I have done a whole bunch of interviews in the last few weeks on content marketing questions.
And since I believe one of the best content marketing hacks is to turn your most frequently asked questions into helpful pieces of information for your audience, I am going to try and demonstrate that approach in this next series of posts.
Here are my best answers to 16 content marketing questions I received from a partner. I hope this helps answer one of yours, or your bosses.
How and when did you get started with content marketing?
I think I was doing content marketing before we were using the term. After a 10-year stint with The Nielsen Company in sales and marketing roles, I became head of marketing for two consecutive startups. I had very little budget and no team. So how do you create a marketing strategy with no budget?
I researched keywords, I interviewed customers, analysts and influencers in our space and basically created a corporate website that looked more like a blog. We led with customer questions and our best answers. I didn’t know at the time this was what we now call “content marketing” but I know it worked!
What’s the simplest way you can explain content marketing?
Content marketing is the gap between what brands produce and their audience actually wants. Content marketing is the commitment to become the leading destination of helpful insights for your audience by answering their top questions.
Is content marketing for everyone?
I think if I were a direct response marketer, I maybe don’t need content marketing as much as products where customers do a lot of research. That’s why financial service firms were early in content marketing: there’s a huge need for information in the customer journey. But even for direct response businesses, I would think you would want to educate your consumers early in the buying journey.
What’s the difference between B to B and B to C Content Marketing?
There is no difference really. We’re all people. Buildings don’t buy stuff. People do. The obvious difference is in the amount of complexity and information required and people involved in B2B. But the process to deliver that information in the form of content marketing is generally the same.
How would you recommend B to C brands commence their content marketing journey?
Start with asking why your business exists. For example, food companies exist to feed people. Start with that basic purpose and then build your content marketing efforts from there.
Is content marketing a big name brand game exclusively? Can the small business with minimal budget play?
Content marketing might be even more important for small businesses. As I mentioned in my own career, when you have a small budget and a marketing department of one, you aren’t going to buy TV ads. You do content marketing. You become a source of information in your category and you can gain your fair share of the market.
Do you believe there are certain product categories that benefit more from content marketing?
Yes, some product categories require more information. Technology, healthcare, financial services. Maybe even travel, automotive and others. We only buy these things after doing a lot of research. Content marketing can really help the brands in these categories.
What does a basic content marketing strategy include?
A basic content marketing strategy includes a gap analysis (where you are vs where you want to be), a mission statement or objective, an editorial strategy, budget allocation against technology, content and distribution, a team accountable to getting it done, and a measurement framework.
How can publishers help marketers plan and execute their content marketing strategy?
Publishers know how to create great content. Brands should be partnering with their top media partners to sponsor and syndicate high quality publisher content and then using the publisher to help distribute high-quality, brand-produced content.
I’m not talking about ads. I’m talking about the brand and the publisher co-creating journalistic quality content that meets the needs of the reader. [Tweet This!] And then properly disclosing who paid to create it.
Who’s the best consumer content marketer out there and why? What can we learn from them?
It’s tough to say. There are some great examples from Disney, LEGO, and RedBull. What we can learn from them is that they have dedicated content marketing teams. And huge investments in content marketing.
They do this because it is more effective than direct advertising. RedBulletin is a publication worthy or even better than any publisher magazine. They are selling ads to others. They have setup an entire studio to create content with money that would normally be invested in ads nobody wants to see. And the brand benefits.
If you had to choose one, which do you consider is the best content marketing metric?
Subscriptions. If people love your content so much that they chose to subscribe to it, then you are doing a great job.
What is the value of a long-term content strategy compared to a “traditional” campaign by campaign approach?
Based on my definition, content marketing is content the audience wants and campaigns include promotion that no one wants and that we try to avoid.
So in the long term, content marketing is building more and more reach, engagement and trust that allows more people to interact with your brand, and ultimately to buy from you. Content marketing is an asset that delivers increasing return over time. Campaigns go out, produce some short term bump and then you have to start all over again.
Why is content marketing effective?
Content marketing is effective because it delivers what your customers want. That, in turn, drives trust in your brand. And that, in turn, delivers business value.
With more and more companies buying into content marketing, will there be a point where saturation will start negatively affecting Content Marketing’s purpose and ability to reach people?
There will always be an opportunity for brands to join the conversation around a topic that they are connected to.
If you are a technology company, you likely have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of employees and customers who can join the conversation in a way that provides value to the brand.
So no, we are not at the saturation point and I don’t see us ever reaching it.
Let me put it another way. There is so much bad content that is never used or seen by customers and there is so much wasted spend inside companies that it will be a long time before we can optimize it to driving customer and business value.
Factoring time as a resource, is Content Marketing truly as efficient as advertised?
I have seen on average across many customers who were able to achieve 3-5 X the brand engagement / lift / conversions / sales (whatever you want to measure) from content marketing than they received from advertising.
It’s not really an apples to apples comparison because advertising is a media buy (paid media). There are people and agencies and internal procurement procedures for advertising as well. I have seen many brands (GE famously claims they have 2-4 people doing all of their content) execute effective content marketing with 1 / 10th of the people and cost they have associated with advertising and still gain that 3, 4 or even 5x higher return.
To me the bigger question is why is anyone still spending the money we are seeing pouring into advertising. To me the answer is simple: executives like to see their logo plastered and painted in as many places as possible, whether it is effective or not.
What tendencies or trends will be affecting Content Marketing in the near future?
The biggest trend in content marketing right now is visual content. We have pretty much figured out how to turn brands into online publishers with high quality blogs that scale. Now we are seeing more brands get into visual content production because, as a society, we are consuming more.
We like videos and slideshares and vines and emojis. But this content is hard to get right and more expensive. And not everyone can be RedBull, Disney or GE.
Next, we are seeing content marketing moving away from vanity metrics like pageviews, social shares and bounce rates to targeted communication. It’s not just about what you are producing, it is really all about whether you are reaching and engaging the right people.