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Posts Tagged ‘content marketing’

A little of the right content goes a long way toward converting a new customer — especially as you get near the bottom of the sales funnel.

I was reminded of this truism recently while researching contractors to perform tree work around my home. A few too many years of growth, nature’s whim and weather wear-and-tear had left my wife and I with a handful of trees in need of either removal or grooming.

The city where I live publishes a list of licensed tree contractors. Plus, I consulted a few neighbors for referrals. Based on preliminary research, I called three contractors.

At this point I’m deep in the funnel. My trees need work. I’ve gone to the trouble of contacting a service provider and asking for an estimate. I’ve spent 30 minutes or more touring the yard, talking through the needs of each tree, asking when the work can be done.

Yet in each case, I was struck by how casual, to the point of lackadaisical, these service providers were about the project scoping and estimating process.

  • No. 1 arrived on a motorcycle, a quote sheet folded in his pocket. I loaned him a pen and a clipboard with which to jot down the work scope and estimate.
  • No. 2 scrawled his estimate across a price sheet, neglecting to use any of the preprinted lines and boxes for labelling the trees to be worked on or entering rate amounts.
  • No. 3 offered me a brochure, which seemed like progress. Then he proceeded to scribble his scope and estimate in the brochure’s narrow margins.

Missing in Action: Bottom of the Sales Funnel Content

I was willing to overlook a few rough edges. After all, these guys are hustling to do estimates in the evenings after long days working hard on current projects. We’re standing out in a breezy back yard, not sitting comfortably across a desk in an air-conditioned office. Theirs is a blue-collar business built more on technical know-how and physical capability than formalities.

But where the sales process truly fell apart, in each case, was when I requested what seemed to me was the barest minimum of content. Content that would give me confidence in them and their ability to perform the work. Content that would help me differentiate one from the other.

  • Their contractor license number
  • Proof of insurance
  • Names and contact information for 2 or 3 customers they’d worked for in the past

Mind you, I wasn’t expecting to get this info on the spot, in a die-cut folder overflowing with four-color sell sheets and glowing testimonials. I was willing to receive it as a follow-up via phone or e-mail. None of the contractors has a website, so directing me online was not an option. Still, if they’d had a typewritten sheet of paper back in the truck (or the motorcycle saddle bags), that would have been fine.

Each contractor made a point of saying he’d been in business locally for decades. But you’d have sworn I was asking for content no prospect had requested before. 

No. 1, the motorcyclist, said he’d follow up with the info but never did. A few unanswered calls leaves me wondering if he is currently licensed and insured. Though I was most impressed with his tree-side manner, he won’t be getting the business.

No. 2 hasn’t responded, but I’m still following up because at least his wife returned my call while he was away on vacation. No. 3 hasn’t called or e-mailed since. Meanwhile, his tri-fold brochure, while speaking to his longevity in business, lacks the information (and assurance) that I’m seeking.

Suffice to say, if any of these three businesses had provided me with the content I wanted, when I was seeking it, they would have had me as a customer. Makes you wonder how many more years they’ll go in business without putting together a simple content asset that will answer the questions I asked, and thus position them for greater success at the bottom of the sales funnel.

Is Your Content Ready to Convert?

Granted, these are local contractors, not mid-size or large corporations. No doubt your company’s resources and commitment to deliver bottom of the sales funnel content about your brand, products, services and people is far advanced from these small — micro, really — businesses.

Or is it?

  • Does the standard brochure and presentation you’ve been relying on for years answer the questions today’s prospective customers are asking as they’re about to make a purchasing decision?
  • When was the last time you systematically surveyed your sales force to learn what might help them close more deals as prospects get down to the wire, ready to decide among vendors and price quotes?
  • Better yet, when was the last time you interviewed customers and prospective customers, to better understand their decision-making concerns and criteria, and then crafted deep-funnel content to address those questions? 

We marketers spend lots of time, energy and resources trying to get more opportunities into the top of our funnels.

Which makes you wonder if we’re focusing enough on the other end, close to the funnel’s bottom.

Where a little of the right content can go a long, long way.
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This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.

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Every so often you hear an idea or a message that resonates immediately and powerfully. This post is about one of those times.

It happened during a Trend School conducted by researchers and analysts from The Intelligence Group. Their theme for this seminar: Innovation. More specifically, what it takes for brands to be valued as innovative, relevant, even “best friends forever” by Gen X, Y and (yes, believe it or not, they’re here among us) Gen Z consumers.

Early in the half-day seminar, lead presenter Allison Arling-Giorgi (if that last name sounds familiar, Allison’s my daughter in law) delivered this talking point, intended as something of a North Star for product managers and brand marketers to follow.

To achieve breakthrough innovation with today’s younger consumers…

“Operate in the culture, not in the category.”

As a case in point, she cited Kodak and Instagram. One sees (saw?) itself as a film manufacturer. The other as a facilitator of fun and easy sharing of life’s relationships, activities and memories via social media.

Key to operating in the culture, of course, is understanding what an audience thinks and feels. That made this particular talking point a perfect pivot into Allison’s subsequent slides on Gen X and Y attitudes and influences. 

But later, as she was describing the aftereffects on Gen X of having been latchkey kids, and explaining why Gen Y still feels mired in the recession, at least half of my brain was still mulling the earlier call to action.

Operate in the culture, not in the category.

If that’s the key to innovation, is it not also central to effective content marketing?

Great Content: Audience Focused, Culturally Grounded

I believe it is.

After all, a tenet of effective content marketing is that your content (at least a good deal of it, especially the closer you get to the funnel’s brim) must be far less about you and your products and services, and much more about them (your audience) and their pain points and possibilities.

What better way to sharpen your strategy, to strive for engagement breakthrough, than to create content that positions you to be your audience’s resource, ally, even “BFF” where and how they work and live (“in the culture”)? At the same time, how critical is it when creating content to reach far beyond the product features and promotional messages that traditionally define competition and differentiation “in the category”?

Besides Instagram, the Trend School presentation offered several other examples of brands operating in the culture to deliver product and service innovation, and in the process invite brand affinity:

  • Intel, with its What About Me? app, which lets users create personalized infographics of their digital lives.
  • Jay Z and Powermat, collaborating to integrate mobile device charging mats into the music mogul’s 40/40 Club.
  • J. Crew, where Creative Director Jenna Lyons is virtually living, looking and curating the brand aesthetic and experience.
  • Etsy, the online marketplace for all things crafty and handmade, launching a scholarship program for women who wish to become coders and hackers.
  • Method, which imbued character and “story” into its new line of cleaning products.
  • Google, with its Project Re:Brief, a remake for the web of iconic TV ads.
  • Zappos, welcoming headquarters visitors like old friends, providing tours, etc.
  • Foldit, where the crowd is finding solutions to come of science’s gnarliest puzzles.

Notice how many of these case examples are, essentially, content marketing. Or at least close cousins of content. IF, that is, you define content similarly to how I do:

“Value-adding information, interactions and experiences by which brands engage, create momentum and build affinity with audiences vital to their success.”

Next time you evaluate your content strategy, or brainstorm that next round of advanced assets you hope will add value for your audience, ask yourself:

Are we still thinking and operating purely in category? Or are we out there, in the culture? 
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Not familiar with The Intelligence Group? They’re a self-described “youth-focused consumer insights and trend research company,” built on discovering and interpreting what younger generations think, do, feel and buy. The firm delivers its insights and interpretive services via multiple “Cassandra” branded products and services, including:

  • Cassandra Report. A subscription-based, ongoing, regularly updated consumer trend study.
  • Cassandra Live: In-person “Trend School” seminars.
  • Cassandra Daily: A free daily trend e-newsletter (a personal favorite of mine). 
  • Cassandra Solutions: Proprietary research using an online community of hand-recruited consumers for custom client projects.

This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.

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Technology companies and marketing gurus have been touting mobile as the next big marketing thing for a while now. In fact, hum and hype around mobile marketing have reached a point where corporate marketers can hardly go a day without a new study or webinar invitation suggesting you’re woefully behind the curve if you’re not already well down the road with a “mobile strategy.”

Then again, for every statistic that says mobile devices are today’s happening marketing medium, you needn’t search far to find another which suggests mobile marketing’s momentum might be overstated.

In his recent presentation at BlogWorld (captured in this post by TopRank Online Marketing Blog’s Ashley Zeckman), Jason Falls, CEO of Social Media Explorer, encapsulated with three quick (loosely attributed) stats the conundrum mobile mania can pose for marketers:

  • 87 percent of people own mobile phones
  • Mobile devices account for only 9 percent of all website hits
  • It’s projected that one in eight people in the United State will use mobile commerce by 2015…which presumably means seven in eight won’t

Smart Steps Forward

It would be foolish to think smart phones, tablets, gaming devices (plus mobile tools yet to be invented) won’t be a major factor in marketing’s near-term future. Mobile marketing is real. It’s almost certainly “coming” for most of us. And it may indeed be already “here” for your business, depending on the geographies and demographics your company needs to reach, serve and engage. (Check out this infographic on mobile share of web traffic globally).

