How to Breathe New Life Into Old Content

Content marketing is a great way to engage new prospects. But, constantly churning out marketing content is unrealistic. Leveraging old content, however, is free.

You spent a lot of time and effort to create your messaging, which you dutifully employed in your marketing. It’s all over your website and social media. You used it in email distribution to your network and perhaps even in a blog or white paper. That’s great, but do you realize fresh content doesn’t age well? Within weeks, the search bots have moved on, your customers have seen it, perhaps read it and moved on, and a prospect probably had no reason to read it to begin with. Why? Because a customer or prospect views content from a singular perspective: what’s in it for me?

Content marketing is one of the most important ways to attract a prospect to engage with your brand. Sadly, unless you have a dedicated team who understands the true purpose of content, and with a mandate to continually churn out fresh content and gain followers, simply distributing your elevator speech will not suffice. It’s expensive and time-consuming to build new creative. So, the odds are that at some point you’ll find yourself trying to figure out how to create marketing content on a budget. 

The 3 Rs of Creating Marketing Content on a Budget

Any marketing department with a content campaign running typically follows these steps:

  • Build a piece of content (white paper, video, infographic, etc.) that speaks to your audience with useful and meaningful solutions to their issues.
  • Add the content piece to your website.
  • Push the content piece out via your social channels.
  • Send the content piece out via email to your distribution list.

Then you quickly move on to the next piece of content or campaign for the rinse and repeat cycle.

It costs a whole lot to create new content, and it’s far more economical to pull historic content off the shelf to give it a new lease on life. An easy way to think about how to accomplish this is with the “3 R’s” of content creation – Repurpose, Reposition and Reuse.

Repurpose

Let’s say the content piece is from last year. It’s a topic that’s worked and still has legs. However, your audience has seen this particular piece. It might be time to re-purpose the content. With this strategy, you take one piece of content and turn it into a bunch of other pieces using the same core content. Turn a single white paper into one or more blog posts, a slide deck, and a podcast. The expanded variety of media will engage with a new set of prospects, who may not have been interested in reading long-form content. To capture potential leads, direct visitors to the original white paper as a call to action in the introduction of the repurposed content.

Reposition 

Sometimes just changing up how the white paper is positioned with a few small edits to the body copy and a new headline will create something that looks and feels new. What has happened within your industry since the original white paper was published? Is there a new, fresh twist that can be included? This is probably the simplest way to breathe some life into an older piece.

Reuse

You’ve already shared this content. The whole world has already seen it, so why do they want it again? While I’d love to think that everybody reads each email, dives into every blog post, and absorbs all the points of the original content, it just doesn’t work that way. Your customers and prospects only care about your content if it is meaningful when they need it, and their needs don’t always align with your marketing calendar. What wasn’t of interest six months ago, could be the answer to their current problem. Hit re-send to the people that didn’t open the email or click on the original link. In addition, think of all the contacts you’ve added to your database since you first published the piece. They don’t know it’s repurposed. Remember, there is a lot of content out there. Your visitors are pummeled with messages every day. Use these strategies and engage people that have shown some level of interest and that will find it useful and relevant.

Need Some Extra Hands to Create Marketing Content?

Reach out to us! We can help you develop a strategy and create compelling content that targets your audience.

How to Interview a SME

Rob dives into 5 tips on how to properly interview a subject matter expert (SME)

As a content writer, a large amount of my time is spent talking with various subject matter experts, or SMEs, about their matters of expertise- and then writing a story based on my findings “by” the aforementioned SME for publication. Often referred to as “ghostwriting,” it’s a cornerstone of the marketing communications world. And rightly so. 

SMEs are often high-ranking members of their organizations, filling job functions that demand the majority of their time. They have great and valuable insight to offer potential customers, but often times, simply not enough time to compose their thoughts into content that can be used for marketing purposes. 

This situation is all too common in the world of content marketing. If you haven’t found yourself in something similar before, you’re likely the exception to the norm. But chances are, as a content marketer, you will have the opportunity to conduct many different SME interviews in your career. Following are five tips I have used over the years to help ensure I have a productive and successful interview every time that lets me craft a compelling piece of content

5 Tips for How to Interview a SME

(We couldn’t help ourselves)

Arrive Early to the Interview

I always try to give myself at least 5 minutes before the interview begins to settle in and prepare myself. As I said before, SMEs are often very busy people. You’re depending on their knowledge and cooperation to complete your work, so respecting their time is in your best interest. 

