WriterAccess Webinar Archive
Thriving in the Content Marketing Jungle: Lessons from Leading Practitioners
Thursday, June 4, 2015 – 1:00 PM ET
When it comes to content marketing, selecting the best tools and deploying the latest tactics is tricky stuff.
Join host Lauren Cowher, Customer Success Manager at WriterAccess, and guest Michael Gerard, CMO of Curata, for our 61st monthly webinar. Michael will take you through a summary of Curata’s 4th survey of 600 marketing organizations, and offer insights on how you can differentiate your own content marketing strategy to win the war of words on the web.
In this webinar, you’ll learn…..
• How leading content marketing teams are staffing up and managing workflow
• Shifts in the content marketing asset portfolio and why things are changing
• How to bridge the gap of content curation and creation to WOW customers
• The latest content marketing tools to work smarter, better, faster and wiser
The slidedeck from this webinar is available for download.
Lauren: Welcome, everyone, to our 61st monthly webinar! Thanks for tuning in! Lauren Cowher here, your host and customer success manager at WriterAccess. We're really excited for our special guest today, Michael Gerard, CMO at Curata. Thanks for joining us, Michael. Welcome!
Michael: Thank you!
Lauren: Great! So this afternoon, Michael's gonna walk us through some insights from a major survey that his team at Curata conducted, their fourth annual involving 600 marketers, to learn a little more about how they're surviving and really thriving in this increasingly crowded landscape, or jungle, as Michael aptly put it, of content marketing. We're particularly excited to have you today, Michael, on the heels of the First Annual Content Marketing Conference that took place last month in Las Vegas, with the help of Curata's sponsorship, that brought together over 150 professionals and 27 speakers from all over the country to share the latest industry trends and insights. One thing of several that I found interesting about the conference was seeing where folks stood in terms of understanding the importance of content and the need for an articulated strategy. It wasn't so much about what content marketing is and looks like, but really a road map to overcoming some of the biggest challenges that content marketers face today. Things like delivering performance, measuring ROI, building the dream team, tapping into the right tools and technologies, and really correlating the creation of content with revenue growth. These are all key points that I know you'll walk us through in greater detail today. Out in Vegas we listened to your colleague, Randy Bernard, deliver a great presentation on content creation, best practices that you folks at Curata help companies design and execute. An increasingly important one that all marketers should consider as they take their efforts to the next level, an essential piece to maintaining a strong online presence, it's an easier lift than say an infographic, and it's certainly an opportunity to gain more trust with your readers. So with that in mind, everyone here today is excited to dive into your knowledge and hear about how to really stand out in the content world. Before I pass the baton over to you, I wanted to quickly address a few quick logistical things: 1) everybody listening should definitely ask questions throughout the presentation. I'll be monitoring those and servicing them at the end for a 10 to 15 minute Q&A session. 2) Everyone will be receiving an email either today or tomorrow in the morning with links to listen to or download today's presentation, so be on the lookout for that. 3) Before we wrap up on the presentation, you'll see a final slide with links to download some books from the WriterAccess side as well as the latest e-book from Curata. Stay tuned for that, and without any further ado, Michael, I'm gonna pass it over to you.
Michael: Thank you, Lauren, I appreciate it! I'm very excited to be here today. Let me pull up my slide and make sure we take care of that. Thanks again, everyone, for joining us today! I'm very excited to be here! A little bit of introduction to give you some context and help you out in terms of where the insight we give you today is coming from:
First of all, I lead marketing at Curata, and have been with Curata for a little over 2 years now. Prior to that, I spent 10 years at IBC, a large market research firm, where I led their CMO and their sales advisory practices to unlock lots of research for marketers out there.
At Curata specifically, we've been around for over eight years now, and simply put, we provide software to help marketers scale their content marketing supply chain in a data-driven fashion and ultimately to grow leads and revenue. There are two products that we've been selling to our customers: one of them is our content marketing platform, which creates a calendar and workflow to improve content creation efficiency as well as a great analytics engine to identify A) what content works and doesn't, and integrates with Marketo, Eloqua, Salesforce.com, and Google; and B) we have the industry's leading content curation software. We help folks fuel their content marketing engine and copyright their own created content.
So enough about Curata there and a little bit of background. Let's get into the presentation here: I should mention that when we say "content marketing," we're defining that as the process for developing, executing, and getting the digital content message to create, nurture, and grow a company's customer base. It's really content to help engage your customers at the top of the funnel, it's to help nurture your marketing leads in the middle of the funnel, and it's to help salesmen nail closed deals at the bottom of the funnel. That's content marketing from top to bottom here.
