Content marketing is undoubtedly one of the hot digital marketing terms of 2012, but there’s far more to identifying—and implementing—a successful content strategy than simply creating content.
In fact, when considering the components of creating a content marketing strategy, writing is the easy part of the equation. In today’s increasingly crowded content marketplace, your brand needs to know how to not only create and implement a content strategy that will help you achieve your pre-determined goals, but also how to develop content that will also help you stand out in the stream.
During a recent Marketing Cloud webinar, The Altimeter Group’s Charlene Li and Rebecca Lieb discussed “Winning Content Marketing Strategies: Rebalance Your Organization to Deliver Effective Content.”
At the centerpiece of the webinar was a recent study conducted by Rebecca with Zack Kirchner and Jaimy Szymanski. “Content: The New Marketing Equation” features input from 56 ecosystem contributors that are actively engaged in the evolution of their brand or business’ content strategy. The report not only identifies challenges that content marketers must face head-on, but also strategies that help precipitate a shift in thinking, attitude and approach. To truly be effective, companies must rebalance themselves, a lengthy process that, while complex, is key.
The Evolution of Content Marketing
The rise of content marketing represents an important shift in the way companies distribute information to their audience. In its basic and most fundamental view, content is about the stories. And to find the stories, you need to step outside of your marketing bubble department and go throughout your organization to find information worth covering.
Previously, marketing and advertising had a tendency to be lumped together in a company. Yet as technology, tools and techniques continue to rapidly change, the separation between the two is becoming more clear-cut. As Rebecca discussed in the webinar, there’s a key difference between content marketing and advertising: with the former, there’s never a media buy involved. Instead, the focus is on earned and owned media, which can represent a sizable shift in thinking for those who have a more traditional marketing and/or advertising background.
When you think about content marketing, consider an important point made by Charlene: content has evolved to a pull, rather than a push. You’re not shoving information out at your consumers, inundating them with your company’s message. Instead, you’re using content to pull your audience to you in hopes of developing a relationship that will become far more engaging than a single transaction or interaction.
What You Need To Know About Content Marketing
As you consider your brand’s approach to content, understand that this process is similar to that of any other digital marketing strategy. First and foremost, you need to define the purpose of your content marketing. According to Rebecca, there are typically three types of content marketing: entertain, inform and educate, and provide utility.
Once you’ve identified your purpose, you need to understand that content marketing has changed the game—it requires marketers to think differently. A content strategy is not a short-term process. It’s a long-term initiative that involves breaking down silos within your company, and understanding that you’re part of an evolution from advertisers to storytellers. One of the more crucial results of today’s digital environment is that any company can be a publisher, producer and community manager. And that shift demands that key personnel involved in the content strategy receive the necessary training and resources with which to fulfill their new duties.
Rebecca shared a number of findings from the results gathered in “Content: The New Marketing Equation,” and they likely echo what’s happening at your own business or brand. Top-level findings include:
- Content initiatives are a significant investment.
- Content and advertising should be interrelated.
- Over the next five years, content marketing will permeate the organization.
Rebecca relayed that, for purposes of the study, all of the marketers who participated reported that they’re increasing their investments in content marketing.
Keys to Content Marketing Success: Rebalance and Maturity
As you begin to hone your content marketing strategy, it’s critical to understand that a successful plan will involve a rebalancing of your organization. Effective, high-level content marketing is not something that can be accomplished in a single department. Instead, a cultural shift is needed across the company, one that transcends the marketing department and involves other personnel to help identify stories and give employees a voice.
And as you prepare for the long-term process of rebalance, you’ll need to identify your company’s stage of content marketing maturity.
“Once you identify where you are, you can create a road map with actionable items and bench marks to get to the next level,” Rebecca says. “What resources do you need to get there?”
There are five levels of content marketing maturity:
It’s important to note that not every organization will achieve every level. For example, Rebecca identified Red Bull as an example of a company that’s at “Run.” And part of Red Bull’s goal, in addition to being known as a beverage company, is to be recognized as a content company, too. That may not be a goal for every company. Yet regardless of your brand’s aspirations, it’s still important to know where you fall on the scale so that you can plan for growth.
Now that you’ve delved into the world of content marketing, you probably have a better understanding of why I mentioned at the top of the post that writing is the easy part. Yet if your brain works anything like the grey matter around here, planning and strategizing are two of our very favorite things to do. The evolution of content marketing represents a critical—and exciting—opportunity for your brand to interact with its audience in a whole new way, and give deeper relevance and utility to your company’s message. Sure, there’s risk involved, but the potential rewards should be enough to overcome your fear of possible challenges. And to think of it in a more realistic perspective, all research points to the fact that content marketing is only expected to grow. Your competitors are likely working on their own strategies, and you need to be right there to fight for your share of the business.
How is your company or brand approaching content marketing? Do you have an actionable strategy in place? Or are you still in the research and development phase? If you need help, call us. It’s what we do.
Image by toffehoff via Creative Commons