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32 (Surprising?) Ways to Define a Home Run in Content Marketing

Your content packs a powerful punch – a high-flying, out-of-the-park hit. Your team and brand executives jump up and fist pump, while your competitors slouch glumly at their desks.

We know what a home run is in baseball – it gets the biggest crowd reaction and sometimes decides the game. But what is its equivalent in content marketing? We asked Content Marketing World 2019 speakers to define it.

Their answers surprised me and they might surprise you. Most construe a home run not as a single event or thing, but as part of a greater content marketing game plan.

Read on for a selection of 32 responses about what a home run looks like.

Makes you wish for time travel

The best content inspires comments that make you wish you could travel back through time and use that copy in the campaign. – Adam Ritchie, principal, Adam Ritchie Brand Direction 

Garners dual results

Your content delivers so much value that it tangibly improves people’s lives and drives business results. For example, if your content can help reduce infant and maternal mortality at scale by improving health outcomes from mother and child while supporting business goals for a health care-related company, you create abundance in all directions. Carlos Abler, leader of content marketing strategy, 3M 

Integrates seamlessly

When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all. The program and process run so smoothly in the background, continually building on past performance, that the foundation is there and keeping things running. Scott Spjut, assistant vice president, social and digital content, Fifth Third Bank

When you do #contentmarketing right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all, says @scottspjut. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Prompts reaction from sales team

When sales says to marketing, “Wow, you really know how to do your jobs.” – Ahava Leibtag, president, Aha Media Group

Operates like a TV show

Content marketers with a perfect vision on the future realize they have to become real showrunners. Yes, exactly like in Hollywood. They are aware they have to run content for their brand as if they are running a television series. Every piece of content is an episode of the same series. Carlijn Postma, owner, The Post

Spins itself off

A content marketing home run occurs when the content you create transforms from driving revenue to becoming its own revenue source. – Andrew Davis, author, The Loyalty Loop, Brandscaping, and Town Inc. 

Follows 1-2-3 Formula

First, target a very specific group of people. Then, create one thing (text content, video content, audio content, etc.) on one channel (blog, YouTube, iTunes, etc.) that is differentiated and helpful. Then, consistently deliver that content over a long period of time (a year plus). That’s the same recipe that has been working for over 100 years and will continue to work for the next 100. – Joe Pulizzi, founder, Content Marketing Institute

Create 1 thing on 1 channel that is differentiated & helpful to a specific group of people. @JoePulizzi Click To Tweet

Brings in these numbers

A 50% open rate, 30% click-through rate, 50 shares, 20 subscribers, 10 comments, and a page-one ranking that lasts for a year.Andy Crestodina, co-founder, chief marketing officer, Orbit Media 

Gets results

We produced this event for Small Business Week 2019 and livestreamed the first hour on LinkedIn and the panel discussion on its LinkedIn for Small Business company page. It contributed to earning 20,000-plus new followers in about a week to the company page. At last count, the livestream video attracted 47,956 impressions, 15,446 views, 817 reactions, and 749 comments. The engagement rate is 3.876%. And this is before the video content was repurposed into blog posts, social media posts, etc. – Sydni Craig-Hart, CEO, Smart Simple Marketing 

Attracts leads and links

Two home runs immediately come to mind. The first is content that generates leads. Either the content itself is compelling to generate leads or is routinely in the path of the customer journey so that it is positively impacting lead generation. The second is any content naturally attracting inbound links from other websites. You know you have a home run if others want to link to it as a resource. – Arnie Kuenn, senior advisor, Vertical Measures

Shifts thoughts

Someone having a long-term shift in thinking or behavior that helps them achieve a goal. – Tamsen Webster, founder and chief message strategist, Find The Red Thread

Leads to anticipation

First, it adds to the conversation in your industry in a meaningful way. What can you uncover and share that hasn’t been restated in countless ways? What new perspective can you share that truly is helpful?