Starting off: welcome to the content marketing jungle! Those of you out there who have been in content marketing for a bit know that it's a jungle. It's early in its development process, and at least from a digital marketing perspective, there are a lot of organizations that are still trying to find the right path for success through this jungle. They're trying to identify what content marketing is and how to communicate what it is throughout the organization. Over half of the companies we see have no executive place for content marketing, and there are many paths to content marketing success. Folks are struggling to find out what the best ones are, and I'll share some of those best practices that we've seen as well as some of the worst practices. I'll tap into the results about our recent 500+ participants surveys, interviews, and other customer experiences we've had as I share this information with you.
Think about your own organization. I was watching a couple's retreat with Vince Vaughn and thought of this analogy, for those of you who've seen that [segment] about the different animal spirits. Where do you fall? Let's start with the leader: I put here the fox. Why the fox? It's cunning, strategic, clever, and quick-thinking, so the fox encourages us to think outside the box and also reminds us that we have to use all of our resources, seen or unseen, internal or external, to accomplish our goals. Sometimes there are unorthodox methods, and we have to experiment in this early stage of content marketing. The next one, the elephant, has strength, stability, and patience. They're great characteristics, but in this rapidly changing environment of digital marketing, this animal spirit can hinder progress sometimes, impacting the need to quickly adapt to a changing environment. The wildebeest follows the pack, sometimes to its detriment, and always fears falling behind. As they search for their content marketing path, many companies will inevitably move with the rest of the pack, either fearing being left behind or being hesitant to jump out in front and take a chance, which we need to do. Finally, hopefully you won't be the extinct T-Rex, but there are a number of companies out there that are either there already or well on their way. Think about your organization, where you are, and most importantly, what is the fox doing? What are those best-in-class content marketers doing, and how do we get to that point?
I'll go into detail about the source of the insight, where content marketing is today, and then the framework I'm using for this content marketing overview and the results that we got from the study. I'm really talking in the context of strategy, so it's a 50,000-foot view of what folks are doing from staff, process, and technology perspectives. I always like this "people, process, technology" framework. I'll provide some resources at the end.
The source of the insight is my years of experience at IBC working with lots of marketers out there. I did some quantitative research with this survey, so I'll pull that in and you can see that in the staff here, we have a number of folks who are from B2B, we do have some B2C mixed in there, but I'd say it's mostly a B2B perspective. There are lots of good verticals and also some good representation for different company sizes.
So, the current state of content marketing: where are things today? Certainly marketers are getting content marketing, and this is true with us historically, we'll do an e-book and think of how many shares and downloads we get, but we'll have no real insight into how many leads it generates. Did I create enough of the content I should have from that e-book? There are a lot of marketers who are still struggling. According to the data, 3/4ths of folks are trying to figure out the path to success. There are a lot of variables in content marketing: the content strategy, the SEO side of things, the question of where you get the content from, what quality it is, its impact, how to promote it. There are a lot of moving parts. Think about the 25% who are doing something right. I want to focus on them and get in their heads. What are they thinking? What actions do they take? What do I emulate?
First, are you asking the right questions? Look at your own organization and ask: do we have a content strategy? How do we fuel our content engine within the current budget? What do we ask for in future budgets? What are our objectives? Are they in line with corporate goals? What about our metrics and targets? People: hopefully you have someone to lead content marketing, so line the organization with the right parties. Where do you optimize the investment of content marketing? Is it creation? Expanding into curation? Doing more promotion? Then there's technology, which is a huge part. Historically, people would focus on the process first, but technology plays a significant process role now, because the best software organizations build process into their technology.
Let's start off with strategy and then we'll dive in deeper. We've seen marketers who see the potential of content marketing. 76% of companies are increasing investment in it, which is a good sign. If I take some data from our friends at Marketing Cross, they say that 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did a year ago. There's still a struggle to blindly throw darts at the dartboard in terms of what content to produce. People aren't sure how to re-use or re-purpose content. They create a lot of stuff. There's lots of opportunity.
Think about it from the buyers' perspective. Lots of buyers are in a state of content shock, because we're competing with other companies that have nothing to do with our products. We're competing for readers' time to read content. If you can rise above this noise, there's opportunity.
Let's get into the data: a key part of putting together the survey to go out in this technology and tactics study we did is where the priorities are for folks and where their money going. The first two priorities for content marketers are, understandably, "give me more:" we have limited budgets, we need more staff, we need more money. That's great; I do, too! At the end of the day, we have to first make the most with what we have and demonstrate that we have an impact. The second thing is that we have to create enough content on a regular basis. I think a lot of folks think of creating new content, but we should think more about re-using and re-purposing. That's the wildebeest view.
