Content marketingOur friends over at the Content Marketing Institute published a fabulous article recapping “The Top 10 Content Marketing Strategy Lessons from the Last 15 Years.” The insights here come from CMI executive director Joe Pulizzi, a guy who paid his dues as an on-the-ground marketer before founding the Institute. (Learn more about CMI)

We’ve abbreviated Joe’s insights using (mostly) our own words, and interpreted some of them according to our experience at Act-On. We highly recommend you read Joe’s original post to get the full download of useful information.

1. There is no silver bullet

There is no one perfect dashboard, system, process, and distribution plan for your content marketing. Your organization has its own DNA, its own unique fingerprints, and so you will need your own unique way and system of communicating. Your constellation of useful technologies will be unique, and your ever-evolving plan will be a one-off. That’s less easy, but more good.

2. You can play offense or defense

Joe says, “…Dr. J talks about two ways to look at basketball offense: You can impose your will on the defense, or you can take what the defense gives you. Dr. J always chose to exert his own will, and that worked for him (quite well, in fact). LeBron James, on the other hand, usually takes what the defense gives him, which is why he racks up so many assists.”

3. Content marketing is the great equalizer

“Large budgets don’t always win; actually, the smaller players usually come out on top because they are equipped to move more agilely and quickly than their larger competition,” writes Joe.

As an aside: at Act-On we find this concept – agility leveling the playing field – applies in multiple ways. Once internet-enabled digital marketing gained enough strength and momentum, it dislodged the primacy of expensive mass media in generating awareness and interest. That means less-expensive online and social marketing gained power as sales enablement tools, using content as the critical factor of attraction. Here, too, a smaller player’s agility can be the deciding factor.

4. You don’t have to be on all platforms

“It’s smart to weave your story onto multiple platforms…(b)ut there is another way…don’t feel obligated to be active on every channel that your customer uses,” wrote Joe.

We would add that you need to consider your own bandwidth as well as what your customers are using. Focus on your most productive channel(s), and don’t add more unless you have the resources to execute well. Social media in particular is all about dialogues; someone has to be consistently listening and responsive.

5. Subscribers rule

Speaking of what works for Content Marketing Institute as an entity, Joe writes: “…We’ve found that once someone is a subscriber, they do different things than non-subscribers that lead to more revenue for us. Instead of converting from content to an immediate sales opportunity, we’ve found that converting from content to more content is the best way (for us).”

6. The smaller the niche the better, but being distinct is a must

“Content marketing works best when you target a very specific group of people with a very specific story. The smaller the niche you choose, the better. Think about it this way: In what content area can you become the leading expert in the world? If you can name five organizations or people already focusing on that area, you may want to start telling a different story, rather than just telling the same one in an incrementally better way.” (This may be my favorite of these observations.)

7. Public speaking fans the flames

This is a wonderfully synergistic strategy. Pick a show that draws people who mirror your best customers, and get speaking opportunities there. Have a booth. Your speaker is the face of your company, and lends credibility (and drives traffic) to your booth, where consistent content extends your speaker’s stories and messages. This can also lead to content you don’t have to generate – news stories in which your speaker is quoted as a subject matter expert.

8. With a solid strategy, content can be as easy as shooting big fish in a small barrel

Joe writes: “Over the past year, I’ve spoken to more than 5,000 marketers about content marketing. Easily, fewer than 10 percent of these people had developed a documented content strategy…that is why we are seeing so much horrible content out there. Marketers are filling buckets (channels) without clearly thinking about why they should be doing so…if you develop even a simple strategy for your content marketing…you can, and probably will, dominate.”

9. Coordination is critical

Potential customers get discouraged or lose faith if they receive conflicting messages about a company’s brand, purpose, or products. It’s really critical for the customer experience to be as seamless as you can make it. So – demand gen needs to be on the same page with PR and social and product marketing and customer service and…you name it. Coordinate your messaging, platforms, timing, and offers for the sake of customer clarity.

10. Content marketing works with — not against — other initiatives

“Content marketing works best when it’s conceived as an integral part of your marketing initiatives, rather than having to function in isolation. So many people out there feel it’s an either/or scenario. It’s not. You don’t necessarily stop advertising because you are launching a content platform like Procter & Gamble’s Home Made Simple or American Express’ Open Forum. In fact, those are two great examples of how paid promotion can expand the reach of epic content.”

With these lessons learned in mind, learn how to build your content strategy and launch it through the steps in this Act-On white paper, Best Practices for Creating a Content Marketing Strategy.