Three Basic Principles of Content Marketing

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One of the biggest challenges facing organizations today is developing valuable content for online consumption. Tom Foremski said it best when he proclaimed “every company is a media company.” Witnessing a sea change taking place in Silicon Valley a few years back, Tom realized that all companies needed to transform themselves in response to shifts in technology and communication. Understanding this new model of business communications may make it easier for marketers to adapt. While almost every company has added social media to the marketing mix, many still don’t understand how to approach content production.

To be successful, a solid content marketing strategy should include three principles:

  1. content must be focused on the needs of your audience(s)
  2. content needs to be formatted to match the channel it’s being delivered on
  3. content should be optimized in order to attract a broad base

Create Content That Focuses on Your Customers and Market

One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make is talking about itself too much. Customers see through self-serving content and it usually has a negative effect.  While it’s critical to promote what your organization is selling, the spotlight should be on your customers and market. Make sure you talk about how your organization and its products or services are adding value, solving problems or evolving the industry.

I’ve always recommended a two-pronged approach to creating content that pulls from both internal assets and external information. Internal assets include press releases, case studies, executive speeches and so on and can take on many forms such as blog posts, videos, infographs, etc. That’s the easy part as long you use some creativity and imagination in your repackaging of assets.  External information is a little more challenging because it involves staying on top of what’s happening in your industry. The key is to show your audiences that you know where the market is headed and what your customers are demanding. This is where content curation or a monitoring program are critical in staying on top of real-time trends. Developing content based on information such as analyst forecasts, shifting demographics, or new technologies will position your organization as a knowledgeable leader that shares information freely.

Customize Content Based on the Digital Channel

I’m sure you’ve seen this before: companies that push out collateral to every possible digital touch point without customizing the information for those specific channels. Whether it’s a press release, case study, video, and other type of asset to leverage, it needs to be repackaged for added value, easy consumption and sharing. Think visually, too. Give thought to how you can convey your news or story in pictures and video.

IBM is a great example of customizing content in multiple formats with its recently released 2011 Global CMO Survey. The company developed several delivery methods that included webinars for executives to discuss the survey results, a dynamic video posted to YouTube that spotlighted some of the participants surveyed, and a dedicated web page with infographs, and so on. By packaging up the results in numerous ways for various channels, IBM generated an overwhelming response rate that yielded maximum impact.

Optimize Content for SEO and Social Sharing

Online content has no value if it can’t be found. Make sure to optimize your digital assets with keywords and phrases that your audience uses. This is where you should be integrating the keyword research from your search engine analysis into your content. Many companies have sophisticated paid search campaigns but aren’t leveraging the keyword research and applying it to their organic content. Kill two birds with one stone and increase your ROI.

In addition, provide your readers with links to additional content you’ve developed so that they can easily navigate and find what they need. This will help to build interaction with them and increase your SEO success at the same time (aka link building). Also, don’t forget “call to action” links that move your reader in one way or another to share the content. If you don’t have social sharing capabilities baked into your content platform, you’re losing out on potential buyers and prospective evangelists for your business. As a last step, you should be promoting content though your social media channels to entice and attract a broader audience.

By applying these three basic principles to your content marketing strategy, you’ll be firing on all cylinders and finding much more success overall.

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