I’ve seen the above headline a few places now and at first I sort of scoffed; after all, content marketing has been an accepted marketing practice for decades. In fact, some believe it’s been around since the cave dwellers.“Modern day” content marketing began in 1895 when the John Deere Company began publication of the first known custom magazine, Furrow. Today, the magazine has over 1.5 million circulation and is distributed in 40 countries.
Still, content today is a very hot topic. The popular content conference ConFab is sold out for the second year in a row and this year WOMMA’s WOMM U conference will feature many sessions about content including three keynotes. Last year, every time I looked at my email inbox, I had at least 20 appeals to look at a new social measurement tool. This year, content is the top topic of unsolicited emails. Recent ones include:The History of Content Marketing, Ad Age’s Content Marketing Best Hope or More Hype, Content: The New Marketing Equation, and B2B Content Marketing. In fact, ComBlu published an e-Book about content supply chain last summer.
Content marketing is not only a much written about topic, but it is one that is on the minds of many brands. As we chat with major brands about content, many seem to understand a few key things:
- Content marketing is not actually the new social, but social has fundamentally changed how content is consumed and shared. This means that organizations need to understand that people—not digital assets or campaigns—are the most important and compelling amplification channel at specific points of the buying decision journey.
- Equally important is getting the content mix right. Brand created, socially created and curated content all have a role. In fact, part of the log jam in my email box is info about new tools, new curation services, and content creation services. Yet, few lay out which type of content aligns best with different points along the decision journey. That topic resonates with most brands that I talk with.
- Content is a key asset of brand advocacy. According to Steve Knox, brand advocacy has two distinct levers: people and disruptive events. If done right, content can disrupt and break through the clutter. The challenge? What constitutes disruptive content? How do you grab the attention first of the people you want to amplify your content and secondly the people who receive and consume it…and hopefully keep the message pass along cycle active? Many brands claim that they have the “magical content” part figured out. My skepticism creeps in when they can’t back up this bravado with replicable processes and systems. They blindly create content without understanding the psychology of influence. Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, gives valuable insights into the art of persuasion and the fundamental principles that drive human behavior. What’s missing from many content marketing strategies is the rewards structure that helps keep the content sharing cycle alive.
- Predictive modeling will become a more integral part of content marketing’s DNA. If the Content Marketing Institute is right and brands spend 25% of the marketing budget on content, then that content better perform. The wonderful thing about content marketing today is we can measure it more granularly than ever before. I can easily track which pieces of content lands the most people back at my site and what they do after they arrive. Today’s tools also allow me to follow the hops my content takes after it’s shared and compare the network effect of each individual. Better yet, I can also use content patterns and trends to predict buying behaviors. This allows me to better target new content and promotions at very specific points along the decision journey. I can also use a recommendation engine to suggest other content that I know has proven in the past to stimulate deeper consideration or preference, and even purchase. Once this system is firing on all cylinders, cost and inefficiencies can be pared from the content supply chain.
- Content lives outside of the walls of the WCMS and the digital properties it feeds. In order to take advantage of all the places a brand’s content lands, we need ways to connect disparate systems and view content dynamics across a vast social ecosystem. Connecting the dots requires the ability to automate the confluence of CMS, CRM and campaign automation. Understanding how people engage with and change content is just as important as creating content in the first place.
Content may not really be the new social, but certainly is part of the lexicon of a social business. Deconstructing old content models and operationalizing them to take full advantage of today’s social channels and tools drives customer affinity and impacts business outcomes. It takes storytelling to a whole new level.
Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.
Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.
Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.