Tons of advice tell brand marketers how to hijack the skills of great content publishers on behalf of their product or service. “Make it share-worthy” by studying how Buzzfeed does it; tell authentic stories; choose pictures worth clicking on; and so forth. It’s not that this advice is wrong although often enough it is simplistic and obvious.
Content marketing needs to serve a business goal, first and foremost. If a marketer’s only motivation were to create the most popular or engaging content, she might likely steer content into territories that do nothing to further business.
To actually impact business, three essentials emerge: strengthen the brand, improve business results, and serve the customer (or whomever your end users may be). Understanding how your content program is informed and driven by all three can ground your program in service to your business and, yes, in service to the customer.
Strengthen the brand
So much has been written about building brands. So much of that knowledge transcends mediums and techniques. I remain a true believer in David Ogilvy’s POV on marketing and brands. I also like Marty Neumeier’s simplification of understanding brands.
The only distinction worth making about content marketing and brand-building is that content should demonstrate the brand position and values not claim it like advertising often does. If your brand is meant to help small business run their business then the content ought to help and not simply state that is your position. Look at Chase for Small Business. Their content aims to actually give small business owners information on how to do things and to inform decisions. They share lessons from other business owners like these newsletter marketing tips from TheSkimm
Know your brand position: the territories of content that brand that to life and demonstrate the brand in-action.
Improve business results
Are you trying to find new customers? Retain existing customers? Cross-sell? All three? Do you need to raise awareness of your brand and solutions and become known in a market you are just entering? Drive consideration and favorability? Are you a direct-seller with ecommerce sales goals? Whatever your marketing goals that actually drive positive business results, designing your content marketing program to be measurably in service of those goals is just good business.
Look at Blackrock. They are an investment company with clear points of view from their experts about how the business behaves globally. Their blog features POVs on “global market intelligence” from actual Blackrock investment staff.
Blackrock is well known in the investment community. Larry Fink is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BlackRock. He started the company and shares his POV routinely. Now, a broad collection of thought leaders at Blackrock share their insights via content. That builds trust, consideration and favorability. Take a look at a typical article, this one by Richard Turnill, Chief Strategy Officer on “How to prepare for the low return environment ahead.” No doubt these guys are experts and have a particular view based upon their position managing so much money.
Clearly this blog is in service of marketing goals to increase consideration and favorability for Blackrock. With the right tagging and ‘view through” measurement, they are likely following how the blog drives financial advisors and investors to investment solution content on Blackrock.com and other valuable actions.
Whether this content shortens the buy cycle, improves preference and trust amongst financial advisors and, therefore, their recommendations of Blackrock, or even drives actual demand from investors, it is in-service to the business.
Serve the customer
The biggest shift for marketers through content marketing is to actually become much more customer-centered. It sounds simple and obvious really. My experience tells me that it is a lot harder for some businesses to actually change their practices to be more customer-centered. Businesses have old ways of feeling connected to the customer; anecdotes from sales professionals, customer surveys or traditional research. These are all great sources but we need to go further.
For content marketers, that means mining search engine data to understand what people are really concerned about, listening via all of our means including social media conversations, and examining content performance data to see what truly engages people and what they deem ‘share-worthy.’
Coldwell Banker has developed a rich content marketing resource via their blog. No doubt it attracts and serves agents as much as homeowners. One look a the collection of “Seller’s Resources” and it seems clear that they are listening to key homeowner questions about staging, increasing value via energy efficiency, and radon concerns and then creating useful content.
Even as you tune up your team to adopt all of the best practices of great content marketing, make sure your content program is grounded in who your brand is, the business results you must achieve and the constantly evolving needs of your customers.
Great content marketing practices: