When my eight year old sits down with his favorite Oreo cookies, he never twists them apart to taste the creamy white frosting. He needs the full experience of eating the cookie and the filling at the same time.
In just the same way, a compelling marketing strategy and productive customer relationships may be tasty “cookies,” but they are not enough. They need the “filling” of superior, differentiated marketing content.
As I reflect on our firm’s almost forty years of experience in developing complex thought leadership
marketing strategies, I’ve found that there are at least six “lessons learned” for developing successful content marketing programs:
- Lesson One – Content Marketing is a tactic in search of a strategy: While the level of noise around Content Marketing is reaching a deafening pitch, many firms forget that it’s simply a highly effective tactic. Without the engine of a meaningful strategy that meets audience pain points driving it, it will almost inevitably fall flat.
- Lesson Two – Content Marketing fails without an exciting website to serve as a home base for the desired stakeholders: Good content compels attention, but great content demands action. Arguably, the best content results in a visit to the firm’s website. Once visitors have been enticed to your “home base,” you can extend their visit by providing related insights, industry knowledge and even interaction with a peer community.
- Lesson Three – Content Marketing falters without thought leaders who are willing to push boundaries: Many marketers are content to design by committee, and the result is mediocre, boring content. But when you add an executive thought leader who is willing to break through the clutter with a dynamic, exciting idea, you have the chance to succeed beyond expected benchmarks. Fortune favors the bold.
- Lesson Four – Content Marketing can exist without data, but is much more successful with data: Even the best idea is improved by contextual data. Business leaders want corroboration when they consume content, and they are hard wired to expect some quantitative information in their content. While many in the marketing community feel that there are now far too many infographics in the world, there’s a reason that the format – data + design – has been so successful.
- Lesson Five – Content Marketing planning usually starts with words, but should start with visuals: Typically, content marketers have an editorial background, with a special “major” in words. (I certainly include myself in that group!) The problem? Most human beings are visual learners. As we develop smart thought leadership campaigns, we need try to plan the visual formats first. For example, a large company recently asked us to develop a social media policy for them. Instead of creating a “rules” document, we created an animated video that would appeal to employees all over the world.
- Lesson Six – Content Marketing leaders expect to pivot off of failure: There’s nothing marketers dislike more than justifying failed big campaign investments to their line leaders. But there’s real opportunity in failure. The culture of A/B testing allows nimble marketers to quickly drop failing ideas and embrace unexpected solutions.
If you begin to understand how your audience wants to absorb content, you greatly increase your chances for success. Smart B2Bs now plan in multiple iterations, then reap the rewards of change along the way.
What “Lessons” would you add to this list? Do you think that companies put the right amount of emphasis and budget against their marketing content? And, perhaps most importantly, how do YOU eat your Oreos?
(This is the first post in my three part series on Content Marketing. The other two posts will be on “Key Success Factors and Common Mistakes when Creating and Implementing Effective Content Marketing Programs” and “An Assessment of Content Marketing in 2013…and the Likely Opportunities in 2014.” Come back to add your thoughts!)
Photo courtesy of nicoleleec on Flickr
Connect with Elizabeth:
LinkedIn: Elizabeth Sosnow