How Content Marketing Will Shake the Tree

money tree Content marketing, in my definition, is the ability to produce useful and entertaining information that is worthwhile on its own, but that might also be useful towards a sale or subsequent action. For instance, a really good review of a product from a trusted source is content marketing. Every time Paisano writes about an amazing piece of software that he loves, it’s a kind of content marketing that I’d call reputation- or authority-based content marketing (meaning, maybe he’ll get consulting work based on someone feeling he’s a thought leader).

Before I go further, I should say that there are variations on the theme. I was speaking with Todd Defren of Shift the other day about content marketing, and this was his take on it. That’s another great way to look at it. I spoke a few weeks back to Francois Gossieaux about another variation that he’s done for years. It’s all in the same ballpark. This is essentially what Brian Clark has talked about for two years and counting.

Content Marketing Will Deliver

First, it’s simply a better way to go. Why spend time, money, and creative effort making fake, glossy, slick pieces of marketing material when something honest and informative (and ENTERTAINING!) would likely do a better job? Twizzlers are great, but not for breakfast. I think traditional marketing efforts, the slick and shiny kind, are like red licorice. I think of content marketing as a well-balanced meal. Crazy? Maybe.

Let’s say your goal is lead generation. A good chunk of marketing effort and attention seems to be shifting in this direction, especially for products and services with a complex sell. In a traditional approach, you might work very hard on explain just why your product is the best tool for a certain job. But what if, instead, you wrote up some really great suggestions for how one might do that certain job better, with or without your product, and then made a very simple link back to whatever your product offer might be? Which would offer more value to your prospective customer?

Slower? Yes. More effort? Yes. But I believe the results will speak for themselves. Instead of gorging on data culled from yet another Free iPhone offer, you will start to accumulate relationships with people who actually care about the space where your company is doing business, and might actually benefit from your product/service.

Examples of Great Content Marketing

One just sold for $125 Million. Daily Candy. If you want proof in the pudding, there’s a big fat content package that someone put to good work.

The Fast Forward Blog produced by Corante is a great lead generator for an enterprise search company. I’m subscribed.

Whole Foods has all kinds of great content. In their case, it’s a bit of customer retention, community support, and also lead generation. Look at how they use Twitter, too. Great content marketing, and filled with personality.

My two most overused but beloved stories of content marketing: Financial Aid Podcast and Wine Library TV. Both sell a product, but do it by giving you lots of interesting information.

What Comes Next

For you to consider doing this, I’d recommend the following steps:

  1. Decide on your content marketing strategy. Is this lead generation, customer retention, thought leadership, or related to product marketing?
  2. Determine if you have content creators on staff right now, and whether this is something they should be doing for your business. If no, start thinking of whether you want to hire or source this kind of work.
  3. Determine the type of content to create, the frequency of your new materials, the form it will take, and whether you have a platform in place to deliver this without much effort.
  4. Build appropriate measurement and listening tools around the platform so that you know who is doing what with the content you’re creating, and so that you can see the impact it has outside of your website as well.
  5. Wrap this all into a process with ties back to your standard lines of business, including marketing, sales, and possibly even R&D. Ensure that this isn’t an island, but rather a strong part of how you intend to deliver value for your organization.

This kind of project can be done in a pilot flavor, and/or can be done in lots of different iterations. I’ve been looking at it very closely for the last several months as part of my work with my colleagues at CrossTech Partners. As businesses are seeking to acquire more quality leads, to retain their existing customers, and to deliver relevant sales, this is where I think the most impact can be had.

Are you using content creation to build your business? Have you tried any of this yet? Where have you seen this done well or otherwise? What’s your take?

The Social Media 100 is a project by Chris Brogan dedicated to writing 100 useful blog posts in a row about the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests. Swing by [] for more posts in the series, and if you have topic ideas, feel free to share them, as this is a group project, and your opinion matters.

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Photo credit, Jon David Oakley

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