July 2016

Content Marketing Is The New Black
How The World of Digital Marketing is Evolving

by Kitt McCurdy

Whether we like it or not, we live in a world of trends and constant change. From the latest workout studio de jour like SOULCYCLE to the resurgence of those annoying 80’s mom jeans to the latest app that Millennials are using to snap their way through life. Trying to keep up on everything can be overwhelming - especially in the digital world. With all of the different devices and moving parts, how as digital marketers are we supposed to keep up on everything - and how much do we actually know about what’s really going on? The good news is that just like most trends, there’s one that stands out like mom jeans in the digital world, too. Several years ago, social media was all the rage. As channels and consumer behaviors have evolved, strategies and methods for marketers to properly connect to those consumers have had to evolve as well. Whether you’re a one person “solopreneur”, a small startup or part of a large enterprise marketing team, this simple overview is intended to provide the insights and information you need to understand the latest digital marketing trend of content marketing and why it’s important.

What is content marketing?  

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action”. In other words, it’s no longer enough to slap banner ads on websites hoping to capture the attention of users. Consumers often make purchasing decisions based on emotion - which is why storytelling through content has become more important in the buyer’s journey than it was in the past. Nor is it enough to rely solely on traditional advertising methods like TV and radio, which can be costly with little traceable return. Content marketing serves the users by providing them with information - often for free - that can help them better understand a product or service. Conversely, it can greatly benefit the business by driving awareness of the brand and establishing thought leadership amongst executives, analysts and experts. This can lead to new business or better yet - conversions in the marketing funnel to drive sales. Content marketing also ties directly into thought leadership  - establishment of a brand or person as subject matter experts. In order to establish oneself or brand as an expert and influencer on a given topic; an understanding of content marketing is also required.

What kind of content should I create / market?  

According to recent data, 90% of content currently existing on the Internet today was created over the past 2 years. That’s a lot of content! It also means that it’s in your best interest to be smart about how you approach your content marketing strategy. Begin with the nature of your business and your business goals - are you an online retailer looking to drive sales and conversions? Or are you a specialized consulting firm offering professional services that wants more business for tax season? The type of content you choose to create should map directly to your goals and be executed properly in order to achieve them. For example, an online retailer focused on driving sales might want to consider creating a digital buyer’s guide featuring the top selling products from a past season - like creating a digital buyers guide of flowers and jewelry gifts for Mothers Day. For a specialized consulting firm, a well-thought out and evenly distributed set of company blog posts on the benefits of using a tax firm, published and distributed before and during the busy tax season, could be a smart a approach - this also presents a good opportunity to re-publish that content on Linkedin Pulse to reach your direct network.

Other types of content used for marketing with brief explanations and links to examples include:

  • Video: Video is a great way to tell a story - for brands, products and companies alike. Rule of thumb is to keep them under 2 minutes unless they’re intended for trainings or seminars. Examples:
    • Blendtec showcases the power of their blender by blending an iPhone 6s on YouTube - a video that has been viewed over 5.2 million times.
    • Mintigo - a predictive analytics company - shares how they solve complex business problems in a video featured on the homepage of their website and YouTube.
  • Webinars: Informative, live presentations and conversations that are typically reserved for a pre-registered audience about a specific topic. Webinars are usually free and companies use them to inform the market about products and services, as well as utilize the registrants’ information for marketing purposes later on. Webinar software like Google Hangouts, GoToWebinar, and on24 can be used to host a webinar. Examples:
  • Online Guides & eBooks: Almost always free and offering basic but valuable information to users, guides are great for brand awareness and are often widely shared if they are helpful. Examples:
  • Infographics: Visual storytelling, usually fueled by data. Examples:
  • Post Graphics: Not as extensive as infographics, which require both data analysis and a graphics designer, post graphics can be as simple as memes built with free tools like Canva
    • Online payments company YapStone uses branded post graphics to brand their blog content on social media channels and across the web
    • Mintigo, the predictive analytics company mentioned above, uses post graphics to share news and promote events
  • Blog posts: Your company (or personal blog, if you’re a solopreneur/public figure) is an excellent way to share your expertise and knowledge. If your company blog is up and running - or if operating a company blog is too much effort for a smaller organization, check out blog platforms like Medium and LinkedIn Pulse. You can either re-purpose your company blog content on these channels (don’t worry, Google excludes these two blog sites from double-counting SEO which can result in search index ranking penalties) or you can simply save time by using either of the platforms in lieu of a company blog. Here are a couple of helpful beginner’s  “How-to” guides from our friends at Hubspot:
  • Social media posts: While social media can be time consuming, sometimes content can be created in as little as 140 characters or by sharing curated information on Facebook or LinkedIn. Regardless, social media is essential for sharing your content and should be part of your strategy.  
    • For DIY social, check out these self-serve social media platforms designed to save you time and money.
    • If you don’t have time for social media, outsource it to an intern, new college grad, or an agency like TrePoint that has staff dedicated to this specific area of marketing.
  • Articles & Press/PR: Some publications are pay-to-play, others will cover your story if it’s interesting enough. Regardless, unless you get lucky a publicist is typically required to get PR and press and it can be worth it as publications have the ability to reach thousands of readers with your story. Here’s a great overview of PR and content marketing integration with tips and how-to’s.
  • Marketing Technology: For those on the more sophisticated end of the content marketing spectrum - meaning you have plenty of content and your goals are well defined, you may want to consider marketing technology that can take it one step further. Personalization platforms like Optimizely & GetSmartContent and personalized content delivery platforms like LookBookHQ do exactly that by enabling your brand to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time.

Anything else I should know?

Now that you understand the basics of content marketing and a little bit about the technology platforms available in the market to power content distribution, let’s do a quick recap before you’re off to the races.

  • One, begin with a focus on your business goals - optimally your Key Business Requirement (#1 goal) followed by the secondary and tertiary goals for consideration.
  • Two, develop your strategy by mapping the content types to your goals.
  • Three, distribute as widely as possible through social channels, PR/press and multiple blog sites (don’t forget to SEO and track your content via an analytics platform!).
  • Four, enlist the help of marketing platforms and/or an agency, marketing firm or marketing consultant for assistance with ongoing content marketing efforts.
  • Once you’re fully operating, you can use your analytics and optimize/update accordingly to see if you’re accomplishing your goals. Don’t forget to have fun in the process, make your content engaging and keep your target content consumer in mind while you’re executing your plan for best results. Good Luck!

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Kitt McCurdy is a data solutions strategist and digital marketing professional with a strong SaaS, analytics and startup background. As a software and data solutions expert with a knack for relationship management, she has built and grown global teams that have served companies ranging from early stage startups to Fortune 100 companies such as Procter & Gamble, JPMorgan Chase, Safeway, 3M, Nestlé/Purina, KIA, Sony Pictures and FOX entertainment. In 2015, Kitt pivoted to content marketing consulting and partnered with digital marketing agency TrePoint, Inc. to provide brand amplification strategy and services to emerging technology organizations like predictive analytics company Mintigo and global  online payments provider YapStone, Inc. 

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