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Content Marketing Quick Tips: CMI Contributors Share Their Favorites

One of my favorite kinds of posts on the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) blog are those quick tips that make me go, “Ah ha! Now that is something I should try today!”  What’s better than one quick tip? Lots of tips.  Here our contributors share their favorites.

The DeBeers “Three Month Salary” guideline. I think about that campaign at least once a week. It’s a guidepost for me. It’s the single greatest example of content marketing. Politics aside, what DeBeers did is nothing short of remarkable. They told men how much money to spend on their products, and we thanked them for the advice. They answered a question that their consumers were afraid to ask, and the guidance was simple, specific and memorable.

Joe Chernov  (@jchernov)

Produce webinars. They can be repurposed so easily it’s scary.  A webinar becomes a podcast, which becomes a blog, which becomes three vehicles to distribute via social media and traditional channels, which becomes an awesome vehicle for new inbound leads.  It’s cheap and multi-channel.

Darryl Praill  (@ohpinion8ted)

Use graphics as well as words. The rise of the infographic is proof that people like things that are visually appealing and entertaining as well as informative. This point extends to the humble use of images to head up a blog.  Pictures are easy on the eye and break up otherwise daunting text.  Really easy to incorporate and often overlooked.

John Bottom  (@basebot)

Learn the discipline of writing good headlines.  The content you create will be useless if it doesn’t get any attention. The headline often makes or breaks it.  Create a headline swipe file on your computer and copy/paste compelling headlines into this file.  Review it regularly asking yourself why a particular headline is compelling.

Russ Henneberry  (@RussHenneberry)

My quick tip is something quite simple – carry a notebook with you or use the notepad feature on your iPhone/smart phone.  You never know when a brilliant idea for a blog post, ebook, or whatever will pop into your head.  By the time you sit down to execute, you may forget and I find this really helps!

Amanda Maksymiw  (@amandamaks)

I can’t live without looking at my favorite hashtags on Twitter. There is nowhere else I find the most relevant content my peers are reading, consuming and discussing.

Ahava Leibtag  (@ahaval)

One technique I use in brainstorming content ideas is to take the example of a concert at a performing arts center and try to find parallels in the specific client’s content I’m working on. It’s really just to give the client a formula for repositioning their content. So I start out with imagining that your product is an Eric Clapton concert. You can announce the show, follow up when tickets go on sale, remind people to buy tickets and then report back on how successful the show was, which is what most marketers default to. But in order to reposition the content you can add content around his music; polling readers or fans to ask their favorite album or song; soliciting concert stories from fans; spurring discussions about which Clapton band was best – Cream or Derrick and the Dominoes; who the other great blues guitarists are; sharing YouTube videos of live performances of his to excite fans about the upcoming show and so on and so on. That’s a good content marketing approach to extending the content beyond the ticket sale. Now, let’s take the actual product we’re working with and iterate around it like we did around the Clapton concert. What more can we say about it or what tangential ideas that help us keep it top of mind with readers is possible?

– Jason Falls  (@JasonFalls)

I wouldn’t want to live without TweetDeck for getting up to speed on a new market (using search and hashtags); for keeping on top of followed topics; for reaching out to fellow B2B marketers; for sharing content that we generate…

Doug Kessler  (@dougkessler)

Harness the power of stories.  Find a powerful story that illustrates a point or idea.  Share the story and then your point or idea.  You will end up with very powerful content.  Where can you find stories?  Use stories from your own life, someone else’s life (from clients, employees, books, magazines, TV, etc.), or even from the daily news.  Stories are everywhere!  Once you begin keeping an “eye out” for them, you’ll see there’s an unending source of them all around you.

Scott Aughtmon  (@rampbusinesses)

Take the Visual Content Audit

Sometimes it’s hard to convince the executive team that your content is broken. Unfortunately, to get some buy-in from the CXO, they need to see it first hand.

  • If you can, print out a good portion of your content – white papers, web site pages, blog posts, Tweet stream, etc.
  • Then gather your marketing team in a room around a large table.
  • Spread out the printed content on the table.
  • Engage in your content.

Odds are, you are talking about yourselves in most of the content…you are NOT focused on solving the customer’s pain points. Ask the executive team if they would really engage in this kind of information.  Hopefully, after this little exercise, the marketing team will be thinking a bit differently about what is produced.

Joe Pulizzi  (@juntajoe)

A question I always ask myself before I complete a piece:  Would the reader want to send this to someone else because there was value in it?

Jessica Eastman  (@JessicaEastman)

Find a freelance journalist to work on your next assignment. After working on a massive project that employed 15 writers on 3 different continents, the writers with journalism backgrounds provided immeasurable value. They write to spec, are good storytellers, understand the importance of a deadline, know how to research and usually come with good contacts. Journalists tend to be grammar freaks, although there are exceptions, reducing the amount of time spent editing a piece of content.

Sarah Mitchell  (@globalcopywrite)

Use instapaper and Google Reader for excellent sources of inspiration.

– James Gross (@James_Gross)

There are lots of great tools out there, but the first one that comes to mind is Yahoo Answers. That might surprise a lot of you. But often times the challenge to creating content is figuring out what your audience might be interested in learning from you. That’s why we like Yahoo Answers. There are literally millions of people asking questions (and getting answers) on thousands of topics. We use it to see what people are asking about with respect to our clients’ products or services. For example hiking boots.  If you do a search on Yahoo Answers for hiking boots, you will see the types of questions being asked about that product. Your job is to create content that answers those questions.

– Arnie Kuenn (@ArnieK)

Many marketers think that their content doesn’t work when they haven’t provided readers with the tools they need to take action! Are you one of these marketers? Add a contextually relevant call-to-action to your content for the next step you want readers to take. To measure results, it must include a unique tracking code associated with the specific piece of content since customers may need to consume multiple forms of content before they purchase. Further, incorporate relevant call-to-actions to encourage other interim steps such as social media sharing.

