One of the things I love about content marketing is that there is always something to learn. Each year — in fact, each month, week or even day — I discover some new nugget of knowledge that helps me to my job better. So, I asked our contributors, “What is the most useful thing you learned about content marketing in 2011?” Read on to learn what they had to say, and add your favorite lesson from the year in the comments.
“We” always beats “me.” Co-creation is the single most important strategy a content marketer can undertake. It improves quality, adds credibility, increases diversity and ensures a broader distribution channel.
– Joe Chernov @jchernov
I already knew this, but we’re starting to see it happen more and more because of recent articles by Rob and Joe – that Content Marketing does not equal Inbound Marketing. They are complementary. There is so much confusion on this.
– Darryl Praill @ohpinion8ted
See the point above. This problem has been brought into stark relief this year. People have less time and, even though people understand the benefits of content marketing more than they did a year ago, the squeeze on resources seems to have outweighed any intention to engage in properly planned and executed content marketing initiatives.
– John Bottom @basebot
Quality trumps quantity. Coming from the SEO world, I held on to the belief that more is better for longer than most. However, I have scaled back and increased quality with my clients and I have seen tremendous results. Sometimes more is just more.
– Russ Henneberry @RussHenneberry
My most important lesson for 2011 is that there is no silver bullet and there is always room for improvement! Even though content marketing has been around for years, marketers have only really focused on it perhaps for the last decade. As a result, there is so much to learn. My one bit of advice is to take time to document a solid strategy around your goals and target audience before diving in to any execution.
– Amanda Maksymiw @amandamaks
I’ve always said the most important thing you can do is stay the course of your strategy. There were so many things that happened during 2011—Google Panda, Google +, the changing face of Facebook—and yet, I still feel that strategies I wrote at the end of last year still hold up today. Of course, we need to add in the new technologies and ways of deploying them, but great strategies are not based on predicting the future—they are based on knowing what type of work you have to do to get to great.
– Ahava Leibtag @ahaval
That it’s getting harder to stand out from the fire hose of content that’s being generated these days. Content marketing has passed the tipping point, so it’s no longer enough to have a decent eBook on your website. B2B marketers need to generate more content and better content then find new ways to earn an audience for each piece.
– Doug Kessler @dougkessler
I’d have to say that the most useful thing I’ve learned is more of a reminder, than a new lesson. It’s that I’ve seen with “new eyes” how content marketing is almost literally everywhere. It’s in just about every arena and it has a wide variety of practical applications. It’s a lesson that has reinforced my belief in how needed content marketing is today.
– Scott Aughtmon @rampbusinesses
That companies, regardless of size, need the role of the chief content officer (link to CCO magazine). Someone in the organization needs to be responsible for how the company (and customer) story needs to be told.
– Joe Pulizzi @juntajoe
Your content needs a mobile home.
Content needs to be seen and shared—meaning, you’re doing your program a disservice if someone can’t find your content and share it socially. Your content needs a central repository with tools that allow people to share it out. This can either be your blog or a resources section on your web site, for example. This gives your content a longer life.
– Jessica Eastman @JessicaEastman
It’s not just about the writing. I’ve come to appreciate how a team of people with diverse talents develop a better product. This year I dedicated a lot of budget to two areas, design and photography, and the results have been fantastic. No matter what type of content – infographics, banners, brochures, presentations, letters, business cards, white papers, case studies – a dedicated designer will make your content ‘pop’ and provide continuity throughout the project. It’s a relatively small investment for a huge return. I now bring a designer onto a project at the same time I engage a writer, at the very beginning.
– Sarah Mitchell @globalcopywrite
2011, particularly the launch of Google+, really proved to me the necessity to evaluate the relevancy and ROI of specific marketing channels. The proliferation of digital channels, particularly social channels, has forced brands to pick and choose where they spend their marketing resources. This means that listening to your audience and understanding where they live and where they’re most likely to engage with your brand is of utmost importance. Otherwise, you may be pouring dollars into the hottest new marketing channel, only to be talking to an empty room.
– Jon Thomas (@Story_Jon)
In order for brands to be relevant as a social publisher. They have to consume content in order to create it.
– James Gross (@James_Gross)
A lot of what we do for clients is work with them to generate content ideas. Often times the road block to new content is coming up with the topic to write about or create content around. We have developed a several step process to generate content ideas and two of the most useful sites are Soovle.com and Ubersuggest.org. In fact, my buddy Lee Odden pointed one of them out to me at a conference. With both tools, you simply enter a keyword phrase and the tool will drop down a list of related keyword phrases. Great for getting the ideas flowing.
Content marketing is NOT a do-it-once-and-forget-about-it initiative. Once you start using content marketing, you must consistently create and distribute quality content in a variety of formats across platforms while continuing to engage in the conversation around your existing content. For most marketers, the challenge is how to continually fuel the content engine with new, effective content. To help you, here are 56 ways to extend your content marketing.
