use it as a form of content marketing every time you’re introduced as “Author of…”
When tax season rolls around and people are Googling answers to their tax preparation questions, they stumble upon your blog posts, and realize you offer tax preparation services. Some of them keep doing their own tax preparation, but perhaps keep you in mind for next year; others throw their hands up in the air, decide to rid themselves of tax preparation headaches for good, and hire you -- because you're clearly way more qualified to do this than they are.
Ideally, you’ll have somebody to edit your writing. If you’re responsible for writing and editing your web content, don’t do both in the same day. When the writing is still fresh, your mind will automatically make up the gaps in your copy and your editing will be subpar. Instead, put it away and come back to it another day — or at least several hours later.
At this stage, the work of the one or two content marketers on your team remains about the same as it does with a team of one -- content creation, SEO, and social media. Even if you decide to dedicate two hires to content marketing as Volpe suggests, to bifurcate responsibilities between those two employees is premature. Both employees should contribute to all three responsibilities, and leadership of the content marketing program is shared between those employees.
Add value. That’s the secret. It’s not really a secret at all. We've already talked about it throughout this piece. Although when you look at some of the marketing companies engage in you wonder if they’re purposely avoiding the obvious. We skip advertising when it provides little to no value. If you want to learn about advertising that doesn’t get skipped, find a skateboarder and ask him if you can watch him look through a skateboard magazine. You’ll see that he spends as much time looking at the ads as he does looking at the articles and photos. Or check out The Berrics website. Much of the content is advertisements, but skaters don’t skip these videos, they watch them just like they watch the other videos, because they’re getting the value they want--good skating. As a skater I’d like to say skateboard companies pioneered content marketing decades ago, but I know they were only doing what came naturally, and selling more product was secondary to the fun of creating videos and magazines. If you want to hire someone onto your marketing team who understands content marketing intuitively, hiring a skateboarder might not be a bad step.
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Infographics. These are generally long, vertical graphics that include statistics, charts, graphs, and other information. If you need some examples, here are 197 infographics on the topic of content marketing curated by Michael Schmitz, head of Content Lab at Publicis, Munich. Infographics can be effective in that if one is good it can be passed around social media and posted on websites for years. You can get a professionally designed infographic by hiring a contractor on a site like oDesk or if you want to remove some of the risk you can go with a company like Visua.ly. A decent infographic will usually cost you at least $1,000 to have designed, but can cost several thousand dollars if you are hiring a contractor or agency to include strategy and planning, research, copywriting, and design. There is also the matter of promoting that infographic to bloggers and the media. Or you could set up a board on Pinterest and curate infographics on a topic related to your business. That is also a form of content marketing, and it costs nothing but your time. Hey, it worked for Michael.
Notice how the second sentence is somehow less exciting (even though it contains a killer lion?) That;s because the active voice emphasizes the action with “the lion attacked.” In the passive voice, the village is the subject. The agent (the lion that performed the action) is only mentioned afterwards using the prepositional phrase “by the lion.” It’s almost an afterthought.
During the baby boom era, Kellogg’s began selling sugary cereal to children. With this change in business model came sociable animal mascots, lively animated commercials and the back of the cereal box as a form of targeted content marketing. Infographics were born in this era. This represented a new approach to make a brand memorable with the audience.
The key word here is “valuable.” It’s what changes this definition from one that could describe almost any form of advertising or marketing. You can tell if a piece of content is the sort that could be part of a content marketing campaign if people seek it out, if people want to consume it, rather than avoiding it. So was VW’s 2014 “Game Day” commercial, which has been viewed on YouTube almost 18 million times as of the writing of this post, an ad, or content marketing? The answer is it’s both, depending on how it’s received by each individual who is exposed to it. The same will apply to any piece of content marketing you create, depending on whether the recipient received value from it or not. Of course the goal is to provide as much value from your content marketing to as much of your target audience as possible. At this point, despite this definition and explanation, you’re probably still wondering what exactly content marketing is. We can get more clarity by considering a few examples.
I am a massive copyblogger fan. Only thing I have trouble with is the ‘story’ approach. On the web, when I’m looking to buy something, if I don’t get a product or service definition, the benefits and the price within 15 seconds of checking the home page, I’m off to look for someone who isn’t wasting my time. I also hate long copy, and usually avoid taking on that sort of job. I know my personal preferences should not come into the equation, but I’ve been doing this for international clients for a long time, and feel I have earned the right to be awkward!
Businesses focused on increasing sales through content marketing should look at traditional e-commerce metrics including click-through-rate from a product-page to check-out and completion rates at the check-out. Altogether, these form a conversion funnel. Moreover, to better understand customers' buying habits, they should look at other engagement metrics like time spent per page, number of product-page visits per user, and re-engagement.
Take it from someone who writes for a living: Just start writing. Your first idea is probably not going to be a winner, and that’s why you should get it out of the way as soon as possible. Write out all of the ideas you have for your copy, no matter how silly– you may be surprised at what gems come out of a brainstorming session where you don’t edit or criticize your creativity.