Take the fox: what's the fox doing? The fox thinks more about finding the best sources to create content. It thinks about quality, thinking about where it will get the content and making sure it's dead-set on target and relevant to buyers' needs. Secondly, this fox thinks about how content marketing impacts the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel, and has to measure the impact of the content marketing. We have to get deeper than "vanity metrics," such as shares, and ask how many leads the content generates. How many opportunities for sales has it generated and influenced? That's a quick strategy run-through. You'll see a link to download the whole study.
Now let's get into a staff perspective and see what the plans are for best practitioners. You have to have someone in place to drive this effort; it can't be a part-time job. Lots of folks create content, but someone has to drive a consistent strategy. We asked folks if they had an executive directly responsible for content marketing strategies, and on this graph in green you can see the folks who said "yes, I have somebody who is responsible for that." 43% in 2014, 49% this year; next year we expect that to include to 60%, so almost two-thirds of folks will have someone responsible for this. A few years ago, there was a lot of buzz about chief content officers. We reached out to folks with that title; I was excited to say "hey, I'm a chief content officer!" And they said, "What do you do? How do you fit in? How do you become a CCO in a B2B company? Not a media company, but selling software or whatever it may be. Are you at the same table as the CMO or CFO?" I reached out and even the small percentage of folks in B2B organizations who said this, they were more often labeled "director of marketing" or "VP of marketing," but they saw themselves taking on a leading role in driving content marketing across the organization. It's not the formal title that's important but what you do with that responsibility. I saw that in the largest of companies to the three to four person-sized content marking teams. They're thinking, "How do I drive content marketing across the organization? How do I work with other folks-- the CEO, the marketers, the tech team-- how do I create a center of excellence there?" That's really important. Rather than having content marketers manage everything, you're taking on this role of managing lots of deliverables that were created by people who aren't responsible for them.
What's the big part of this? I mentioned alignment, and we specifically asked how much content marketing strategy aligns with internal teams. On the graph, general companies are in blue and the leaders are in green. Most companies are still in this "somewhat aligned" phase. The "very aligned" or "extremely aligned" have over half of the "fox" folks, and you can see how much stronger they are. You've got to think about reaching out to marketing teams, content producers, and social media teams to market our content. That's alignment; it's a key factor, and can't be stressed enough.
To summarize, from an organizational perspective, what's the fox doing? 71% of content marketing leads and teams have global authority. Even if you're one person at a small company, you still need to develop a process and align with the organization and content creators, who are often not marketers but experts on other subjects. You have to twist the content they produce so the audience gets it and it doesn't look ego-centric. Build that content team, and not just internally; tap into freelancers, reach out to peers at other organizations and find out who they use for writing. Look at oDesk. Tap into agencies; there are wonderful agencies out there. Build that external team and work with them.
That's the structure; let's get into the process. There are lots of things from a process perspective, but I wanted to hone in on 3 key areas: production, distribution, and analytics. It was really interesting because if we look at production, there were 3 common themes that came up. It's production; it's being that fox, being more resourceful with investments. It broke into seeing what content is already there, how to re-use and re-purpose it, and how can you tap into the community, collaborate better, and better leverage your budget internally and externally. Let's dive into these:
The first is content in your organization; what have you already produced? Unfortunately, it sits in many different places across the organization, and there's a lot of upfront work to identify what's out there. Moving forward, there have to be processes put in place to figure out who's creating what content where and figure out that we content marketers know about that and work with the writers to make it better, re-use it, and re-purpose it. We asked folks how often they audited their companies' content. A third of folks do it semi-annually, but what stands out is a third of folks never do a content audit. This doesn't have to be a 6-month formalized process; start small, with certain product lines and areas. We have to know what we have and don't have. Measure it by overall content, by persona, by vertical. That'll help us with our creation and curation process. What are our gaps in the inventory? If you want more budget, do your best to avoid duplicate content. Improve the quality of the existing stuff. Even if it wasn't good and got horrible results, work with that content, tap into a freelancer if you need to, re-purpose the content and make it better. Turn it into a rose.
The next thing is recycling. We specifically asked folks in this study what their process was for reusing and re-purposing content. That includes creating lots of other things, putting it into an e-book, an infographic, a white paper, or whatever it might be. We have a set of participants, and we have four different categories. The fox companies, who are in green, are a little better off, but it's good to see that a lot of companies reuse their content. The majority of them say it happens sporadically. We've got to stop that. It's good that some happens sporadically, but there has to be a process for reusing and re-purposing content. We have to apply a framework and structure to get more bang for your content marketing buck.