Next, it focuses consistency. While quality trumps quantity in the (hopefully defunct) debate, it’s ideal to deliver your content on a schedule that you stick to. And here’s the thing: Publishing meaningful content on a consistent basis leads to anticipation. People will look forward to receiving the content you produce, they’ll read it, and they’ll often become advocates for your brand. Michele Linn, head of strategy, Mantis Research

Publishing meaningful #content consistently leads to people anticipating it, says @MicheleLinn. Click To Tweet

Brings variety

Home run content harnesses the collective audience of its employees, customers, and other stakeholders who love the brand. – Bernie Borges, chief marketing officer, Vengreso

Encourages exploration

It brings new, important, and deep knowledge to the audience. And it serves it with conviction and a strong personal voice dressed up in beautiful design that makes the audience want to pause and explore interchangeably. Jesper Laursen, CEO, Native Advertising Institute

Gets people talking

A real home run is a piece of content that elicits conversation. It can be used to further engagement either publicly on social or through private messaging and email. A good example is an article written by my husband and posted to LinkedIn. It “only” got 6,000 views and 600 likes, but more importantly, it started 65 buying conversations and was shared 34 times. The article (as an update) in slide deck form got over 60,000 views, but the engagement (comments, etc.) was significantly less. – Viveka von Rosen, chief visibility officer, Vengreso

A real home run is a piece of #content that elicits conversation, says @LinkedInExpert. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Connects for a reason

A content marketing home run needs to impact an individual on some emotional or personal level as much as it provides them with helpful information or education. To do that, it needs the creators’ points of view as well as their smarts. Sharon Toerek, principal, Toerek Law

Evokes positive reaction

Happy customers sharing their enthusiasm on social media. – Buddy Scalera, content strategist; associate director, social media solutions, Novartis

Doesn’t act as a one-and-done

The best content is created along with other content formats and distribution presentations. Further, home run content can be updated and evolve to meet evolving audience needs. As a result, it yields measurable results in terms of email address acquisition and sales. It continues to attract influencer support and search rankings. LinkedIn’s the Sophisticated Marketer series is a great example. – Heidi Cohen, chief content officer, Actionable Marketing Guide

Home run #content can be updated and evolve to meet audience’s changing needs, says @HeidiCohen. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Works locally

Hitting each base with content that is adapted for that unique cultural context. Your content is designed for a few markets, but it’s ultimately consumed globally. You aren’t going to hit a home run every time, but key content needs to be localized market by market. “Content is king,” but the king can be dethroned by local market cultural differences. In that case, context is king. Annalisa Nash Fernandez, intercultural strategist, Because Culture

Brings renewal

When a client renews, we know that we achieved success. We have a very high renewal rate driven by leveraging a deep knowledge of our audience to create stories that will resonate. Our programs for the National Association of Realtors illustrate this point. We used audience insights about interest in history to guide our story looking at housing trends over the decades and the popularity of personal stories on The Washington Post to guide our decision to feature real people and their homes. The audience-insight-driven success of these stories has led NAR to work with us three years in a row. Annie Granatstein, head of WP BrandStudio, The Washington Post

Elicits response

We undervalue this in marketing today, but when our content triggers an emotional response from others, and we see that through qualitative feedback, that’s just about the strongest signal we can look for to ensure we’re on the right path. I call this “URR” – unsolicited response rate. If we invested precious time to create something, and nobody is leaving a comment, retweeting to say something of value, emailing us to give their two cents, or saying thanks, then the content hasn’t truly resonated. – Jay Acunzo, founder, Marketing Showrunners

Dominates the subject

Owning a topic at all phases of the prospect and customer journey. – Jeff Coyle, co-founder and chief product officer, MarketMuse

Prompts conviction

Clients pointing to posts or videos that they’ve used to help them do their jobs better. And when they say, “I did not need to call anyone else, I know I could trust you.” Jeff Leo Herrmann, president, Madison, Michigan & Market

Sparks two-way talking

A sustainable stream of qualified prospect conversations. The best content is conversations, not backstops. The very best content isn’t complete unless the prospect engages and customizes it with you. Do enough of that so you’re regularly talking to the right prospects, that’s a big win. – Matt Heinz, president, Heinz Marketing Inc.

