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The 3 Key Ingredients For Successful Content Marketing

Every marketer worth his title claims to be doing it. But, and here’s the rub: very few are doing it well.

We’re talking content marketing, the marketing rage du jour that’s also known as brand journalism, branded content, or business story telling, among other names.

You know a term is hot when it develops its own lexicon. You also know it’s hot when giant brands like Coca-Cola embrace it. The soft drink company recently redid its website as a paean to content marketing.

And, you know that content marketing has joined the pantheon of marketing terms when you consider that there are any number of conferences devoted to the topic. The latest case in point: an estimable all-day content-marketing event presented by the Content Marketing Institute in partnership with Target Marketing and Publishing Executive. The event called Content Marketing World NYC attracted a full house of marketing content marketers or wannabes and was presided over by two content marketing industry elites: Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose. The two co-authored a book on the subject, among other accomplishments.

So what’s the big deal about content marketing?

As advertising has lost some of its effectiveness in a world where the average person is bombarded by some 3,000 brand impressions a day, according to research firm Altimeter Group, it needs to work in concert with other media, including company–created content and user-generated content. Content marketing in its most basic definition is content a brand owns and/or publishes that involves no media buy, according to Altimeter.

That of course is the baseline. To be truly effective, content marketing, as Pulizzi and Rose emphasized at the Content Marketing World event, also needs to tell a story that helps people engage with a brand. Moreover, it can’t be a one-shot wonder but requires an ongoing commitment, or as Rose put it, "Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint."

A marathon is a good analogy for several reasons. Not only is it a time-consuming process, but it also requires some heavy lifting. It’s no wonder that a survey by Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs found that only about one-third of 1400+ B2B marketers surveyed said their content marketing efforts were effective.

Here are 3 necessary elements, courtesy of Rose, to help make your content marketing more successful and turn content into business value:

  • Tell a story. A story is a natural way to get people to engage. It draws you in and captures your emotions as well as your mind.
  • Have a strategy and process. Like any effective program,content marketing needs to be supported by a strategy. That means understanding your audience and business needs and what will resonate with your different segments. According to Rose, the reason why most content marketing fails is that people dive right in without a strategy. Once you have a strategy in place you need a replicable process to produce your content.
  • Use channels to tell your story. Today it’s not enough to tell your story on your website. As Rebecca Lieb and Jeremiah Owyang note in their Altimeter report on The Converged Media Imperative: "Brands are challenged to intercept this elusive customer and cut through the media clutter, regardless of whatever channel or medium consumers are engaged with."
What are you doing to accelerate your Content Marketing? I'd love to hear from you.

Wendy Marx, B2B PR and Marketing Specialist, Marx Communications. Follow me on Twitter @wendymarx

[Image: Flickr user Thomas Leuthard]

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  • Debbie Williams

    Wendy - Thanks for the great article on content marketing!  As a co-founder of a content marketing agency, we've noticed a dramatic shift in the level of knowledge of content marketing from clients and prospects from the start. There's a lot less education on "why" content marketing but "how" and "when".   They understand they need it but need someone to help them create a strategy and plan and implement it. Really understanding your audience, being consistent in your message and content delivery, and being authentic and transparent in who you are as a company are the keys to content marketing success. Thanks for shedding light on such an important marketing topic! 

  • wendy marx

    James, thanks for mentioning about your college marketing department's weekly schedule. That is an excellent way to implement a strategy and keep a program on track. 

  • james Gervs

    IMO reseach and strategy are the most important elements of any marketing or advertising effort.

    In April 2011, I developed a social media research report and strategy for my college while I was in my internship with their marketing department. As part of the strategy I included a weekly schedule for different cateogries of content that the college could produce (college news/events, interesting links relating to feilds of study offered by the college, local events, student contests, and a few others).

    The marketing department still uses the weekly schedule to ensure that they are providing content that students actually want check the college Facebook for.