Do you or don’t you gate your content?

December 31, 2019

Your website is your marketing workhorse. The more people who visit it and find the content compelling, the better. It should reflect not only what you sell but also who you are as a company and how you connect with your customers.

Unfortunately, it’s not a “build it and they will come” sort of a deal. We need to go out and find our audience and entice them to visit our site. For many organizations, creating compelling content is one of the core ways they get that done.

Creating content that is of value to your audience is a topic we’ll explore in the future because it deserves more than a mention. But for now, we’re going to assume you’ve already created some killer content that will really teach your audience something of value and that they’d be anxious to get it.

Once it’s been created, the question becomes how you do want to allow them to access it? Do you want to just let them download it without you requiring any information or do you want to gate the piece? If you don’t know, gated content refers to the act of putting something on your website or landing page that people want and asking them for information in exchange for that information.

There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages to both methods.

Advantages of gated content:

  • You’ll know who is accessing the content so you can gauge the content’s effectiveness in terms of attracting your target audience.
  • You’ll have some contact information so you can continue to market to them with additional content/offers.
  • When people have to “pay” for something with their email address or contact information, the perceived value is higher

Disadvantages of gated content:

  • Many of your website visitors will opt out of downloading the content because they don’t want to give up their anonymity.
  • If you’re using the content to earn links, shares and social amplification, the barriers will make that tougher.
  • Depending on how you protect the content, you may lose SEO opportunities.

Advantages of open access content:

  • You will get your content into the hands of the largest possible audience if there are no barriers to accessing it.
  • If you’re going to use retargeting, a larger audience is ideal.
  • Social shares and unlimited access will drive traffic metrics, SEO benefits, and page rankings.

Disadvantages of open access content:

  • It’s tough to create leads or connect eventual sales from anonymous visitors.
  • You can’t follow up or proactively offer additional content or support to your site visitors.
  • It’s difficult to know if your content is attracting your ideal audience when you allow them to remain anonymous.

There’s no right or wrong answer. And gated versus open access aren’t the only two answers. You might want to consider a hybrid solution.

You can create semi-gated content or layered content. With this strategy, you would create an introductory piece that you would give away without restrictions. As a part of that piece, you’d invite them to get even more goodness, if they want it. Then, you expand on the original piece to create something with so much value that people will gladly trade their email address for it.

Whether you gate, ungate or semi-gate – it all boils down to offering something that is truly helpful or valuable. It can’t be about you or feel like a sales pitch. Once you have something good to offer, carefully consider your end game and weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully.

There isn’t one right or wrong answer. But odds are there is a strategy that is more aligned with your goals.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Content Marketing – a two-way connection

July 17, 2019

content marketingWhen you hear the phrase content marketing what does it mean to you? If you’re like most B2B marketers, you may be associating that term with a combination of email campaigns and educational content. Most brands use gated (you have to trade your email address to access the content) content to build their email list and then deploy an email drip campaign to stay connected with the prospect until they are ready to buy.

Or the flip of that, they may offer educational content to their email list that they don’t make available to anyone not in their inner circle. These tactics are highly successful for many companies. But, there’s more to consider.

If you remember, we’ve been talking about three key takeaways from the content marketing trends report from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and today we will unpack the third takeaway:

  • Well-researched personas can help teams create successful content; however, too few content marketers (42%) are actually talking with customers to understand their needs.
  • Nearly all of the successful B2B content marketers (90%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message, compared with the 56% of the least successful.
  • B2B content marketers primarily use email (87%) and educational content (77%) to nurture their audience and may be missing other opportunities (e.g., only 23% are using community building/audience participation to bring new voices to the table.)

One of the biggest challenges with content marketing is that all too often, we treat it like traditional marketing. We think of it as a monologue. We send out broadcast emails. We produce a blog and turn off the comments. We create an ebook. All effective but not for encouraging conversation. We have an opportunity to actually use our marketing to connect with a prospect or customer who is willing to actually engage with us.

This doesn’t require us to abandon our current monologue efforts. We just have to adapt them.

