By Michele Linn published October 31, 2016

The One Content Marketing Question You Need to Ask (That May Scare You)

content-marketing-question

“The latest issue of CCO didn’t arrive. Can you please verify that I am still on your list?”

While this comment may seem problematic, I can’t think of a better compliment. Someone is missing the content we are publishing.

Today’s post is a post we published last year, but we wanted to update and bring it back — and add more examples from our community — because it’s something you need to be thinking about.

How would you answer this question?

Would anyone miss your content if you did not publish it?

This is a question Joe Pulizzi has asked — and it’s something he talks about in his book, Content Inc. As Joe explains:

“Let’s say someone rounded up all your content and placed it in a box like it never existed. Would anyone miss it? Would you leave a gap in the marketplace?

If the answer is no, then we’ve got a problem, Houston.

We want customers and prospects needing … no, longing for our content. It becomes part of their lives … their jobs.”

I think of this as “content anticipation,” a term I borrow from others. This is not a new concept — in fact, I vividly remember reading a post from Frank Reed on content anticipation years ago, and the concept has stuck with me. Andrew Davis also wrote about this concept and provided a great example of content that people anticipate from Joseph Kalinowski, CMI’s very own creative director. But content anticipation isn’t something on which most marketers are focused.

joseph-kalinowski-man-cave-facebook-example

Click to enlarge

Anticipation goes beyond subscription

One of the most important metrics you should track is your number of subscribers. Building subscribers is an essential goal, but are you taking this a step further to see if people actually are looking forward to getting your content?

One of the most important metrics you should track is your number of subscribers says @michelelinn. #ROI Click To Tweet

Anticipation is key to loyalty and advocacy

Why do you want people to anticipate your content? These people are loyal readers — and loyal to your brand. While content marketing is useful in helping you build awareness and impact revenue, it’s so powerful because it can help you build a better customer. If you have loyal readers, chances are you have people who are excited about your brand — and want to share it with others.

#Contentmarketing is powerful because it can help you build a better customer says @michelelinn. Click To Tweet

How to create content your audience will crave

Of course, the question becomes: How do I create content that my audience craves?

Before we look at some things that you could do, here are some reasons why people may not miss your content:

  • It does not truly answer questions.
  • It covers a topic too broadly.
  • It is me-too content that sounds like any other brand.
  • It is dull — and people do not want to read it (even though they should read it).
  • It’s not in the format someone wants to use.
  • It reads like an advertisement or promotional post.

What can you do? Think about the content that you love, both in your industry as well as in general. Study those authors, designers, and videographers and try to figure out why you love them and why you look forward to viewing their content.

  • Is it their tone?
  • The way they make their points?
  • The headlines?
  • The length?
  • The design?
  • The format?
  • The spin on a topic?

Your intent is not to copy what others are doing, but to truly study — and reverse-engineer — what works well. At the very least, you’ll get some ideas on how you can better create and design content for your audience.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
31 Types of Content We Crave [Infographic]

Examples of content people look forward to

I reached out to the best community — the Content Marketing Institute LinkedIn Group — and asked what type of content our community truly looks forward to receiving.  You can read all of the responses, but here are a few of my favorites, in various categories mostly from non-marketing brands:

Cleveland Metroparks

Pam Kozelka called out the monthly issue of the Cleveland Metroparks magazine, Emerald Necklace Newsletter. As she explains: “I get it in print and have my calendar next to me when I read it. It is where I find great local resources of things to do for our family.”

What to learn from this example: This is useful and usable content. I look forward to receiving something that helps me pursue my interests (such as fun family outings).

emerald-necklace-newsletter

YETI

Skyler Moss told me he looks forward to receiving anything from YETI, which sells innovative coolers. He explains: “They do such a great job at storytelling, with some subtle marketing dropped in, but they make it real. I know they use an agency to produce this but the direction and their voice resonate across every customer interaction they do. It’s not forced on you and you know that it will be entertaining and worth your time.”

What to learn from this example: While I could relate to the park magazine, YETI was a new one for me — but I can see why Sklyer is hooked. The stories are told well — and they are something people want to read. And the brand is relatable and visually appealing.

yeti

Moz Whiteboard Fridays

While this is an example from a marketing brand, I couldn’t help but include it. I have a similar love for Moz’s videos that Doug Kessler recommended.

