Content marketing is a tactic as old as print publishing, but the rise of digital content marketing began with the dotcom bubble is the 1990’s. The democratization of content that occured during that time, when the internet invited inexpensive distribution of thoughts and ideas. In 2004, when Merriam-Webster named “blog” the word of the year, content marketing was officially mainstream and the unlimited proliferation of content began.
While the internet has been a successful vehicle for content marketing, this movement isn’t without challenges. Today, according to Chad Pollitt with Relevance, “There are a finite number of people in the world, and they can consume only so much content. According to Mashable, 347 WordPress blog posts are published, 48 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded and 571 websites are launched every minute of every day. Those numbers continue to grow year over year.” As you might imagine, these staggering statistics force good writers and marketers to obsess over content quality, relevance, and timeliness.
If your organization has an inbound marketing strategy or is considering adding Inbound as a marketing channel, here are four ways to do so successfully without your content contributing to the saturation problem.
Go for Unique
So often, published content is just a rearrangement of ideas already on the internet. This is due to the research your writers might conduct as part of their content creation process, in which they end up outlining generic best practices that are widely accepted. In my work as an inbound marketing strategist with both B2B and B2C companies, the most effective content with the highest levels of engagement have always come straight from the mouths of the company’s thought leaders. The challenge is that often these individuals are busy, have limited availability, and their time is highly valuable. However, if you want your content to be unique, cutting-edge, and therefore valuable to your target audience, it’s key to get into the minds of these subject matter experts at your organization.
One effective tactic is the age-old interview, where you record a conversation with one of your company’s thought leaders about a topic you’d like to explore in a more formal format. This could be an open ended conversation that might start with “what are the upcoming challenges you predict in this industry?” or be more of a formal Q&A format. If you choose the latter, it’s often helpful to start with a creative brief that might include an executive summary of the point you’d like to make in the content piece, along with some interview questions that help you understand the perspective of your company’s key influencer. Recording and transcribing the call can help you catch details that might be missed in the conversation as it’s unfolding, and provide additional content to supplement the original piece.
Tell a Story
Company case studies or specific situations experienced in your role or within your company will always provide unique content opportunities. Instead of writing an article about “industry best practices” why not share a story about how you overcame a unique organizational challenge using one of those best practices? For instance, if you are tempted to write a post about “increasing email open rates with three best practices” why not share a mini case study instead? Maybe you run an experiment on “from” email addresses at different points in the sales cycle. Instead of sharing generic information about how you might change the “from” email address in your email promotional efforts as the prospect progresses through the buyer’s journey, share the problem your organization was working to overcome around open rates, the hypothesis, and what you learned through the experiment.
Classically, this is business storytelling, a trend that is resurfacing in popularity as indicated by Jeff Bezo’s recent abandonment of powerpoints at Amazon in favor of a storytelling approach to solving business problems.
In a world where anyone with a website and passion for writing can become an “expert” in a topic, crowdsourced content can be a valuable way to consolidate a wealth of credible knowledge into one meaningful piece of content.
Our partner, Databox, does this weekly after surveying dozens of industry leaders on hot marketing topics. In their recent post, Databox featured ways to reduce bounce rates based on 76 industry expert contributions. Not only does this bring together (healthy) conflicting points of view on one topic, it promotes distribution to the right audience. If you are featured alongside other thought leaders, you are more likely to tweet, share, like and ultimately follow the collective leaders featured in the post. And in a world of saturated content, distribution is key to success. When there is an abundance of content, those seeking information are more likely to turn to sources close to them for credible information, and that credibility is present in crowdsourced content from industry leaders.
When there are over 35,500,000 articles written about “SEO Best Practices” sometimes it’s best to play devil’s advocate in the industry. In a recent presentation at the Denver Digital Summit by LinkedIn’s Global Brand Strategist Jon Lombardo, I was reminded that success is contrarian in nature, or that success only comes from being right and being different.
Therefore, to create traction is a world of saturated content, sometimes you have to take a risk and go against the grain. In the way of “SEO Best Practices” Rand Fishkin, SEO guru, does an excellent job of doing just this on his SparkToro blog. Sometimes, getting attention for your content means presenting information that your audience doesn’t expect, providing data that challenges their current beliefs, and presenting a completely different perspective on a common theme.
A successful inbound content strategy is not just creating content with keywords on your blog. It’s not hiring an intern to repurpose information already on the internet. Effective inbound content marketing will always be about creating value. It will always be about improving the customer experience, whether that “customer” is your most profitable customer or a potential customer who is currently just a website visitor. It’s about creating content that is memorable, valuable, meaningful, and unique. Inbound marketing is an art and a science, not just a writing exercise and can be summed up in advice from the great Benjamin Franklin “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about."