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Content marketing has become an increasingly popular term, yet its intent—building a message around value-remains unchanged. This edition of Productivity@Work centers on the growth of content marketing, targeting your audience with the right message, and the keys to building effective content marketing campaigns. At the end of the day, content marketing is about providing value and answering potential questions customers may have, and not about products and services. Are there subjects you'd like to see covered in future issues, or are there ways Productivity@Work could do more to address your needs? Email us at Editor_at_newsletter@cable.comcast.com to let us know how we can improve it.
Content Marketing Takes Off Targeting Your Audience/Community and Finding the Right Venue(s) Building Successful Content Campaigns Improve Communication and Collaboration with Upware™ Maximize Your Email Marketing Berry Built and Design: It's A Matter of Trust
Content marketing has its roots in custom publishing and loyalty-driven efforts, and for more than 100 years its primary goal has been customer retention, says Joe Pulizzi, founder and executive director of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). In recent years, however, content marketing’s objectives have broadened, and it is playing a much more important role in the overall marketing strategy at many companies, both B2B and B2C.
A new report by CMI and MarketingProfs on content marketing benchmarks, budgets, and trends in North America finds that B2B companies have earmarked an average of 33 percent of their marketing budgets for content marketing in 2013, up from 26 percent last year, and they intend to boost that expenditure to 54 percent in 2014. A similar report on the B2C segment finds that 28 percent of marketing budgets, on average, are allocated to content marketing, and 55 percent of consumer marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend. Currently, 91 percent of B2B companies and 86 percent of B2C firms use some form of content marketing.
Content marketing initially proved its worth as a customer retention tool by delivering consistently valuable content to current customers, a strategy that has proven effective in keeping customers longer and driving increased cross-sales and up-sales, Pulizzi reports. “Customer events and print customer magazines have scored high in effectiveness over the three years we’ve been measuring it,” he says. But its role is expanding dramatically in areas that include building brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation, thought leadership, engagement, and more.
Customer acquisition is an increasingly important mandate for content marketing, singled out as an organizational goal by three-quarters of both B2C and B2B companies in surveys by CMI and MarketingProfs. Citing Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research, Pulizzi notes that the average buyer engages with more than 10 pieces of content before making a purchase decision. “If your content is not part of that mix, odds are you will be left out of that process,” he warns. All organizations need to position themselves as informational resources in their particular niche. “As far as top-of-the-funnel activity goes, content marketing may in fact be one of the best tools for customer acquisition.”
Content marketing’s effectiveness as a customer-acquisition strategy is maximized by including a call-to-action within the content that drives consumers to a landing page associated with the brand, suggests Marc Purtell, director, SEO at MediaWhiz, a performance marketing agency. “The more buzz-worthy the content, the more likely it is that customers will find your brand’s content,” he says. Content marketing also serves a more intrinsic long-term customer-acquisition value of increasing brand awareness and influence while supplementing search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, he adds.
Content marketing experts argue that the strategy offers a number of distinct advantages over other marketing and advertising techniques:
There are more than two dozen types of content marketing tracked by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), with the five most popular being social media, articles on a company’s own website, e-newsletters, blogs, and case studies. But no matter what type of channel you choose--or how good your content might be--context is the most important issue that must be tackled in turning content into an effective marketing tool. It’s not just about creating and publishing content, you must build a community of readers who relate to your message and find your content relevant.
The choice of which channel or channels to use for your content marketing is highly dependent on your message objective. “If it is brand awareness, then social media and blogs become the preferred channels to stimulate discussions that will induce good word-of-mouth promotion,” says Darren Bosik, chief methodologist at QuestBack, a provider of enterprise feedback management solutions. If customer acquisition is the primary goal, more costly but effective content marketing approaches such as white papers, advertorials, and custom publications should be considered, he says.
No matter what your content marketing objectives or channels, some best practices always apply when targeting an audience or building a community, says Angela Courtin, chief content officer of Aegis Media Americas and president of The Story Lab, the agency’s recently launched content arm. “Be authentic, in the moment, relevant, useful, entertaining, and a good friend. And just be a good global citizen,” she counsels. Adds Pilbeam, “The dynamic of content marketing is that readers trade their time and attention for content that will help or entertain them. Your content should answer a question, solve a problem, or inspire readers. Then you earn the right to pitch them appropriately. Do not blast readers with brand messaging up front.”
