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Content Marketing as a “Force Multiplier”

While driving home from a weekend getaway, my wife and I found ourselves listening to a HowStuffWorks podcast on military snipers. (Do I have a remarkable wife or what?) During the hilarious and informative lesson, the hosts described snipers as a force multiplier – that is, “an individual or small team that, through the use of special tactics, can do the damage of a much larger force.”

This triggered (pun intended) a thought: Content is marketing’s force multiplier.

Just as an individual sniper can take out an enemy’s weapons armory with one shot, a single piece of content also has a multiplying impact on an organization’s global marketing effort. The following  list highlights  six compounding benefits companies can enjoy from an active content marketing program.

1. Content drives PR

Marketing author David Meerman Scott famously wrote, “Nobody cares about your products.” With few exceptions, he’s right. Unless you  are launching Google+, the press is unlikely to have much interest in version 2.1.2 of your widget. But the media does care  about what interests your audience. After all, your buyers are their readers. Your ability to create fresh content around prospects’ needs has become more valuable to your PR efforts than a product announcement. I’ve seen it first hand: When we announce a new product,  a handful of our “insider” bloggers and trade publications may mention it;  but if we publish an infographic or e-book, the blogosphere lights up. (How times have changed in public relations.)

2. Content fuels social media

Without content, social media is a sports car with an empty gas tank:  All show, no go. If you want to “solve” social, start with the content you have and work backwards toward the channel. For example, let’s pretend your company produces, say, a fish tank that never needs cleaning and you decide to produce a video all about the hassles of tank cleaning. Obviously, the video would be shared on YouTube and Vimeo. But you can pull out quotable lines for Twitter or create a transcription for your website (SEO value), tell the “behind the scenes” story on your blog, or turn the lesson into an e-book (ideal for SlideShare and email campaigns). In other words, start with the content, and then back into the channel. Your e-books, lists, infographics, blog posts, PR hits, and videos all add up to the most precious social media resource — something worth sharing.

3. Content feeds demand generation

Your company’s demand generation team needs content to push to prospects. Feed the demand machine with white papers, articles, analyst reports, webinars, and case studies. This content will help push your prospects from one stage of the funnel through to the next by demonstrating the depth and relevance of your company’s experience with their business needs.

4. Content creates sales opportunity

Sales reps are always looking for a good “excuse” to reach out to prospects. There is no better justification for an impromptu email or phone call than to spontaneously share a cool, new infographic or resource the rep created specifically for the target’s industry.

5. Content wows your SEO

Keyword-rich content and inbound links have historically been the one-two punch of good SEO strategies.  And while they still matter, the release of Google’s Panda initiative, which awards better search rankings to higher quality content, raised the stakes for content marketing. As SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin says in this must-view video, SEO now requires “content that makes everyone who sees it want to share it and say, ‘Wow!’”

6. Content begets content

I liken content marketing to comedian Gallagher’s watermelon smashing act: It’s amazing how much excitement one massive object can produce (especially when hit with a gigantic wooden mallet). After we publish a major piece of content, like The Social Media ProBook, my partner Leslie Bradshaw and I quip, “It’s watermelon smashing time.” A single e-book can produce dozens of tweets, an entire series of blog posts, images for Flickr, chapters for SlideShare, slides for presentations, copy or design elements for landing pages, and pitches for the press. So be sure to mine your content for ways to break it down and distribute it through multiple additional channels.

So there you have it – at least six ways a single piece of content can help your organization reach more viewers, convert more leads, appeal to search engines, and even spark more content. Marketers used to call content a “virtuous cycle,” but it’s really become much more than that. Today, content is marketing’s force multiplier.