July 06, 2012

Content Marketing: Build it in Flight

Your content marketing may never get off the ground if you kill it off with analysis paralysis. And with waiting for everything to be in place. But you can get going sooner and build the aircraft in flight.

Start at the top of the funnel and work your way in from top and bottom.


This is one of the areas where people get stuck, because it's possible to over do them.

Start with the basic value proposition of our product. You know the basic value proposition of your product, right? You built the thing with some target in mind, right? Right? (If not, you'd better be lucky.)

The point is, these don't have to be character sketches--itemized lists will do.

  • What different job roles benefit from the product?
  • What does each work on?
  • What questions do they have--focus on what's changing in their world that they may not have time to deal with?
  • What goals do they have? What objectives?
Next, find and list the angles on these that tie back to your product.

Engagement Mapping

Eventually, you'll want to build the engagement map--for each persona, what information do they need as they move from

  • Interested, to
  • Understanding they need to do something, to
  • Deciding to purchase the something, to
  • Choosing a vendor, to
  • Onboarding the product, to
  • Training, support and so on

Mapping and filling all this can seem daunting. If you have 3 product lines, 4 personas in each and 5 stages of engagement, you have a lot of boxes that each need multiple pieces of content. If you wait for it all to be done, two things can happen. First, your competition can get there before you. Second, your content may all be out of date by the time you complete the first version of each of them--and you'll have to start over. If you still have a job.

Top of the funnel

Don't wait until you've got a piece for each box. Start by producing content for the top of the funnel--those interested in the domain your product serves. This way you can at least get discovered and start building recognition and following. You can fill in the gaps in the funnel as you go along.

Fill in the funnel

Next, consider creating content for the bottom of the funnel--pieces for those ready to justify a purchase. These could be ROI calculators and such. It's crude, but with the top and the bottom filled, you have a two-step funnel going that can actually identify those close to a decision. This will buy you time to refine the middle of the funnel to better nurture buyers along.

Benefits and Bottom Line

The other benefit is that all along, you'll also build your broad platform: learn how to get the content into search engines, forums, syndication--wherever your audience is. And you get your metrics and scoring systems in place. Finally you start driving traffic to your site for conversion sooner rather than later.

Bottom line: don't wait to have it all in place. Get started today at the top of the funnel.

June 13, 2012

Marketing Content is not Content Marketing

Last week I saw a slide on "Content Marketing." The slide described the promotion of an isolated piece, maybe it was a white paper, through a number of channels: Email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.

Is that really Content Marketing? There was a piece of content. It was promoted with traditional, paid and social channels. It's a kind of content promotion, for sure.

But Content Marketing isn't about marketing your regular old content and making sure you add a social channel or two. It's about strategically creating valuable content that serves a number of roles in the marketing process. And placing that content where the right people (potential buyers) can find it. On their terms.

Valuable content has always been important throughout the customer life-cycle, from acquisition of prospects to training and support of customers. And quality content is that which is useful to the audience—informative, entertaining or both.

An important feature to keep in mind is that spouting about how great you are is only useful in a narrow range of the revenue cycle. And even then it has to be more than empty claims. That is, not the "we're the leader, we're the experts, easy to use, blah blah blah"! Write about concrete differentiation, and back it up with facts.

But don't worry, it's not all about them, the viewers, readers and listeners. You get to strategically create your content to help yourself too.

Is it important to you to differentiate business buyers from technical buyers? Then create different content for each. Make it clear with titles, ads, and descriptions for whom the piece is designed. If you roll it all in one, you don't learn as much about the person who consumes it.

Is it important for you to know if the content consumer is ready to buy, selecting a vendor, deciding if they need any solution at all, or not even educated enough to grasp their pending need? Then create pieces that appeal to people at distinct phases of the engagement cycle. No one goes perfectly linearly through the process. But as they bounce around, you'll know where they are.

Now we're covering ground that's covered elsewhere. (Here's a good one.)

The main thing is that adding, say, Twitter to your outbound promotion of the usual content is not going to cut it. Marketing content is not Content Marketing.

May 06, 2012

Campaign Versus Content Marketing Mindset

One of the hardest challenges to good Content Marketing is changing mindsets.

Many B2B marketing groups are trying to add Content Marketing to their mix. Habit and culture can sometimes make the addition difficult. This is because Campaigning—whether via advertising or email marketing—naturally involves content. So it's easy for some to think, "content marketing, yes, we do that."

It's not so much that the outbound, interrupt driven channels can't be used for Content Marketing. Rather, it's the mindset around how the content is developed. Campaign content is naturally driven by "internal" factors—there's a product launch or media event that requires or generates content. Or maybe you just have the need to "do an email blast."

In the end, this content is created to meet a market or product need rather than a information need of users. you end up as a living example of Myth #3.

Without editorial driven content that is designed to fit the engagement cycle, you may still end up with very good content. But it is usually not optimized for inbound marketing. What you end up with is content that reflects the messages you want to promote and not the useful content that prospects are seeking.

I find walking through the following table helpful in generating the "ah-ha" moment where outbound marketers see the difference.

StructureProducts & MessagesContent Funnel
Mind Set“Think like a Marketer"“Think like a Publisher"

** It might still be paid; Organic in the sense that the user drove it by seeking content

April 28, 2012

The Web Content Assessment

There can be many drivers behind a content assessment. Maybe a new person or team is taking over the management of a website. Perhaps you need to check for compliance with a regulation or two. Or the site is going to be ported to a new CMS. Sometimes, the driver is the need to update the content itself to make it more effective.

Depending on the drivers and your goals, you may be doing only an inventory or audit (I say "only" but it's still a major undertaking!). In that case you just need to know what you have, what types of content, how many of each, and so on.

If your goals are to improve performance or effectiveness of your content, you need to do an assessment--not just an audit of what is there, but what is it trying to do, are there errors, and is the content effective? So, an assessment is going to include an audit and then some diagnoses, recommendations, and a treatment plan.

Start with your goals and targets

This step starts with the goals of the driving project--the initiative that raised the need for an assessment. There are cases where you are doing a content assessment simply as discovery--the assessment itself will catalog and potentially identify improvements you may not have thought you needed.

The reason you need to articulate the driving goals is to know what you will be collecting and analyzing during the audit. You'll also determine the scope of your assessment--do you need to analyze all the content or a subset? What information and parameters will you collect per asset?
The goals also keep the auditors on track--audits and assessments can take a long time, so you don't want to waste any time on unnecessary tasks.

Targets are particular metrics or rules you will asses--for example looking for blank Title tags or editorial usage violations.

Scope the audit or assessment

With the goals enumerated, you can scope your project. What content has to be audited and what not? What information do you need to collect for the analysis? Do you need analytics and SEO data for each page or asset?

At the end of the scoping, you should have a database or worksheet defined to collect the data set for each asset--a content matrix.

Inventory the content

Now you have to do the work. There are usually no shortcuts--unless you are doing a simple inventory and can use your CMS or other scripting & crawling tools to automate the tasks.

Even if you are doing a complex assessment, you can often start building your content matrix with the basic inventory of content with automation.  Then auditors can use the matrix to divide and conquer the rest of the data collection process.

Analyze the content

Now comes the fun part: start reading, viewing and analyzing your inventory. What you actually do depends on the driving goals behind the assessment. Maybe you are reviewing each page or piece for adherence to new company messages. Or looking for pages and content that are not getting traffic, then diagnosing why and what course of action to take.

Report and Recommend

The results of the assessment are turned into action plans to feed the driving project. This could have been happening on an ongoing basis during each stage of the assessment. That is, often you can parts of content from inventory to analysis to reporting while inventory continues on other content.