This blog is a perfect example. Some of the most popular posts are in response to emails I get from readers who ask a question that I can answer in an upcoming post. But I haven’t been consistent in reminding you that you’re welcome to reach out and pose a question or suggest a topic. That’s true for most marketing tactics that appear to be a one-way conversation. They’re capable of being more but we don’t always take advantage of the opportunity.

Audience participation content is the simplest way to have that two-way connection. Building a community is another model but it’s going to take more time, effort and, in many cases, money. The effort yields you huge credibility and currency by positioning you as the brand that is a connector. If your clients are wrestling with some of the same challenges, why not create a place for them to come together to share hacks, best practices, and have the opportunity to learn from each other?

You could create an online forum for a niche audience or put on a conference. On a smaller scale, you could create a Facebook group or plan a quarterly meet up. What’s great about these tactics is that you don’t have to produce all of the content. The audience and their connections and conversations are the content.

A community can also be built around a shared cause or concern. I’m not talking about putting your logo on the back of a t-shirt here but really having a robust program that not only changes the world but changes your relationship with your customer.

We’ll dig into this idea of how to build a community next time because I believe it’s worthy of more attention and consideration.


Stop selling, start helping

July 10, 2019

sellingA while back, we explored some of the key takeaways from a content marketing trends report produced by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), and I identified some trends worthy of more in-depth exploration. They included:

  • Well-researched personas can help teams create successful content; however, too few content marketers (42%) are actually talking with customers to understand their needs.
  • Nearly all of the successful B2B content marketers (90%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message, compared with the 56% of the least successful.
  • B2 content marketers primarily use email (87%) and educational content (77%) to nurture their audience and may be missing other opportunities (e.g., only 23% are using community building/audience participation to bring new voices to the table.)

Most recently, we talked about the importance and power of personas when they are done well, with actual data to augment your own customer knowledge and insights. Today, we’re going to tackle the second bullet, which is all about understanding what kinds of content are useful in the selling process.

What this study is emphasizing and we’ve certainly seen this with our clients – is that the more you sell in your content, the less it sells. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it’s much less likely that sales or promotional content will be found in the first place. Odds are, your audience finds your content through search. The search engines work hard to respond to the query with quality content that answers the question posed. Helpful, informational content is almost always going to rank higher than promotional copy.

The second reason why salesy content doesn’t sell as well is because it’s a sales pitch and as consumers, we don’t respond well to sales pitches, especially when we are in the exploration stage of the buying journey. We might not even be in the market to buy anything. But when a brand consistently helps us learn more, make better decisions, or do some DIY activities that serve our family or our business, we are indebted to them. We value their good counsel or how easy they made it for us to get some answers.

When we are further along in the buying journey or when someone asks for a referral, the brand that offered helpful, informative content and didn’t make us feel rushed or pitched, is going to be in our consideration set, if not our sole choice.

What does helpful and informative content look like?

  • How-to videos with demos
  • Downloadable documents with step-by-step instructions
  • Detailed answers to questions you get asked every day
  • Hacks that a novice might not know to have a better experience
  • Best practice metrics or guidelines
  • Questions to ask before you XY or Z (Do not slant these to make your product or service the only choice or option)
  • Webinars that teach
  • Podcasts with guests who illuminate, inspire or educate (or all three!)

The best helpful and informative content may not mention your specific product or service at all, but it speaks right to the needs of the people who would most likely value your product or service.

I get it. It’s so tempting to toss in a little sales message. Resist the urge. Fight to have your altruistic intentions remain pure. Don’t give in to the temptation. Be patient. Remember how you feel when a salesperson rushes at you. You want to flee.

Your whole goal is to make your audience want to come back again and again because you are so helpful. When they get to the right spot on the buying journey, I promise you, the results will speak for themselves. They will seek you out.

But you have to let them get there through discovery.


The power of personas

July 3, 2019

personasPreviously, we noted that content marketing is hardly a new methodology. Its origins trace back to the late 1800s, but it certainly has evolved as technology and access have made it possible for just about anyone to claim and prove authority and expertise. But it takes well-researched personas to create successful content.