Prepare Your Questions

Before the interview begins, I prepare by thoroughly researching the topic and putting together some basic questions to loosely guide the interview. These help to make sure we touch on all necessary topics. My interview always begins by having the SME confirm that I have their correct job title and spelling of their name (forgetting this step could make things awkward down the road). 

Record the Interview (If Possible)

If you have the ability to create an audio recording of your interview, and if you have your SME’s permission to do so, it would be an excellent backup to your notes. Many SMEs you come across throughout your career could be fast-talkers, or perhaps English could be their second (or third) language. You might conduct your interview on the phone with a poor connection, or near a busy and loud work environment. Often, interviews are conducted on a tight schedule without much time to ask the SME to repeat themselves. Either way, few interviews ever happen under perfect conditions, and having a backup audio recording to refer to when your notes have holes could make all the difference. 

Let Them Talk

This is a simple, yet often overlooked tip. Obviously, SMEs know the subject you’re there to discuss with them (this is where the “E” in their acronym comes from). But sometimes, we as writers prepare so much for the story (visualizing the points that we’ll make along the way to create a successful piece of content) that we rush along to the next question when we feel the source has provided a sufficient answer. Don’t do this. If your time with the SME allows, let them talk until they feel they’ve fully covered a point. Listen for opportunities to ask follow-up questions. If they reference an anecdote, be sure to ask them to tell this story and capture it as best you can. It might provide a great example to help bring one of your points home.

Bring Backup

It’s a luxury that most working situations can’t afford. But if you’re able to, bring a member of your team to help with capturing notes (perhaps a junior level or intern who could benefit from the experience). To heads are better than one. And this might also help ease your stress over missing any important tidbits, letting you focus more on the story being told. 

Do You Have Additional Tips on How to Interview a SME?

Hopefully these tips help you on your future SME interviews. Do you have any additional tips for conducting a successful interview? If so, let us know!

50 Years of Content, Fact-Finding and The Internet

Dan reflects on 50 years of the internet and discusses how it has changed storytelling and news over the years.

Two amazing things happened this year that have caused me to reflect heavily on my life and career as a public relations professional, content marketer and storyteller. I turned 50, and the Internet turned 50. Why then do I just keep getting grayer and grayer every year while the Internet appears to get more and more colorful by the day?

Reflecting on 50 Years of the Internet

My self-reflection kicked off Saturday night, October 26, at an annual event held by The Mercantile Library, a historic library in downtown Cincinnati that promotes history, reading, enrichment and community engagement. The event was the Library’s 32nd annual Niehoff Lecture, which featured Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward (one of the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Watergate story on June 19, 1972). As the guest of my good friend and fellow former journalist Carolyn Pione Micheli, I had the great fortune to meet Mr. Woodward. That evening, a dream I never thought would come true was realized.

Back to the Beginning

Growing up, I remember studying about Watergate, which led to Richard Nixon’s resignation from office. Of course, I also was mesmerized as I watched Robert Redford portray Woodward on the silver screen in 1976’s All the President’s Men. I knew that Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s reporting was at the center of this national scandal, and as I grew older and began pursuing an education and career in journalism, I came to better appreciate the process the two journalists pursued to uncover the facts, apart from rumor and partisan politics. I was inspired to pursue and then obtain a degree in print Journalism.

I emphasize “print” for a reason. Because as I was making my way as a newspaper and magazine reporter, editor and eventually public relations consultant, a game-changing technology was slowly percolating within the halls of academia and government that in the mid-90s would begin to turn the world of journalism on its head. On October 29, 1969, just a few months after I entered the world, the Internet was born. And just three days after I met a bona fide living legend of journalism, the Internet celebrated its 50th anniversary.

The irony of these two occurrences happening around me within days of each other is staggering. The person who epitomizes investigative print journalism in its most ethical and objective form stands contrasted in my mind against the very platform that enables so many to share information in its most raw and unverified form, causing chaotic firestorms of misinformation and rhetoric on a daily basis.

Amidst the chaos, I believe we must look hard for meaning. Since the beginning of human existence, information has been communicated and shared as stories. Over the eons, the vehicles by which that information was shared has evolved and advanced with one consistent objective at play—to communicate facts. Yet, today, the facts are relegated to a supporting role in telling stories, and those trusted to convey the news that we trust to inform our decisions are…well…you and me. We no longer depend on newspapers and magazines or the once modern mediums of television and radio to deliver our news. We seek it out on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, on blogs and subscription news feeds, and of course the websites belonging to those news outlets that used to only exist in print and on our air waves. And each one of these outlets and platforms is competing for clicks, impressions and unique users. The rush was always on to break a story, but never until the facts were collected and verified. Today, we’re simply in a rush to be first, as he or she who gets the most visits wins.

