Time for part two of my interview series with some of the brightest minds in content strategy. And when you have the attention of such people, there is one thing you absolutely have to ask. So I did…
I asked our esteemed guests to “Share one uncommon piece of content strategy advice.”
Nobody cares about your products except you and those in your organization. What people care about themselves and solving their problems. The best content focuses on buyers, not you.
Throw out your content schedule. I see too many companies missing opportunities to be topical and timely because they are following a schedule that was established at the beginning of the quarter. I recognize the value of a calendar to keep organized, especially with multiple content producers, but don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to do in the name of sticking to a schedule.
Think like this – what if you were the leading trade publication in your industry? What would you say? How would you involve employees in your story? How would you organize and curate your content?
How do you get there? Do an audit of your content? If you are honest about it, you will realize that the majority of information you send out to your customers is product related and doesn’t necessarily “help” your customers.
From a marketing perspective (and there’s certainly a distinction here in the overall “content strategy”) this feeds into what I was just talking about. Too many times we publish content (any content) just because we can. We’ve had this mindset for ten years that says we have to build big Web content properties. ”Search will save the day” or “search is the new navigation” has been the rallying cry. Now, while I would generally agree that making your content findable is good – it’s even more important to tie it into the narrative that you are trying to create. Putting up data on your site to make it optimal to answer a question posed in a Google query is all well and good. But what do you want them to do once they get that answer? Is your story about settling bar bets or answering quick questions put into Google – or is your content’s purpose to tell your brand story. I’d argue it’s the latter – and so taking the time to figure out how to make that content fit into a larger narrative or story you’re trying to tell is MORE important than making it optimized for search.
Reimagine your content; don’t recycle it. I see companies all the time creating content and cross-posting it all over the social web, on various channels. But instead, think about how you might take that content asset and create it in different formats, for different audiences. The key to spreading your message widely isn’t cross-posting and recycling on various channels; it’s about communicating with various audiences with engaging stuff.
I’m not so sure how uncommon this advice is — but I believe many content producers overlook podcasts because they’re afraid of the technology side of it. They think they need a sound studio or a professional sound editor to put a podcast together. The truth is, they probably have most of what they need on a standard laptop. With some simple instructions, they could be producing audio content in no time. There are some unique advantages to podcasts that are worth exploring.
Hmmm, is there such a thing? I guess it’d be, “Share your best stuff.” I know a lot of agencies, consultants, bloggers, etc, keep “the gold” and “the secrets’ to themselves, and their paying clients. Understandable – it’s how you make money, right? But I’ve always found (so far) that I get the best lead inquiries when I’m completely open about a strategy, or how to use content for campaigns, outreaches, traffic driving, etc. Besides, you only need to do a bit of digging on the majority of businesses and their clients, and see how they do things anyway. Be upfront, share your insider stuff – you might just be surprised!
I don’t consider myself to follow rules or even proven practices in some cases, I sometimes find myself telling clients they don’t have to do this and that in order to be successful. There are a couple of pieces of advice I do emphasize, don’t know how unconventional they are tough…
-When writing content try to tell a story instead of just listing facts
-If we’re not providing our own perspective on the subject at hand then we’re not adding value
-Even tough content marketing is not a direct sales approach, always have a conversion mentality, all paths should lead to an offer
One content strategy that I have employed that has been very effective, plus I don’t see many folks using it, is to take something that is distinctly from my own life and my own environment and present it in a way that talks about tried and true marketing principles.
One example of that is when I do break-down analysis of billboards. http://diyblogger.net/two-important-lessons-your-business-can-learn-from-a-failed-metropcs-marketing-campaign
Similarly, a very personal anecdote from my own past can be employed in a very similar way as well http://diyblogger.net/what-makes-people-buy-rejection
Another content strategy that I love using is presenting marketing principles by reverse engineering commercials. Examples: http://diyblogger.net/reverse-engineering-deadspace-commercial , http://diyblogger.net/reverse-engineering-mgd-64-beer-commercial and http://diyblogger.net/reverse-engineering-a-state-farm-commercial
Consumers, when serious about a product or service, often times search for negative phrases in relation to said product. Words like ‘problems’, ‘negative reviews’, ‘issues’, etc are all common phrases.