In looking at the content marketing trends report produced by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), I identified some trends worthy of more in-depth exploration. They included:

  • Well-researched personas can help teams create successful content; however, too few content marketers (42%) are actually talking with customers to understand their needs.
  • Nearly all of the successful B2B content marketers (90%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message, compared with the 56% of the least successful.
  • B2B content marketers primarily use email (87%) and educational content (77%) to nurture their audience and may be missing other opportunities (e.g., only 23% are using community building/audience participation to bring new voices to the table.)

Today we’re going to invest some time to talk about persona best practices. A persona is a fictional composite created by looking at a set of your prospects or customers that would react to your product or service similarly. Think of this “person” as a fictional character that makes it easier to craft your marketing because you can envision yourself talking to them, rather than addressing a static set of demographics or statistics. Creating personas helps a brand create more effective messaging, create emotional connections with the intended audience, and anticipate that audience’s questions, needs, and barriers to the sale.

The danger in creating personas is that if you get it wrong, you can take your marketing in a direction that ranges from ineffective to downright damaging to your brand. You know the adage about what happens when we assume. Well, that’s the inherent risk of using personas if you don’t base those personas on research. Going back to the CMI trend report, the key takeaway from their findings is that well-researched personas can help teams create successful content. The study also found that most marketers were skipping that crucial step. If you don’t conduct the research, your personas are based on bias, assumptions, and guesses. Not the stable foundation you need.

You will want to do both formal and informal research as you develop your personas. Along with audience segmentation studies, you might consider focus groups, customer intercepts or interviewing your front-line staff, salespeople and call center reps. The more angles and viewpoints you can include, the better.

Once you’ve used the data to define your personas, you’ll want to go into a testing phase. The trick is to assume nothing. Test everything. What messages resonate with each persona? What triggers an action or reaction? It could be anything from a specific word in a headline to the color of a button on your website. The more you test, the more you can narrow down the choices, so you are left with only the most effective options.

As you’re expanding your data set for each persona, be sure that you’re working off a template to help you gather the same information and insights for each persona. Then begin to build out the customer journey maps. Each persona will have their own, so don’t stop at one. As you create the journey maps, you’re going to find they’re a blend of the facts, stories and personality traits you uncovered during your research.

One of the most significant benefits of properly creating your personas is that as you go through the effort, the marketing opportunities and messages will become very clear. The more you get to know them, the easier it is to communicate effectively with them.


Trends in content marketing

June 26, 2019

trends in content marketingContent marketing is not new. It has its origins back in the late 1800s, but for most of us, it became apparent during the infomercial era. There have always been trends in content marketing.

If you’re 40+, you might remember the Tony Robbins infomercials. They were thirty minutes of TV programming that was a blend of useful information, testimonials from famous people and the opportunity to learn more through the purchase of books, cassette taped coaching and live events.

Tony Robbins, way before we coined the term content marketing, was a content marketer. He was positioning himself in his books, infomercials, coaching products, and live events to be a personal and professional growth subject matter expert.

Many people found him obnoxious and changed the channel. But millions of people did not. I remember reading that he bought an island to conduct his highest costing private retreats. So clearly, his sales methods were working. That’s the power of content marketing. It repels people who are not likely to be your customers and attracts those who are. You’re not wasting dollars or effort on an audience that will never be relevant for you.

When the internet emerged, content marketing became more democratic and more B2B friendly. You didn’t have to have a budget or product that was suitable for TV or any other mass media. Now anyone who was willing to create compelling content and share it had the opportunity to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. The goal remained the same — earn their confidence and trust so that when they were in the market (a day or decade later) for certain products and/or services, you’d be in the consideration set.

The technology, as usual, was available long before the audience had adopted it. Back in the early 2000s, you could have produced videos, podcasts, and other vehicles but the internet and our cell phones weren’t ready to make those channels easily accessible. Remember, YouTube didn’t come into existence until 2005. So, the early days of content marketing were primarily the written word in the form of blog posts.

We were one of the early adopters, launching our agency’s blog in 2006. Thanks to the fact that we were very consistent in publishing and that there were very few out there doing it, we were catapulted to a national stage, earning a position on prestigious lists like AdAge’s Power 150 and garnering the attention of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and others. Blogging is still an incredibly effective way to earn your prospect’s attention as well as influence your position on the search engines, but it’s hardly our only choice in 2019.

