All brands should start to act like publishers.
— Every consultant
No doubt you’ll have heard that brands need to start to act like publishers. And I am as guilty as the next person/consultant of using this concept – but I do so advisedly. You see, many moons ago, I worked in publishing. And now I don’t. In fact, many people have started their careers in some form of publishing and have either been forcibly ejected from the industry through some form of disruptive change, or they exited strategically to reinvent themselves.
But the plain fact is that publishing is in decline.
However, knowledge of publishing has never been more necessary.
Good publishers have known forever that their best asset is their audience – and that strong writing, creative and content is what attracts that audience. Many businesses, from startups to enterprises, think that “content marketing” is simply a function of production – that you just need to feed the various channels so that you can cover all your needs. But this is 20th Century thinking. It’s broadcast masquerading as social media.
To be heard in a noisy, always-connected world, you need to be relevant. And that requires some rethinking around your content strategy.
Luckily, the folks from Velocity Partners have done the hard work of distilling this challenge into six key principles:
- Be the buyer (ie know your customer)
- Be authoritative (ie know what you are talking about)
- Be strategic (ie connect the dots for your customers)
- Be prolific (ie produce regular, reliable, quality content)
- Be passionate (ie have a point of view)
- Be tough on yourself (ie make an effort to produce good work)
In addition I would add a final point to this – buddy-up. Most of us are not geared towards producing enough content – let alone producing enough QUALITY content. This means partnering. It’s worth experimenting and collaborating to find a team that is right for you. After all, you’re building a great content brand, right, not just factory farming content?
At the beginning of the year, Oracle Eloqua released a State of Content Marketing Survey Report that revealed the trends that were impacting content marketing and approaches that would be taken through 2014. And now, as we are closing in on what is possibly the most explosive time of year for content marketing (yes, I mean the Christmas/Holiday period), I thought it worth running a fine toothed comb across the findings to consider what has changed and what hasn’t. In doing so, we may find a worthwhile insight to drive our holiday content marketing efforts.
Some of the things to consider in your own content marketing include:
- Grow your own content: With 93% of respondents creating their own content in-house, 2014 was set to be a strong year for client-side marketers. However, just a little over half are regularly creating content for sales enablement. This leads to a disconnect between marketing and sales which can cause internal challenges and misalignment between business and marketing objectives. Lesson: Work with external agencies to expand content creation capabilities
- Tool-up to measure effectiveness: Almost 50% of respondents expected to successfully align content with the buyer’s journey by mid-2014. However, only 22% have an effective measurement strategy, and 23% don’t have the tools they need for measurement. This further exacerbates the disconnect between marketing and sales. Lesson: There are increasingly powerful measurement tools available. Now is the time to invest, evaluate and refine your measurement approach ahead of the holiday period
- Feed your marketing automation machine with quality content: Just like data, you get out what you put into content marketing. It’s not just a matter of “pumping out” content – the challenge for marketers is creating a centre of gravity which attracts customers, leads and opportunities to engage. This is done with quality content, and with 24% of marketers indicating they struggle to engage their audiences, it’s clear there is work to be done here. Lesson: The dream of one-to-one conversations at scale is only possible with a deep understanding of your customer’s journey, marketing automation that has been tuned to that path, and quality content that nurtures leads and moves your audiences from anonymity visitors to known customers.
Most marketers will have clear plans for the next two months, but it’s worth pausing and asking the question “Are we doing the right things and doing things right?”. In this digital age, strategy, execution and measurement are no longer time consuming – and marketers must learn to iterate their marketing at the speed of their customers’ lives. Find people who can help you experiment and climb aboard the content marketing express.
I have always been a fan of storytelling. But not everyone is keen to be a story reader. Or a listener. For in our time crunched lives, our own attention is our most limited resource. Accordingly, communication has been concatenated, shrunk, manipulated. We’ve got our 30 second, 60 second and elevator pitches down pat.
But a picture is worth a thousand words
As someone who loves language I have always bristled at the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sure a picture might be worth a thousand words, but they’d be indifferent words. They’d be rushed, debased, uneven. Or so lean that they lose the humanity, beauty and creativity that inspired them.
Fortunately, like so many things, words are a kind of fashion, and it feels like they may just be coming back in vogue. Witness the popularity of longer form writing like Snow Fall. And the growing popularity of newish text driven platform Medium.
From PowerPoint to SlideDocs
Nancy Duarte’s new Slidedocs book provides a great framework for us to reconnect with our love of text, storytelling and technology. And it does it using that old nemesis, PowerPoint. You can look through and download the book, interrogate its construction and authoring and apply it to your own needs. Sound like a plan? I’m hoping it’s the start of a whole new chapter.
Dave Heuts via Compfight
I have been a fan of Instagram for some time. Not just because of the filters … but because it has developed an interesting and engaged community of users. Instagram has become the Flickr that the internet didn’t forget.