This being said, if a company wants to really be awesome at content, they need to be willing to talk about everything a consumer could possibly be searching online for. I’ve built entire blogs around these ‘negative’ keyword phrases and the results, as well as financial benefits, have been astounding.
Every content plan should have an overarching goal that ties back to a sales and marketing objective. While you don’t want the actual content to be too promotional or self serving, it is important for the content to lead the customer or prospect to a specific action. That action could be anything to opting into an email list to an actual purchase. The main point is to have a clear goal and path for what you want the content strategy to accomplish, and measure it. No company should be creating content just for the sake of jumping on a trend. It has to fit with your overall integrated marketing and sales goals.
Hmmm… an uncommon piece of advice… I guess that means “produce great content”, “talk about what your audience wants to hear” and all of that is off limits, right? I guess my uncommon piece of advice would be to realize that the job of a content marketer isn’t really to create content, it’s to build an audience, and content is just a part of how that gets done; you’ve still got to know who the audience is, you’ve got to find them, and especially in the early stages when you don’t have that traction yet, you’ve got to work really hard to get your excellent content in front of them – otherwise you’re just a billboard in the desert; if great content is produced in a forest and nobody is there to read it, it doesn’t make a sound.
Find a villain. Seriously, everyone says content marketing is the art of storytelling. It’s the new battle cry of the emerging sector. Well most good stories have a hero and a villain. The villain might be “the old way of doing things,” it might be a competing product, it might be consumer fear. But it needs to be something. I am not talking about selling fear. Marketers have always (over)done that. I am talking about having some fun tussling with an enemy, even if it’s just for sport or show. Your story will benefit from it.
You’ve got to keep your eye on the ball. In the rush to launch a content strategy it’s easy to forget why we want to build engagement to begin with: we want to make some money. Since we desperately don’t want to come off as “money-seeking” in our content (a common mistake made by content marketing newbies who don’t know better – I call it “Buy my Stuff!!” syndrome) we often tend to swing too far the other way. My advice is to focus on your awesome content in the early stages, but remember that eventually you need to integrate “activation” avenues. Activation is the step in the conversion process where you present your audience with an offer. By activating them, you want a certain percentage of them to convert. It doesn’t have to be overt (“Buy my stuff!!”), nor should it be at every communication, nor does it need to be complicated. Inviting them to start a consultation process after reading an interesting case study, is perfect. Hubspot (*the* content marketing solution, in my opinion) does this well, as you’d expect — they offer a ton of value, but once in they’ll try to activate you, e.g. with an invitation to try their solution for free for 30 days.
Start with content from the technical, outward to the editorial. To be able to leverage content to its best advantage, there are a number of technical aspects that need to be decided upon, in order to build a strong foundation. That foundation determines a lot about how the editorial content will work within your publishing system, and right now, it’s technologists who are left to their own devices to decide how this happens. Owning this piece allows you to have more control over the editorial; once you’ve taken control over the technical side of content, you’ll never go back.
Content strategy is lost upon those who think in terms of deliverables. Don’t think about the containers of content or information products you produce, but instead, think about how you will use your resources to meet your business goals.
Your content should make your customers better, faster, stronger and smarter. If you can keep that in mind when you create and share content with them then you will be successful.
Don’t create the kind of content you like and hope you’ll build an audience – create the kind of content your ideal audience would like. And put it in the places that they frequent online. The combination of content they like in the places they go will ensure that you start building an audience.
No need to go with the uncommon as people don’t pay enough attention to the basics. Here’s the key – put out content on as frequent a basis as possible, measure everything, adjust according to what the numbers tell you.
I did a video recently that talks about why I removed the sidebar from our blog and the very positive results that have come out of it. That was a purely data and insight driven decision that’s turned out very well. All of the important metrics on our blog are up, including number of leads captured on a daily basis.
Here’s the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhJxdtSJxxM
My advice is to start an audio or video podcast. Podcast’s are incredibly useful because they show who you are create closeness with your audience and that’s an important stage in the purchasing process.
As a business owner myself I decided to invest in creating a podcast instead of an iPhone or Android app because it’s just as portable, sits on someone’s phone and allows me to speak directly to them. Sure, an app would be great but for the work I do podcasting has been THE biggest form of lead generation.