Content Marketing Institute, which is arguably the world’s premier authority on all things content, looks at and reports on trends in content marketing. There are some big takeaways that I’d like to unpack over the next few weeks as I think each is worthy of a deeper dive as you think about your marketing plan for the coming year.

  • Well-researched personas can help teams create successful content; however, too few content marketers (42%) are actually talking with customers to understand their needs.
  • Nearly all of the successful B2B content marketers (90%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message, compared with the 56% of the least successful.
  • B2 content marketers primarily use email (87%) and educational content (77%) to nurture their audience and may be missing other opportunities (e.g., only 23% are using community building/audience participation to bring new voices to the table.)

As you begin to think about your 2020 marketing plan, be sure that content is a part of the mix.


Is your content following the trend?

May 1, 2019

contentMost businesses have accepted or even embraced the idea that without creating content, your website can’t hope to compete for search engine rankings, high visitor counts, or much engagement. There are just too many sites out there fighting for the same eyeballs that you want.

If you don’t put something appealing and fresh in front of them, you’re going to be out of luck.

BuzzSumo did a study of over 100 million posts and came up with some very revealing data. I thought we’d take a look at a couple of the more interesting insights and diagnose what they might mean for how we should shape our content strategy.

Data point #1: Social sharing of content has been cut in half since 2015.

I believe many brands stopped sharing their content because they weren’t getting much engagement. While everyone is hungry for likes, comments, and shares, keep in mind that only a fraction of material is going to be unique enough to earn that level of activity.

We need to remember that over 85% of all social shares are done on the “dark web.” That’s not as sinister as it sounds. It just means that most of us share content person to person, in private messages or text messages as opposed to on our public newsfeeds, etc. When you’re calculating the engagement level of your efforts, don’t forget to create a metric or multiplier to factor in that reality.

If you aren’t consistently sharing your content, you need to ask yourself why. I’m going to guess that one of three things might be happening:

  • The content isn’t worthy of the time it would take to share regularly
  • You haven’t structured your department, workload, or day to include time to do the work of sharing
  • You haven’t leveraged the technology and tools available to make your sharing easier and more consistent

You would be better off producing less content if that meant it was of a higher quality and you were more motivated to share it. Content without distribution is a little like putting on a fancy dress to watch TV at home alone. No one is going to know, so why bother?

Data Point #2: There has been a growth in content sharing on LinkedIn, and many publishers are seeing steady increases in content engagement on the platform albeit from a relatively small base.

Two facts of note in that sentence. People are sharing more content on LinkedIn, and they are getting more engagement. The very thing everyone is looking for when it comes to defining value for their efforts.

I think LinkedIn is probably one of the most under-used social channels out there. Yes, odds are your “fan base” is smaller there. But odds are also good, if you live in the B-to-B space, that almost everyone you’re connected to is a potential prospect, referral source or partner.

I see more engagement on LinkedIn posts than any other channel. If your content is strong and unique to you, LinkedIn may be the perfect place for you to step up your game.

The other upside of using LinkedIn with more frequency is that you have far less competition there. While the study shows that there’s a growth in sharing, it still pales in comparison to the other big channels.

Another important attribute of LinkedIn is that people tend to read longer posts and articles. It’s less about the pictures, memes and other social media shortcuts. If you’re producing excellent content, it may get more of your audience’s attention and respect on LinkedIn.

We’ve only covered two of the insights from this research. Print off the full report and walk through it with your team, challenging your status quo as you do.


Gated content

May 23, 2018

gated contentWhether you recognize the term or not – you’ve all seen and many of you have created gated content. That term refers to putting something on your website or landing page that people want and asking them for information in exchange for that information.

In most cases, you are asking people for their email address and allowing them to pass through the “gate” to a hidden web page where they can download the information that you’re offering. An alternative is that you would email them the information once you have their email address.