But there is a vast difference between using Instagram as an individual and using it as part of your business marketing toolkit. But many of the things that you love about Instagram personally, can be usefully applied professionally – with a couple of caveats:
- Think with your brand hat on: Consider the content, composition and colour of the photos you are taking. Try to provide some form of visual consistency
- Let your personal creativity and personality shine: Just because you are working on a professional presence doesn’t mean that it is a personality free zone. You got your job due to your unique talents. Apply these to your Instagram efforts
- Connect in and connect out: Make sure that your Instagram efforts are connected with your broader marketing and business strategy. Remember, likes are not revenues, so don’t get carried away with a flurry of interest. But do take advantage of the high levels of community engagement available through Instagram – it’s a great way to connect out to your community.
This great presentation on Instagram by Ross Simmonds provides some fantastic guidelines for doing more with Instagram together with samples of brands that are doing the right things.
Brand storytelling can be hard work. Not only are there all the internal hurdles to overcome, sign-offs and legal checks and so on – there is also the challenge of subject matter. What do you do if you have a complex product or solution that you are trying to explain? Which channels do you choose – and how do you incorporate social media into the mix.
I was recently speaking with a financial services industry CEO who lamented that they have the most boring product in the world. He couldn’t see how it would resonate with a social media-savvy audience.
But social media is not broadcast – especially in B2B (business-to-business) marketing. You’re not trying to reach and engage millions of people – you are (or should be) focused on the buyer’s journey and helping to ease your customer’s decision making process. That means selecting the most appropriate channel – and delivering content that provides very specific value to your customer at their point of need. And brand storytelling can form a very powerful component of your content strategy and lead nurturing program.
Still unsure of how this might work for you and your brand?
Enterprise software vendor, Teradata, have been experimenting with brand storytelling for some time and have taken a novel approach that you may want to steal (I mean “learn from”). Tapping into pop culture’s interest in forensic analysis (a la CSI), they have created a series of videos that take a new approach to case studies and product/solution brochures. The “Business Scenario Investigations” or “BSI” team dramatize business problems and then showcase how technology can be used to “solve” the problem.
Each of their videos can be found on the BSI: Teradata Facebook page as well as the YouTube channel. They cleverly provide a powerpoint version of the scenario via Slideshare and share the storyboarding process from problem definition to casting through to resolution. And while the case of the tainted lasagna may not be to your taste, it’s likely to be very appealing to those CIOs and CMOs wanting to understand how data can transform their businesses. And that’s tasty. Very tasty indeed.
Kit via Compfight
In these challenging times, we are all asked to do more with less. For marketers, this means coping with an explosion of channels, transformation in the expectations of our customers and an abundance of data that can, in equal parts, obscure or facilitate insight.
So where can you turn to scale your marketing efforts?
The first generation of marketing automation software provided a great way to deal with an increasing volume of broadcast style communications. But in this digital – multi-directional world, marketers must be more responsive, engaging and yes, social.
My just released report, Scaling Up with Marketing Automation, provides a birds eye view of the marketing automation landscape, presents the key strengths and features of a range of vendors and examines how these solutions can help marketers do more with less. You can download a snapshot of the report here.
chotda via Compfight
The Content Marketing Institute’s new report on Content Marketing in Australia is timed nicely for the upcoming Content Marketing Conference (4-6 March 2013). The report contrasts the content marketing approaches taken by marketers in Australia vs the USA and reinforces much that we already know:
- Over 60% of marketers expect to increase or significantly increase their expenditure on content marketing in 2013
- Australian B2B marketers prefer LinkedIn as a social channel while B2C prefer Facebook
- B2B marketers allocate higher proportions of their budget to content marketing activities than their B2C counterparts
- A large proportion of marketers outsource content creation (B2C 74% // B2B 54%)
These findings, however, should raise alarm bells for CMOs across Australia.
- Poor digital capabilities inhibit success. While 96% of Australian marketers use content marketing, the tactical choices favour traditional marketing channels with much lower levels of investment in experimentation and digital engagement. Marketers should set aside greater levels of budget to experiment and innovate around digital and social media. Training and workshop/conference attendance should be provided to help more traditional marketers to transition their skills.
- Weak digital strategy delivers weak outcomes. Weakness in digital strategy is seeing a misalignment between content marketing objectives/focus and measures of success. Marketers should draw upon skilled digital practitioners beyond their organisation (and even their industry), to begin to correctly align their business and marketing strategies.
- Conservative channel choice cripples engagement. Marketers the world over are challenged to create engaging content, yet continue to focus on non-digital channels which produce high-levels of engagement. Again, experimentation is vital. Also, look to pure-play agencies to bolster internal skills for particular marketing programs – for example, work with a social media agency on a social media project, bring in a digital experience expert to reinvigorate the online customer experience.
- Lack of effectiveness is undermining confidence. Content marketing effectiveness levels remain abysmally low, undermining confidence in marketers and the work produced by their agencies and suppliers. After correctly aligning strategy (as noted above), marketers should build metrics and analytics dashboards to report on effectiveness. Investigate options from companies like Anametrix.
- Executive buy-in to content marketing needs to be revitalised: Connecting results with effort will give marketers the tools to gain buy-in from their Boards and from senior executives. Investments in analytics and reporting software that aggregates multi-channel data should be prioritised.
The detailed report appears below. Remember to check out the Content Marketing Conference, using the code CMI200 will save you $200 when registering.