Content marketing continues to be one of the rising stars of the online marketing world. But is it always being done expertly? Are you getting the most from your content marketing?
There’s a huge amount of literature about content creation, curation and marketing, so to filter through the noise I asked Chad Pollitt, Director of Inbound Marketing at Kuno Creative, to go over the best practices.
Chad is not only an internet marketing expert but also a decorated veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a US Army National Guard Commander, author of The Content Marketing Manifesto and a keynote speaker.
Many companies are practicing content marketing and/or inbound marketing. Can you define the two terms?
The simplest way to define the two while juxtaposing their definitions is with the graphic below. Essentially, inbound marketing can be called pull marketing or earned media.
So rather than interrupting people with marketing messages (i.e. TV commercials, direct mail, billboards, some email, banner ads, etc.), inbound marketers increase the likelihood of people finding their messages by publishing good problem-solving content.
The content is found via SEO, social media and other free channels.
It’s much more efficient than outbound methods because most of the time the marketer is only delivering content to the people who truly need and/or want it in order to solve a problem. According to HubSpot, cost per lead for inbound marketing campaigns is 62% less than outbound leads. Content marketing is the fuel that drives the inbound process because delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable content to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action.
You’ve written that just posting content on your website is not enough. How can companies use ‘barriers to consumption’ to filter out content consumers who are not likely to become customers?
It’s not that you want to filter them off of a website, but rather filter them out of the sales funnel. If a website gets tens of thousands of visitors it’s important to separate the wheat from the chaff in order to manage conversions, leads and prospects.
Barriers to content consumption allow marketers to test whether or not a website visitor is serious or not about the products or services offered by the website. The greater the hurdle that a website visitor is forced to overcome the greater the likelihood of them being a qualified prospect is when they overcome it.
However, website visitors should be presented with barriers in an ascending order so to gradually nurture them down the sales funnel.
This process allows marketers to identify, qualify, segment and score leads. Barriers to content consumption can be any of the following: privacy, time, work, money, topic and inbox.
Can you briefly define a sales funnel and tell us how companies can use content to create or shape it?
As the graphic above demonstrates, there are three main sections; top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU) and bottom of the funnel (BOFU), with regular website traffic on top. The sales funnel progressively leads website visitors all of the way to customer acquisition. Content is used in order to nurture visitors down the funnel over time by using the campaign approach as described by Michael Ewing.
You’re the author of The Content Marketing Manifesto. Drawing on that, could you share 5 essentials to observe in creating a content marketing strategy?
1. One of the most important essentials to a content marketing campaign is a publishing schedule. A calendar holds people accountable for content production and should include due dates, topics and go-live dates. Content production must be a top priority.
2. Many will hate to hear this, but most online success is directly correlated with the quality and publishing frequency of content. Revenue producing metrics over time show huge differences between publishing three, five, 10 and 15 blog posts per week.
For some companies the difference can equate to millions of dollars in incremental revenue. It’s highly recommended to start with a minimum of one post per business day, with 21 per week being the ultimate goal.
3. Content marketing won’t produce leads in a robust way if there is no currency to entice website visitors to fill out a form. A website’s currency can be a white paper, cheat sheet, ebook, download, etc.
The more advanced content published to landing pages the more conversions a website is likely to have. Starting off, try to publish this advanced content once per quarter, but over time try to publish once per month or more.
4. Don’t get discouraged if your content marketing efforts don’t pay off right away. After studying over three years-worth of analytics, it’s clear that momentum builds and accumulates over time. Just keep cranking out good content.
5. Include social media sharing buttons on published content. This allows others to share your content to their networks. This can lead to incremental traffic, leads and customers.
You’ve mentioned that companies’ content marketing efforts don’t need to stay only on their website, but can be shared on YouTube or syndicated, for example. What are the best sharing options in your experience?
The best sharing option, bar none, is when other webmasters come to you and request to regularly republish or curate your content. This can lead to a huge payoff. While conversion rates for branded SEO reside in the three to three-and-a-half-percent range and conversions for non-branded phrases stay around one percent, conversion rates for syndicated referral traffic from highly traveled websites can be greater than 10%. This is the most efficient and consistent lead source I’ve seen to date.
Another sharing option that works well for B2B is LinkedIn Groups. It can be a little inconsistent at times, but with the right strategy it can be very rewarding.
For companies who are starting out in, or starting over with content marketing, where’s the best place to begin?
Plan, plan and plan some more. Content diversity, publishing frequency and re-purposing is the key to maximizing visibility and publishing capacity. A slide deck for a presentation can easily become a webinar, each slide can be worked into a blog post, the audio of the presentation can be used as a podcast, a webinar can be recorded and published as a video and a white paper can be created from the slide deck and blog posts.
That’s a lot of content produced out of one presentation. As a result, having a plan in place will help produce the maximum content throughput which produces optimized web visibility.
On a personal note, what made you go into marketing following your military career?
Believe it or not, I’m still in the military. I serve as a Company Commander for the Army National Guard and command a Forward Support Company for a Light Infantry Battalion. In the National Guard we are citizen soldiers who train one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer when we’re not deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa.
Two factors landed me in my marketing role today – an early love for the Internet and a sales career after college. While in college in the mid-90s I would frequently come up with Internet solutions to complex business plan competitions.
I actually won one over 700 other students by coming up with an email marketing plan for a real company. In hindsight it was nothing more than a spam plan, but we didn’t know what spam was back then. While in sales, marketing seemed like a natural progression.
What gives you a buzz about it?
To be successful in Internet marketing requires the appropriate mix of right and left-brained thought capacity. My mind seems to reside in that area of thinking. Devising marketing goals, developing strategy and deploying tactics is fun. I also enjoy testing, crunching analytics and tweaking existing campaigns for better throughput. The most rewarding part is that I get to write about the lessons learned on our Kuno Creative blog
Do you have any specific personal plans or ambitions in mind?
My goal is to be a part of the best inbound marketing team in the world, retire early, move to the Caribbean, write books and blog every day, and come back to the United States every four to six weeks to speak at a conference.
Once I get bored with that I can see myself teaching Internet marketing at a university somewhere.
Do you have inbound or content marketing questions for Chad? He’ll be happy to respond in the comments below.