Back to content marketing school

What we learned at Content Marketing World 2015. content marketing world

It’s no coincidence that Joe Pulizzi holds Content Marketing World at the same time most students across North America are heading back to school. It was definitely like heading back to school with all of the lectures, workshops and keynote presentations we attended over a packed 48 hours in Cleveland, Ohio.
We have a whole series of blogs planned for the Marketing CoPilot audience over the next three months based on best practices and ideas that were shared at Content Marketing World, but the presentation with the most impact for us, that we feel needs to be shared right now is this…

Why a content strategy is so important for your business and how to build one.

The opening keynote on September 9th was given by Kristina Halvorson, co-author of Contact Strategy for the Web and CEO of Brain Traffic. As we gathered to celebrate the amazing profession of content marketing (3200 attendees from 48 countries), we were all reminded of the immense challenges we still face in helping clients, CEOs and business owners understand the opportunity of content marketing. We see it as the future of marketing and the future of any business that wants to be competitive and successful in today’s digital age.
But what is content marketing and why does every business today need a content strategy?
Jay Baer, author of Youtility and President of Convince and Convert said it best…

The mission of content is to create an emotional bridge between business and customers.

He also was quite astute in observing, “we don’t need more content marketing, we need people in content marketing who are willing to have a passion for making a connection with people”. Content is what bridges that gap in today’s modern world.
So if every business today needs a content marketing strategy in order to make an emotional connection with customers, where do you start?
Anyone who has been part of a Marketing CoPilot Value Proposition Workshop knows the answer to this question. You start with why?

  • Why does your company matter to customers?
  • Why do customers choose you over many other choices?
  • Why do you have a website?
  • Why do you do email marketing?
  • Why do you have social media accounts?

They may seem like simple questions, but you would be surprised by the number of business leaders who do not have good answers to these questions. And in the absence of why?, we are left answering the what? and the how?. And this is why so much content on the web today falls flat and does not make an emotional connection.
A content marketing strategy helps you rally your company around the most compelling question you need to start with…

Why are we doing this in the first place?

A content marketing strategy for a business helps frame the creation, delivery and governance of usable content you are distributing in order to help a customer choose you. Strategy is a decision to a take a path and this means saying no to certain things.
The diagram that Kristina shared, will help you focus your content strategy. (This is the Marie Wiese scratched version of it)
back to content marketing school
And yes, a series of tactics will make up your strategy but you must focus on the outcomes of the tactics, not the tactics themselves. And there are only two outcomes that matter:

  1. Business outcomes
  2. Customer satisfaction

If you are going to tackle a content marketing strategy for your company, here are the Cole’s notes (do students even use these anymore?) of how to build your strategy:

1. Diagnosis

You must align your content marketing team and the leadership team of your company on business outcomes and customer needs. To do this you can assess internal and external ecosystems and include things like technology skill sets that your company has, internal politics, ability to get content developed, etc.
Identify key opportunities for your content, core challenges and assumptions and risks. And as you rally around business outcomes and customer satisfaction, make sure you discuss more that eyeballs and clicks. What are the most valuable outcomes you seek to achieve (loyalty versus volume, quality leads versus quantity, etc)

2. Guiding Principles

To establish a content marketing strategy, you need guiding principles so start with your success metrics. The two cornerstones of success metrics for any B2B company should be:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Sales

Within your guiding principles, document who your audience is and why, your brand values and the purpose and format of each channel you choose for content. Too often we see companies throwing up social media accounts because they think they “have to be there”. We see too many companies with Facebook accounts as an example with a lack of focus, content and followers. If you don’t have a solid answer about why you are there that maps back to customer satisfaction or business outcomes, don’t be there!

3. Coherent set of actions

Look at the things you need to improve, redesign or shut down within your current website, content tools or social media accounts. What is working and why? More importantly, what is not. Resist the urge to use the word “increase”. Everyone CEO I have ever worked with wants more – more followers, more names on a list, more leads, but if the content on your website is not helping customers in the buying process, then why would you want more traffic to your website? To put off even more prospects? Before you use the word “increase” in your set of actions, make sure you have used the word “improve“.

Strategy is hard.

According to Kristina Halvorson, and at Marketing CoPilot we couldn’t agree more, marketers are by nature curious, creative, action oriented people. We want to say YES to every new idea, opportunity or option we have today as modern marketers. But in reality, we need to be saying NO. We need to focus on the things that matter.
And to be fair, as marketers today, we have a lot to do. We are always trying to catch up. We have so many options with respect to infrastructure, technology, people, strategy, etc.

So how can we make our lives better as marketers and the lives of our customers easier?

By having a content marketing strategy that bridges the emotional gap between business and customers with good content that is focused on how you can help someone do something better. If your current content sucks, is poorly written, off task and off topic, fix that now before it’s too late.
And if you are still one of those business leaders who thinks you don’t need to pay attention to this, you are wrong. Like it or not, the internet has forced us for the first time to be accountable for:

  • brand
  • content
  • experience

So get going with your content marketing strategy and help yourself answer the right questions about what your content should be. Say no to things that make no sense with respect to business outcomes or customer satisfaction.

Content marketing is about making great choices, not being everywhere.


Marketing CoPilot