There are leaders to be found in every industry, from computer software to restaurants and cafes. These leaders come from all walks of life and have a wide range of skills. An emerging leader in the world of marketing are those who focus on generating results through content. Whether we’re talking about the guys at KissMetrics or the folks at Mint.com – these are some of the content royalty I’m going to be talking about today.
We’re talking about the best content marketers and strategist. Some have been creating content for years while others are still just getting into the role but making great strides. Some of the best content marketers work for startups but there are also hundreds working in fields like retail and small business. Recognizing that all of these individuals have different backgrounds you can’t help but ask what makes them eventually come out on top?
I’ve chatted with content marketers working with companies large and small. Whether it’s folks running a Facebook page about a local pub or a Fortune 100 company implementing a complex content strategy; the best tend to share at least these five core beliefs:
Belief #1: Storytelling Rules Everything
The best content marketers are great storytellers. They believe in telling a consistent story across a variety of different channels instead of simply standing at the top of a hill and screaming “I’m number one!”
Storytelling in marketing isn’t a new concept, but with emergence of content marketing, the opportunities to tell stories as part of your marketing mix has become a competitive advantage for many brands. While storytelling as a whole sounds great in theory, the trickiest part is finding a story worth telling.
If you’re looking to craft a story worth telling, the first step is to ensure that it’s a story worth sharing (Tweet this idea). To identify this story you need to think about the interests of your target audience and identify what it is that they’re most interested in or motivated by. Once you identify these things, you craft a story that they will find interesting, unique, inspiring or relevant.
A brand’s story can convey its vision, develop credibility, establish a message, motivate buyers and build long-lasting customer loyalty. It’s essential that brands think about their purpose and focus on identifying what their business represents.
This core belief was made obvious to me when I started thinking about the difference between brands with raving fans and those without. You know, the brands with fanboys who go up in arms whenever someone says something negative about their favourite brand.
Whether we’re talking about Apple, Coca-Cola or Musicians – each of these brands have used storytelling to build a loyal following. They do it through a consistent, compelling and unique story that is focused on a vision and concept bigger than their product. Apple strives to constantly inspire people to think different and Coca-Cola focuses on providing the world with happiness. As Simon Sinek the author of Start with Why once said,
“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it”
Belief #2: Content Can Build a Lasting Relationship
Justin Beiber has his Beliebers. Lady Gaga has her monsters. While no brand can replicate the obsession that people have with other people, extraordinary content marketers believe that content can amplify a brands relationships with customers.
When I talk to businesses who are building their marketing strategies I often uncover a huge and overlooked opportunity. Most businesses spend thousands and thousands of dollars trying to acquire new customers when they could let their existing customers do the talking for them. I often realize they are afraid to focus on their current customers because they don’t know what to give them beyond their product. The answer? Give them a story. Give them a part of the story and encourage them to help build it.
If you can build your relationship with customers through consistent storytelling you will see waves of people jump on your bandwagon. The key to developing brand and customer relationships through content is the commitment to providing value (Tweet this idea). Whether that content comes from a webinar you’re hosting or an infographic you have built and delivered through your blog, it needs to be valued by your readers and existing customers.
The folks from Mint.com created a great blog focused around valuable content for their consumers. They recognized that their audience was going to be interested in things like personal finance, saving money, car loans and anything finance related. Thus, they developed a blog that consistently delivered value through tips and tricks on saving and managing money.
Creating valuable pieces of content is a sure-fire way to generate real content marketing results. Another example of a brand generating content that their target audience (singles) would find interesting and valuable are the folks from HowAboutWe.com. On their blog, they share advice, tips and more about things that would interest someone trying to find love.
Belief #3: Know When You Have an Ugly Baby
Too often do businesses and brands create advertisements without diving deep into understanding the interests of their target audience. Often, they fall victim to tunnel vision and only see the brand through their own and the clients lens. This is one of the reason you see so many TV ads about people who work in marketing - Tunnel vision.
One thing that average content marketers are in the habit of doing is falling in love with their first draft. Yes, they fall in love with the concept as soon as it rolls off their lips even if it’s a bad idea. While one of my brainstorming philosophies is built on embracing bad ideas; you have to know when it’s bad. This phenomena is similar to parents who think it’s cute when their baby is pooping, yelling and screaming.
You need to be objective. You need to look at all the ideas on the table and ensure that the content you’re developing is aligned with the overarching strategy and plan. You must ensure that you’re not falling in love with your baby even though it’s ugly. You need to be able to step back and walk away from bad ideas.
This doesn’t mean you have to surrender every idea, but sometimes you may have to go against your gut and embrace the ideas of others. Seek out help from your actual customers. Seek out help from the sales team and people working closely with your customers. Embrace change and embrace the idea of walking away.
One way that extraordinary content marketers ensure that they don’t fall in love with their ideas is that they become obsessed with solutions. For a great content marketer, they could care less what kind of content you’re creating or what the message is as long as it achieves meaningful and measurable results.
Belief #4: Size Doesn’t Always Matter
A lot of people feel as if you have to reach the biggest audience in the world to have effective content. In reality, it’s not always about creating the content with the most shares and most likes on Facebook. In many businesses, you need to focus on a niche group and creating content that is relevant to them. As such, the content is less likely to go viral or catch the attention of people on a mainstream scale.
A great example of creating content for a niche audiences can often be found throughout enterprise and b2b content marketing efforts. In these industries, brands build content assets like webinars and whitepapers that aren’t going to go viral like a Facebook post from Oreo. Instead, these businesses are creating content that has a main goal of generating potential leads through valuable content and passing them off to their sales team.
In a business where they are dealing with high margin products, it can easily take one webinar of 10 people to drive 5 new customers into the sales cycle and ultimately cover the webinar costs. It’s not always about reaching thousands and thousands of people; sometimes it’s simply about reaching the right people with the right story at the right time.
Belief #5: Accepting Best Practice is Accepting Status Quo
While applying best practices to your marketing efforts can often lead to success, the most extraordinary content marketers push their teams to go the extra mile. They look for ideas that haven’t been done and look to integrate digital with the real world in ways that were once called crazy. Embracing innovation over the status quo is the difference between good and great (Tweet this idea).
Once you take the leap to embracing innovation, you’ll never go back. Sure, you’ll bump into clients and moments where banking on the “Best Practices” safety blanket could help, but you need to resist. You need to focus on maintaining the integrity of your work and doing what you know is right for the brand.
When you start embracing the concept of innovation in content, your commitment needs to be found in everything you do. In your blog posts, infographics, tweets and even in your press releases; it’s key to embrace the idea of doing the unexpected and starting trends instead of following them.
As you start to embrace this kind of thinking you’ll realize that the best practices for your brand aren’t the ones that are easy. The actual best practices are the ones that push your brand to the limit and beyond.