As far as what we've done at Curata, offering content marketing software and curation software, it's important to make sure we do our best to apply best practices in content marketing. One of the most important things for us when we create e-books and heavy content from primary research, such as surveys or thought leadership, we think about how we can reuse and re-purpose that content. We apply a pyramid structure where at the top of the pyramid you have the primary and secondary research that is directly turned into the content. Then you have the heavy contents, stuff that is dated, takes more from resources, and sits on our own property. We use our paid media to derive traffic to that owned media. we have e-books; we then create infographics, presentations, and then dive deeper and turn it into even smaller pieces. These include long-form blog posts on our own blog, shorter-form blog posts. We syndicate content, creating content that we can give to other folks' blogs. Last but not least, we'll do social media to drive traffic up into the top of that pyramid. Our goal is to create a content marketing campaign to integrate our content creation efforts and keep everything in line with the company's strategy. We'll have several pyramids going on over the course of every 6 months that support our overall content marketing strategy. There's more information about this in our blog post. Hopefully, it helps to provide structure.
The third part here about production is that we need to better leverage our community and collaborate effectively across the organization. We need to curate content to complement our own pre-made content, putting it alongside the created stuff. From a production perspective, we need to feed that content beast. We can't create enough content every week, and we struggle to create that "great" content. As great as your own content might be, externally, buyers want other viewpoints, and will go elsewhere regardless of how wonderful your content is. That leaves an opportunity to keep creating that great stuff, but also curate stuff external to your organization. Bring that external voice in. Two years ago, we did a study asking what the preferred mix of content marketing is: what mix of created, curated, and syndicated content? In this graph, we see that about a quarter of the content is curated; companies tap into external content experts. Think about the 65%/25%/10% split. The syndicated is predominantly represented by analysts' reports, external folks that write content that you then share with your own audience. There's a mix to think about.
I've said content curaiton a lot, and I wanted to take a few minutes to figure out what that is, specifically. If you've ever done a "best of" blog post, commented on Twitter with a link, or posted a link to Facebook with some commentary on it, that's curation. It can take different forms, and you're not alone here. There are many folks doing curation, whether through their blog, website, or as part of their e-books. It's a great chance to tap into external communities and build credibility. The definition is when an individual or team finds content out there, either manually with duct tape or you leverage a self-discovery engine like with our content curation software. You bring in the best content, annotate it, and share it with your audience. It should be of high quality and relevant. Find it, annotate it, and share it.
Speaking more tactically, when you think about content curation best practices, what to do if you find that piece of content, that great blog post or article. Here's an example that Jasmine Henry wrote, the "15 Habits of Legendary Content Creators," we found this and said we'd share this with our audience. We put it on our micro-site, putting a new title on it and a new thumbnail. We added an introduction, explaining why it was important to read it and why it was a great piece. We included a portion of the article but didn't quote the whole thing because we wanted to curate ethically. Then we added some commentary; try to include eight to ten comments with some insight in there. This will add some SEO juice to your curated piece. Then finish with a clear attribution. I have to put that there so I can be ethical. I'm not pirating and want to send folks right back to Jasmine's piece. Jasmine likes that. This is curation in action. We do a "Curation 101" session every two weeks. You can sign up on curata.com for more details on that.
Put curated content on social media, on your blog, on social curation, put it right next to created stuff. Include newsletters, corporate sites, and dedicated micro-sites. Even IBM curates content for their Big Data micro-site. We see those examples all across the industry, and [curation is] still picking up steam. Think about that, how you might have a custom micro-site to add lots of value to a specific segment of your market.
I mentioned that when you're doing curation, if it's done right, it's not pirating. There are some tips here for that. We have a whole e-book on this: "Content Marketing Done Right." Check it out! I went through the whole thing and covered most of them in this list; make sure to link back to excerpts. Re-title the content. Don't use "no-follows" on your links; some software have that feature, but you don't want to do that because it takes credit away from the original content.
A couple other things here: we talked about production, collaboration, and a couple other areas. Now let's get into distribution. You've got your own media, your own blog, websites, and micro-sites. It's important to tap into earned media and paid media, so bringing the data back into discussion here, we asked marketers-- this is from a blogging study we did a couple months earlier; I thought it was interesting to bring this piece of data in-- we asked marketers, content marketers, specifically around their blog posts, "who is responsible for promoting your blog posts?" You can see that in general, when you put all the answers together, that two thirds of folks are tapping into social media teams, but you still see a third to a half of blog writers who say they will also get involved in promoting their own blog posts. It's really important that you do that. On the graphic, the gold bars are the "10k business marketing club," those who have ten thousand views or more on their business blogs. These are the foxes of this blogging study. These folks leverage their social media teams, but also get involved with blog writers actually promoting their stuff. Remember, you've created that great content, you've got a social media team, and don't drop it there. Promote it yourself and get creative around that process.
