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Is Your Brand Ready for Content Marketing?

The hottest new brand trend is brand publishing, or also referred to in a less aggressive way as content marketing. Some marketing experts are declaring this is the next marketing breakthrough – to become a brand journalist, replacing the fragile main-stream media outlets. I hesitate to think that brands would be very good at replacing media in trying to portray a balanced point-of-view (even media outlets struggle with this equality). But what brands can do well is be subject experts. They have a rich understanding of their customers’ wants and needs, and often have the resources and desire to explore content that media won’t cover. The challenge is keeping focus on helping the customers and resisting the desire to sell at all opportunities.

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers authors of the 1993 best-seller The One-to-One Future predicated the internet would allow brands to build personal relationships with consumers at scale. Marketing guru Seth Godin took this idea a step forward and said brands need to move from interruption marketing to “permission marketing,” defined as anticipated, personal, and relevant. Interesting that Seth Godin’s book Permission Marketing was published over 16 years ago. In 2008, Seth Godin said that content marketing is the only marketing left. More recently he said “Real content marketing isn’t repurposed advertising, it is making something worth talking about.”

The Business Case for Content

Here are some good reasons why you should consider becoming a brand publisher:

  • A Roper (2011) survey found that 74% consumers say they prefer to get information about a company in a collection of articles, rather than an ad. They also found that 65% said that custom media helps them make better purchase decisions.
  • A study done by AdKeeper and 24/7 Real Media indicate that the average industry click through rate is less than 0.09 for online advertising. Not very good for advertisers.
  • HubSpot, experts in online inbound applications, learnt through their lead generation data of over 4,000 companies, that those companies who blogged 15 times per month get 5 times more traffic than companies that don’t blog.
  • Custom Content Council (2011) says 72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine; 69% say it is superior to direct mail and PR.
  • In a study done by AOL and Nielsen (2012), they discovered people spend more than 50% of their time online with content and an additional 30% of their time on social channels where content can be shared.
  • In a study done by Marketing Sherpa (2013), they concluded that content creation ranked as the single most effective SEO tactic by 53%.
  • Demand Metric global marketing research found that for every dollar spent, content marketing generates approximately 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing.

What is Content?

Content comes in many different formats, shapes and sizes. There is visual brand content such as videos, short video clips (Vine-like), imagery, selfies, charts, graphs and infographics. There is the written brand content such as PowerPoints, blogs, digital magazines, e-mails, text messages, articles, white papers, stories, tips, reviews, and the 140 character tweet. Last but not least, there is the audio brand content such as music, podcasts and audio clips. Depending on your audience visuals and video content can enhance your content viewership. According toSkyword articles containing relevant images gain on average 94% more total views than articles without images. Get the picture!

Content marketing is about engaging prospects and consumers with informative or entertaining content they’ll want to use or consume for its own sake, rather than pushing or interrupting them with direct sales or promotional messages.

Do Consumers Need More Content?

Every day there is about two million blog posts written, 500 million tweets shared, 1 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook including 250 million photos, 294 billion emails sent, 864,000 hours of video uploaded to YouTube, 70 million images posted to Instagram, and 18.7 million hours of streamed music on Pandora.  And oh by the way 50 million visits to PornHub, where over 216 million X-rated videos are viewed on a 24 hour period. Crazy cyber-consumption in one day.

So do we need more content? There is an unlimited appetite for great content. The trick is producing relevant, compelling and engaging content consistently, every day. Make sure you have the right channels to distribute and amplify your content to ensure you reach your audience. If you hit a home run they will reward you by ensuring everyone they know sees your content.

Best in Class

Today, there are many channels to allow brands to build time-sensitive, pertinent and quality information or solutions. Publishing is all about the scale of creation and distribution. Do you want to be a New York Times or the local weekly journal or just a trade magazine or a community newsletter? Brands that succeed do more than provide customers with what they are looking for. They make them want it! You have to build the right level of infrastructure to support the right level of content for your business and customer needs.

Red Bull is a great example of a brand that when above and beyond selling a beverage and became a publishing media outlet. James O’Brien of Mashable’ssays “Red Bull is a publishing empire that also happens to sell a beverage.” As a matter of fact, Red Bull’s publishing is another revenue stream for the company. Their content is all about adventure, extreme sports and fast-paced fun. No surprise their content focus mirrors the essence of their brand. Today, Red Bull has over 4.4 million YouTube followers, 43 million ‘likes’ on Facebook and 2 million followers on Twitter. Then of course there is the Red Bull TV which has over 156 shows, 85 live events and 1,118 episodes and countless viewers.

So Red Bull is the extreme example, which isn’t realistic for most brands. B2B companies like General Electric, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, and Deloitte have mastered the role of content with a library full of valuable information that is educational, informative, and relevant to their brand and target audiences. Hubspot has a great article that showcases 10 Exceptional B2B Content Marketing Examples.

How to Become a Content Publisher

Not unlike an advertising campaign or publishing a magazine, you need to start with a strategy that clearly defines goals and objectives, key target audiences, key messages, theme, budget and success measurements. Take baby steps, first look at converting existing printed material with some editing to compliment the right channels. Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications states “Brands need to master telling their stories indirectly. It’s about the brand, but the focus is always about the audience.” Building an editorial department of journalists that understand your brand isn’t a small task. But once you start publishing you have to continue to feed the beast day-in and day-out with quality content. Be realistic about how you will maintain the investment in resources and time to reach your goals.

Home Depot is a good example of creating useful educational content for the do-it-yourselfer by providing tips and advice without blatantly selling their products. They have 1,067 timeless, how-to videos posted on their YouTube channel.

How to Measure Success

Here some simple questions and tips to determine the success of your content publishing:

  • Have you turned your content into a valuable asset that supports your business objective?  Check out the 100 page YouTube & Google Playbook on how to build great content.
  • Are you able to publish new content consistently – daily or weekly? Build a calendar with the 3H content rules: Hygiene, Hub and Hero
  • Are you producing meaningful and useful content for all customers? Utilize various measurement tools and determine who’s consuming your content (followers & subscribers), and what are they doing with it (likes, sharing, retweeting, favorites, links, comments, etc.).
  • Is the content building on your brand’s vision and voice? Are you learning what content works or doesn’t work? Look at the content that is the most successful and determine why. Check out Buzzsumo to see what are the hot topics and if you can capitalize on any trends.
  • Are your metrics continually improving? Compare yourself against your competition and best in class. Do you have a loyal and growing following? Track your Klout score.

To succeed in a cluttered branded world, you need an army – or better yet, you need to support an army of followers. If you can give them content to solve their problems, inspire their dreams or provide them with a smile, they will reward you by sharing your wisdom. You must always provide extra value to guarantee engagement. Genuine content will always outperform glitz and selling content. Share your expertise and passion, it will be appreciated.