I spent last week in Cleveland with 3,500 other marketers learning about a growing marketing practice that has the potential to forever change the way we engage with our audiences: content marketing.
The industry’s landmark conference, Content Marketing World, is completely packed with sessions aimed at all levels of experience, experts willing to share their resources, opportunities to network in various settings, and orange...all the orange. Orange everywhere. Its goal is to inspire marketers to return to their teams jazzed and ready to implement their own content marketing plan – or improve upon one that is already in place. And boy, did they achieve their goal in the case of this junior content marketer.
The beautiful thing about content marketing, in my opinion, is it’s a cost-effective practice that combines creativity with strategic thinking, and it can be applied to nearly organization. After all, most organizations have expertise to share and an audience that will benefit from it.
And what especially struck me last week is just how effective content marketing would be for associations and chambers of commerce.
You’ve been providing resources to members for DECADES – imagine the increase you would see in new members and member engagement if you took that knowledge and built your own strategic content marketing plan!
There were a few key themes that were present in each session I attended. Read on to learn about my biggest takeaways on how to be effective in content marketing:
AUDIENCE SHOULD BE TOP OF MIND, HANDS DOWN
What differentiates content marketing from other marketing practices is the focus on audience. Having a thorough understanding of your audience is the foundation – not because you want to sell them your product or service, but because you want to help them. Isn’t that nice? It’s sure done wonders for my moral conscious after working in radio sales for a few years (long story – tell you over a beer at the 2018 WebLink Summit?).
As the saying goes, you have to be able to “cut through the clutter.” Of the billions - ya, I said billions – of pieces of content floating around, yours must stand out to your audience as something they are actively seeking information on. Start by flipping the marketing perspective switch in your brain. Rather than thinking from a “I’m going to tell people about us” place, try thinking from a “What do we know about our industry that our target audience would benefit from learning about?” place.
Then get to researching, because guesswork won’t cut it here. Taking the time to dive deep into each segment of your audience is imperative to producing content that’s worth their time - and yours, for that matter. Identify the questions your audience is asking themselves (and Google) during each stage of the decision-making process, and find ways to answer those questions through different types of content.
Some of the tools (beyond surveys) that speakers at Content Marketing World suggested are:
Many marketers just want to get out there and start producing eBooks and blog posts and social media content and videos…without much thought behind who it’s meant to reach, when it should reach them, and what action we want them to take. Believe me guys, I’m right there with you. I’ve been itching to run with a bunch of ideas – but, Content Marketing World has forced me (in the nicest way possible) to realize that I need to slow down.
There are a number of moving parts involved in creating an effective plan. Audience research and analysis – while extremely important – barely scratches the surface of everything that goes into a comprehensive content marketing strategy. You also must have a deep understanding of yourself and your competitors. You need to know who is there to support you (more on that in a sec). You have to understand promotional platforms and tactics – paid and not.
And even once the plan is developed, you still must take the time to approach each piece thoughtfully, while referencing all the legwork you did to begin with. It doesn’t matter if you produce 10 things in a week if none of them produce the results you’re after!
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
As capable and resourceful as I like to think I am, there are simply things that my coworkers know more about than I do. Chris Phillips is the man to go to with any and every technical question under the sun (even non-WebLink related ones, believe me). Tao Stadler understands the inner-workings organizations like yours like the back of his hand. Alex Davis makes friends with everyone she meets.
In order to completely immerse your audience in your organization’s expertise, you have to tap into everyone’s individual areas expertise. A content marketer is essentially a journalist, with easy access to sources important to their stories. Expect to interview everyone, from your CEO to the chairman of the board to the intern. They all have a story for you to tell!
Work toward building a network of regular contributors within your organization. It’s also worth looking outside of your organization at others who are influential within your industry. What can they add to your content library? What can you add to theirs? Sharing, contributing and collaborating is always a win-win, and an important cog in the content marketing machine!
ABOVE ALL ELSE, BE HUMAN
No one wants to hear from a cartoon or logo anymore. Just be relatable! Earn your audience’s trust by being authentic. It’s not hard – and in fact, it’s way more fun. See?