epic-content-marketing

Content marketing has gone mainstream. As of 2015, 88% of B2B companies and 76% of B2C companies already do some form of content marketing. And forecasts show that those numbers have nowhere to go but up.

But if you do content marketing, you need to find a way to stand out, cut through the clutter and combat content shock.

Creating good content is no longer good enough, and the pressure to stand out will only increase in 2016. Just ask Buffer. By many standards, the social-media management company has amazing content, but it has seen a significant drop in social media traffic in the past year. This just goes to show that even content marketing rockstars could find themselves struggling to increase (or even maintain) traffic and attract new audiences.

For you to build an audience with your content in 2016—for you to generate leads and sales—you need to stand out from the crowd. The way to do that is to be epic. Be bold. Be better than your competition.

You need to produce epic content marketing.

Here are 5 paths on how you can do that, along with some examples.

  1. Radical transparency

Some brave companies are already using content marketing to be more transparent with their customers, investors and the general public. This type of transparency—what many people refer to as radical transparency—will only grow in the new year.

One example is Unbounce, a Vancouver-based marketing software company that blogs about its business performance on a regular basis. In December 2014, the company ditched the typically boring earnings reports and press releases and instead shared its user and recurring revenue numbers through its blog. (Some of its staff also use the blog to regularly share customer success metrics and customer feedback.)

The current content marketing landscape is not for the weak. Being epic means doing things others aren’t willing to try. Radical transparency will help you stand out.

  1. Utility

Content marketing is about creating value for your target audience. Yes, it’s about selling and attracting potential customers—but you won’t get there by being narcissistic.

Really, your goal is to become ridiculously useful for your customers. Your ultimate objective is to be such a great resource that prospects seek out your content.

Useful shouldn’t be synonymous with boring. One example is the Q, a blog operated by the upscale fitness club Equinox. The blog offers recipes, workout tips (complete with animated GIFs), fashion and even celebrity playlists—content that’s super relevant to its hip, professional audience.

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So how do you create content that’s useful? Talking to your customers is a good start. Get a deeper understanding of their motivations, aspirations and pain points. When you have a clearer picture of the people you’re trying to reach, it’s easier to create the various types of content that’s useful for them.

  1. Long-form content.

If you’re limiting yourself to 500 to 700-word blog posts, you’re missing out. Numerous studies now show that longer, more comprehensive blog posts attract more traffic, more inbound links and higher conversions.

Look no further than a 2015 study by the marketing software company Hubspot, which found that:

  • Articles with a word count between 2,250 and 2,500 earn the most organic traffic.
  • Articles with a word count over 2,500 get shared the most on social media.
  • Articles with a word count over 2,500 earn the most links.

The study only includes Hubspot’s own blog posts, but it does show that you should at least experiment with longer, more comprehensive blog posts to see if it’s worth your effort.

One example of how longer articles could look like is a blog post from Chevrolet that highlights 24 of its models that helped define its brand. As the online advertising software company Wordstream points out, the post provides gearheads with interesting information while reinforcing the legacy of the Chevrolet brand and its vehicles.

  1. Original data and insight

Data is the next big thing in content marketing. Offering provocative, original insight can help get you PR, more traffic and authority.

Plenty Of Fish, an online dating site that was recently acquired by Match, provides a great example. The company offers interesting, timely research about dating—all drawn from aggregated data from its millions of users. From studies showing the top personality traits of singles in major North American cities to interesting data on the dating behaviors and attitudes of single moms, Plenty Of Fish offers exclusive research on its blog that will appeal to journalists and bloggers as well as to singles who want to learn more about other singles.

  1. Innovative storytelling.

So you’ve got a blog, you’re producing ebooks and you’re hosting webinars. All of these are great, but let’s face it: everyone else who has a decent content marketing program is also already doing these things.

To stand out, you must look for innovative ways of sharing insight, building thought leadership and attracting new leads. That’s why experimenting with new ways of storytelling is key.

Some companies are using what you might consider an old-school way of telling stories: movie-making. In 2013, Chipotle released “The Scarecrow,” an animated short film that aims to “educate people about where their food comes from.” The company also released Farmed and Dangerous, a four-part web series “that explores the outrageously twisted and utterly unsustainable world of industrial agriculture.” The webisodes are available on Hulu.

If you think these Chipotle initiatives aren’t forms of content marketing, think again. Content marketing is about creating valuable or entertaining content with the intent of attracting potential customers. These films essentially do that. And because these films are of such high quality, they get critical acclaim and get the attention of millennials.

The shoewear company Timberland is also using films for storytelling. At this year’s SXSW Eco conference, the company premiered a documentary that explores its tree-planting initiative.

Your company doesn’t need to hire Steven Spielberg to create epic content, but the point is that you have to explore underutilized approaches to storytelling. Re-evaluate your tactics, and find new ways of telling your story.

Conclusion

Now that content marketing is mainstream, the imperative is for us marketers to keep things fresh. In the new year, we must produce content marketing that’s more useful, more interesting and more innovative. Doing so is the only way to cut through the immense content clutter, expand our audience and drive business results with our content.