This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder of TrinityP3. With his background as analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and learnings to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimisation.
While most marketers intend to embrace the benefits of content marketing, many are struggling with issues including strategy development and integration, process management, and structure.
Much has been discussed regarding the need to think like a publisher, but in fact it requires a more fundamental approach to the development and implementation of a successful content marketing strategy.
In this presentation I gave in Sydney on March 21 and again in Melbourne on May 23 at the “How to be an effective content marketer“, I outlined the issues and the requirements to set up a content marketing strategy for success based on our extensive consulting expertise and personal experience.
Alright, hopefully everyone feels well watered and fed, your blood sugars are returning to normal.
Some practical considerations around content marketing
What I’d like to do now is to talk about some practical considerations around content marketing. And I’m speaking from the point of view of not only someone that has assisted major marketers with a content strategy in implementation but also someone that’s done it for themselves for their own business.
So as I talk through, I’m taking you on a personal journey. But I’ll also be expanding it so it includes the lessons that we’ve learnt working with some of the major advertisers in this country.
So TrinityP3‘s role is really to work with marketers to increase their efficiency and their effectiveness and one of the ways increasingly we’re being asked to do that, is to help with the implementation of content marketing.
Understanding the role of content
Earlier today, it was pointed out one of the problems that people are having, there was an article recently, Coca Cola have said engagement through their content marketing strategy is getting less than a 2% engagement measure. That doesn’t mean you should turn away from content.
In fact, just to recap some of the things Ed Pank said, content marketing can improve search results. It can establish you as a leader in your category, a thought leader in your category. It can encourage customer engagement and increase leads and sales.
Now they are all important parts of most marketing strategies. In fact, a CEO I was speaking with this morning, he knew that I’d be talking today, he said, “you know Darren, we’re a billion dollar company and I’ve said to our marketers time and again, if marketers don’t get content and digital, then they don’t get marketing anymore. And as far as I’m concerned, there’s no place for them in this business”.
So at some level, the CEOs of major companies are starting to understand the role of content.
Here’s where it goes wrong
But, here’s where it goes wrong. The very first thing you need to do is to develop a strategy and I’ll put my hand up and say when I started writing a blog in 2006, I thought that’s all I had to do is create content and somehow everyone would just come to it.
But it wasn’t until 2010, so for four years I was writing a blog almost every week for the business and yet in fact, Mike Morgan, stand up Mike. Mike Morgan here pointed out to me that, “do you know how many people come into the website, the TrinityP3 website? Three hundred people a month.”
So I was spending hours of hours of billable time writing a blog and I said, “well why is that? Everyone says it’s good content.” Well that was obviously the 300 people reading it.
What objectives are you wanting to achieve?
First of all, I had no strategy. I was just doing. I was experimenting. Someone used that term earlier, experimenting. But I had no strategy. I had no way of, then I had nothing to measure this against. And the third thing that Mike pointed out is, no one knew it was there. No one could find it.
So a lot of effort and I’m sure a lot of the marketers that talk to us about content have that same frustration in that you experiment, you do things. So what do you need?
The first thing you need is, the question you have to ask yourself and that’s what I’m going to do in the next 25 minutes, is take you through the questions that you have to answer before you even consider engaging in content and content marketing.
So it is you know, what objectives are you wanting to achieve? What is it and I think Anton, you said, “what are the business objectives, what’s the marketing objective, what’s the comms objective?”
What is it that you want to drive? In our personal case, we wanted awareness, engagement and then we wanted people to think of us as thought leaders in our particular category.
That was our objective.
Understanding your audience
Again, which audience?
I mean, if you understand your audience, then content marketing is relatively easy because you understand what they want to engage in. But if you don’t understand your audience, and look we could articulate an audience, we said, marketers that have, you know, how many marketers here? Put your hands up.
We wanted to reach you, now how many people, take your hands down if you have more than enough budget. We wanted to reach marketers that didn’t think they had enough budget because what we could do was help them make their budget more efficient so they’d get more bang for their buck.
What is the time frame?