The last process thing you can guess from this quote: "half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half." We've all heard this. About a year ago, I came across this quote and said I had a content marketing fix right in there, because that's where we are in our industry. Even getting the slightest inkling of what part of content marketing is working and how to do more of it would be a ton of value relative to where we are today. We asked folks how effective they were at measuring the effect of content marketing. I was curious to see how well they were doing. In this graphic, blue is all companies, green is the leaders or foxes, and then you have the percent of study participants. As I look at this, the first thing to notice is that there's a big impact in terms of top of the funnel. I'm glad to see that, but what I really want to see is [progress] at the bottom of the funnel. Our foxes do this, creating content more specific to the needs of folks in later stages of the funnel, working with sales teams to understand the need for that.
Let's dive one level deeper in terms of lower stages of the funnel. We asked people to estimate the impact of their companies' content marketing investment in the following areas during the past 12 months. Based upon this, you can see from awareness building to buyer engagement, SEO, thought leadership, etc., there is more impact at the awareness building stage, but we do see that the foxes make some impact with lead quality and quantity. If you've had lots of impact at the top of the funnel, don't give up; there's lots of opportunity to impact farther down. That might mean using ROI analysis and tools that will help folks making specific purchasing decisions about what types of technology to use. Those are two types of technologies that might be more specific for the bottom of the funnel.
Getting more specific about metrics is a key area, and that's a whole presentation on its own. We did a whole e-book about this and content marketing and analytics. Check it out. Think about focusing on performance metrics and operations metrics. Performance metrics are the ones we're more familiar with, the page views and shares, but dive into marketing and sales pipelines and impacts. How many marketing and sales metrics did I generate in terms of individual pieces of content and types of content? In sales, how many opportunities have I generated? Check out the e-book, which goes through some of the methods to get at that. I'm happy to chat with you about how content marketing helps get at that, tapping into your Marketo, Eloqua, or marketing basics as well as Salesforce.com. Second, operations: how much content are you producing? What is the cost? What is your through-put? What's your inventory like? There's lots there in that metrics section. I just wanted to provide that high-level framework and a resource you could tap into.
Let's finish up here with respect to technology. It's a huge area. There's lots of opportunity but lots of noise. Bringing some data in here, we've got that 68% of content marketing leaders are increasing their investment in marketing technology this year. That's good. There's lots of investment going in here. We've heard the quotes from Gartner and Forrester and others, and there's no doubt about the direction spending is going in this area. Where should the spending go from a content marketing perspective? One of the questions we asked to figure this out is, "do you use an editorial calendar as part of your content marketing process?" This is a real part of deploying your content strategy and orchestrating content creation efforts. The green bar [on the graph], or the foxes, 77% of these folks use an editorial calendar as part of their marketing process. They go to it on a regular basis. We asked for the next twelve months, folks that aren't using it, are they gonna? By the middle of 2016, 91% of all companies will be using an editorial calendar. If you don't have one yet, you should have one. Get the correct attributes in there. Check out the editorial templates that we have at our blog. We have a whole list of templates you can tap into. If you really want to get the most bang for your buck, look at leveraging technology for your content calendar. It's not only going to help you with orchestration and management of content production, but it's gonna put it on the basis for great content analytics.
A third of companies have either moderate or fully integrated their marketing and sales force automation systems. A lot of folks overlook this, many times this responsibility sits with marketing operations. If you have Marketo, if you have Eloqua, or if you're integrated with Salesforce.com. That's gonna be one of the key success factors to get at, the impact of my content in the marketing and sales part of the pipeline. If you don't have that integration chat with your marketing operations person and get to know what's going on over there. As part of that work with your marketing operations person or team, it's gonna build the relationships you can tap into to figure out what you're gonna do from a content marketing perspective, because there's a lot of stuff out there and you want to make sure you're chatting with the right vendors and asking the right questions. It will integrate well with what you're doing with the marketing ops folks on your side, because those marketing ops folks have a lot of experience. The chart we're seeing right there was created by Pawan Desphande, our CEO, and we update this quite frequently. There's a link down there. You can see that there are many tools in this area. We've done our best to categorize them, and there are many samples. Another source, there was a link there to Byron's "Top 103 Content Marketing Tools," so get to know the tools out there, speak with these vendors, tap into their content marketing activities to get smarter about the areas, and if they're good they'll provide you with non-egocentric content marketing to help you learn.
