Buckle up my content marketing minded friend.
Today I bring you Andy Crestodina. He's uh... I don't know what Andy is.
You know how you can normally qualify anyone you know as right-brained (creative) or left-brained (analytical)? Nod yes, please. Thank you.
You can't do that with AC. He's AC, but he's DC. He's left, but he's right (and rarely wrong).
He's "Orbital" (new adjective).
Andy and I were mutual admirers (as in readers of each others' work), then social buds and pen pals. Then we hung out at a conference. Now we hang-out on Google+ hangouts. I'm pretty sure at some moment in time in the course of our somewhat new friendship, we talked about something other than online marketing, but we usually talk about online marketing.
And (which is "Andy" without the "y") you need to pay attention when Andy's rapping the fat scat. All kinds of brilliance oozes from his orbitals.
We're rolling now.
Andy and his team at Orbit Media Studios made a little video. It's 180 seconds, give or take a, uh... give or take nothing. It's 3-minutes. The mini-flick presents 9 vital concepts that make the content marketing chaos-a-thon sound almost simple.
Check it out. And don't go anywhere after. I want to get a few words in.
1. What is content strategy?
Andy wants you to know what content strategy is. He says (and writes in a blog post), content strategy is about planning the creation, promotion, and measurement of content.
I heard smarty pants Kristina Halvorson speak at a recent conference (she co-penned "Content Strategy for the Web,") and loved her definition of strategy. She said strategy is... (drum roll)...
What game are you going to play and how will you win?
Love that. Now let's assume we know the game. According to Andy, the game involves attracting visitors to your website via publishing and creating meaningful interactions that meet their needs.
But as with any competition there are more losers than winners, so I asked Andy:
What separates them? You talked about creation, promotion, and measurement. Is one of them the Achilles heel?
Andy said, "Of course, if you don't create content and get it out there, you fail. We all create content and market it. But... we don't all measure it. We don't all look to see which traffic sources are most effective, which pages turn visitors into leads, which phrases attract what kind of visitors. Most of us look at analytics, but few use it to drive smart decisions."
In the video, Andy lays out a handy 4-whats-and-a-why personification formula that's simple and powerful enough to take you from clueless to considerate in a hurry. (Yep, you need to watch.)
He writes, "We must know them so we can give them what they want. If we give our audience enough of what they want, we'll get what we need." It might be the most incontrovertible marketing advice ever uttered.
Still, I see marketers get crazy sweaty and stymied with this process. What's the big deal here Andy? Why not just describe your best customer?
"Good point. It doesn't have to be a big deal! Describing your best customer is an excellent start. Just make sure to answer the "where they spend time?" question. Think about the social networks and media sources they're using. If you know where they listen, you know where to go talk, share and answer questions. This is important. We like to say that empathy is the greatest marketing skill."
Great article by Tony Zambito: "The Power of Human-Centered Marketing Begins with Empathy."
Spoken by the awesome Ann Handley. Illustrated by the brilliant Henneke Duistermaat. Copied and pasted by Barry Feldman.
Step 3 is oft ignored, but awfully simple. Like a publisher (BTW, content marketers are publishers), you ink a mission statement.
[Our company] is the place where [our audience] gets [what information] that offers [what benefit].
Got that? You're on a mission now.
For us writers, content marketing gets a bit more fun here. We're creating. Content marketing wisdom portends that we seek to answer our prospects' and customers' questions. Make 'em better buyers. Maybe make the lesson a fun ride for good measure.
In the video, Andy explains (quickly) how to connect the topical dots with your various dot-com pursuits.
He says good content planning is a well-organized set of pages. (And you'd expect as much from a guy that can squeeze an encyclopedia into 3 minutes.)
So as to not scare you off Andy's video and post gets insanely succinct when he gets to SEO. Essentially, he explains how every page you create is an opportunity to earn search engine rankings.
The video briefly touches on how marketers who win know how to identify popular keywords and find the right (low competition) opportunities. This post, "How to Research Keywords," digs in nicely.
Influencers-people who have the attention of the audience you seek-can be hugely meaningful to your content marketing. And, vice-versa, your content marketing can be meaningful to them.
Andy spoke to this idea in his post. I asked him to speak to it again here.
"The key is to find people who have already built your audience. Collaborate with them. If you create something together, you can promote it together and you both benefit from the visibility.""Email interviews are an easy way to collaborate. A good email interview can sound like an actual conversation."
"You'll make friends and if you're not, you're doing it wrong. Collaboration makes your content better and your job more fun."
[Want to improve your influencer marketing? Super-duper heal of influencer marketing tips here.]
7. Social and email promotion
Andy claims the best content doesn't win; the best promoted content does. He says what you need to do is "share and send."
A share tip: Though you may have a favorite social network, the priority should be to be active on your audience's favorite.
- You'll never really own your search engine rank or social media following, but you will own your email list.
- Serious content marketers strive to perpetually growth their email list.
- Learn how to do email marketing like a pro.
8. The plan
The high-speed video lesson slows down ever so slightly to hammer hard on this crucial step: planning a content publishing calendar. Andy reiterates some strategies and introduces a few new ones. He says:
- The plan requires more than just blog posts. Create content in different formats, such as videos, guides, etc.
- Publish beyond your own website-on social networks, other blogs and media sites.
- Co-create by working with influencers to produce content your audience will love and those involved will share.
Andy and I are doing all of the above right here and now. (Same goes for #6 above.)
*Psst. Want to get serious about your plan? Check out this interactive workbook I've built for you.
9. Measure and optimize
I attended a session Andy led at a recent conference and couldn't help but nod when he said, "Analytics is for analysis. It's not just a scoreboard. If you're not making decisions based on data, you're not really using analytics."
In his video and post, Andy explains two forms of optimization: one for traffic, the other for conversion rates.
He explains you need to identify high performance content and channels, high conversion pages and posts, and visitors that progress through your sales cycle. The object is to then take actions to expand on, create more of, and amplify what's working.
More measurement = more optimization
= accelerated growth rate.
My hope is the principles of content marketing strategy at least appear to be simpler than they did 3 minutes ago.
I also want you to understand the BIGGEST difference between companies that succeed and fail with content marketing.
You think I'm going to tell you what it is? Andy will. (He gets to it with just 5 seconds remaining on his 180-second countdown.)
Roll credits. Much appreciated, Orbit Media Studios.
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