What to learn from this example: Doug sums up the lessons from this example well: “Reliably clear, useful, practical, and easy to learn from. Every Friday for nine years.”

moz-whiteboard-fridays

Vlogbrothers

Monina Wagner shared the Vlogbrothers as the content she looks forward to: “They not only run a YouTube channel – they publish two videos a week – but they also produce the wildly successful VidCon conference. (You may have heard of one of the brothers, John Green, who wrote The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns. John built an audience for his books through the YouTube videos that are geared toward young adults.)”

What to learn from this example: I love how this consistent content that people anticipate has spurred a conference as well.

vidcon-event-example

Dublin, Ohio, Facebook feed

Mike Myers mentioned he looks forward to the Facebook feed from his hometown, Dublin, Ohio

What to learn from this example: I like that this example is outside of a traditional series. As Mike wisely explains, “It may sound odd, but I look forward to my Facebook feed every day. That’s content, too!” You can’t beat truly relevant and niche content.

facebook-feed-dublin-ohio

The Full Monty

The Full Monty, a curated digest of marketing news, as mentioned by a couple people. Mike Myers mentioned this as a newsletter he looks forward to receiving, and Jeremy Bednarski said he looks forward to the podcast.

What to learn from this example: You can distribute the same content in multiple ways — and help multiple audiences. When people sign up for Scott Monty’s The Full Monty, they have the option to receive this weekly series as an audio show, newsletter, or both.

the-full-monty

Zulily

Lisa Dougherty talked about how much she loves the online retailer Zulily: “They send out personalized emails and use Facebook Messenger to let me know when they have sales on brands that I love. This makes for an awesome personalized shopping experience. I can also send them a message on Facebook if I have a question or a problem with my order, and they are on it! So convenient.”

zulily-facebook-chat-message-example

What you can learn from this example: People love things that are tailored to them, and this is a perfect example of that.

zulily-personalized-email-example

Podcasts

There were a slew of podcasts mentioned that content people look forward to receiving, including The Brand Newsroom, Unthinkable, Social Pros, This Old Marketing, and many more.

What you can learn from these examples: Far and away, the type of content mentioned most often in the LinkedIn community was podcasts. The combination of consistency and personal connection in podcasts make these a medium that people look forward to.

I’d love to hear from you: What content would you miss if it were gone? Anything is fair game — it does not need to be from a brand. You can use this list to get inspired to create content that your audience will truly love.

Want to learn more about creating content-driven and crave-worthy experiences for your customers? CMI’s step-by-step workbook will show you how.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute. She is one of those people who truly loves what she does and who she works with. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

Other posts by Michele Linn

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  • heidicohen

    Michele–
    I love this idea.

    How many of us would actually ask our readers if they’d miss their content. Are we too afraid of the answer?

    Beyond subscribers, we should measure email opens and churn rates. Do we keep readers on the list long after they stop consuming our content?

    BTW–I’m a fan of Scott Monty’s weekly newsletter! He told me that he hand curtates. It’s not outsourced. WOW!

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi

    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Great additions to measure, Heidi. It’s definitely useful to track open and opt-outs. Thanks for the comment!

  • Aleksandra Vasilieva

    Hello Michele,

    Thank you for a brilliant idea. It never really came to my mind or I always wanted to kill this thought. I’ll try to ask some of the readers tonight to see the results.

    Waiting for new articles,
    Alexandra Vasilieva

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Wonderful, Alexandra. So glad to hear the question was useful.

  • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

    What a great example, Dennis. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/author/roger-c-parker/ Roger C. Parker

    Michele:
    I can’t believe I overlooked this “instant evergreen” post. Not once, but twice!

    Very valuable topic.

    Asking “Would anyone miss **Our** content if **We** did not publish it?” might be a great way to begin each monthly (or weekly, large groups) content planning/review session.

    Maybe the question could be accompanied by a self-evaluation form for team members to evaluate each article/post/curation on a scale of 1-5? Or, even better, create a private (password-protected) SurveyMonkey form? The question also leads to creating an on-going comparison of your firm’s content with your competition’s content on similar topics.
    Roger

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  • DanielHochuli

    Hi Michele,
    Fantastic posts with some great examples.
    I’d also like to point out an added benefit of acquiring subscribers – Audience Research. The fact that your subscribers are an instantly contactable part of your community is invaluable. Researching these people, their interests, why they subscribed and their behaviours must be built into the overall vision of a content strategy. It allows you to not only improve your content, but also your advertising, customer service, employer branding and may even help you discover a market for new products.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Couldn’t agree more, Daniel. Thanks for the addition!