At the Online Marketing Summit in San Diego last month, I heard a UBM marketing executive say he believes that marketers have exchanged the focus of good story telling for data and analytics.
A loose statement, perhaps, but at the core of his argument lies a fundamental truth about the nature and consistency of influential communication: He who has the best content wins.
Let’s consider what “best” and “winning” really means in this context – then look at several key elements of content marketing that can help us run far and fast.
So What About Data and Analytics?
Yeah, yeah – analysis, measurement, ROI, conversions… we all know the drill. But beyond the charts, numbers and infographics – the data’s greatest marketing value comes from answering the following questions:
- What content is producing results?
- How might content be improved to produce better results?
- What content should be created or added to your effort?
- Where and when should content be made available?
The recurring theme is obvious, right? It’s all about the content.
Sanity Check: Is This is a Race We Want to Run?
Yes. Guess what Facebook’s new Timeline is about?
A better display of content, laced with a trail of cheese prompting marketers to try harder. Not to gloss over the obvious: Facebook recognizes the value of blurring advertising, content and friends.
Don’t even get me started on Google Plus, and why your business needs to be on it now. (If you caught comScore’s recent “survey” casting a negative light on Google+, check Eli Fennell’s smart response – then really get educated on this massive content opportunity by circling Mark Traphagen.
The Content Starting Line
Ok, back to winning. Whether you’ve been in marketing for two months or 22 years, perhaps your two biggest challenges remain prioritization and execution. To help with prioritization, consider the Digital Path to Social Media Success model as a means of taking an initial inventory of content with which you may plan.
How you go about prioritizing your content marketing will depend heavily on what you already have. Greater detail and context is offered in the linked post above, but you can quickly consider how/if your content is effectively addressing the four focuses summarized below:
- Useful Content: Content that is data driven, easily shared, links to brand’s position and convictions, applied within multiple web properties.
- Content Types: Content that is trust-building, educational, promotional, user-generated.
- Short-Term vs. Long-Term: Content that is brand/Conviction focused, theme-supported, campaign-driven.
- Psychological Sharing Motivations: Content that is emotional, informational, enables self expression.
Remember, activity doesn't equal productivity. You can run all day long, but if your direction is off, you won’t get where you want to go (and execute) before your competition.
Keeping yourself on track is fundamental to good content marketing, and by definition this means you win by running the race for others. The concept is simple: your content becomes more valuable to you as it becomes more valuable to others.
To help us understand who the relevant “others” are, along with the kind of content that should be fed to them, definitely check out Joe Chernov’s recent From Content to Customer presentation from last month’s Online Marketing Summit.
Chernov's focus is B2B, which is refreshing to many. But you can see how the underlying principals are fairly universal, as this view of content marketing follows a framework specific to audience segmentation as summarized below:
- Suspects = Everyone in your target market, more interested in what you know vs. what you sell.
- Prospects = People who have exchanged personal information to receive more content specific to their interests.
- Leads = Prospects that fit criteria related to requirements you can fulfill.
- Opportunities = People ready to buy, based on the content you have served.
The presentation closes with two "Golden Rules:”
- Don’t interrupt “the conversation” with wrong stage content.
- No master (content) calendar = chaos.
Pacing Yourself for the Long Haul
In case you couldn’t guess, this is a marathon – and winning is more about staying in front of the pack than crossing a finish line. Ah, a marketer’s job is never done.
With that in mind, Krista LaRiviere’s recent article on optimized content strategy gives a great overview of the importance of content marketing with respect to social signals and search engine visibility.
For some additional references, check the practical tips in Shane Snow’s 10 Commandments of Content Marketing. You may also institutionalize yourself via the Content Marketing Institute. Good luck, and Godspeed!