I wrote an article recently for The Distributed Marketing Blog on content and influence marketing lessons from Hobbiton and Hogwarts. (Some lessons I learned from master marketers JK Rowling and Peter Jackson, who avoided traditional PR and marketing methods in favor of creating a rabid online fan base through influence and carefully managed content marketing tactics.)
When the story ran in the Business 2 Community ezine, one of the comments I received asked the rules for influence and content marketing. As far as I know, there aren’t any hard and fast rules, but here are the five I try to follow in my content marketing strategy. I think they’re applicable to almost any kind of marketing.
- Keep it relevant. If the content you create does not support your business objectives, why are you spending time and money on it? Don’t lose sight of your business goals, or the demographics of your target market in search of “cool”. Most of the disastrous marketing stories that become the butt of late-night comedians fall into this category: promotions that just make little sense when viewed from the standpoint of relevance to the intended target audience.
- Don’t be too promotional. Promotional materials don’t excite, and they don’t inspire. Inspiration and excitement are two critical components of content marketing. So if you want to do a webinar that pushes your product, that’s fine. But don’t confuse that with content marketing, in which you promote information that’s valuable to your audience. Make both part of your marketing mix — but they aren’t the same, and they require far different approaches as well as different measurement metrics.
- Write an interesting story, and double-check grammar, spelling, and facts. You’d think that this one would be a given, but unfortunately the recession left nearly every marketer I know struggling to do more with less. Less money, less time, and far fewer people. So poorly written materials, sometimes riddled with fact and grammar errors, gets published more often than you might think. Since thought leadership is a key goal of most content marketing efforts, take the time to produce great content. First, well-written interesting content attracts a larger audience, and second, error-ridden materials actually hurt your company’s reputation and brand.
- Solve a real problem or close a real information gap. What business question are you answering with your content? What business problem can someone solve with the information you provide? Don’t waste your time and money publishing your version of something everyone already knows — or talking about a problem that most people don’t acknowledge exists. Look for the information gaps that your company is uniquely qualified to fill, and focus your content marketing efforts there.
- Prove your theory, not just your point. Let’s face it, consumers are skeptical of marketing messages. Without proof, anyone writing in support of a business goal seems biased. “Because I said so” isn’t going to cut it in content marketing, so make sure that the content you write offers proof. What kind of proof? Testimonials, quotes, actual metrics and statistics, survey results, or case studies.