So let me wrap up here. We covered a lot of ground here in our jungle. First thing first, build your content team with both internal and external folks. Think about how you'll create that center of excellence. We all want and we all need more budget, but how do we find opportunities to better stretch our dollars. Re-purpose and reuse content, if you're not already curating look into content curation, do it in the most efficient, effective way possible. Performance measurements: all this money going toward increased investment in content marketing will make your CEO or CFO eventually turn to you, if they haven't already, and say: "where's all of this money going? I need justification as to why we should A) continue investing and B) increase investment." Then tap into the power of content marketing technology. There are lots of great opportunities for that; lots of great solutions out there. Get to know the vendors as well, and work with your marketing operations team as part of that process. That's a real quick wrap up. There's certainly content marketing stuff we've been working on over the years to help you out. Check it out: curata.com/resources. Lots of good stuff on metrics, curation, blogging, and our pyramid. Certainly, if anything from this subject matter area looks interesting, reach out and we'd love to chat with you about how we're helping content marketers scale their content marketing and with content marketing software and platforms. Ultimately, what content is working and isn't? Are the teams aligned and productive? How do we improve that productivity and impact?
Thanks very much for your time! Let me pass this back to Lauren, and I think we have a little time for questions?
Lauren: Hi! Sorry, I had my cell phone on mute.
Michael: No worries!
Lauren: Thank you so much, Michael, for the really thought-provoking presentation today. I think we'll leave your screen on until we're ready to fully wrap up. There's a lot of great data and important ground covered as far as best practices are concerned, really across the board with content marketing, the road map, so to speak. To maximize the time that we have with you today, we'll pop right into the Q&A questions we have. People are curious to know how you went about compiling the data for your survey and how you distribute it. If you could talk more about the logistics there.
Michael: Sure! I could guess for two reasons: one is background to find out where the data came from and the other is thinking about your own organization and doing that primary research. As we did this, the most time spent upfront is to figure out the topic we'll focus on and the questions we'll ask. That's the hardest thing, and it gets to figuring out the answers we want to produce for our audiences. What are their burning needs? We got some answers from our own customers and audience, went out and surveyed folks, brought the data in, analyzed, it, and pulled key takeaways from it. The most challenging but most valuable part is bringing the data together and communicating it to folks and putting it toward the right assets that are valuable to people. Hopefully that answers the question.
Lauren: Great! I really loved the "give me more" slide. That was really important and buy-in is a huge barrier for a lot of companies. Those that are new are just stretching their legs and can't necessarily bring ROI metrics to the table. What advice would you have for marketers trying to manage the purse-strings and get senior leadership to make content marketing a priority.
Michael: I've talked to lots of content marketers and the CMOs of these content marketers, who have said, "you know, this is a key priority for me and for my CMO." A high number of folks as part of this research, if your team and CMO aren't there yet, two of the best ways to do that is to tap into external resources and experts, and research, be it the research Curata produced, from WriterAccess, the Content Marketing Institute, there's lots of good stuff out there. It's a nice, unbiased way to demonstrate that there's opportunity here with content marketing. The second thing is to look for quick wins across the organization. There are undoubtedly people producing content all over the organization. Identify small pockets where you can do something fun and exciting that will have some impact. It could be content marketing at the top of the funnel or sales and inland activities, creating some great pieces that can help your sales folks better connect with customers, especially if your company has a longer sales cycle.
Lauren: Absolutely! How about the asset side of the coin, though? At WriterAccess, we see all different types of clients, from solo marketers to ma-pa shops to agencies and I think the "how much is enough" conundrum is one we hear all the time. How do folks determine a production baseline, and where do you think is the right place to begin there and what's the balance between quality and quantity?
Michael: Great question! We experiment on that at a continuous basis at Curata. The best consulting answer is: it depends. Take a look at this blogging study I linked, because we ask folks about their frequency for blogging, and just using blogging as an example, we find this 10k club, the people with 10,000+ views on their blog were blogging at least weekly, the other thing is think about bigger pieces of content, we strive to do one large piece per quarter of show. Then we have content marketing teams that reuse those large pieces. So we might have 3-5 pyramids going on over a four to six month period, which will focus your efforts on heavy-duty content pieces but give you structure around reusing and re-purposing content rather than going on to the next big thing. Always leave a little bit open for experimentation. It could be news that you leverage or some activities or some holiday, something you want to experiment with for fun.
Lauren: Yeah! The content marketing pyramid will excite a lot of people, and shows that you can take what you've made and create a lot of assets around it. Can you give an example of the content marketing pyramid in practice or how you've successfully executed a campaign in that manner?
