Why content helps and advertising sells

The ingredients for a successful enterprise content marketing practice

In our previous article on the importance of enterprise content marketing we did three things:

  • We discussed why content is so important to marketers today vs. 50 years ago
  • We drew a distinction between “our” kind of helpful, useful content and the kind of interruptive, time-wasting content historically created by advertisers
  • We discussed the need for Enterprise Content Marketing (ECM) and defined what that means at POP

In this post we’ll talk about the capabilities necessary for brands that desire to practice ECM.

A note about definitions: Two people we admire, Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi of The Content Marketing Institute, are careful to draw a distinction between “content marketing” and “content marketing strategy.” For simplicity’s sake we have combined the two into planning (strategy) and doing (content marketing).

7 Capabilities that Enterprise Content Marketers need

We’ve identified seven essential components of successful enterprise content marketing programs. We’ll touch on each briefly below; then we’ll elaborate on all of them in future articles.

1. Brand Strategy

Every interaction a person has with your brand leaves them feeling more positively or negatively disposed toward you. In a sense, each interaction is a “small s” story that adds up to your “Big S” Brand Story.

Many marketers today have (rightfully) embraced storytelling. Some even devote entire sites to storytelling. Unfortunately, too few marketers first take the time to understand their “Big S” Brand Stories before embarking on content marketing programs. Without a firm understanding of their brands and what they stand for, they default to “engagement” as their key success metric. While engagement is important, enticing people to interact with your brand without also convincing them to love your brand is a miss. How many times have you laughed at a TV spot and then wondered afterward what product was being marketed? Just as every ad you create and every package you design must be on brand, so too must your content.

If a brand strategist is not involved in your content marketing efforts, your chances for success will be diminished.

2. Account Planning and Customer Insights

If you agree that the best content is helpful and useful, the next logical step is to understand whom you are helping and what he or she needs. Research reports and data will only take you so far.

Either you or someone you hire has to get out there and get to know your audience well enough to know what keeps them awake at night and what gets them out of bed in the morning. We wrote a post about that here.

3. Content Strategy

According to The Content Marketing Institute, the #1 difference between successful content marketers and unsuccessful content marketers is the existence of a written content strategy that is clearly communicated to an organization and revisited regularly.

A good content strategist will ensure that content does not become a stand-alone initiative in your organization, and that all of the content you create is connected in some way to all of your other marketing efforts.

4. Content Conceptualization

Nearly every brand today uses content and storytelling on some level. Unfortunately, too many brands focus on quantity over quality. In the heat of battle, individual content elements become items to check off a to-do list.

What’s missing from most content marketing efforts today are big ideas that resonate with audiences by meeting their emotional and rational needs. It’s not enough to have a loosely organized network of freelance content creators working for your brand. You need a team of highly creative rock stars dedicated to your brand, focused on generating big ideas and then executing those ideas flawlessly.

5. Content Promotion and Syndication

One of the biggest problems faced by content marketers today is scale. How do you get your content in front of enough people at a time and place when it will accomplish the most good — for you andyour audience? Whether you use content syndicates like Sharethrough and Nativo, content promotion partners like Outbrain and Taboola, or direct relationships with publishers like AARP or The NY Times, strong content syndication expertise is essential if you are going to generate economies of scale around your content efforts.

6. Measurement and Analytics

Quick! What’s the goal of your content marketing efforts? How do you know your goals are right for your organization? How do you know if and when you’ve reached your goals? How do you incorporate the learning from past efforts into future efforts? How do you know if your content is helpful and useful to your audience?

Even if no one in your organization is asking those questions today, they will. Everyone responsible for content in an organization is eventually asked to prove the value of that content.

A strong analytics expert will help you understand the need to define your metrics of success before you create content, so that all of your content is designed to stimulate behaviors that are both measureable and relevant to the success of your business.

7. Content Management

By this we mean one empowered Managing Editor who oversees creation, aggregation, curation, syndication, measurement, threading, targeting, repurposing, and sun setting of branded content that propels people through the purchase process.

Shane Snow, founder of Contently, tells us that their most successful clients all have Managing Editors in place to make sure their content is on brand, tied to an agreed-upon strategy, and tied to all other marketing efforts. Without a Managing Editor, it’s too easy for things to get derailed.

Summary

As we review the list of capabilities above, it strikes us that excellence in Enterprise Content Marketing looks an awful lot like excellence in marketing. In truth, if you review any Marketing 101 textbook, you’ll find that knowing your customers; understanding their needs; solving their problems; getting the right message to the right person in the right place at the right time; measuring everything; testing, learning and improving; and making sure that it all reinforces your brand values are all integral to every marketer’s success.

The difference between content as we define it, and advertising as most practice it, is that content helps and advertising sells.

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