What Does the Future Look Like?

No telling what the future looks like, especially as technology continues to advance. My hope is that we can find a compromise between our voracious appetites for information and minute-by-minute updates to that information and the ability of professional storytellers to once again be afforded the time and resources to tell their stories with all of the facts in tow. Until that time, we must embrace one of the many pros the Internet affords us today—the ability to research for ourselves the facts, and the boundless ways in which we can tell our stories.

Looking back on this past year, especially with respect to these recent milestones I’ve just shared, I see 2019 as neither the end to my first 50 years nor a new beginning. Rather, it’s like the fold in the newspaper I still read every morning. In Journalism school, having a story appear on the front page was never enough. It had to appear “above the fold.” That was the money shot, because…in theory…that story always got read first. The funny thing is that it didn’t really matter where a story landed on the front page, because it was only the beginning, and often was only a couple of paragraphs in length. You still had to open the paper to get to the meat of the story and digest all of the details. That’s where you decided your opinion of the story and those in it.

After 50 Years of the Internet — What Now?

For my next 50 years, I will continue to follow Mr. Woodward’s example of doing the hard work, resisting the urge to be first, and focusing on getting it right…whatever “it” happens to be in my case. I’ll use the Internet as a resource for achieving my objective, not as the objective. I’ll search for the truth, and do my best to encourage those around me to do the same. And as a storyteller, I’ll strive to shed light on all sides of those stories, and hopefully encourage those after me to do the same.

4 Myths About Content Marketing

Myth #1: “Content marketing is just a fancy word for advertising.” Content marketing and ad campaigns aren’t the same, and if you treat it as such, you will fail.

The oft-misunderstood world of content marketing is a living, breathing, evolving space. It’s in a constant state of flux to meet the changing demands of buyer personas and search engine algorithms. And being the moving target that it is, there are lots of misconceptions around content marketing.

Here are four myths about content marketing, and why they simply aren’t true.

1. “Content marketing is just a fancy word for advertising.”

This myth is a serial offender and lead culprit of many a failed content marketing campaign. If you approach your content marketing campaign like an ad campaign, you will fail. While ads involve (mostly cleverly concocted) sales messages and slogans, they’re allowed to be outright self-promotional because they’re appearing in a paid ad. Any editorial that you create for content marketing purposes must be of genuine informational value to its intended audience. After all, your goal is to position this content so that your readers will find it as a result of their own research. If you lead them down a tunnel to a crummy commercial, they will feel tricked and will leave your site posthaste. Hear that? That’s the sound of your bounce rate spiking.

2. “Anyone can write content.”

You wouldn’t ask your doctor to do your taxes. Ideally, let the writers write the content. Find someone adept at collecting the appropriate information and producing quality content that engages with your target audience on a meaningful level.

Are you a small company with limited resources? By all means, assign your content creation jobs to the appropriate subject matter expert. Whether it’s a product manager, engineer or someone from sales. But for the love of all that is good, make sure they know how to write well, and how to write for the web. Be sure they are writing objectively, and at a level appropriate for your intended audience. Do your research and identify the keywords people are searching on that relate to your content themes. Providing these to your writer upfront will help focus their efforts to produce the desired results.

3. “The rewards of good content marketing are instant.”

While I wish this was true, it just isn’t realistic to post a single piece of brilliant, award-winning content to your website and expect all of Google to read it the same day.

Your mantra here should be “steady does it.” Set a realistic but regular goal date of creating, posting and promoting new content. A steady stream of quality, relevant and engaging content, updated regularly, will gradually start to find its way to your targeted audience. From here, the relationship builds. Viewers become subscribers. Subscribers become leads. Leads become conversions.

4. “The only good content is long content.”

Hogwash!

While there is truth that search engines give preference to the longer forms of content, we’re not talking about War and Peace here. More important than exact word count is taking the appropriate amount of time to effectively communicate your message. Don’t drone on simply to enhance your word count. Remember that while you’re using search engines to help get your content in front of readers, your primary objective is to write for the readers themselves. Do your research, take the appropriate amount of time to formulate your story. And if you can shoot for 1000 words (or more), then more power to you.

So there you have it. With all the hype around content marketing, I hope these four myths help you realize that it isn’t exactly rocket surgery.