Michael: If I flip back to our resources, these are people at the top of the pyramid, the comprehensive guide to content marketing analytics and metrics. We started out doing a blog post on it, because you don't have to be top-down all the time with the pyramid coming up, and we said, this was a great post, let's create a whole e-book on it! So we created a whole e-book on it; we got the e-book. We're gonna spend the next 3 to 5 months building other pieces of content on this. More bite-size pieces of content; lots of free pieces of content. So we created two infographics on it and put them on our blog post. We created shorter-form posts about it on our blog. We did two webinars around it. We created a slide show of it leading back to our e-book. We've done a number of contributed content or syndicated content bylines based on it. We've curated lots of things around content marketing metrics as well. We even have curated quotes from experts in the e-book. We sort of ate our own dog food, as they say, in curating as well as creating our own content.
Lauren: Yeah, and I think a question that I had was that when you're curating and doing something like a "best of" post or sharing other industry insights, is there ever a worry that you're driving traffic away from your site and possibly to a competitor's? How would you counter that and that concern?
Michael: There's absolutely a risk of that, but at the end of the day, as great as your content might be for your audience, they'll go elsewhere for other perspectives, and they should! You wanna give them different perspectives because it stimulates lots of ideas and helps them get smarter! The idea of curation is to be able to give a taste or a feel for the other content externally for your audience, make it easier to access, serve as a resource for customers. This is a great way to work with other parts of the ecosystem, work with influencers across the market, because you're gonna be sharing their stuff. You'll be annotating and providing your own insight to put your stamp on that thought leadership someone else did. It adds value to your audience to hear what your perspective is.
Lauren: Absolutely! None of us has all the answers and all the time to get them. If folks are already on that best-of list, they're already on your site, so that's a win for you.
Michael: Yeah, and they'll come back, right? They'll come back. They'll think, "Hey, there's good stuff at this site. I'm gonna bookmark it! I want to be a regular subscriber."
Lauren: Right! And how important is adding your own spin and really digesting the piece and giving the reader your take on why it's valuable, adding that nugget of personalization when sharing it with your readers?
Michael: It's a great question because that takes the most time. It's very similar to the evolution of Twitter. 2+ years ago we would say, "What's that? Cool! Share!" without even reading it. The more advanced Twitter users are now saying, "I don't want to automatically share everything I see. If I know someone well who has great stuff, I'll share it without reading it." The more conscientious folks who are adding more value are reading real pieces on Twitter, and getting back to your question, they're taking the time to annotate that piece. It just shows they're thinking about the audience and the reader, adding their insights, and bringing their own feelings into it. If you do it the right way, it's only gonna add more value and increase engagement.
Lauren: Exactly! The content marketing way is keeping your customer and reader always in mind before yourself.
Michael: Non-egocentric, right?
Lauren: That's right! I do have a question to switch gears a little bit, which is, did the importance of buyer personas come up in your research? Was that something you guys saw a lot of or collected data around? Could you speak to that a bit?
Michael: Yeah, I put this right in the strategy category. We did ask folks if they created content for specific targets or segments, and the fox group thought more about buyer preference, the stage and the buying cycle. Ultimately, you want to think about, "Who is this content for? Do we already have it for this buying stage, or is there a gap somewhere else?" The smarter folks really are thinking about that, about what content do we have in each buyer persona or buying stage. We should do that, because as things get more advanced and evolved, we're only going to get more specific in terms of what content we have to provide for individuals. Agreed?
Lauren: I agree! I do have a question around budget as well. Kind of going back to this question of buy-in and budget and making sure you have enough, do you have a rule of thumb for companies-- and this will vary based on who you're looking at, their demographic, and their infrastructure-- but is there a rule of thumb about what percentage of your marketing budget should be invested in content marketing?
Michael: That's a great question. Every year at IBC we'd do this big audit of marketing investment-- 150 tech marketizations. We'd go to 30 programs in the nearest staff areas and dive into it, but as content marketing evolved-- I always think of asking this question, and I think I may have asked when they had it in front of them-- the data is all over the place. It's so hard because you could say that the marketing team figures it, and even some of the biggest companies have a handful or less than ten people, but in terms of content marketing in general, there are lots of numbers floating around, there's a graph in the study that shows that it's all over the place. I don't think folks are able to cut across the organization and pull it in. The thing to think about is that the marketing organization as a whole is dedicated to creating content, so it's really a matter of just coalescing the efforts that many companies are already making. Some media team is doing social curation and they're creating content. The marketing team, the sales team, they're all creating content. It's just a matter of coalescing around a strategy and having that center of excellence.
Lauren: Right, so people will ask how long a post will be, and the tongue-in-cheek answer is "as long as it needs to be." As much budget as you need to get your feet off the ground.
Michael: I would say that the goal at the end of the rainbow is [knowing] what the impact of your content is on the pipeline. How many leads are generated by individual content and groups of content? How many opportunities does this influence in the sales pipeline? If you can get at those types of excellence, focusing on the past 18 months not just on our software but on our own practice here in curata, it'll really help you justify that investment.