Creates a bigger reaction

Generating conversation, questions, laughter, people adding different perspectives because it means they connect with the topic, which is bigger than me and my brand, and gets to a big idea. I’ve made them feel something and that compels them to comment, share, converse. Now they experience my work differently. I like surprising people, making them laugh and think differently about what’s possible. When people act on the information and get results and email me or tweet me to tell me, that’s social proof. – Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder, Keeping it Human

When people act on the information & email me or tweet me to tell me, that's social proof. @kathyklotzguest Click To Tweet

Prompts shared confidence

A content marketing home run for me is when one individual who has been inspired to trust a brand I’m working for says to another, “that is a company you can trust” because the content and experience is simply that good. – Yadin Porter de Leon, global executive content strategist

Generates customers organically

You get a new client because of some content you created that they discovered organically. – Rob Walch, vice president, podcaster relations, Libsyn

#Content home run: Getting a new client who discovered your content organically. @podcast411 #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Gets links without asking

A content marketing home run is when you’ve built your content foundation in a way that supports growth. One sign is when you start getting backlinks without the need to ask for them. – Leslie Carruthers, CEO, The Search Guru

Leads to sales

Content educates the users to buy our products. Content impacts sales revenue. – Pam Didner, B2B marketing consultant; author, Effective Sales Enablement

Looks like these brands

It looks like Design Disruptors by InVision – an inspired, beautiful labor of love. A feature-length documentary making heroes of the people they serve. And it looks like Whiteboard Fridays from Moz – hardworking, generous, consistent, help-me-do-my-job content.

And it looks like all the wonderful stuff between these two poles. A home run is any content that aims high, works hard for its audience, and takes delight in doing so. – Doug Kessler, co-founder, Velocity Partners

Executes expertly

Home runs don’t have to be crazy different, but the content marketing has to be executed extremely well. This is what the brands I see do it the best all have in common:

  • Understand the purpose of what they’re trying to accomplish, whether that’s building their audience, converting them to customers or doubling down on customer retention.
  • Have a clear, documented strategy that ties to a business objective.
  • Define their audience and know the value that only they can deliver.
  • Start with a single content platform and do it really, really well before they expand.
  • Strategically structure their team, technology, and content trail.
  • Know what to measure to show if they’re hitting the mark. And they are OK with not getting everything right the first time.

And perhaps most importantly, they take inspiration from outside their industry based on what interests people as people. That’s why content from brands like NASCAR, Land Rover, and Slack do so well. They know what captures people’s attention outside their brand, and they transplant the seed of that idea into their own work. – Carla Johnson, speaker, author, storyteller

Don’t forget singles, doubles, triples

A home run implies a major victory. But content marketing can be successful on any scale. It’s all about the objectives for the effort or campaign (i.e., leads, downloads, social shares). Ultimately, it needs to be tied to an ROI that’s thought out. If calls and sales can’t be tracked, the overall investment can still be measured along with multiple metrics that range anywhere from page views to time spent on the website – not just for the content marketing piece but also any other content that the campaign points to (i.e., did other content get a bump as well because of new internal links). – Mike Murray, president, Online Marketing Coach 

Craft your game plan

Unlike baseball where a home run fits within predetermined parameters, a content marketing home run isn’t objective. Ultimately, a home run looks different depending on the definer – the brand, the content marketer, the audience. But what each home run has in common is that it spectacularly achieves a content marketing goal (or several).

What does a home run look like in your business? Please share in the comments.

Join thousands of content marketers who want to hit one (and more) out of the ballpark in Cleveland, Ohio, Sept. 3-6 at Content Marketing World. Sign up today using CMIBLOG100 to save $100. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute