Keep it simple people: bang out great content to bring in great customers. Period.
In Martha Stewart’s keynote at Inbound 2014, she explained the model her editorial staff uses to select the best articles they hope will connect with subscribers and fans. The team gathers monthly to review all the potential pitches and topic ideas, and picks the winners that have the passion and insight on life betterment that align with the Martha Stewart brand. The votes are tallied, selections are made, and the work begins, with lots on the line.
We all know that forward-thinking companies are publishing lots of content these days; constantly gathering ideas, developing stories and cranking out content in multiple channels to reach readers orbiting at high speeds. But the question with our content goal is this: how do we engage readers, cultivate values, perpetuate greatness, earn trust and grow business organically—the content marketing way.
Publishers have perfected this art and science. Companies are now doing the same; a requirement for business success.
I started a company back in 2000 called LifeTips with Martha’s life betterment philosophy top of mind. Our mission was (and still is) to make the world a better place, one tip at a time. We published 120,000 tips, 53 books and more. We moved away from publishing to focus on WriterAccess five years ago, but the weekly podcasts continue at LifeTips, something we’ll keep going indefinitely for readers and fans.
Companies are stuck driving driving two missions these days, keeping readers happy and selling products and services. The good news is we’ve learned what works and what does not work with content marketing, making things a lot easier. Below are the key elements for content marketing success that summarize what we’ve learned here at WriterAccess last year, and hacks we have in place with content marketing moving forward.
1. Readers, not Customers
Sure, we have customers and prospects in our sales funnel, and they consume our marketing speak and language. When it comes to content marketing, customers are readers of our content, not buyers of our services and products. They are humans with real needs, and it’s our job as marketers to deliver on their thirst for knowledge. Start thinking of them as readers of your content and subscribers of your insights.
2. Genuine Passion
We’d like to think that marketing gurus can make just about any content go viral. But those days are long gone. The best writers, designers, illustrators and animators take on projects they are not necessarily “passionate” about. But they are passionate about the art and science of their creative process, namely developing a mood, tone, style, look and feel that will resonate well with readers and fans.
“The secret to creating killer content is writing about something you know and love,” notes Maia McCann, Director of Content for LittleThings. Passion is no longer an ingredient for success, it’s now a strategy. Does a potential topic offer insights relevant to your readers’ wants and needs? Does it make life better? Will this WOW readers? Does the author have passion for the topic?
3. Content Culture
Your company’s culture is defined by each and every employee. Companies blessed with employees that “hit the goals” and “crank out the work” have the key pillars for success. But few companies tap into the publishing power of employees and content culture. By letting employees flap their wings on your blog, post on your Facebook account, and share things they’re passionate about, you foster the corporate culture.
Building a great content culture helps you attract and retain great employees and customers.
4. Hose and Sprinkler
Chances are, you don’t really know what the wants and needs of your customer are, and that makes it difficult to engage them and keep them coming back for more. Rather than spraying content at them that is focused on your brand or industry, think more broadly and see what sticks. Take the mortgage industry for example. Try publishing content on topics like home improvement, minimalistic home design, and smart home gadgets that will help you connect with readers in the right way—with information they want and need. Cover stories on trade show events and other news articles with your creative spin that aligns with your brand. Sprinkle a wide range of information, rather than focusing narrowly on the product or service.
5. Reverse Engineering Success
Tune into my BuzzSumo Webinar with guest Steve Rayson to learn what went viral in 2015 and why. With technology like BuzzSumo, you can learn the headlines and titles of content that gets the highest click-through rates on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can download my 103 Content Marketing Tools book for free here as well. It’s a cool review of the best of the best I put together for Content Marketing Conference last year. Engagement metrics help you learn what works and what does not work on the web. Once you learn the secrets organically, you can amplify with paid search to help content go viral.
6. “Content” Core Values
According to Results.com, 92% of companies do not measure Key Performance Indicators. It appears that many companies do not have a strategic plan that defines the people, processes and procedures that drive success. Even worse, only 5% employees know their company strategy (Harvard Business Review 2010). Core values are the centerpiece of a strategic plan, for many reasons. The same goes for your content plan. Getting everyone in your company on the same page when it comes to content is essential, but challenging. Consider defining “Content Core Values” beyond the regular Content Plan or SEO Plan.
How would you define the core values of your content. Are there limits to content you publish? How do you spin your content, positive or negative? Neutral or opinionated? Do you have principals for your writing practice? Do you have clarity on the right publishing path in fulfilling the content marketing goals?
When it comes to core values, Former CEO of General Electric Jack Welch is pretty intense. He said, “Make an honest mistake, screw up a project, lose a million dollars on a risky business bet that offered 10X projections…no problem, we can fix that. But violate the Core Values, and you’re gone, immediately.”
Making the world a better place seems to come down to creating amazing content, using powerful tools, and optimizing content for multiple channels to appeal to readers orbiting at high speeds. Martha Stewart accomplishes this in the publishing world, and sets the bar high for us all.
It’s up to us to follow suit as we make the transition to publishing. Hopefully these hacks will help you huddle the challenges and grow your business originally—the content marketing way.
WriterAccess Founder and CEO Byron White is a serial entrepreneur, with a track record of proven success a mile long. He’s also a published author, popular speaker, content marketing revolutionary and great storyteller.