More traditional marketers have been in the mindset of more finite campaigns. Content marketers at all levels on the other hand, need to think more like radio station program directors, building editorial calendars that leverage consistent timing and frequency into their publishing and distribution. The consistency and frequency of content breeds regular viewers or readers among the target audience, causing them to adjust their consumption habits based on expectations for fresh, relevant and compelling content. If content is king, consistency is the mighty queen…
The most useful thing that I learned about content marketing in 2011 is content promotion. There are two big components to content marketing. The first is content production. You have to produce great content. But even the best content will fail if you don’t promote it to drive traffic to it because if no one reads your content, what’s the point? So the second, equally important component is content promotion.I learned this best from a publisher who told me that he asked his content team to reduce the amount of content produced by 40% and then put that time into promoting their content. To him, each and every piece of content should have a miniature marketing campaign targeting key topic influencers with the objective to win links from them. The effort should be managed authentically by the actual authors themselves.While he reduced his quantity of content by 40%, he increased his overall results (page views, etc.) by over 300%. He got more quality links, driving traffic. The links improved his SEO rank, driving more traffic.Produce great content, but that’s only half the battle. You have to promote it too.
The most useful thing I learned about content marketing in 2011 is this: a little bit really does go a long way. It sounds very obvious, I know, but this is a powerful thing to remember when you are faced with building a case for content marketing. The reason is when building this case you will have zero resources. And not only that, you may even be starting off in the hole – meaning, folks are not even interested in this idea of “content marketing” and you have to change their minds.Trying to pull out of that situation with a concept to completion strategy pitch will almost guarantee utter failure and you’ll most likely drive yourself into madness.Build your foundation by starting slow. Show them what can be done by adding a little content to the marketing stew, one pinch at a time. You’ll see that folks will really start to acquire a taste for it especially if you bring some closed-loop reporting to the table.Sorry for the food references, I haven’t had breakfast yet.
Focus. Sometimes it is more useful to create content to dominate a single channel than try to address them all. This is particularly true for small business or those with tighter budgets.
Never forget that you’re producing content for a specific well-defined target audience whether they are your prospects, existing customers, employees, business partners, donors, association members, etc. What you like or think is important may not apply to them too. I have to remind myself this all the time. I’ll never forget Mr. Magazine’s words from this year’s Valentine’s Day: “Romancing our customers should be our first and major mission while we are creating any medium. Falling in love with our customers and not our machines should be our goal for 2011 and beyond.”This is a recipe for success. It’s not about us, it’s about them!
Creative often happens after a team has completed the marketing strategy and product messaging, which leaves little time for development. I learned that we need to move content planning and creative development upstream and make it part of the overall marketing strategy. In addition, do a great job briefing the creative team. Clients need tobe fully invested in the development process in order to create compelling content.Check out my blog: Content is King, Creative is Queen: How to Keep the King and Queen in the Whole Game
This year, more businesses read about how inbound tactics like content marketing are driving web traffic and creating lead capture opportunities. But instead of looking at the movement and asking, “What’s the best way to capitalize on the customer mindset and adapt this tactic to fit our story, and what customers want to know?” some are producing web pages and thought pieces written very similar to the push marketing of yesteryear. It’s the same self-serving “I” statements.Even while employing some SEO strategy – presumably using keywords important to the audiences during their search – those companies failed to find the sweet spot, the place where marketing creates interest because what’s being said meets needs and solves problems.What I’ve learned from this is that we’re creating legacy in our content marketing. We’re not producing content that serves a purpose strictly for today’s business scenario like a down quarter. We’re producing communications material that should serve the interests of our brand’s audiences in as evergreen a manner as possible.When your customer’s needs and interests are at the center of your product/service and your communications, evergreen isn’t something you have to think about much. The content marketing you produce just is.
My favorite content marketing lesson in 2011 comes from Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman in their book, Content Rules: reimagine content (don’t recycle). The idea is to not simply repurpose content in new formats, but to build a content ecosystem by which large pieces of content — such as ebooks, white papers, and case studies — become new and ongoing sources for content marketing. Smart thinking!For me, this strategic approach ensures that new content relates to broader established themes in support of communication goals.
– Rick Allen (@epublishmedia)
We learned that personality and attitude really do matter when it comes to content marketing. The days of clinical white papers and tedious, audio-only webinars are numbered. Prospects are looking for “interesting”, not just “informative”. We learned that the more we could put a face on our communications, the more connected and engaged our prospects felt. And the more open they’ll be to the next campaign. As a result, our marketing content is getting shorter and crisper, our copywriting is getting more friendly, and we’re not afraid to let our personalities shine through. Video is critical to this; soon we’ll all be teaching our landing pages to talk and we’ll finally be experiencing webinar guests who like to talk with their hands.