The saying goes, all good things in life are difficult to achieve – running a marathon, making a cheesy, puffy soufflé and, in the world of digital media, content marketing. The art of brands advertising through content is not new. But in the past year, the adoption of this strategy has hit critical mass with more than 90% of B2C brands and 95% of B2B companies using it to educate consumers about their brands. It’s playing a central role in many marketing strategies, yet nearly all marketers are struggling with every aspect of it – from curation, discovery and measurement. Brands know they should be doing it, but need help.
Last week, Digital Content Next hosted its’ inaugural Content All Stars event, which brought together some of the worlds most effective content marketers across nearly every business channel – Goldman Sachs, IBM, and the poster child of successful branded content: Red Bull. Here are some of the top lessons that we’ve learned on how to take your branded content from meh to must-read.
1. Always provide value. Never sell.
Consumers don’t want to be sold to – that’s why banner ads have not been terribly effective. Any piece of good content needs to educate, inform or entertain. Great content does all three. The easiest way to do this is to always produce from the perspective of the reader. Are they going to walk away glad they just spent time with your content? Have an honest dialogue with yourself, and with your team: Would you want to sit down on a Sunday morning, pumpkin spice latte in hand, and read what you’ve just created? If the answer is anything but yes, go back to the drawing board.
2. Don’t assume ‘if you build it, they will come.’
Chances are, your target audience is not waiting with baited breath for your next blog post or whitepaper. What are they waiting for is a relevant, enjoyable online experience that provides value. If your content is good enough (see #1), they won’t mind if the article, infographic, listacle or Vine was created by a brand. In order for consumers to experience all of the compelling content you’re creating, you need to make it find them. It’s not enough to only post to your owned media properties anymore – you must make targeted distribution a key component to your overall content marketing strategy. A three pronged approach across owned media, paid media and earned media channels will help ensure the content you spend a lot of time and money creating gets the traffic and engagement it deserves.
3. Be very specific about what you want to achieve – and then measure against it.
This sounds obvious, but the most successful marketing programs have extremely clear objectives and success metrics. One could argue that the higher you go up the funnel, which is often where content marketing tactics sit, the harder it is to measure performance. Not anymore. Today’s technology and automation tools are making it much easier to track, measure and optimize against branding campaigns in the same way that we have been able to track direct response campaigns.
The often ambiguous ‘page view’ has been replaced with more accountable metrics like time spent, scroll depth, scroll velocity and hover rates to better gauge consumer engagement. Be scrupulous about applying the same analytics and optimization strategies you practice with standard paid media campaigns like display and search with your content marketing. You’ll gain invaluable insight into what your audience is really responding to and be able to adjust your strategy accordingly.
The key to effective content marketing is delivering an authentic, memorable experience your audience will appreciate. This may be easier said than done, but the extra effort is worth it – and with the right strategy and execution tools – entirely possible.
Lindsay Boesen is the Director of Marketing at PulsePoint, a global advertising technology platform focused on fusing the efficiency of programmatic technology with the engagement of content marketing. At PulsePoint she oversees the companies marketing, communications, and creative team. Lindsay has over 10 years experience as a B2B digital marketer and was previously Senior Global Marketing Manager for Vibrant, the pioneer in to contextually relevant native advertising. She has also held marketing & creative roles at media companies like Select NY and Condé Nast. Trained in brand strategy, copywriting and art direction at NYC’s Adhouse, Lindsay holds a B.A in Communications & Advertising from Loyola College in Maryland.