The challenge with gated content is that you need to offer something that has great value if you want people to actually trade you information about them in exchange. The question is how many fields should you require. Studies show that the more information fields required, the fewer people you will get to actually complete the transaction. The best practice rule of thumb is no more than three fields if you want a higher conversation rate.

Every field is another barrier you are asking the person to knock down to get to your content. You are asking them to work harder and risk their anonymity with every field. They assume, for example, that if they include a phone number – you’re going to call. They have to decide if what you’re offering is worth that intrusion.

It makes sense that you would want to build a database of people who genuinely have some interest in your company or offerings. And on the surface, it makes sense that you would reduce the number of fields so more people actually finish the task and get the item you are offering in exchange.

But there’s a weird inverse relationship in this kind of marketing. As the number of people who complete the form increases, the amount of information you have on them and the more you can confidently say they are a qualified lead diminishes. Why? More hurdles to leap mean you are in essence, testing the audience to see how badly they want what you’re offering.

Remember, the more you ask them in the form, the fewer completions you will get. But the fewer things you ask, the less you know about your leads.

So when considering whether or not you should create gated content, the first question you need to ask yourself is “why are we doing this?” If you are looking for qualified sales leads then you should actually use more fields. You will get a smaller group of people who actually complete the form and access your information, but you’ll know they really want it. You will also have gathered enough information about them to get a sense of how strong a lead they are.

On the flip side, if you are just trying to build up your database so you can keep marketing to the audience, then reduce the number of fields to increase participation. But you have to accept that many of the people, especially if you just require an email address and nothing more, may not have much actual interest in your product or service.

The length of your form not only reflects the value of what you’re offering but it also reflects the genuine interest of the prospect. A shorter form will get you a larger database that you can market to down the road. But there will be a lot of tire kickers on that list. A longer form that tells you more about the prospect and what they’re interested in. The additional questions will reduce the size of the database but will increase the likelihood of a genuine potential sale being among them.

So as always with marketing – start with why.


Don’t Cut Yourself Short – Go Long Form

December 13, 2017

long formIn a world where 140-character tweets, Facebook posts, and USA Today style graphics are the range, it’s easy to assume that brevity is the key to great content creation. Add to that the reality that more and more of us are accessing our online news, social networks and other content via our smartphones and it would be easy to make the leap that people don’t want to read long form stories anymore.

That’s the danger in marketing. We observe and assume. There’s a place for that in the mix but we need to check those assumptions against something a bit more objective and with a broader lens than our own experience.

That’s why I was so fascinated by a study out of the Pew Research Center that found that long-form news articles are actually more effective than shorter pieces for audiences viewing the content on their smartphones.

According to Pew, the total engaged time (which they defined as time spent scrolling, clicking or tapping) with news stories that were 1,000 words or longer averaged about twice the amount of time spent with stories of under 1,000 words. The longer articles earned 123 seconds versus the shorter articles being consumed in 57 seconds on average.

Another conclusion we might jump to is that well sure, the longer articles were longer, so of course, people spent more time reading them. But other bits of evidence suggest it was more than that.

Some people dismiss writing longer articles because they think if a browser lands on something that long, they’ll abandon the story without reading it. But the study showed that the long-form stories attracted visitors at nearly the same rate as short-form stories.

Not only did people not shy away from these longer pieces but the truth is, they really dug in.

  • 36 percent of interactions with long-form news lasted more than two minutes, compared with 10 percent for short-form news.
  • 66 percent of complete interactions with short-form stories were one minute or shorter, compared with 42 percent for long-form news.

How the reader got to the article mattered as well. If the long form reader was served up the piece via an internal link, they spent an average of 148 seconds with the piece. If they got to the piece directly or via a link in an email, their time investment dropped to 132 seconds. Social media links got the shortest time span – 111 seconds.

While social links might have delivered the shortest attention span, it was responsible for the most traffic overall, with over 40% of both the short and long form stories coming from one of the social networks.

