It's ironic that the word content has two meanings. The first is a state of peaceful happiness and the second is substance dealt with in speech, literary work,etc. This blog post obviously pertains to the latter, but what's ironic is that the former represents the complete opposite feeling that marketers get when dealing with the world of content marketing.
Though a silent demographic, there are many (many) marketers out there trying to "fake it until they make it" when it comes to the digital aspects of content marketing.
It's not just marketers who are trained in the "traditional" ways of marketing that find themselves in this quandary - even digitally minded marketers can be flummoxed by the ever-changing resources available to them. What's more, strategies to utilize these new tools and resources are constantly evolving as well.
In the world of medicine, doctors are required to take training courses every few years in order to learn about the newest developments in their field - such as tools, recent research, and procedures. It makes a lot of sense to apply this concept to marketers too - lest they get stuck and become complacent.
I can relate this to my personal experience. While studying towards earning my MBA, I found my courses to be so focused on antiquated marketing practices that I was literally castigated by my professors for introducing modern techniques into my assignments. In retrospect, I see this as a perfect example of how important it is to constantly keep yourself abreast of the changes going on in your field. Since these teachers have not had any real-world marketing experience in nearly 20 years, they were completely disconnected with the modern marketing world.
Emails, social media, case studies, white papers etc., are not new. However, it's the strategies we use to create them which have changed - and continue to change.
We are brothers (and sisters) in arms, and as such, it is important that we share best practices with each other. Here are a few tips I have learned along the way that may help other marketers:
Over 60% of businesses in the US have a company blog, which means that 40% of businesses don't! Honestly, I found this to be a shocking statistic. It was also the impetus behind this blog post, as well as a recent eBook that was meant to shed light on many of the topics that will be covered below.
Blog writing is not merely something you do for the sake of it. In fact, you might as well not have a blog if you aren't going to devote a sufficient amount of resources towards its upkeep.
Coming up with ideas for blog posts can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for a marketer. While this maybe an easy task in the beginning, as time goes by, it becomes harder and harder to come up with original content that appeals to your target audience. If you find yourself at a loss for new ideas, try turning on the TV - recent news stories might be a good place to start. You can piggyback on these stories by somehow intertwining your product or service with them.
Of all the marketing channels that have cropped up in the last decade, social media is the one that confounds B2B marketers most. Why? Because most of them still believe that social media is for college kids, and doubt its viability as a serious marketing tool.
This could not be further from the truth.
It's a huge shame that many B2B marketers are skeptical of social media, as it can be one of the greatest drivers of website traffic, and most importantly, lead generation.
In order to fully leverage social media, a marketer needs to understand the brand's target audience. As such, it's important to know that each social network has its own distinct characteristics, and therefore requires different strategies.
LinkedIn, in particular, is an amazingly strong weapon for B2B marketers. However, simply blasting out overtly promotional content and social posts will not only fail to yield conversions, it will have a harmful impact on the overall perception of your company.
Company Pages on LinkedIn are important, but arguably more important are LinkedIn Discussion Groups. Each Group comprises a collection of like-minded professionals all of which discuss relevant topics to your industry. It's important to utilize Groups as a place for establishing thought leadership as well as a source for lead generation.
Many marketers are hesitant to utilize groups in their marketing efforts, for fear of the dreaded LinkedIn SWAM (Site Wide Automatic Moderation). A marketer need not be afraid of SWAM, as long as he or she follows best practices.
When posting in LinkedIn Discussion Groups it's important to remember that these Groups are for...discussion - don't just blast out content about your company. That's not to say that you shouldn't post links to blog posts within Groups, not by a long shot. What's important to understand is how to post this content while still keeping in line with the overall engaging nature of the Group.
When posting links in Groups, the key is to enrich the content you are sharing with social messaging that will motivate other Group members to not only click, but also engage in conversation. The best way to do this is to ask questions. By asking questions within your post, you draw the reader in - they will want to give their two cents and be more likely to click through to your content.
But how do you identify the correct Groups to join?
As mentioned earlier, there is a Group for every conceivable industry and business - simply do some research. Seek out Groups with keywords related to your industry, read some of the posts and see what's being discussed, and who the members are. If the Group content and membership fits, then join the group and jump into the discussion.