But if you’re just beginning to chart a mobile course, there’s still time to avoid a “ready, go, set” approach. While now is a good time to start moving purposefully down the road, you needn’t jam mobile activity into overdrive based on the latest hair-on-fire blog or e-newsletter headline.

Instead, consider these basic, but important, early moves:

1) Locate your customers within the landscape. Before you invest lots of time, effort and money, discover where they are in their adoption and use of mobile devices. If you do a satisfaction or needs survey regularly, include a question or two about mobile. Ask which devices they use for product research and decision-making support. Ask whether they want to interact with vendors and service providers via mobile, and which types of content or functionality they’d most like to access on the go. If you don’t routinely conduct a survey, consider commissioning one. Or, at least, poll your sales reps and ask them how they see customers using mobile devices.

2) Find your place along the road. Are you behind, ahead or in the middle of the pack within your category?  Study trade magazines and newsletters to see how much “ink” they’re devoting to mobile. Is it a hot topic at industry conferences? Your trade media partners might also have research and white papers to suggest just how prevalent mobile is becoming as a marketing and commerce channel.

3) Check out fellow travelers. If you care what competitors are doing, scope their activities. Are their websites mobile friendly? Do they have dedicated mobile sites? Does anyone offer a custom mobile app (and does it do anything meaningful for users)? Are they using QR codes — and doing so in an effective way? Decide whether where you stand with mobile, in relation to your competition, is consistent with the image and positioning your brand wants to own.

4) Check the numbers. If you haven’t paid close attention, start monitoring web metrics closely to see how much traffic is coming from mobile devices. If those numbers are minuscule and holding steady, it’s a sign you’ve got time to figure out an approach that’s smart for you and your audiences. If the numbers are starting to climb, dial up the urgency, by all means. But still, start by making it an immediate priority to find out which mobile experiences and content will best meet the needs of customers, prospective customers, or business partners and stakeholders.

Depending on your business, brand, industry and audiences, there might not be quite the rush to pursue mobile marketing full-throttle as some would have you believe.

But now is definitely the right time to start looking and driving forward in a thoughtful direction.
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What’s the best early move you made — or plan to make — when embarking on your mobile strategy?

This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.

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Here’s a question we hear often from corporate marketers:

Do we need to segment our content?

The answer depends (you knew I was going to say that) on a number of factors. Generally speaking, especially if your marketing ambitions and scope (e.g., portfolio of products and services, diversity of buyer and influencer audiences to be communicated with) are of significant size, the answer is probably yes.

As a starting point, let’s try to simplify the issue.

First, a sure warning sign that you’re going to want to start segmenting your content to some appropriate, audience-centric degree that is right for your organization. Then, a quick “ABCs” model for thinking through at least an initial plan for segmenting content in a relevant way. 


You’ll Want to Segment Content When…
Look at the website or microsite that is your primary distribution hub for value-adding content. See if you’ve categorized your content based largely upon the format of the various content assets.

In other words, does your primary navigation scheme feature category headings or tabs such as “Newsletters, White Papers, Videos, Webinars”?

If that’s your main way of organizing content, and maybe even of planning which content to create next, then it’s probably time to starting thinking about segmenting. Here’s why:

Organizing content based on the format in which the content is presented is the equivalent of organizing the shelves of a library under the heading Books. Or providing TV viewers with a schedule that lumps all the shows on a particular night under Programming. Or, maybe the best analogy, inviting shoppers into a grocery store where the signs above the shelves display words such as Bags, Boxes and Bottles.

In other words, it’s a relatively generic and not terribly customer-relevant approach. You’re labeling the content format, but not the content’s value and relevance. Thus, it gives visitors virtually no clue as to which content asset or assets will help them solve the problem or answer the question which brought them to your site in the first place.

Sound overly simple? We said it would be. But it’s a place to start when it comes to developing a segmentation scheme.

And it’s surprising how many content marketers miss this point. Or, who start out thinking they’ll eventually segment content in a more audience-relevant way, but never quite get around to it. The result can be a thicket of content asset types — piles of white papers and a voluminous number of videos. But almost no way, except perhaps a site search function, for users to determine which content assets might be most useful at the moment they come searching. 


