The last time you heard from me on CMI was just before Content Marketing World in Cleveland.
Since then, I’ve changed gears a bit, moving from the entrepreneurial life of an independent social business consultant to the team-focused corporate environment at Bob Evans Restaurants. It’s been an interesting move for me, especially in terms of building out our own content marketing department.
In the process of doing this, I’ve forced myself to step back and really try to drill down on what I feel are the most important principles in content marketing that will guide my own decisions now and going forward. My hope is that by sharing some of these principles, I’ll be able to help you guide your decisions when doing the same for your company.
Please, feel free to take these ideas, use them, and add anything I’ve missed in the comments. Fair?
Treat content marketing as another potential revenue stream for your business
If you ask most business owners if they would consider their company to be a publisher, the answer would be a quick “no.”
That makes sense. If you’re a restaurant or retail shop, publishing is not really your business. Or is it? Companies like Starbucks and Hubspot, which have exploded as a result of their content marketing efforts, look at their content as a mission-critical part of their businesses and, in some cases, a potential revenue stream. Because they’re willing to sell some of their content, they’re also willing to make deeper investments in producing that content.
When you’re planning your content to market your business, don’t forget to consider how your brand can potentially sell some of the content you create. Your content can always be assigned a value and that can be used to create additional offerings down the road.
When content is king, consistency is the queen
I picked that one up from my friend, Eric Vessels, in a patio conversation over beers a few weeks ago.
Eric and his partners have been running a content marketing business since before the term was even popularized through Joe’s work. Eric’s company, What They Think, has become the single largest online publication for executives and business owners in the printing industry, with revenues in the millions — not too shabby when you consider that the company is operated by just a handful of partners.
One of the stories that Eric shared with me years ago changed my perception of how content works on the web. He and his team pride themselves on never having missed a single publishing deadline in over 10 years of operating What They Think. Come hell or high water, their newsletters are always on time, and fresh content is always up on then site when they say it will be. No exceptions and no slips.
Consistency is queen.
Change your focus from publishing content to programming content
Every Wednesday night, my fiance and I look forward to watching the hit series, Modern Family. It’s hysterical, and while we don’t watch a ton of TV, the program has become a welcome part of our weekly routine.
Then, a funny thing happened. We started watching this show called Happy Endings that airs immediately after Modern Family. That one was funny too, and so our Wednesday night TV viewing time investment has essentially doubled, all while staying on the same television network.
Television and radio have always bought into the idea of programming content. And, rightly so, it’s media. Much different from things like books and articles that are, for the most part, intended to be read and digested once or twice by a consumer, media programming has been designed to keep end users coming back over and over again by establishing a placeholder on that consumer’s calendar.
When you’re planning your content, try to think more like a television program director and less like a single-book author.
Promote the human brands behind your content marketing with the same support you would give your company brand
Welcome to the age of Internet celebrities! Who’s yours?
Let me put it this way — I had never heard about Thomas Nelson Publishers until I started digging the stuff that Michael Hyatt writes on leadership and values on his blog. I was never really a big fan of Ford until I started following Scott Monty. I hadn’t even heard much about Edelman until Steve Rubel and David Armano piqued my interest with their content.
Brand has shifted, folks. Because of the social web and content marketing, human brands are now equally as (if not more) important as company brands. Companies merely exist. People, on the other hand, are very much alive.
When planning your content marketing strategy, be sure to consider what human brands will help you carry your company’s brand into the online conversation and how you will help them shine.
Be willing to trade being perfect for being one of the first
Speed is everything in content marketing, and I think a lot of marketing teams get stuck on this one. For traditional marketers that want our content and work to be perfect before it hits the digital shelves is simply part of our business DNA. That’s not a bad thing, but be willing to make the choice to let some of that go.
There are real benefits related to getting attention from search traffic and fresh consumer eyeballs on the content you publish, but only if your content hits the market as one of the first to arrive. On the web, waiting 48 hours to hit your publish button can mean the difference between first page placement for a certain phrase and being buried in the SERP sand.
Keep in mind, too, that the Internet conversation is ongoing. You’re allowed to evolve your opinions and thoughts on just about anything, and your audience will appreciate that you are brave and attentive enough to do so.
In content marketing, teasing people is a good thing
What did you listen to on the way to work this morning? If it was a morning radio talk show, you were probably teased and didn’t even know it.
My friend Lex McAllister reminded me of this a few months back when I joined her on her radio show, No Excuses. Lex, like other talk radio hosts, makes it a consistent practice to tease her listeners before going to commercial breaks in order to hook them into the content that’s coming up next.
When you’re starting to execute on your content marketing editorial calendar, make sure that you are building the expectations and affinity of your audience by teasing them with the content you have coming up next.
Do a good job and be ready to be on call
Number seven is the deadly sin in content marketing, if you forget about it.
I was raised by two registered nurses who liked to make extra dollars by working overtime or being on call. Having pagers go off during dinner was simply part of the norm in my parents’ house. And why not? Why not make a little extra cash by hedging your bets that it would be a slow night. (That said, it’s rarely a slow night in hospitals.)
Now, think back to why you are doing content marketing in the first place. Yes, every business wants to boost sales and build brand awareness; but the truth of the matter is that to reach those goals you must first succeed in building an online conversation around the content objects you produce.
When and if people will be talking about your content (and the humans who put it out there for discussion), make sure to be ready to participate in real time. Look at ways to staff your online presence with humans from your company, and make sure to design shifts and assign staff to man the outposts on weekends and evening hours. Don’t be afraid to put members of your team “on call” at home, but make sure that you compensate them for that time.
If you want to win big bonus points, reward them BIG time if they can show you that they consistently respond to your customers in less than 10 minutes.
What’s your take on these seven principles of content marketing?
What did I miss?