Against what time frame? I’d never, when I started the blog, I never even thought about how long, I just started writing a blog and four years later I was still writing that damn blog and nothing had changed. I was like the proverbial tree in the woods that fell and no one heard it.
Does it align to your overall marketing objective?
The next point is, does it align to your overall marketing objective?
Well it was interesting because for TrinityP3, our overall philosophy is, knowledge is power, and what better way than creating and sharing content with the knowledge of the marketplace than aligning to the core of what we do, knowledge is power.
This is one of the areas that when we get called in to work with marketers, they’ll often have money actively spread all over the place but none of that actually links back to what is the core strategy that you’re trying to achieve.
There’ll be something over here doing one objective and another thing here doing another objective and another one here on another objective and so on and so forth.
So it’s in some ways, you know, the old days of feeding the chooks. You know, you’ve got the big basket of chicken feed and you’re just sprinkling it around hoping that enough get fed.
Is it achievable using content marketing?
And is it achievable using content marketing because, you know, today, I’m not here to sell you content marketing. In fact, I would tell you there are marketers maybe in this room, but definitely in this city, that should never do content marketing.
Content marketing is not a tactic. Content marketing is not the solution.
If you want to get awareness, the best way and the fastest way of getting awareness is still television. But if you want to get other things, if your objective is beyond awareness…
Let’s talk about telcos.
How much more could Telstra be known in this marketplace? What do you think their prompted awareness is? It’s probably 99%. So do they need to do awareness? No, like most marketers, the next problem is engagement, moving people through to actually purchasing, participating and buying the product.
What does success look like?
So the next question is, what does success look like? And I love this question because it’s the one question that we always ask any of our clients when we start and you know what, it is a real stumper.
What does it actually look like? If we’re here in 12 months’ time and you’ve spent 2 million dollars on whatever the activity is, what would it look like? It’s a really tough question for a lot of people because they never think about it. They think about activity but not about objective. What would it look like, smell like, feel like?
Is it measurable?
And then the next point, is it measurable? Could you actually know? In our own case, it was about one; driving people to the website, and two; converting those people at the website into sales.
Now in the first year, and we’ve actually written a blog post about this, you can find it on the blog. In the first year, we increased website traffic by 300%. We increased revenue by better than 30%. There was a direct correlation when we look at the website traffic to revenue growth.
In that first year, I was converted to doing content marketing properly. So, is it achievable? In some ways, you can’t answer that question until you do some testing and learning.
What benefit or value would it deliver?
What benefit or value would it deliver? I mean, how valuable is it to have a million Facebook likes? What’s the value of that? Anyone?
How valuable was it for me to increase my web traffic? Well, if I get people to the website, we then have the website set up so it would deliver leads. So you’ve got to think about value. It’s not just enough to talk about measures, what’s the value behind those measures?
How would benefit and value be measured?
And finally, how would that benefit and value be measured?
So you’ve now convinced yourself that content marketing is absolutely the thing you should do. But you haven’t stopped asking and answering questions because the next thing you need to talk about is how are you going to implement this?
And I’m surprised that the number of marketers, especially major brand marketers, don’t have the internal resources, so they’ll outsource it to the nearest person to them, that usually happens to be a creative or a digital agency who say, “yeah, we do content”.
How many marketers have heard that? “We do content, yeah we do content, here look at all these ads we made”. No, that’s not content, that’s advertising. “Oh yeah but we put it on YouTube and we’ve got 300 people from the agency who liked it”.
Or one of those click farms in Afghanistan and India, they’ll just click on it and view it on YouTube. So you can get a million views, just not from your marketplace.
So you have to then think about, well what value can we bring? And this is a really important question because content is not about broadcast.
We heard Ed talk about push and pull. It’s not about pushing it into someone’s face, it’s actually about luring them in. It’s more like a fishing metaphor, it’s the bait that will get them in.
So what’s the best bait you can actually put on that hook to get people to come and engage with it, check it out, share it, link to it?
Creation, facilitation and amplification of content
There’s a number of things that you can do.
You don’t have to just provide content. As far as giving people things, they can also come from facilitating their content. Making it easier for people to make content or even to amplify the good content.