Segmentation ABCs
Let’s say you need to organize a jungle of content assets in a more audience-centric way. Or, better yet, want to start out your content marketing effort so you avoid growing a dense thicket of content asset types. It’s likely you’ll want to segment your content by one of the following:

Audience
Who are the audiences you need to attract and engage? Maybe it’s both the CFO and the human resources director. Or the CEO and a purchasing decision-maker. Those specific job titles or audience “personas” are a great place to start in deciding how best to organize your content so each member of your audience can find content likely to be relevant to his or her concerns.

Business
What type of businesses or organizations does your company serve best? Are your primary “verticals” health care, education and manufacturing? That’s a great place to begin a segmentation strategy. And then, within that vertical segmentation, you might even categorize content by audience. Now you’re truly helping the user find the content that’s most relevant to them and their business.

Challenge
What are the major needs, pain points or business issues your products or services solve? Let’s call them “challenges.” Sometimes this is the easiest segmentation approach of all, especially if the challenges tend to be universal across business verticals.

Stage
Can you create and organize content in a way that speaks to decision makers at various stages in their consideration and buying process? Often the B2B sales cycle is long enough that it breaks down into major stages. You’ll know you’re fairly sophisticated (and being helpful to your users) if you create and organize content by audience, business and buying stage. When you have not just a white paper or a video, but content assets designed to inform a hospital system CFO at the early stages of considering a new patient admissions software system.

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What do you think? Is segmenting content important to your business? Have you found some particularly effective ways to plan and organize content that you’d like to share? Comments welcome.

This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net (http://www.freedigitalphotos.net)

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You hear often in marketing circles about the value of hiring journalists to support — even lead — corporate content marketing programs. Many of the marketing strategists and content directors here at Hanley Wood Marketing are journalists by early professional training, so we’re definitely strong believers in the idea.

So, too, is Travis Justice. With two decades of experience in TV and radio broadcasting, Justice recently made a career move into corporate marketing, taking a job with MCL Construction, an Omaha, Neb., building contractor. Today he spearheads a content strategy that leans heavily toward his core competencies, video and audio storytelling. And as we discovered recently during a discussion in the B2B Content Marketing group on LinkedIn, he and MCL are redefining what it means to share their valuable content.

Here’s Travis to tell you about it:  

Travis Justice, B2B marketer and content sharer extraordinaire


Q1: Give us an overview of your content strategy and cadence at MCL Construction?

A: I spent 20 years on TV and radio so my company’s content strategy is heavy into video and podcasting and light on blogging. My journey to producing content for MCL started when I realized I needed to find a different way to drive business development. Having the skill set of being able to write, shoot and edit stories, I convinced our company president that this was the right direction. Right now I am producing one to two videos per week. I promote them in a targeted way to our e-mail list of business owners, architects, developers and subcontractors. We also distribute the videos on our social medial channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn.

The videos range from project updates, to project completions, to construction tips. We also have a year-long campaign going in 2012. In celebration of MCL’s 25th anniversary, I’m producing a monthly video that features employees. Our brand is “The people you build with.” This campaign shows our people outside of work, doing what they love in a personal setting. 


Q2: You’re taking a somewhat different approach to “sharing” content. Tell us about that.

A: I try to shoot each project at least four times. That way I can show it in a good number of stages. Each time I produce a video I brand it MCL, but also with the lead architect and their logo. Ninety-five percent of the time the architect will use the very same video I produced on their website and social media channels.

I also share the video with our main clients, the business or building owners, so it can serve as a marketing tool for them, including as content they distribute to employees and investors. I really see a huge impact with our non-profit and religious clients in their fundraising. They use the videos for project updates to stakeholders, and to ask for more support to help drive their missions. 

At the end of a project I give the owner and the architect all the raw video free to use for their own marketing purposes. They all understand the value, as video production is expensive. Not having to pay for it is a bonus to them. So it helps foster a good working relationship.

One more thing I’m doing is including project partners, subcontractors, in our stories. Interviewing them on the job, but also making the story a little about them. If you go to our YouTube channel, or our media channel on mclconstruction.com, check out the Drake Williams Steel story. This is a piece about how MCL selects quality subcontractors to do our work. It was a hit with architects, as they ask a lot about our subcontracted work. It was also a hit for Drake Williams, because it showcased their company. And again, they get all the raw video and can produce their own video or contact me to customize it for them.

I guess you could say we’re not just trying to create content at MCL. We’re trying to build partnerships and relationships.