Have you conducted your own content marketing campaigns and have some additional myths to share? If so, or if you’d like to talk about how O’Keeffe can help with your content marketing campaigns, let us know!

Content Marketing Versus Copywriting

Dale shares the difference between content marketing and copywriting, and explains what to keep in mind when developing content

Simply stated, content marketing is creating and sharing valuable free content to attract customers seeking answers to questions about a product or service. Think explaining the category rather than selling.

Copywriting creates copy with a specific call to action and seeks to compel the reader to initiate a trial of a product or service. Think advertising.

If you don’t know the difference between content marketing and copywriting, chances are very high your content marketing is missing the mark, or worse, being dismissed as totally self-serving. So, what is the difference?

Big difference. Content is blogs, thought leadership whitepapers, podcasts and email autoresponders. Copywriting is sales pages, website copy, ads and direct mail.

Content Marketing does require good copywriting. This may seem contradictory to the statement above that differentiates between the two. In reality, it’s not.

Content marketing without good copywriting is a waste of words.

To write good content your copywriting skills will be invaluable. Here are some things to keep top of mind when writing good content.

Your headlines might be too dull. 

When your headlines are boring, they don’t give people any reason to click through to the rest of your writing.

Your headlines might be too cute and clever.

If this is the case, you’re simply showing how smart you are without communicating any reader benefits. If your headlines are too dull or too clever, take a step back by making great communication your primary goal. Leave the jokes for late-night talk show hosts.

You haven’t explicitly thought about how your content benefits readers.

Just like a product has to have a benefit to the buyer, your content has to be inherently rewarding to readers or they won’t come back to your blog or podcast. Always consider your audience, and make sure you have created a good content development strategy that outlines these goals and objectives.

Your content isn’t building any rapport or trust.

You can always get social media attention by espousing your political position or ranting about a social issue, but attention does not translate into followers.

You don’t have a clear, specific call to action.

“Wait! You said earlier a call to action is the domain of advertising!” Yes, I did, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you have crafted a well-written thought leadership article that clearly demonstrates industry-leading innovation, your readers are going to want to know what to do with this information. Tell them. Give them a path to the next step, not a sales pitch. Remember, copywriting is the art of convincing your reader to take a specific action. And yes, it’s still copywriting if it takes place in content marketing of a podcast or video.

Keep these principles of great content marketing in mind:

  • Be generous. When your free content is so valuable that it makes you a little uncomfortable, you know you’ve got it right.
  • Produce enjoyable content. If your content reads or sounds like an ad, it will be overlooked or thrown away. Make your content too valuable to throw away by wrapping it in wonderfully beneficial, readable content.
  • Write for people. Don’t make the mistake of writing for search engines. Always write for people first, and then make your content search-engine friendly so new readers can find you.

Need help crafting your content? Totally lost on creating a content development strategy? Let’s connect!


Developing Content: 5 Things to Know

Rob shares his best tips for developing content. Our favorite? Make time to procrastinate. Read the rest on the blog.

Just the other day, Dan described me to a client as one who salivates over a good piece of content needing to be written. For whatever reason, that description stuck with me (am I that slobbery?)- But the more I think about it, the more I realize he wasn’t that far off! I do get pretty excited over crafting a good story for readers, with all the juicy details arranged just right for maximum impact and “a-ha” moments. And I love digging into a new topic that I haven’t written about before- reading what other people have to say about it, speaking with established experts that know it all too well. Then there’s that moment when you finally dare to think you know enough to pull off a story. I still get a charge every time all the pieces suddenly line up.

If you too are a content creator like me or looking to dive into developing content for your business, here’s a few things I suggest you consider before you make that leap.

Know Your Sources

I have built an entire career writing about industries, products, and processes about which I know very little (at least at the get-go). Over time, and through years of work, I familiarized myself with each of them. Sometimes enough to be able to pull off a piece of content without much research. But having a good source I could refer to for information about the topic was always absolutely crucial to my success. Whether it’s a website, person, or collection of documents, without a good source, it can be very hard/ impossible to ever get a piece of content off the ground.

Know Your Audience

This step will help you develop the right tone in your content. Before you begin writing, be sure you know very well the target audience to whom you’re writing. What is their knowledge of the topic? Are they an informed, long-time client looking to keep up on industry best practices? Or are they a new customer searching to solve a problem they’ve never dealt with before? If your topic is technical or advanced in nature, and your intended reader is uninitiated, it might require some skillful distillation of information so that your content hits home. Or, if you’re writing to experts, doing your homework to learn the appropriate industrial phrases and jargon can make your tone sound like it knows what you’re talking about.