Here are some other noteworthy observations from the study:

  • Facebook drove the largest volume of social network sourced readers (80%) but those readers are not as engaged, on average, as Twitter users. If someone clicked on a link from Facebook, they spent an average of 107 seconds in longer-form stories, but the amount of time rose to 133 seconds when they came from Twitter.
  • Late night and morning are the times of the day with the highest engagement.
  • Only a very small percentage of readers (long form – 4%, short form – 3%) return to those stories via their smartphones, but when they did, they really invested some time. Return visitors to long-form articles spend an average of 277 seconds, compared with 123 seconds for overall visitors, and those figures for short-form stories are 110 seconds and 57 seconds, respectively.

There are several takeaways from this study but I think the biggest one is that we need to be very careful about assuming that short form copy is the only option in this smartphone driven world.



Should we kill marketing?

October 1, 2017

“What if everything we know to be true about marketing is actually what’s holding back our business?”

And in fact – “what if we realize we’ve invested the shipwreck of marketing?”

An interesting way to start a marketing book, eh?

I just finished a fascinating new book, Killing Marketing: How Innovative Businesses are Turning Marketing Cost into Profit, by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose. Joe and Robert are the creators of the mega-conference Content Marketing World, and Joe has written other books like Content Inc, Epic Content Marketing, and Managing Content Marketing.

Catching a theme?

The core message of their new book is acknowledging that the marketing world, as we have known it since the dawn of the big three (print, radio, and TV), is our past and that marketing doesn’t have to be just a cost center anymore. When done well – brands can actually create a profit center from their marketing efforts. Instead of your marketing requiring additional financial resources – what if it generated new dollars? We’ve all heard the idea that about brands should become media companies. You may not want to take your company quite that far. But wouldn’t you like to make money with your marketing efforts?

Traditional marketing has been primarily advertising – the renting of space on someone else’s channel to earn attention, brand awareness and alter the consumer’s behavior. Even PR falls under that description. Instead of buying an ad, the brand or their agency would pitch their story to the editorial side of the advertising channels. Their goal was to have a story written about them or their offerings that would create the same results as paid advertising would have generated.

Along came the Internet and suddenly consumers found their voice. Until that shift, they’d been our silent audience. But as it became easier to share opinions on message boards, forums, social media channels, websites and review outlets, they got louder and louder.

Initially as a defensive mechanism, brands because using the Internet too – creating content to fight for search engine position and to balance the consumers’ voice. But the brands discovered what probably seems to you as a very simple marketing truth. That when the brands provided valuable content and helpful information, the consumers would create a connection and magnify the brand’s reach by sharing the content and inviting others in.

On a mega-level, this is what Johnson & Johnson has done with What started as a simple extension of their core website, it now reaches more than 45 million parents a month across the globe and offers their content in nine different languages. Eight of every ten U.S. mothers use

Odds are your goals aren’t quite so lofty. Which is awesome because that means you can replicate your version of the results faster and with a smaller level of investment. The Internet and digital content have leveled the playing field. It’s why small brands like have crushed their competition, stolen the market share of much bigger companies and have created a brand that garners incredible amplification of their value from the consumers who love them.

The book isn’t suggesting that you abandon your core business model and become an organization that generates revenue the way a traditional media company does. Nor is it suggesting that you should abandon your paid and earned media efforts. For most organizations, there will always be a benefit to those channels.

But what the authors are suggesting is that businesses today also need a profit-generating owned media strategy that will give you an unfair competitive advantage.

Many people may quickly get to the idea that because it gets easier and cheaper to publish content and we have more and more places to put it – that the value of content will be diminished as the volume increases. If we’re talking about generic content that any business in your industry could produce as easily as you could – that’s probably true.

No one needs one more article of benign content that doesn’t take a position, challenge a stall belief or actually go out of its way to be helpful to the audience. It’s why Google changed their algorithm to reward “quality content” and the channels (like Facebook) changed their game so that brands had to buy eyeballs, even if they were sharing something of value.

So now the outlets that we were counting on to leverage our content began to behave like a traditional media channel. Which is why so many companies have decided that the only way to control the delivery was to control the channel.

And voila…they decided to stop competing on a playing field they didn’t control and instead, they became the channel.

Now, instead of relying on paid and earned media to drive people to make a purchase, the goal is to use those channels to drive the audience to your own content where you can add value immediately so that on the day they actually need to buy the thing you sell – you’re the obvious choice.

