Topic brainstorming at Demandfest

Content Marketing Isn’t Marketing Content

Here’s a summary of a short talk on Content Marketing I gave at Demandfest, a practitioner-to-practitioner event for marketers.

In today’s SaaS market, one thing stands out, nothing. There is too much noise. Standing out and engaging customers is harder than ever. And there are too many spammy approaches that hurt the brand and drain lead quality. Your goal is to connect with the right customers, and content is the connector. Here’s some tips I picked up while running marketing at Socialtext and working with leading brands at SlideShare. You probably think of SlideShare as a Youtube for Powerpoint, but really it is the largest content marketing network on the web.

Narrative

The most important work you can do is to develop a brand narrative. Not just a story for how pieces of content string together in one quarter, but from the start of the company to the near future. What is the arc of the brand? What is it about the mission of the company that compels people to act with it? What is the vision of the company for the future that people want to be a part of? The basis of all messaging is about these company values. And if you work with a good PR/Branding expert you can develop a narrative that frames content strategy.

Calendars

Every company now needs a news room. The pace of your communications with PR and social media is like a political campaign, with a daily news cycle. But you also need to chart out a content calendar of at least one quarter with stories, assets and distribution. The calendar is also what helps keep the sources of content and distribution methods of content aligned and in synch.

Alignment

How can I fill in this calendar, you ask? Start with aligning the sources and distribution that your content marketing team will rely on.

  • Customers: the most important and valuable source of content is customer stories. This is an ongoing program.
  • Sales: help you distribute content directly to prospects in the pipe and you want them involved and valuing customer stories
  • Customer Success: makes customer stories happen, and personally distribute content directly to customers
  • Social Media team: distribute and promote your content, but can also be a good source for trend and other stories
  • Executives: make sure the program isn’t just valued by traffic and leads, but longer term outcomes. Get their help making programs not just funded, but prioritized when they require people’s time.

Leverage

This might be the most unique insight I have to share. Don’t think of content by asset, think of it by story. Because when you have a story, you can version it out into different assets.

For example, when at SlideShare I developed customer stories with a simple model. I’d have the customer agree to 1 one hour call and follow up by email. On the call I’d have a writer with a journalism background join and I’d ask a standard set of questions about the company, problem, solution and benefit. After the call I’d discuss with the writer the story we want to tease out and most important quotes. The draft blog post was shared and approved with the customer.

Next, we would ship the blog post to a presentation design firm (at the time Ethos3, Jess3 and other specialists you can find on SlideShare). I’d do a 30 minute call with them discussing the blog post. They’d first respond with 3 design comps. Then we would have a final presentation, and in a couple cases they simultaneously produced a infographic. We also had them produce an infographic that incorporated multiple customer stories in one. With more budget (and less focus on presentations!) we would have versioned the story for video.

In summary, create a story in blog format, and then version it out to as many formats as you can. Then distribute those formats widely through your social media team.

Segmenting Content

This part of the talk was an open brainstorm. When thinking through your content calendar stories, assets and distribution, here’s some ways to segment them:

  • One-time (eg a launch) vs. ongoing programs (eg customer story)
  • Formats: blog post, whitepaper, ebook, picture, illustration, infographic, presentation, video, VR bullshit
  • Distribution: personal email, email blast, microsite, social networks, PR placement, Paid placement, Ad-driven, etc.
  • Gating (even though you should advocate for longer term brand value, and how buyers are sensitized to expect the content they need to not be locked behind a form): Long-form protected, Sign-in (FB Oauth), Open

Content is Changing

Two of the trends at play right now:
1. Customers are increasingly sensitized against registration to acquire content. Form-gating content is less effective now, so use it sparingly. Like once a year.

2. Content now includes live experiences. Look to broadcast on FB Live and other apps whenever there is an appropriate setting to share a brand experience. For example, I think today’s event is being live streamed which is good for Kahuna’s brand, right? And this event should also generate shared session notes in the wiki. How are those notes being cleaned up and posted as content.

Game Changing

Marketers should always look for ways to change the game. What can you do so differently that meme flow comes to you? What are the stories that connect with people on an emotional level? What would make people advocate for you? I’m particularly interested in ideas to involve people in stories, beyond a call for comments at the end of a blog post…

Pro-tip: do all the above in Pingpad :-)

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