Know Your Keywords

Before you start writing, it’s essential to know your keywords for several reasons. First off, it helps you organize your content- making sure you touch on and address all the necessary points. Second, what good is a piece of digital content if your intended readers can’t find it?

Know Your Word Count

How long do you have to establish your credibility, develop your ideas, make your case, defeat the counterpoint, or educate your reader about the topic? Long-form content lets you take your time, easing your readers into the subject, going off on tangents where applicable, providing several examples to back up your arguments. But with shorter pieces of content, you might be required to adopt a news style of writing- getting quickly to your point and cutting out the fluff.

Know Your Deadline

I’m convinced that procrastination is an essential component of the creative process. Letting an idea bounce around in the back of your mind as you work on other projects until it’s fully formed can help your writing exponentially. But even a perfect piece of content is useless if you miss your deadline. Knowing how long you have to complete your work can help you strike a balance between letting the idea marinate and doing the writing. And if you don’t have a deadline, set one. Sometimes it takes a sense of urgency to help force your idea out onto the page.

So there you have it. Hopefully, these tips help you develop the content you’re looking for. But if you need more help, don’t be afraid to reach out to us!

If Buzzfeed Wrote a Digital Content Guide

We all know Buzzfeed. But what if Buzzfeed wrote a digital content guide? Jocelyn digs into what makes the viral content producer so successful.

Let’s Get Engaged

I think it is safe to assume that we all know what Buzzfeed content looks like. If you have been on Facebook in the past 10 years, you have likely seen a family member, friend or distant acquaintance – who is technically your Facebook “Friend” – share a piece Buzzfeed content. But what would a digital content guide created by Buzzfeed look like?

Buzzfeed creates content to make it viral – meaning they want it to become as popular among the broadest audience possible. And whether you are a fan of its content or not, you can admit they know how to make their blogs, videos and posts sharable across a mass audience.

But how can you apply this to your business’s social media content or blogs? We’ve pulled together three tricks you can steal from Buzzfeed for this digital content guide.

Lots of visuals

Law of life: People like to look at stuff. So, make sure the content you are sharing has quality and engaging stuff to look at. When sharing a post on social media, adding a photo can increase Engagement Rate by 2.3X when compared to a post without a photo – and Engagement Rate increases even more when paired with a video.

digital content guide

What’s going on now

Buzzfeed creates topical content that relates to mass audiences. To increase engagement on your social media posts or blogs, make sure you tie your content in with a current event. The current event could be events in pop culture, in the news cycle or recent happenings in your company. If it is recent news, your audience will be excited to hear it!

Consistency is key

Say it with me now, consistency. Buzzfeed is a powerhouse of content and continuously churns out videos, blogs and images. If your business does not have the time to produce content consistently- don’t worry, that’s okay! If your business does not happen to be a digital media corporation, and only has the capacity to develop one blog every two weeks, don’t be discouraged. Start there and begin developing relationships with your audience.

By taking these three tips into account when planning your next content calendar or getting your fledgling content strategy off the ground, hopefully you too can enjoy the success and increased visibility of a piece of your content going viral.

Want some help with your digital content strategy? We can help!

Creating the Best Content Development Strategy

Creating a content development strategy is one of the easiest ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts. Here’s how to create one.

Creating a content development strategy is one of the easiest ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts, but it’s also one of the most easily overlooked. When you’re focused on getting the next thing done on your to-do list, taking the time to evaluate what you’re doing and why isn’t at the top of your priorities. Whether you’re blogging to support your sales team, or you’re building a brand from the ground up, these seven tricks will help you create a content development strategy flexible enough to grow with your objectives.

Align Your Goals

Seems simple, right? But nailing down both your departmental goals as well as your overall business objectives is huge. Sometimes lead generation isn’t the answer; sometimes you need greater awareness or reduced customer attrition. Knowing both what you need to focus on and what’s keeping your boss’s boss up at night is the key to create a strategic content marketing program.

Understanding business objectives is one of the first things we focus on with our clients. It’s one of the reasons why our proposals include a large discovery section and only an idea of the work we might do together. Until you know where you need to go, it’s tough to find a way to get there. I can give you best practices until the cows come home and then leave again, but the best strategy is going to be rooted in your goals.

Find Your Hidden Resources

This was always one of my favorite stupid human tricks when I worked client side. I used to worm my way into the hearts of IT and make friends with my sales team. I’d badger my product managers and stalk my account leads. I’d bake for my customer reps and push my way into meetings of kinds. I was That Marketer.

When you remove all of the business gibberish, we tell stories. It doesn’t matter if you’re in marketing, PR, or HR. We’re all here telling a story about the organization for whom we work. Those stories can come from surprising places. Think about who talks to your clients, customers, or prospects daily. Who knows their pain points? Who answers questions day-in and day-out? Find those people and pick their brains (gently). Save their words, learn their language, and connect that to your strategy. Infuse the data-driven side of your content strategy with the very human side of those stories.

Set Your Pace

Think about the last big project that you never finished. Maybe it’s the deck in your backyard you meant to update or that sewing project you started a year ago but never quite got to. You were so motivated when you first started, but life took over, and it fell to the bottom of your list. It happens. And that project stares at you like a lost puppy, just begging to be completed.

Content development strategies are big projects that live on the fringes of our daily work. My to-do list is primary evidence of this. What’s the one thing that just never gets finished? Content. Blogs, social media, downloadables, case studies… all of it cycles through my email until it’s completed, and I need to start the next one. On our agile board, those post-its are the matriarchs of my time: they sit there, staring at me, daring me to ever move them to complete. And unlike most significant projects, they don’t have an endpoint. Wouldn’t it be great if they did? Write two blogs this week, done for life! SEO completed. Take that content marketing! 

The worst part is that you may feel like you’re failing if you don’t set a giant goal driven by 72 statistics and a pace that would set the world on fire. It would be utterly fantastic if we all had time in the day to match that kind of speed- or if we had a large team and a budget to rival that big sports stadium downtown. If we had leadership that understands the six-month lead time between content production and results, O’Keeffe would probably be out of business if that were the case. Content production farms – it’s the future!

The reality is that the best pace for your content development is the one you can stick to. Maybe you’ll be able to post five days a week in the future and maybe you won’t. Perhaps you can only really do one blog per month, but that blog is going to be well-researched and aligned with your goals. That’s okay. Quality is so much better than quantity, and a consistent pace matters more than bursts of content with a sad desert in between.

The real answer is that something is better than nothing- and a regular, well-done something is the best of all.

Get Inspired

I’ll admit it: sometimes I stare at my keyword research and my eyes glaze over. Blah blah, SEO, blah blah, gated content, blah, blah lead gen. Research the keywords, write the content, post the content, optimize the content, track the content, share the content. It’s kind of sad, eh? We find this amazing thing, this content marketing thing, and somehow us former English kids who were told we’d end up living in a box proselytizing about poetry, are somehow paid for writing for a living, and we get annoyed with it.

We get paid to write. Isn’t that the most fantastic thing? I remember the first time someone offered me a job as a copywriter (shout out to Chris for plucking me out of project management). It blew my mind. And we’re all like that here at O’Keeffe. We all have these stories of finding our way in communications and realizing that this was the thing we wanted to do with our lives. Book nerds, media nerds, hunting down the most exciting tales and finding a way to get paid for it.

You have to find the truth of what you’re writing. Go beyond your audience, beyond your research, beyond best practices. Whom are you writing for and what do they care about? Why does it matter?

Write It Down

I know what I’m doing, you say. I’ve got a spreadsheet, and I’ve sent emails. In the business world, that’s about the same as a blood contract. And yet documenting your content development strategy matters. There’s a massive difference between thinking you know your plan and working out the details in ink. Outline who your brand is, whom you want to talk to, and what they care about. Detail why it matters. Create a nice little one-pager (or three-pager, we don’t judge here) and save it.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve created a content marketing strategy for a client and then six months later, some yahoo from accounting is confused about why we’re spending so much time blogging. This is why, my dear yahoo. Because these are our goals, this is our strategy, and this is why it matters.

Here’s our favorite template: Content Marketing Strategy Template

Determine KPIs

Ah, those famous key performance indicators, drivers of some of the most inane business conversations that I have had the displeasure of having. But we need them. They’re the bumpers to our terrible bowling, the speeding tickets to our lead foot, and the fences to our furry squirrel hunters. When you can go anywhere and do anything, you don’t have a sense of where you need to be. (Didn’t think I could get all esoteric on KPIs, did you?)

KPIs are the corn starch to your sauce: they hold it all together. And laddering your KPIs into your business strategy is the best way to understand how your glorious content development strategy is performing. You need a dash of common sense and some patience to make this work because the fact is that you can track anything and you might end up tracking everything. 

Cut through the noise and figure out what matters to your bottom line.

Analyze and Test

So you went through all of this, and you’ve got a strategy, and it’s full of KPIs, and you’re making that sweet, sweet content happen. You’re done, right? Incorrect, my amigo. Now is the fun part! It’s time to start playing with your strategy and testing what works better. Generally speaking, you’re going to stick to that A/B test (in other words, change one thing and see if said change makes things better or worse- “things” being KPIs) because multivariate testing always makes me want to call my old stats professor from grad school. If you’re very enthusiastic about this part, you can even test for statistical significance if your sample size if hard enough. And if you’re frowning right about now, you can squint at your results of less than 100 and say very sagely, “this isn’t large enough to be statistically significant, but that’s an interesting result.”

What’s Next

So that’s all I’ve got — your seven tricks to creating the best content development strategy. If you’d like a free analysis of your current strategy, let us know. We enjoy answering questions, and we know sometimes your budget isn’t quite there to hire an agency yet.

The Buying Behavior

Humans are hard-wired to buy, and our decision to buy is driven and exhibited by a necessary behavior.

Are you speaking to your audience?

As marketers, we survive and thrive on what we’re able to help our organizations sell. Thus, for many of us throughout our careers, our sales counterparts…and sometimes we…are schooled in one sales technique after another.

Solution selling, for instance, is one popular methodology, which is driven by the idea that sales’ job is to help solve problems we believe are plaguing our consumers. Another method is Target Account Selling, which is focused primarily on converting smaller customers into larger customers.

These and most of the myriad other sales techniques can be effective, and each has its place. However, none are foolproof and often rely on both Sales and Marketing, making educated assumptions about their prospective customers. Each methodology can benefit from incorporating one science-driven reality that many of us still neglect. “Consumers buy because they find a product or service appealing to them, and they believe the information they receive about that product or service.” This means that organizations trying to sell their wares must find consumers who are naturally inclined to want their products or services or who, due to some external circumstance, are currently looking for the product or service being offered.

The Learning Pathway

The concept is simple. Humans are hard-wired to buy, and our decision to buy is driven and exhibited by a necessary behavior. Psychology Today describes this behavior as the Learning Pathway, and breaks it down as follows:

“A customer must learn about a product or service and relate it to their specific situation. There are three learning domains—Cognitive, Constructivist, and Experiential—that guide our buying behavior. The buying journey begins with the Cognitive domain, which is the intake and assimilation of new information.”

In 21st Century marketing terms, “new information” can be referred to as “content.” This is where marketers figure into the sales mix. We fill the role of researcher, compiler, translator, and distributor (or conveyor) of new information in the form of the content we create. This means we need to arm our salespeople with the most current information translated into the most compelling content delivered using the most innovative and measurable tools.

According to a 2016 Demand Gen Report, 47% of buyers viewed 3 to 5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales representative. Translation: nearly half of the consumers felt the need to research before buying. Moreover, where did they go for this content? In today’s world, their content channels could include blogs, traditional media, infographics, Twitter, videos, email, whitepapers, presentations… Shall I go on?

That same Demand Gen Report also noted that 96% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers want content with more input from industry leaders. Translation: buyers want to know what those they respect say about the products or services they’re considering purchasing.

Marketing automation leader HubSpot reported in a 2016 survey that 62% of consumers prefer to consult a search engine to learn more about a product rather than talk to a salesperson. Only 29% prefer a sales pitch.

Furthermore, a 2017 study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute found that content marketing gets three times more sales leads than paid search advertising. Translation: quality content published regularly motivates consumers to buy exponentially more often than traditional paid search campaigns. This statistic flies in the face of what we marketers have been taught for more than a decade of 21st-century marketing.

Focus on the Message

So, what does all of this mean to you? Well, if you’re trying to sell something, you need to focus as much, if not more, attention on how you market your product or service as you do on how you sell. Also, while your core business might be the manufacture and sale of widgets, you also need to consider yourself a publisher of information about the widgets you sell. The more accurate and compelling information you can create (or repurpose from and attribute to other sources) and distribute, the more opportunity consumers will have to find your content and the more motivated they will be to buy from you.