Q3: You attribute $15 million of new business to your content marketing efforts to date. How so?

A: The last shoot I do on a project is always with the owner of the company we’re building for. This way I’m sure to get their testimonial on video. I now have a testimonial library where our clients not only talk about the quality of construction work MCL produces, but how our videos benefited their communications process.

When MCL is being considered as the contractor for a new construction project, this “shared content marketing strategy” is always part of our presentation during the final contractor selection interviews. This is good because the owner and the architect are involved in the interview process. When I show them how they benefit from a content standpoint, their eyes light up. The interviews in which we’ve presented the shared content strategy, we’ve won the business. And in the last year that is $15 million worth of work.

Is it 100 percent what closes the deal? No, and it shouldn’t be. But it’s something nobody else in our field is doing, so it allows us to stand out. When we ask for feedback from the interviews, sharing content is one of the first things that comes up.


Q4: What are your indispensable hardware and software tools? (See Travis’ studio in the photo above.)

A: The Digital Age has allowed us to produce great looking and great sounding content. I use a high end Sony HD camcorder that has a mic input. This allows me to use a wireless microphone on interviews and get a much better audio recording than using the camera microphone. My editing system is an EDIUS, a Grass Valley product. I have a studio microphone for podcasts and a dual mic digital recorder when I conduct podcast interviews in the field. For video distribution I use YouTube and Vimeo. For podcast distribution I use Sound Cloud and for my email campaigns, Constant Contact.

I keep adding gadgets and gizmos, but I’d say the total investment to date is $5,000. That’s a very small investment to be able to produce the quality of content we have.


Q5: If we’re reading your LinkedIn profile correctly, you’re the director of business development at MCL, you host a morning sports talk show on radio, and you own a coffee shop. When do you sleep?

A:  It should also say I have four kids ranging in age from 16 all the way down to 5. Believe it or not, my schedule is a lot lighter now than it was three years ago. I’m finally getting six to seven hours of sleep a night!  It’s all good. In fact, it’s never been better.

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This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, be sure and subscribe to Content Is Marketing.

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What role should your organization’s CEO play in your content marketing?

No, that’s not a typo. I don’t mean the chief marketing officer (CMO) or chief content officer (CCO). I mean your CEO. The big guy or gal.

We talk a lot in content marketing circles about the importance of humanizing our organizations. Putting a face(s) and a voice(s) to the brand. Becoming more accessible to key audiences. Being in community and dialogue with customers and prospective customers. 

You’ll see quite a few companies having their CMOs, key managers, scientists and technologists author blogs and white papers, or present webinars and seminars. But what about the CEO?


CEO Impact on Consumer Brand Perception

This question sprang to mind last week when global PR firm Weber Shandwick released the second installment of a study it calls The Company Behind the Brand. They surveyed nearly 2,000 consumers and business executives in the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Brazil. The executives interviewed lead enterprise-class companies ($500 million+ annual revenue).

The study’s first phase, released earlier this year, explored the growing interdependence of product brand and corporate reputation. This second phase, In Reputation We Trust — CEO Spotlightlooked at the impact of executive leadership and communications on consumer perceptions. Some high-level findings:

Consumers:

  • 66 percent said their perception of the CEO affects their opinion of a company’s reputation.
  • On average, 59 percent said their perception of a company is influenced by what the top leaders communicate (this number was 64 percent in China, and 72 percent in Brazil).

Executives:

  • Estimate that as much as 60 percent of a company’s market value hinges on corporate reputation. 
  • Said that 49 percent of corporate reputation derives from the CEO’s reputation.

To simplify, the research seems to suggest (affirm?) that consumers value hearing from executives, and what they think and feel about a company has a lot to do with what those leaders say and do. Meanwhile, execs concede the financial performance of their companies has much to do with reputation — both theirs and the company’s.

Here’s a quote from Weber Shandwick’s news release, seeking to put the research in an overall business context: “Gone are the days when purchases were made solely on product attributes. Today’s consumer is savvy, well informed and privy to a plethora of purchase options. Decisions are now increasingly based on additional factors such as the company behind the brand, what the company stands for and even the standing of its senior leaders,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist.


Is There a Role to Play?

