Approaches to shape your Content Marketing in 2014
1,700 of the great and the good of the content marketing world gathered in Cleveland, Ohio last week to make the case for content marketing. These are the main insights I took from the event.
This year the CMW 2013 agenda focused on justify content marketing and proving content marketing effectiveness in both B2C and B2B markets.
In between the Godfather of Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi, hosting the event, and the incomparable William Shatner with his surprisingly relevant closing address on storytelling, were sandwiched almost every major player in the content marketing firmament.
1. A definition of content marketing
Joe Pulizzi launched his new book ‘Epic Content Marketing’ at CMW 2013 and as well as being an excellent must-read for ALL marketers he managed to finally pose a definition for content marketing that makes sense and could act as a guiding principal for all content marketers.
Joe suggests that “content marketing is marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action”
2. Know your customers and what they want to know
What they want from your product category and the questions they are asking? As Andrew Davies, author of Brandscaping, reminded us, “we live in an opt-in world”. By answering their questions without overtly promoting your product or service you gain the trust of prospective customers and achieve a better place in their shopping list when considering potential vendors.
Heather Meza of Cisco presented a powerful case study for listening to customers’ real needs. Cisco had to understand what it was that customers wanted to know and to answer those queries rather than ram product info down their throats, regardless of their information needs.
Source: Heather Meza, CMW 2013 presentation
The success that Cisco had achieved by taking this ‘helpful’ approach had lead them to three insightful conclusions:
- Customer language and SEO leads to more traffic for the website with a 99% increase in unique visits to their site
- SEO + SEM together achieved a 23% uplift in unique visits
- Less is more - by reducing the number of assets per page and focusing on a few core assets Cisco achieved a 29% increase in file downloads
3. You’ve got to have a Content Marketing Strategy
Despite increasing rates of content marketing adoption Joe Pulizzi revealed, in a his key note taster of the upcoming Content Marketing Institute 2014 Content Marketing annual study, that…
…still only around 10% of brands have a defined, written content marketing strategy.
Surprising? Or Not? With marketers facing increasing demands to prove the return on their marketing expenditure a clear strategy driven by clear objectives and defined metrics is absolutely imperative to content marketing to succeed.
4. Content Marketing is the only marketing there is
The extraordinary Professor Don Schultz, of Northwestern University Business School, author of the famous ‘Integrated Marketing Communications’, exhorted the entire CMW audience to pursue content marketing as it is “the future of all marketing”.
With jaded customers no longer responding to indiscriminate, undifferentiated broadcast selling messages Prof Schultz advocates content as the primary method of persuading customers that your brand is the best vendor for their needs. We spend too much time trying to create markets rather than customers and therefore we need a customer engagement model based on the future rather than historical precepts. If we can do that then we can also address the key business issue of how can marketing, as a function, turn itself into a profit centre rather than a cost centre.
5. Helping not hyping
Image source: CMW World 2013
Jay Baer addressed the issue of creating content which ‘helps’ not ‘hypes’ in his keynote on ‘Youtility - why smart marketing is about help not hype’. In a world where marketing messages are competing for attention with not just other marketing messages but social media its not just good enough to stand out, your content has to be helpful to the point where customers value it because it helps them in their life (personal and / or professional). You can listen to Jay Baer in this webcast from Smart Insights talk more about the YouTility marketing approach.
Jay suggested that by creating ‘Youtility’ your customers will keep you close as a source of trusted information that helps them make better decisions. This is not a green light to just make more content it is simply that content must be useful and help customers make a better decision.
Jay challenged content marketers to make you content so useful that customers would even be prepared to pay for it.
6. The importance of content to the buyer’s journey
The role of relevant, compelling and timely content in helping customers make better decisions was highlighted more than ever. With yet more evidence being presented at CMW of the fact that customers in both B2C and B2C markets are undertaking between 60–70% of their purchase decision BEFORE they actually come into contact directly with the brand it is clear that content and content marketing is playing a critical role in encouraging brand preference amongst prospects and customers.