As we come to understand the buying behavior better, we must be willing to change our practices when it comes to selling and marketing. Fortunately, at no other time in history has it been more accessible, quicker, and more convenient to produce and distribute content. We can take advantage of today’s technology to disseminate information about our brands, products, and services. We can control where, when, and how we find our prospects and target our information. So we can take comfort in knowing one proven truth about behaviors: they can be trained.

More Than a Brand

Have you ever thought of a brand as not just representing a product, but an entire industry?

I grew up in the Midwest, where asking for a “coke” meant more than just a Coca-Cola. In Dayton, Ohio, a coke, at least in the 70s and 80s before the onslaught of alternative sodas, energy drinks and flavored waters, could have been any one of the half dozen soft drinks that existed in my sugared-water world. The Coca-Cola brand had risen far above its productized state. To my family, friends and me, it “was” soft drinks. When asked for a “coke,” the salesperson would ask, “Which do you want? We have Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up, Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper.” That reality, for Coca-Cola at least, must have given new meaning to the tagline, “Have a Coke and a smile.”

Driven to Succeed

What brought this bit of nostalgia to mind for me was a recent article I read about The Michelin Man. The article explained how Michelin first came up with The Michelin Man in 1894. One of the Michelin brothers noticed that the pile of bicycle tires displayed on the Michelin stand at the Lyon Universal Exposition in France looked like a man made of tires. (By the way, tires then were a pale white color, prior to the black die being added to make them the color more familiar to us today.) The company adopted the likeness, and in 1898 featured The Michelin Man in his first poster. Over the years, The Michelin Man evolved as tastes changed, and of course became synonymous with automobile tires, rather than bicycles. Believe it or not, initially, The Michelin Man drank and smoked cigars—two traits that would never pass muster today. But that’s the thing about a strong brand…it’s not afraid of change, and it knows when and how to remain relevant. Thanks to that self-awareness, along with the company’s ability to expand into a global supplier of quality tires, Michelin largely defined the tire industry, and later the automotive industry. The proudly plump mascot even transcended automotive to represent travel, fine dining and all things top quality for consumers around the world. Michelin accomplished this by understanding their industry and their customers (“Hey! People like to get in their cars and go out for a nice dinner. So, let’s create a list of the world’s finest dining establishments. And we’ll call it the Michelin Guide!), which drove them to not only innovate, but to build a personality around a character that began as a simple pile of tires thrown together for an industry trade show.

The Search is Over

Of course, we can’t discuss brands that outshine their competitors without acknowledging the brightest bulb in the room—Google. When we need to find a product, need a quick answer to our Tuesday night trivia (while the other teams aren’t looking, of course) or just have to know what people are saying about us, we google it. We’ve become so used to using Google for our searches that we’ve turned the monstrous noun into a verb. My computer’s spell check feature doesn’t even bother to point out that I’m spelling “google” with a lower-case “g.” After all, when’s the last time you heard someone say, “I’m going to search on Yahoo!” or “I’ll Bing it?” Just doesn’t happen anymore. Did it ever, really?

More Than Just a Noun

Perhaps that’s the key…to defy the rules and norms of grammar. Choose a brand name that functions equally well as both noun and verb, and could even get by as an adjective on occasion. Then, within your content marketing strategy, position your brand name to fill in for a commonly used and more generic-sounding word or colloquialism. When’s the last time you sneezed, and someone said, “Here, have a Kleenex,” and handed you a box of tissues that could have been any one of a number of alternatively branded facial tissues?

If You’re Not First, You’re Last

Please excuse the Ricky Bobby quote, but it’s true. Or, at least, it used to be true. Those brands that were first to market in their industries, or at least made a better first impression within their markets, became the default generic brands for their industries. (Kimberly-Clark invented facial tissues in 1924 and brought them to market as Kleenex. But Ginger ale, Root beer, and Dr. Pepper all preceded Coca-Cola as soft drinks. And Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber in 1839 but died 40 years before his name would be attached to the famous tire. It wasn’t until 1888 that John Boyd Dunlap became the “second” inventor of the pneumatic tire.)

Today, as marketers, we continually hear how times are different, and to succeed we must think differently, act more quickly, find new ways to attract and speak to our customers, and leverage technology to help us differentiate ourselves. That all is true, but it’s not so different from how our predecessors did it a century or more ago. They identified opportunities, and they embraced them. As times changed, their brands evolved with it, making sure to make all the relevant changes while retaining those key traits that continue to position them as leaders in their respective industry.

While luck always plays a role to some degree, we must keep our eyes and ears open for opportunity, and grasp that opportunity to define not just ourselves to our customers, but define ourselves as the brand in our market.