Content marketing can be very effective for small and medium-sized businesses, but before you can begin to reap its benefits, you have to figure out what to write about. For many companies, that first step is incredibly challenging, says Jacqueline McDermott Lisk, head of digital product at Mediaplanet Inc., a multinational firm that creates sponsored custom content supplements that run in major-market newspapers. “Many marketers’ first instinct is to write just about their company, which makes sense since they know their business inside and out,” she says. “The problem with that is you risk producing sales material as opposed to a true content campaign. There’s a huge difference between a promotional brochure and a high-quality, well-written, and strategic article, for example.”
The way to approach content creation is to “think bigger,” Lisk advises. “Address industry issues in your content, not just your own product or service. Whether you’re outsourcing or working in-house, make sure you have your persona down pat. What does your brand sound like? It’s imperative that one person oversees all content initiatives. Someone needs to have the bird’s-eye view and ensure all company content aligns with your goals, strategy, and brand persona.”
Start by creating a mission statement and clear goals for your content strategy, and communicate them to everyone involved in the effort. “Consider asking your audience what they want to read about. Float a story idea to your Facebook or Twitter network via a quick, fun post,” Lisk suggests. “You’ll engage your audience and see if your editorial synopsis is on the right track.”
It’s a good idea to create an editorial calendar filled with the subjects that matter by month, week, and day, says Mira Emmerling, cofounder of R&C Media, a conversion-focused marketing agency that develops content strategies for SMBs. “Take into consideration your audience and your messaging to create topics that fulfill your needs, then fill the calendar with content ideas that are in line with each element,” she says. “Include tent-pole events that are relevant to your audience, and directly align your content ideas to capitalize on the power of search trends, editorial opportunities, and partnerships. With the editorial calendar in hand you will always know what to write about without giving up the flexibility to switch to a more relevant concept at the last minute.”
There are different metrics and benchmarks you can use to gauge the effectiveness of your content marketing program, and they should align with the program’s goals, says Lisa Gerber, president and founder of Big Leap Creative, an integrated communications agency. If your goal is to raise awareness of your brand, then measure Web traffic, social shares, and mentions. If you are most interested in lead generation, count landing page forms submitted. “Offer your audience something of value, like a free e-book or download, in exchange for an email address,” she suggests. If you are measuring ROI in terms of sales, CRM programs such as Salesforce.com and Highrise can track if your customers are coming from leads generated by your content campaign.
Perhaps the most important thing to measure is engagement, Lisk contends. “That’s our magic word. Engagement is an important step in relationship building, and it’s a two-way street,” she says. Average time on page and site are very important stats. Page views are also important, and if you’re linking to additional resources, exit CTR (click-through rate) should be monitored as well.
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Located in Spokane, Washington, Berry Built and Design, Inc. is a team of professional designers and skilled craftsmen with more than 20 years of experience and what company president Matt Berry calls “a divine focus on kitchens and baths.” Relationship building is central to the family-owned and -operated company’s business philosophy, and custom content created in-house plays an important part in executing that strategy. To make sure customers and prospects have reliable, high-quality access to that content, and to ensure fast, secure sharing of large design files and photos, Berry Built and Design relies on Comcast Business Internet.
“We listen carefully to our clients, we work very hard, and we build trusted relationships,” Berry says. “Our goal is to provide a most enjoyable experience for our clients, and we do that through top-quality craftsmanship and professional customer service. Our intimate approach to design and planning, our products and materials, and our highly skilled people set us apart.”
Berry Built and Design’s complex design-build format allows clients the opportunity to work with the same few professionals throughout all phases of their projects. The company operates from its own retail showroom, where it is able to display many of the high-quality materials it uses in its home renovation projects. Its competitive difference is having an in-house team of skilled professionals under one roof, helping to make what is often an overwhelming process for clients much more manageable and providing greater control over quality, budget, and timelines.
A centerpiece of the company’s website (http://berrybd.com) is its “Our Work” page, which houses custom content highlighting some of Berry Built and Design’s most impressive projects. Matt Berry provides the copy for the project descriptions, and his wife and co-owner, Sara Berry, does all the photography.
Berry Built and Design also relies heavily on Comcast Business Internet to conduct research and to stay abreast of the latest innovations in its industry through continuing education and interaction with fellow members of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. For everything it provides to their business, the Berrys consider the service “crucial” to their success. “The speed, reliability and excellent customer service we get with Comcast Business Internet are vital to our market research, product knowledge, and client communication efforts,” he says. “It plays an important role in much of what we do and are trying to achieve. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to the rest of the world, and it’s an economical alternative to traveling to trade shows.”
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