The entry level to audio podcasting is getting steeper because of the necessity of having better audio quality, but the benefits outweigh the learning curve. I’ve not found a better way to take online relationships to the next level. Twitter helps build contacts, but the podcast is a great way of speaking with my network.
Less is more. I primarily deal with content marketing for schools and when we launched our Facebook page we automatically posted as much content to our Facebook wall as we could. We began to see less and less engagement because I think we were overwhelming people with information. We disabled all automatic posting and now post about 2-3 times a day and have seen our engagement rise – even above our previous levels.
My answer definitely comes from the slant of a blogger. For many years, people recommended the idea of creating lots of content. Their viewpoint massive amounts of articles will help you get more traffic from search engines.
I completely disagree with this notion.
Right now, it’s more important to stand out in a market than publish lots of content. Sure you might be proud that you have 1,000 articles on your site. But in actuality, people might think of you as that guy (or girl) with “1,000 crappy articles” on your website.
My content strategy is one that people love to talk about, but rarely put into action. Once a week create one great article. I like to call them MVPs (massive value posts.) These are the articles where you go in-depth into a niche and give information that most people would sell. Instead you give it away for free.
Bottom line…Make your audience feel guilty about getting all the good stuff for free.
I like to think of content as a series of pillars (hence why you hear pillar content quite frequently). What I do, when creating content, is to try to find ‘bridge’ content to keep things congruent.
For example, if I’m writing about something related to online business, I’m generally working on a project that is giving me the real-world experience to talk about it rather than just research. During that time, I’m also challenging myself to try things that I’m not seeing others talking about so then that becomes another supporting piece of content.
In a lot of ways, content becomes symbiotic to what you’re working on (the bigger strategy). I would say that if you want to be very effective with delivering content, you need to first find where your audience is, on the web, and then get yourself highly involved with their interests – make it your business. Work on things that are going to directly benefit you because this will turn into great content pieces that will also open up a lot of dialog and exposure to your projects – it’s a win/win for productivity, content marketing and social proof.
This might not be uncommon advice, but I think it’s becoming increasingly more important. Diversify your content delivery channels. Different people like to consume content different ways. Not all of your ideal customer’s will find you via Google. Consider podcasting, video, social media, photo blogging, and mobile apps in addition to your content hub (your website) if you want to maximize your reach.
People often feel you need to cast a net of content and wait to catch people, and with a lot of content marketing that’s true. But I still use the “spear” approach if there’s someone I really want to work with. I once designed and wrote a web page specifically for one person knowing that eventually their name would pop up in Google Alerts. It did, they found the page and it showed an effort that was different to email, blog posts or Twitter. I was hired to write copy for them, and from that one relationship I’ve earned thousands of dollars through new referrals.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give when publishing online is to create a content calendar. Use the WordPress Editorial Plugin to visualize when you have articles set to publish. Identify which types of articles you want to publish and when. Consistency makes sure your readers understand what you’re writing about, but also helps you stay focused on what you’re publishing.
If content is king, then consistency is definitely queen. As I mentioned in above, being able to set expectations with your customers is critical in terms of keeping their attention. They way to solidify that share of mind is by never missing a beat and delivering your content when your customer expects it, every time.
Find the right balance between original content and curated content.
Striking a balance between original content and third party content is key in any content marketing strategy.
Curation—the process of finding, organizing and sharing online content—is increasingly becoming a core part of most content strategies. Curation provides readers with the latest and greatest content on a particular issue of interest without causing a burden on the marketer to regularly generate it themselves. Marketers cannot forget, however, to insert their own perspectives and expertise through original content. This solidifies a company’s position as a thought leader and ensures the brand’s position is not lost in the third-party material.
Every business calls for a unique equation between original and curated content. Our free eBook 5 Simple Steps to Becoming a Content Curation Rockstar is a good place to start when determining what that unique equation may be.
Try harder. Most people don’t realize how difficult and time intensive it is to produce outstanding content. If your content isn’t receiving the warm response you were hoping for, it’s probably because you’re not trying hard enough.
Your Two Cents:
So there you have it. 29 brilliant people sharing their thoughts. What do you think? Do you use any of the tips that were shared? Did you learn something new? Have advice to share yourself? Let me know below! And don’t forget to sign up for updates …