One of the things as marketers is you’ve already got an engine that drives awareness. One of the hard things for content, is actually to become aware. It was really interesting, YouTube, the first year that they published the top ten most viewed videos on YouTube which was, I don’t know, Todd? Three or four years ago? 2010.
There was a study done when they looked at each of them, what actually caused the graph to go like that was it was shown on traditional television. So it would get organic growth online just by search and sharing but then as soon as it hit main media, the views would go.
What do most marketers have for major brands? You’ve got access to paid media. You could actually facilitate your customers and consumers content by making people more aware of it. So you need to think of your rolling content as not just creation of content, but it can also be facilitation and amplification.
Is your content relevant?
The next question is, is it going to be relevant? And I think the panel covered that really well. You know, listen, study, ask your audience, what is it that they’re interested in? Watch what they’re interested in.
And if you don’t want to ask, seed things into the marketplace. I think our number one blog post was a post not written for any other reason than I was frustrated at the number of people standing up at conferences and seminars like this calling themselves social media experts.
So if you go into Google, I think if you type in social media expert, are we still on the first page Mike?
Mike: In most countries.
Yeah, we’re still pretty high, because, I didn’t realise it, I was just venting my spleen, and I happened to resonate with a whole lot of marketers out there that felt the same way. That there were all these people passing themselves off as experts.
Sometimes you just never know what content’s going to actually fire up. But the great thing about content marketing is you can learn from successes and you learn from your mistakes. I think that’s a point that the panel made earlier, they’re not mistakes, they’re learnings.
Whereas if you ran a major million dollar television campaign, and no one responded, that’s a mistake. Okay? There’s no hiding from that. That’s a million dollars down the dunny.
But you can run content and it doesn’t work, you just run another piece of content and another piece, and when you find something that works, you run more of it. And that’s the difference.
What platform or format should be used?
On what platform or format do people want it? Todd, you mentioned video is becoming more popular because people want to watch and hear. Anton, yes, we have found longer written content gets more links, so it gets us better SEO. It depends on the audience.
Young people love music and pictures and things. If that’s what they’re into, create content, give them access to content that they couldn’t normally get access to.
So find the formats, find the platforms that are right for you. I mean, we’re on Facebook and I have to tell you it’s a disaster in a B2B market for us. But LinkedIn is hot. I mean, you go, “oh that makes sense”.
You know some of this is common sense but we still tried Facebook to find out you know, could we engage an audience there in a B2B conversation? And you can’t. Well, not for us anyway.
What’s your plan and timeline?
And what’s your plan and timeline? Because I have to tell you, in 2006 when I started writing that blog, I didn’t have a plan or a timeline. In fact, if you go to the blog, you’ll see, in some months there were 26 posts and then there’ll be 2 months of nothing and then there’ll be posts.
You need to have a plan, you need to have a timeline. If you’re engaging people in a conversation, and you know, take this into the real world that we’re in now, so we’re engaged in a conversation and you’re talking back to me and then I suddenly leave. Oh, you’re still there. That’s exactly how content marketing feels for the people engaged in it if you suddenly stop, so you need to be able to have a plan that will see it through.
How is content marketing managed?
The next question you have to ask yourself is how is it managed? And I think this is a more important question than whether it’s just in-sourced or outsourced which came up in the group before.
Who’s responsible for content creation? We do all of that in-house and now we do guest posting and things like that. But it takes time and it takes resources. There are other people that can create great content.
So, the question is, do you go to them, or do you do it yourself? Because the next point is, who is the content curator?
Who is the content curator?
Now in our case, and my belief is, it has to be someone inside the business that owns the brand. Content created anywhere and sourced from anywhere but the actual curation needs to be very closely aligned with what the brand values are and what the brand stands for. And so the curator is the person with the job of matching content to audience.
Who’s the social manager?
Who’s the social manager? Who’s going to follow up and make sure that the people that are sharing your content and engaging with it and commenting on it are actually going to be acknowledged and engaged with? You need to have that focus on the business, on the process.
Who’s optimising search to make this content visible?
And who’s optimising search to make this content visible? I mean, we’ve got a major health care client that has over 50,000 pages of content on their website but their website is on a platform and is structured in a way that no one can see it on Google.