The book goes on to outline how a traditional company, who has been marketing in more traditional ways, can turn their marketing focus/efforts on its side and come out with a model of generating revenue from their marketing efforts.

I can remember being in an advertising class (so you know how long ago that was) and the professor was talking about the value of brand equity. He explained that Coca Cola was a publicly traded company and so they had to publish their financials. He put up a slide that showed that the company determined the value of their brand was in excess of a few billion dollars. With a B. In 2013 – the value was $79.2 billion dollars.

What happens when you go beyond the brand and create something like Now you have a tangible asset that subsidizes the growth of your company and audience.

Interesting stuff, eh? And I am just scratching the surface of the book. It goes on to walk you through how to think differently about your marketing and begin to re-tool your efforts to this new model.

As with anything Joe and Robert do – I’m a fan. I think they’re insightful thinkers who have walked out what they teach (check out the Content Marketing Institute site) and continue to refine their viewpoint as things evolve.

Check out the book. Re-think your plan for 2018. Begin to build your channel and the equity it can bring your organization.


Creating your content machine

June 14, 2017

content machineYou’re ready to get your content machine up and running but let’s revisit the information from last week where we covered some of the preliminary steps in creating a successful content strategy. They were:

  1. Identifying the business outcomes/goals for the strategy
  2. Knowing who you are targeting and what would be genuinely helpful to them
  3. Recognizing that the hub of your strategy needs to be a digital presence that you own and control completely (website versus a Facebook page)
  4. Creating a series of spokes (on and offline activity/channels) that will drive prospects to your hub

Once those tasks are complete, you can begin to think about creating your content machine focusing on the kinds of content and the volume/speed of your content creation. The hub and spokes will dictate how much content needs to be created.

Finally, it’s time to think about structure. You need to build a team that will be responsible for concepting/creating content, curating other people’s content, going out into the social space and telling people about available content, etc.

For this to work long-term, you need a few things:

  • A commitment (not just lip service) from the company owner/leadership
  • An allocation of time/resources that is as sacred as any client deadline
  • An editorial calendar that is persona focused
  • A cross-trained team large enough to meet all of the deadlines
  • Measurable business goals – that are regularly being measured/reported
  • An understanding that this is a long-term play and that expectations should be tempered in terms of quarters and years, not days or weeks
  • A marketing plan for promoting the content and the company

If a company is willing to invest the time and effort into doing it right, the business goals will be achieved if not exceeded over time. Sadly, most organizations are just going through the motions and will never really reap the benefits that content marketing can bring them. Worst – their self-serving efforts are costing them business as prospects check out their efforts and quickly move on to a company who is actually walking their talk.

The personas and editorial calendar should ultimately govern the content. Once you know who you’re talking to, you should build out an editorial calendar with content ideas that you know will be of value to one or more of the personas. Everyone on the team can contribute ideas but once the calendar has been set – it should be honored. Because content and social should be timely – there are going to be exceptions to the rule. It’s much easier to deviate from a plan than it is to plan as you go.

Because content and social should be timely – there are going to be exceptions to the rule. It’s much easier to deviate from a plan than it is to plan as you go.

All content should go through the usual creation process – including internal reviews and proofreading. So in that way, it’s governed by whoever owns that part of the process. Naturally, your company should already have its own graphic standards, branding criteria (both visual and voice) and those boundaries are honored as well.

It’s a little like publishing a monthly magazine. You’re always planning a few issues in advance. You have a defined look, feel and audience. You probably have some regular features or offerings. But what drives the entire process is that editorial calendar and the agreement that deadlines will be honored, no matter how busy you are.

Sadly, this generation of business leaders aren’t all going to get it. Some will dismiss it because they don’t personally participate in social networks. Some are afraid to learn about it. Others will believe it’s only worthwhile if your customer is a <fill in the blank> but not for their clients.

That’s great news for the businesses who do get it. It just means the bounty will be even greater.

Content marketing achieved through a well-oiled content machine can be the great equalizer for organizations. It allows small companies, organizations in secondary markets and those with the tenacity to create a library of useful, smart content to not only compete but to win big.