Sound like an argument for making your CEO a content strategy centerpiece? No one can answer that question for you. But it seems like a question worth asking. After all:

  • CEOs — especially those who are also the company founder, or the inventor of the core technology or business model — are often among the clearest thinkers and most insightful speakers about the customer’s pain points and the pros and cons of competing solutions.
  • Your CEO doesn’t have to look like a fashion model, or speak like a news anchor, to be comfortable and effective in a content marketing role. You can channel his or her vision, voice and insights via a content format that plays to their strengths. Video. Podcast. Webinar. White paper.
  • It’s hard to argue content marketing isn’t important or strategic enough to merit the CEO’s time and attention. For many organizations — especially B2B companies — their content marketing strategy represents the best of what the company wants to stand for as a thought-leading, customer-centric brand.

Not to suggest that your CEO should suddenly become the dominant voice and face of your content. But where might it make sense to involve your CEO more — maybe for the first time?

  • Fielding questions during a quarterly town hall video conference with dealers, franchisees or users.
  • Authoring, with the help of your strategic content agency or staff, an annual state-of-the-industry research and issues report. 
  • Publishing a once-weekly blog post that becomes a cornerstone of your blog cadence.  

To paraphrase a famous chief executive, U.S. President John F. Kennedy:

Is it time to ask what content can do for your CEO, and what your CEO can do for your content?
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What do you think — horrible idea or worth considering? Maybe your CEO is already a major contributor to your content marketing. Any favorite examples of CEOs who are front and center doing content marketing effectively? Comments, critique and case examples welcome.

This post originally published on Content Is Marketing, Hanley Wood Marketing’s blog.

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In the steady flow of posts, alerts and e-newsletters that hit my inbox each day, this bit of news caused me to pause mid-mouse over:

In its The State of Content Marketing, 2012 study, Outbrain found that 100 percent of brand marketers and agencies surveyed said they are doing content marketing.

100 percent.

If you’re like me, you’ve been nodding and smiling knowingly in recent years each time you’ve seen a study that showed content being increasingly adopted and valued as a marketing strategy. For example, Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, for two years running, have conducted a survey which found that nine in 10 marketers say they market with content.

Now comes Outbrain with its 2012 survey, showing unanimous adoption of content.

100 percent.

Wait. That’s like…

Everyone?


Competing on Content

What does it mean for you and your content strategy if everyone is doing content marketing?

I’ll admit, my first reaction at hearing that content marketing has reached 100 percent adoption was doubt. Really? Are we working off the same definition here? Show me the exact wording of the survey question. If I’ve got a corporate website and a sales brochure, can’t I claim to be “doing content”?

But putting aside skepticism for a moment, let’s say it’s true: 100 percent of corporate marketers and their agencies are now “on” to the transformational power of great content. That organizations large and small can win, and win big, when instead of pounding away at their audiences with purely promotional, product-centric messaging, they market for them — by providing relevant, value-adding information, interactions and experiences.

If 100 percent of marketers today not only understand that distinction, but have truly begun to embrace it and act upon it, then we’ve entered a new era in the evolution of content marketing. The era of Competing on Content.


Winning the Test of Visions

In the National Hockey League coaches speak of “battle level.” Which team’s players came to the arena prepared to out-hustle, out-work and, yes, regrettably, even sometimes out-scrap the other team?

Ask most newspaper journalists who’ve worked in, or still work, in a city with two or more competing papers. They’ll tell you that competition to deliver the best content and value to readers challenges them (the journalists) to be better, which in turn serves readers better. Looking to get the scoop. Striving to write the more insightful opinion piece. And then watching subscription and single-copy sales numbers act as the KPI dashboard for who is serving the audience more effectively.

In the era of Competing on Content, we content marketers will need to find our own definition of “battle level.” If we hope to earn the engagement and loyalty of more customers, we’ll need come to work with a mindset that we’re going to out-think, out-imagine, out-create, maybe even out-scoop our competitors. Be more customer-centric. Be more willing to experiment, measure, improve, and repeat.

In short, we’ll need to push ourselves to have — and then continuously sharpen and evolve — a clearly superior strategic vision when it comes to planning, production and distribution of content within our respective product or service categories.

Doug Kessler, founder and creative director of UK marketing firm Velocity, recently described what he sees as 10 implications of “the mainstreaming of content marketing.” His is a thought-provoking post well worth a read.

In this post I won’t offer any tips for how to push your content thinking and doing to new heights. What I simply wanted to do here is provide you a heads up. And, maybe, a little motivational call to mission.

If it’s not happening already, there’s probably going to be soon a content competition within your category.

Which brand will consistently produce the best content?

Which content marketer will consistently excel at the vision test?
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This post originally published on HWM’s Content Is Marketing blog, where you can download the “vision test” poster.

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