Lauren: That's a great point, and I'd be mistaken if I didn't say that a lot of us really enjoyed the imagery of your presentation. I'm a big Minion fan myself.
Michael: I love 'em!
Lauren: They have a big movie coming up, I think, so appropriate timing for the plug!
Michael: I have no financial benefit from that!
Lauren: We'll look into that further! The editorial calendar, in terms of getting started, it's obviously an important thing to map out and set reasonable expectations. It's proof that you've got to strategize before you start writing. Otherwise it's just throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping that something gives you the ROI you seek. Do you have a sample calendar? What calendar do you use in particular and what are the ideal elements that go into that effort?
Michael: We're fortunate because our marketing group at Curata has a timeline of editorial calendars that feeds into our solutions so we're in that daily in doing our agile marketing standup every day. We have a calendar we've worked out over time. There's a whole list I'd love to go into detail about, but we look at the content that we're producing, whether it's earned or paid media, what buyer persona it's dedicated to, who's the writer, who's the author, who's the owner. Those could be three different things: the freelancer could be the writer, the person whose name is on it could be the author, and the person whose head will role if it doesn't happen is the owner, because they're ultimately responsible. We have some other attributes in there; we have to assign what the specific pyramid is, an attribute of that is the specific content piece. The idea is great managing of content to put those attributes in your calendar, but the real pot of gold is when you can look at the analytics and group content by those different attributes or meta-tags to identify what works and doesn't work. That's where it gets really fun from the analytical perspective.
Lauren: Absolutely! One final question, and then I invite you to give some closing thoughts, can you provide metrics--going back through the CMI stats, people get that content marketing is important, but in terms of tracking ROI, a lot of companies report that it's not effective or is only slightly effective. There aren't a lot of people who feel their companies are doing a good job of tracking the value of content marketing. Can you speak to the best metrics that content marketers should be using to see if this is working or not?
Michael: This is where technologists complain a lot, because from a framework perspective, if you have your consumption and engagement metrics and then a marketing and sales parts of the pipeline, you can do it manually. You can go to different sources, go to Google Analytics, pull in codes for the same pieces of content, you can use Marketo or Eloqua, but they're really lead-focused, not client-focused. They don't carry data at many times past two or three months, so it's hard to look at a lifetime of content. At Salesforce.com, there's some campaign stuff there but it's very time consuming, so we really need to focus. Start off with whether you have the engagement metrics, and to go deeper, from a marketing perspective, ask how many new leads you're getting in your marketing pipeline as a result of individual pieces of content. What leads in marketing's pipelines am I nurturing? What about my MQs, my marketing-qualified leads that I'm sending off? There's a very similar view for the sales side of things: opportunities generated. Those are the key ones. This e-book we have goes to this productive method of that. We're happy to discuss more about how Curata's content marketing platform does all of those things in less than 20 minutes of integration with your marketing and sales automation solutions to get at that data quickly.
Lauren: Great stuff! Do you have any closing remarks or take away thoughts for all of us listeners?
Michael: From a content marketing perspective, there's no doubt that there's fantastic opportunity for most folks, but we have to do our best with other folks to measure the impact that we're making. If we can do that successfully, we'll be well on the way to either continuing to be a fox or getting to the fox position. Do tap into all the expertise that's out there. There are resources, the things that we have or you have through WriterAccess, and there are lots of other great companies out there to help you get smart or get smarter on it. Look into vendors of technology; there are some great things that are happening.
Lauren: Great stuff! Alright, well I have a couple of close-out slides here to go over some of the resources that will be available to everybody. If you want to kick it back over, I'll show my screen here. Thanks again, Michael, for a really great presentation! A lot of great stuff in there to train us to all go be foxes and understand how things should work from starting out all the way through making sure there are measurement metrics in place. We have a couple different books here from WriterAccess. We have the Content Marketing Road Map that walks through different roles of content marketing: optimization, strategy, ideation, and distribution. Things like that. There's our Writing Skill Guide to tell you how to align writing skill specifications with price points. Then there is the 103 Content Marketing Tools book, which includes Curata among them. That will be available through an email follow-up. We'll end here on the book that contains a lot of the information and data you presented to us here today, as well as the URL for everybody to go check that out and like you said, get a little bit smart and smarter about the content marketing field and see a lot of really interesting stuff about what we're up against. Don't forget to keep your eyes peeled, everyone, for that email, and Michael, thank you so much for your time!
Michael: Thank you, Lauren, and thanks everyone for joining us! I really appreciated the opportunity to chat with you!
Lauren: Alright! Everyone have a great afternoon, and we'll see you next month!