50,000 pages of content written by experts but no one can find it. And that’s why they turned around and said to me, content marketing doesn’t work. No, content marketing works, if people can find you! This is not rocket science but you’ve got to answer these basic questions to get to the solution.
What resources are available to you?
And then the next one is, is it external or internal? So, the answer to that is, what resources are available to you?
Content creation doesn’t have to be done in the marketing department and still be internal. Some of the best content comes from other people inside the organisation because they know the brand, they live the brand like in the book, Built to Last and from Good to Great, there are people within your organisation that live and breathe and articulate the core of what the brand is and content marketing is a great way to engage them in creating content.
Marketers need to stop thinking about themselves as the controller and be more the facilitator. And find that either internally or externally depending on the resources available to you.
What resources are available to you externally? What’s currently available and are they fit for purpose? Because in actual fact, a lot of people say they’re fit for purpose, and I made the joke before but most creative agencies do not get content.
But likewise, someone mentioned publishers are used to publishing content but they don’t get brand. So content marketing is someone that can create content and gets brand. And that’s quite a unique attribute.
Be very careful about how you procure services
This is where we get in a little bit of a plug here for TrinityP3. If you have to procure services, be very careful about how you procure services.
There are a lot of people in the marketplace because it’s news. It’s just like digital six years ago. There’s lots of people that all say they can do it.
The best way of testing them is to get them to show you how they’ve done it and then speak to the clients that they’ve done it for. Because they’ll quickly tell you whether it works or not. And how they do it for themselves.
So you know, it’s important to not buy something or a service just because they say they can do it. Everyone now says they can do digital. Everyone says now that they can do content.
In actual fact, the easiest thing in the world is to say you can do it so be very careful when you are engaging or procuring external suppliers.
How are you going to fund it?
And then the next question you have to ask yourself is going back to your plan, how much do you need? How much resource do you need and that comes back to, how are you going to implement to what strategy over what period of time because the next big question is, how are you going to fund it?
And I would say that in our experience, the number one reason for content marketing to fail, is because it’s underfunded. There was no budget set up in the first place to actually fund the content marketing.
So that meant that when it becomes too hard, too time consuming, that you stop producing content, you stop sharing content, you stop amplifying or optimising content, you stop responding to your customer that’s engaging with your content because you just don’t have the resources because you don’t have the money.
If you’re taking on content marketing, it usually means you have to give something up to fund it. You can’t just add it on.
Again, hands up, how many marketers here have a huge slush fund to be able to do content marketing, go on. I’m sure there’s heaps of you. So Craig you’ll be disappointed. Where are you?
There is not enough money to do what you have to do anyway. The question is, is everything you’re doing actually delivering a result? If you can honestly say yes, I’d like to meet you after this because I would say that there’s probably something in your plans that you’re not doing as well as you could do and maybe drop that to do content marketing.
But don’t do content marketing if it’s not funded. And that means that you need a business plan and this is really important, it needs to be cost justified because at some point, you need to go to the CFO or the CEO and have the conversation as to why this strategy is the right strategy for your brand.
Now, I’m lucky, I am the CEO, I’m the owner, I’m the Managing Director. I’m every title under the sun. So for TrinityP3, I fund and we have a budget to do content marketing.
And people say to me, “oh you spend a lot of time doing it”, but when I compare it to the old outbound calling people and trying to drive business that way, inbound marketing, which is what content marketing is, inbound marketing, we have people coming to us. And that’s a much better solution because they’re already qualified as leads.
I get call centres all the time phoning me up and saying, “oh look, for $20,000 we’ll call every person on our database that could possibly want your service”. It would be a waste of $20,000. I’d rather put that into content.
It’s important to get measures
The next big question is, how do you measure it?
And I know this came up before because measurement is one of those things a lot of people like to avoid. Because this is the point where you actually find out that maybe you failed. But the other good thing is it also tells you where you can improve. So it’s important to get measures.
You need to have a way of measuring engagement and you need to agree that you need to have a way of measuring leads and the way they move through the funnel. You need to have an agreed way of knowing whether what you’re doing actually works.
