6 Best Practices in Content Marketing

The latest buzzword these days is content marketing, the practice of creating any format of content for the purpose of driving demand. Before this was a term, I ran a program in 2006 called Change Artists in which we invited CEOs and CIOs of famous companies to join our Webcast produced by CNN.

Change Artists in Times Square

Example of a content marketing program with high production value

It was top notch. We had Nestle, Reuters, and McKesson CIO and CEO pairs as guests. From a branding perspective, it clearly demonstrated HP as a thought leader. The program won awards. And, although it generated a 3 to 1 ROI, it was held up to the same expectations that a lead gen campaign had: 15 to 1. A gorgeous campaign at the brand  and thought leadership level, which needed to also meet the standards of an email blast. In the end, the need to drive demand efficiently outweighed beauty…. and the budget was cut.

Since then, the science of content marketing has come a long was. Social Media channels and new forms of content make audience building and mass syndication much easier.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. Target Your Audience By Persona BEFORE you Start Creating and Writing

Who are the key players who influence the decision to buy your product? In a B2B sale, it’s typically a number of individuals. For example, the CEO or CIO might make an initial request to investigate creating a mobility service, the workstream is then passed to the IT department for evaluation, then to the CFO for budget approval.Tony CIO

You can start by create a persona summary which includes:

    1. Key role responsibilities
    2. At what point they are most involved in the buy cycle
    3. Pain points / concerns 
    4. Key messages

This will ensure that your whole content creation team is literally on the same page, using the right language and addressing the right concerns. This will help you “get into your audience’s head.”

The more you can have your content reflect the needs of your buyer, the more relevant it will be.

Here’s a handy Persona Marketing template I recommend from HubSpot.

2. Resist temptation to shove messaging into your education / awareness content

When you are creating “top-of-funnel” materials – content pieces intended to build an audience – the most successful materials will be of maximum value to your reader.

What do readers mostly care about? Themselves.

What don’t they usually care about?

Therefore, to earn their attention, you need to address what they care about, not what you care about. Here are some example’s of questions different B2B roles would be interested in:

    • CEO: how can I grow revenue for the business?
    • CMO: how can I attract the most customers for my product / service?
    • CFO: how can we look for more ways to improve the bottom line?

If your goal is to build an audience, pretend that you are a consultant advising them on their business WITHOUT diving straight into your product messaging.

To attract an audience, your goal is to build trust, capture names and earn the right to continue the dialogue.

3. Make your Content “Snackable”

Your content is competing for your audience’s attention with a tidal wave of distractions from your competitors, work related tasks and things your customer would rather be doing… but, there’s no more time left in the day, only more and more content.

Create different formats. If you write an eBook, this can be reused for future blog posts and eMails. You can create Webinars and Slideshare from the same content. Chunk it up. Turn your eBook into a multi-touch campaign.

4. Punch it up!

Write punchy headlines that grab attention. Headlines should clearly articulate the value proposition for the reader’s time. For example, which headline is better:

“Thoughts on Content Marketing”


“6 Best Practices in Content Marketing”

Why the second? Because it clearly communicates the value the reader will get from paying attention. Teasing the user with mysterious or vague titles hoping they’ll read more doesn’t usually work.

5. Make it Appear Inviting and Scannable

Do this exercise: open your latest blog post and stand two feet away from the screen so you can’re really read the words. Does the post graphically catch your eye? Does it look intimidating and arduous to read or can you pick out headlines and nuggets?

Good content should be enjoyable and entertaining for your audience to consume. This starts by using headlines to clearly communicate the purpose of the paragraph and subheaders to help the reader through. This applies not only to blogs, but eBooks, other written forms even video.

Using good headlines, subheads and formatting will also make it easier for search engines to score the context of your piece, thus giving you higher search engine ranking.

6. Set Management Expectations

Your management wants cheap, marketable leads immediately from your content. Sound familiar? However, if you have experience in content marketing, you will know that “top-of-funnel” leads are generally the coldest. According to Marketo, 98% aren’t yet marketable. Why?

Just because they downloaded your eBook doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy right then and there.results

Your eBook download is only the beginning of the conversation. The lead needs to be scored and nurtured with regular email communications about other related content, then hopefully, when your prospect is ready, you’ve earned their trust and they will think of your company first.

Content Marketing requires an understanding from management, that you are filling the funnel with new prospects which may convert later. Without this discussion, your content program will not be able to stand up to typical cost-per-lead number the sales team is used to.

I hope you found this useful. Let me know your thoughts.

More resources

Interested in a full course? Here’s a free MOOC on Content Marketing from Northwestern University:

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