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Content Marketing 101 – Essential Questions & Answers

Posted on Jul 30th, 2012
Written by Lee Odden
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    content marketing 101

    Who hasn’t wrapped their arms around content marketing yet? Believe me, plenty of companies are still navigating the pros and cons, ins and outs of how to better implement content in their digital marketing mix.  In a recent interview I was asked about content marketing basics and what companies should consider. I thought it would be useful to share some of those insights here as well.

    If you’re new to implementing content marketing as a productive complement to your paid, earned and shared media efforts, check out the basics below on starting out, measuring success and where content marketing may be headed.

    What is the one key thing that marketers need to know to kick-start a successful content marketing program?

    Most importantly, to realize that it’s not about you, it’s about the customer.

    In my book, Optimize, I describe a content marketing trilogy to help marketers understand the content and customer connection. Those connections are Discovery, Consumption and Engagement. How does your target audience discover content and information online? What are they searching for and talking about on the social web? What are their preferences for media, content type and device for consumption? What kind of message or content will inspire your target audience to engage and take action?  By answering those questions, marketers can optimize the performance of a content marketing program.

    What are your top content marketing tips for those starting out?

    With a clear set of goals and business objectives in mind (but open to adaptation), its important to profile customer segments that you’re after and to map the customer journey from awareness to purchase. Content planning that factors in the varying topics, formats and content types along the sales cycle will help guide the customer on their journey through interest and consideration to purchase.

    Understanding the key values, pain points and goals of both the target customer community and those who influence them are important for more effective content planning. Knowing what customers care about can serve as a basis for a content plan that includes topics, keywords, themes and the overall narrative that will guide the storytelling within the content tactical mix.

    Using a hub and spoke model for content promotion is a basic and effective approach for marketers just starting out. The hub is a deep repository of information where themed content is published and the spokes serve as distribution channels for promoting content and in some cases fostering social engagement.

    How do marketers need to think about measuring success with content marketing?

    Goals drive measurement but monitoring progress with KPIs along the way is important too. Content objects are not individual actors, they should work in tandem with other content and media to communicate key messages, themes and stories relevant to the objective with a particular audience.

    Measuring KPIs of individual content objects like comments, inbound links, 3rd party citations and social shares are pretty common but marketers must also consider trends of these engagement behaviors over time and across the mix of content objects being used in a program.  Content marketing KPIs overlaid on business objectives like leads, sales, order volume, order frequency, length of sales cycle, retention and other key business metrics are also important in determining the real business impact of a content marketing program.

    Where is content marketing headed this year?

    Content marketing is becoming widespread and more sophisticated. Companies often see content marketing initially as simply “more content”.  However, “more” leads to “better” content as companies become more savvy about the importance of content usefulness. As content becomes more thoughtful with a purpose, audience and outcome in mind, the next evolution is to integrate marketing’s content best practices with other areas in the organization that are publishing content. Why should content effectiveness be limited to marketing? Why not Public Relations, Customer Service, HR, Operations and Legal?

    Another really important direction for content marketing this year is towards the use of content management systems that integrate planning, production, promotion and measurement all within one system. Compelling content is very difficult to scale and with the right software solution, marketers will be able to coordinate, collaborate and optimize their content marketing efforts based on a common system.