This post was collaboratively published by Katey McGarr (Chicago) and Matthew Cannington (New York).
Having recently returned from attending this year’s Content Marketing World, our brains are filled with ideas on how to make our content work harder for clients. In addition to networking with potential clients and vendors from all over the world, we were able to spend time speaking with other content nerds about which influencer network gets the best bang for your buck, the various ways to measure content marketing, how to find the most compelling story for our brands, and how to tell that story in the most compelling way possible.
Here are five takeaways from Content Marketing World that we hope will inspire you and give you a glimpse into the world of content strategy and content marketing:
1. Write It Down
Seems like a no brainer, but this point has been reiterated over the past two years at Content Marketing World, indicating that brands are still operating without a written content strategy in place. Here’s what we know: documenting your content strategy makes your content 4X more effective; having a documented editorial mission makes your content 3X more effective. The act of articulating your strategy on ‘paper’ forces you to think about it, get stakeholder alignment and make strategic adjustments to optimize along the way. Planning content is just as important as writing and editing it.
2. Go Bigger, Braver, Bolder in 2016
Fair warning: we could write a whole article dedicated solely to author and Marketing Profs Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley, whose brilliance and insight are always a highlight of CMW. Ann’s rallying cry for content marketing in 2016: “Bigger. Braver. Bolder.” While we all try to push ourselves and our clients to do bigger, braver, and bolder work every day, Ann’s recommendation took that one step further and clarified the need:
– Bigger Stories
– Braver Marketers
– Bolder Tone of Voice
Ann’s point of bigger stories really challenges us to go beyond the expectation of typical storytelling and disrupt what she called “industry fairytales”: look past what you are being told to find what people actually want. Being a braver marketer is all about taking those bigger stories and doing something different, whether it’s finding an interesting distribution channel or simply doing something unexpected with the content (in one instance, a B2B brand gave away their digital assets so that others could learn from them.) It’s about taking chances and having passion for what you are doing. Finally, we have to encourage clients to use a bolder tone of voice in all of their content, because it’s not just what you say, but how you say. A brand’s tone of voice is its “gutsiest asset” and, developed correctly, can be a crucial component to a consistent communications and content strategy. The tone of voice must be competitively differentiated while still delivering on the brand’s promise, and its why. Creating great content requires part brains, part heart, and part guts. Because, as Ann succinctly says, “The biggest missed opportunity in content is playing it too safe.”
3. Quality + Promotion
Fact: there’s a lot of crappy content out there. And seriously, companies are looking to create even more. Seventy-six percent of B2B companies said they plan to produce more content in 2016, with only 51 percent saying they plan to do so with more money. It’s the old quantity over quality argument on a national (and socialized) scale without assurances that people will even see it. To create quality content you need to attract people with stories they love. Companies that connect with consumers on an inspirational level are the fastest growing and most profitable. It’s also important to look at data and find out what your customers are searching for, calling about, tweeting about, then address these issues with meaningful content. You also have to ensure that people are able to find this content by amplifying and promoting it to the right audience, in the right channels. But we can only do that if we have the money. Consider this: 40-60 percent of Hollywood film budgets are spent on promotion. We need to reevaluate how we’re creating and distributing our content so that the quality content we create can be seen, shared and amplified to actual people and not demographics, because people are the ones who are buying our products.
4. Audience is King
We’ve all heard that “content is king,” but since audiences are the ones consuming content daily, they now hold the power. Audiences decide what content to engage with, promote or tear apart. In the past five years, their actions (or inaction) have dictated platforms to adopt a pay-to-play model, yet most brands continue to market to consumers as they always have – demanding attention. Yes, businesses need to advertise, but they need to provide value first in order for people to pay attention. Before creating content, understand how, when and why audiences engage to ensure content persuades and activates as intended.
To do this, brands need to become what their consumers are interested in, not the other way around. Think about the identity of the person you are trying to reach – Who is she/he? What does she/he want? What impresses her/him? Why would she/he buy what you’re trying to sell her/him? In order to effectively create content for your audience, you need to understand the person.
5. Follow the Consumer Purchase Journey
Content marketing is about answering your customers’ questions. The consumer purchase journey is nothing more than a series of questions that need to be answered. Understanding buying decisions and the people who make them is crucial to a strong content strategy. A key theme heard in multiple sessions at Content Marketing World is the need to map content to each stage of the buyer journey. Consumers have questions at each stage on their path to purchase, so giving them content that is relevant and helps facilitate a purchase is essential. As notable strategist and author Jay Baer puts it, the content we create should be “a bridge between commerce and the consumer,” meaning we should be reflecting the needs of people and how our product delivers on their need. The content we create should be used to tell stories, not stories about the brand necessarily, but stories about people and how our products answer an unmet need. Spell it out and make it easy for people to get your product or service afterward. It should never be content for content’s sake.
How can you make your content work harder in 2016?
Image credit: Search Engine People Blog