– Heidi Cohen (@heidicohen)

Specifically for building a stronger content distribution presence on Twitter – always make it a point to personally thank those followers who are willing to share your content. That opportunity to connect in a one to one fashion to a real human advocate can make all the world of difference in building longer term audience affinity.  For bonus points, and if it’s possible, thank them by using a DM.  A private thank you message is MUCH more personal than a public kudos.

– Nate Riggs (@nateriggs)

This isn’t tried and true, but I have a feeling it will be my favorite tool for 2012 – it’s an app for iPhone/iPad called Dragon Dictation.  I just downloaded it a couple months ago and it has already helped me transcribe interviews in almost real-time.  Saving me from going back later and listening/typing and transcribing it myself.

I’m always looking for tools to help me get the most out of one piece of content in more efficient ways.

– David Huffman (@davemhuffman)

I love to pre-schedule tweets and Facebook posts. It’ my new favorite tool.

– Katie McCaskey (@KatieMcCaskey)

There are only so many hours in any day to create compelling and relevant content, you need to find quick and easy ways to leverage and repurpose each and every one of your content development efforts in as many ways as possible to better connect and engage with buyers.

A single piece of rich and consultative content can be slightly customized and used to create blog posts, articles, web content, white papers, infographics, ebooks, webinars, videos, and podcast. As well, the content can be used to fuel social media interactions, including being the topic of social media tweets, LinkedIn discussion groups, Facebook posts and Quora Q&A.

– Tom Pisello (@tpisello)

We keep a small digital video camera set up and set to go at any time: lights in place, microphone ready to clip on.  You never know when a potential piece of video content is going to walk in the door: a happy customer with a testimonial, a subject-matter expert with a chalk-talk, or a product manager with a PowerPoint deck.  Video clips and online video presentations are an increasingly vital weapon in the content marketing arsenal, and a ready-to-go video camera ensures you won’t miss an opportunity.

–   (@MichaelKolowich)

Always be thinking: how does this content benefit my audience?

– CB Whittemore  (@cbwhittemore)

My favorite tool is my editorial calendar, which I create at the start of each year. As the year goes on I may update it once or twice, perhaps if I discover a new topic I want to address in detail. And, although it provides a framework for me to think about content, I don’t always follow it exactly. If I find timely and relevant content to share, I simply bump something from the calendar to fit it in. The calendar is the best way I know to ensure I create content on a regular basis.

– Manya Chylinski 

My favorite content marketing quick tip is to set up Google Alerts for keywords or topics that relate to your business. These daily emails keep me up to date on the latest research, trends, blogs, samples and case studies and are great fodder for blog entries, tweets or other social media posts. Plus they keep you up-to-date on who the key influencers are that you’ll want to connect with, and give you some much-needed inspiration on those lackluster days.

My suggestion, as not to overwhelm yourself, would be to set up a Google Alert to run weekly, 1 for every day of the week.  For example, on Mondays I get an email with “Online Community” alerts, Tuesdays I get “Social Media Marketing” and so on.

– Anna Ritchie  (@apritchie)

I think that the value of live, face-to-face clinics, workshops and other types of real world get-togethers are often overlooked as content marketing opportunities, especially for small and medium sized businesses. Yet, today events are more easily produced and more manageable because tools ranging from email marketing to registration such as Eventbrite, etc., makes events more viable options.

I refer to this as the “throw a better party” strategy, and it combines content marketing with experiential marketing. From a competitive perspective, if you’re drawing prospects to an educational event you’ve produced, it’s a lead nurturing and networking tactic that’s hard to compete with, especially if you do throw the better party. When you factor in the content creation opportunities that come with the event, from the videos you shoot for subsequent distribution and sharing, to the tweeting and blogging content contributions of your attendees, and so on, it’s a lot of content bang for the buck.

– Russell Sparkman  (@fusionspark)

The biggest challenge for Content Marketers is consistently producing engaging content according to the recent CMI report. When I talk to Content Marketers, it is coming up with the ideas on what content to produce that they find most challenging.

The best approach to this challenge is to tap into your organization to produce content ideas. Content needs to be about your customers’ interests and concerns. You organization is full of people who interact with customers every day: sales people, customer support, research & development, etc.

Enlist their help in coming up with content ideas. Provide a clear process to submit ideas. Track who has contributed the most. Include their participation in their HR reviews. Make a game out of it with scoreboards for different departments or regions.

To create content ideas you must hear the voice of the customer. To do so, leverage all of the ears already going across your organization. 

– Toby Murdock (@tobymurdock)

You never know when or where inspiration or a great idea might strike, so in addition to the good old standby of pen and paper I like to make sure I have other options to use while on the road.  Tools like Google Voice text transcription of voicemail and Dragon Dictation’s mobile app allow you to easily tap a button, talk out an idea and receive a text transcription email of it to use as a starting point.  This is one of my favorite ways to avoid having to stare at a blank screen and instead have something to work with right out of the gate.

– Will Davis (@willdavis)

As you’re creating content, ask why the audience should care. This forces you to think through your motivations and objectives for the asset, and whether or not it addresses the audience’s needs and interests.  It also gets you thinking about how you’re presenting the content. For example, you may choose to produce an infographic to make it easy for your audience to digest and understand a set of complex data. Or you may decide a 3-minute video or eBook will work best because the market is saturated with white papers on the topic. Asking why the audience should care will also encourage you to make sure the asset is compelling to read/view/listen to and inspires action that moves the audience further along the purchase path. 

– Stephanie Tilton (@StephanieTilton)