Email marketing, contrary to some proclamations, is not dead - far from it. Email is still one of the best and most effective tools for marketing. However, like most strategies in content marketing, it has moved away from overt promotion towards providing value to the reader.
Before you can start creating emails, you must first generate a list of leads. Although many people go the route of purchasing lists, more often than not, these lists are "cold" and not very effective. The best way to get email leads is to generate them yourself. This can be done in several ways, including gated content.
Gated content refers to content which cannot be accessed without filling out a registration form. This serves two purposes:
- Generating leads
- Making sure leads are relevant
If someone takes the time to fill out a form to download your content, you know that person is "warm" and most likely part of your target market. Once you've generated a list of email contacts, you'll want to input them into an email marketing program or nurturing platform. Platforms such as Constant Contact and MailChimp are good solutions for lower budgets. However, if you want a more powerful tool that will help automate the process better, Marketo and Act-On are two great choices.
There are several types of email campaigns that you can run, each of which has a different strategy.
A drip campaign generally refers to a set of emails that "drip" out over a set period of time, usually some sort of trial period during which a user is testing out your product or service. The goal of this type of campaign is to convert the user from the trial into a paying customer. These types of campaigns should explain how to use your product or service, as well as provide valuable tips for overall strategy.
Other types of campaigns might be spread out over a longer period of time, possibly even infinite - or until the user unsubscribes or becomes a paying customer. These types of emails should not be promotional - like other types of content marketing, they should provide valuable information to the reader. In doing so, you will keep your company at the top of the readers mind, and when it comes time to make a purchasing decision, they will know where to go.
A white paper, in the context of business, is generally a research based document utilized by companies to give readers valuable information and insights into their industry. White papers provide neutral, non-promotional analysis of a trend or concept to a targeted audience, in which a problem is presented and solutions are provided.
In terms of gated content, white papers are one of the best ways to generate leads for your company. However, writing a white paper is highly time consuming and requires a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
Prior to writing a white paper, you will need to create an outline of its structure - including chapters, sub-sections, etc. The first question to ask is: "What problem am I addressing?" If your paper isn't addressing a real issue, then there's no point in writing it; people want to learn from the content they read.
It's important to note that this paper should not be used to directly promote your company. When deciding on a topic, try to come up with one that enables you to highlight the benefits of your product or service (in terms of solving the problem being presented) without actually mentioning your company.
The paper will be branded with your logo and you can mention your company in the cover and final page - where you can also include contact info. This will be enough for readers to understand that your company is providing the information, which will contribute to your thought leadership position in their minds.
A study conducted by the B2B Marketing Technology Group found that case studies, more than any other type of content, are the most effective way to generate B2B leads.
Why is this? There are several reasons.
First and foremost, case studies establish proof that your product or service works in the real world. When you're able to do a case study on a well-known company, it will be all the more effective.
There are a few steps to go through in order to create a quality case study:
- Choose the right client
- Find the right person at the company to speak with
- Write your questions ahead of time
- Evaluate the data
There are two types of marketing collateral that are relevant to content marketing: promotional and non-promotional decks. Each type of collateral has its own strategy - and it's important not to confuse the two.
These types of decks generally promote your product or service. In many cases, this comes in the form of a capabilities deck which outlines specific products, services or even features or benefits.
These decks should be around 10-12 slides and can include a company logo in each slide footer. One of the best ways to expedite the process of creating a deck is to have a standardized format for your slides. Creating a custom layout via Powerpoint or other slideshow software will allow you to more easily create decks in the future.
These decks are focused on providing valuable information to the reader, as well as giving them actionable advice they can use in their day-to-day business activities. There's no direct selling involved in these decks, but the deck itself can be branded, and therefore the reader will associate your company with the information you provide.
A few examples of non-promotional decks include:
- Best practices/tips
- Industry research
- Webinar/lecture overview
Creating a digital content marketing campaign is not a science, but it does require you to implement the tips mentioned - depending on the needs of your company and market. If you have any additional suggestions, feel free to add them to the comments section below!