Now it’s interesting, with traditional media, we actually measure the performance of traditional media in most cases just by audience delivery. Cost per thousand. And that seems to pass as a real measure, a tangible measure or cost per thousand.
But no one actually tells you whether the person was engaged and actually watching it, or whether they’d left the room to go to the bathroom or whether they were able to zip through it. It’s just audience eyeballs delivered.
Content marketing at least allows you to have an understanding and a measure of people actively participating. In a time-poor society, someone spending a minute of time with your content is invaluable.
So work out what it is that you want to measure this by and then how often you’re going to measure it. Are you going to measure it minute by minute, daily, weekly, monthly? And that will come down to what you’re measuring.
But make sure you have the measurement system in place. You wouldn’t get into your car if it didn’t have any sort of measurement of how it was performing.
So why do we spend millions of dollars on marketing when there’s often no measure of how it’s performing? And the same with content marketing. Don’t do it. Don’t spend money unless you’ve got a measure in place.
Content is a long-term strategy
How do you develop and evolve, and I know Ed you talked about campaign driven content and I think fits neatly for a lot of brands that like to drop a traditional campaign and drop content in.
But the other point which is counter to that is content is actually a long-term strategy. Now there’s a great book, has anyone seen this book called Zero? Terrific book by Joseph Jaffe where he talks about examples of how to build brands with zero paid media. And it is almost all content driven. Content social sharing search.
When you start to do the analysis of a lot of brands, the majority of revenue driven by brands is actually driven by only, and I think he uses the example of Coca Cola, more than 50% of the volume of Coca Cola is bought by 6% of the audience.
Imagine if you could, without having to do paid media. Coke don’t do paid media at the moment, I think they’ll go back to it, but if they could just target that 6% and get them to buy you know, maybe another 10L a week, all of their sales problems would disappear.
Zero paid media is the new marketing model
But zero paid media is the new marketing model. You need to make sure that as you evolve your content that you’re continuing to monitor and optimise your search and social.
You need to have a long-term plan beyond just the next campaign, how it’s going to evolve. You have to continue that conversation once you’ve engaged people.
And then you have to also be willing to change platforms because every day we’re seeing new social sharing platforms come up and Wechat, anyone here using Wechat? You know, Wechat is a platform that’s just exploded virtually overnight. So there’s always new ways of sharing with the audience.
Okay, so in way of summary.
Here’s three things to take away today.
The first is, if you want to go from sad content marketer to happy content marketer, do these three things.
Develop clear objectives
First of all, develop clear objectives. Clear objectives that are aligned to your overall marketing and communication strategy. Don’t do as an adjunct, make it core to what you’re doing. Even take it back into the business objective, because that really resonates well with the CFO.
Define your requirements
Define your requirements in terms of the capabilities you need, the resources, the budget and the time-frame. Really plan out what you’re going to do to do this properly.
Determine and measure the results
And then finally, determine and measure the results of your content marketing activities on a regular basis and I don’t mean annually. It could be daily, weekly or monthly.
But if it’s not even monthly, then you’re not doing enough because this is like you’re in a marketplace where you’re responding to the consumer and you need to be there when they’re there.
So you need to know what they’re doing.
Proof of content working
And as proof of content working, you would’ve seen video set up around the room. This was a content opportunity and you will see it released over the coming months.
Over the last twelve months in 2013, we published three posts a week for fifty weeks. We took two weeks off. That’s 150 posts. We then analysed the number that were read, the number that were commented on, the number that were shared, and the number that got links back to it from other websites.
We took the top fifty and we published it into a book and it’s now available as paperback, it’s available as an e-book and it’s probably the number one thing at the moment driving our reputation not just in Australia, but globally.
And this is the great power of content marketing is that you can be a small business and have influence on a global basis. The biggest growth area for us, the biggest growth markets for traffic to our blog is North America and Western Europe.
Now you might sit there as a marketer and go, “I just need to sell my product in Australia”. That’s fine because all of those people overseas sharing it just adds to the credibility, the social ranking, the search ranking and the social credibility of your brand.
So don’t think small when it comes to content marketing, think big.
Video production by Hunting With Pixels