Pondering the Power of Disruption and Risk in Content Marketing [The Weekly Wrap]

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And that’s a wrap of the week ending Jan. 31, 2020

This week I remember the disruptive influence of Clayton Christensen. I give my take on a World Economic Forum report that names content and marketing as the jobs of tomorrow. I talk with Rebecca Geier about taking risks and the importance of “just doing it” in content marketing. And I share an article about an alternative way to think about audience personas.

Listen to the Weekly Wrap

Our theme this week is disruptive change. It’s like gravity, to paraphrase Clayton Christensen. You may hate it, but it doesn’t care. Let’s wrap it up.

One deep thought: The disruptive power of inspiration (2:30)

Who shapes your ideas? We all have muses – people inspire our creations. In Greek mythology, nine muses gave artists and philosophers the necessary inspiration. Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, is said to have inspired Homer to write the Iliad and the Odyssey. I like to think of Calliope as the muse of big ideas.

This week, the poets and philosophers of business art and science lost their Calliope: Clayton Christensen. The Harvard Business School professor was best known for his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. But his ideas on innovation, product development, and life in the modern world span so much more than business thinking.

Poets of business art and science lost their Calliope this week – Clayton Christensen, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

I explore the ways his thinking inspired me to pursue disruptive changes over the past 20 years and share my thoughts on the most important ideas from this inspiring man.

Once you’ve listened to this segment, explore Clayton’s thinking in these important works:

A fresh take on content marketing as a job of tomorrow (9:51)

An interesting report came out last week from the World Economic Forum (supported by data from LinkedIn) and it fits nicely with our theme this week: Jobs of Tomorrow: Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy.

These jobs are in “urgent demand” worldwide. Over the next three years, the report says, 37% of projected opportunities will be in the care economy. That makes sense as the population ages. Interestingly, the next ones are:

  • Sales, marketing, and content (17%)
  • Data and AI (16%)
  • Engineering and cloud computing (12%)
  • People and culture (8%)

17% of projected job opportunities will be in #sales, #marketing, #content via @wef report. @cmicontent #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

I share my take on the roles with the fastest growth and the news that content marketing strategy is one of the “most desired further learning” opportunities in the marketing and sales category.


This week’s person making a difference in content: Rebecca Geier (13:38)

I’m a huge fan of Rebecca Geier’s work. She’s got nearly 30 years of business leadership experience with engineering companies large and small and was named one of the 10 most innovative entrepreneurs in America by The Wall Street Journal editors. Rebecca’s passion is advising engineering executives to realize their vision. She’s also a talented speaker on the topic of B2B content marketing and is writing a university-level textbook on the topic.

Rebecca and I talked a little about the Kansas City Chiefs’ upcoming Superbowl LIV appearance – and a lot about content marketing as a disruptor in B2B marketing.

Here’s a peek at a bit of our conversation, in which Rebecca talks about the state of content and communications today:

Communication – work and personal – is mostly disappointing. It’s not done well. It requires an enormous amount of effort and thought. One-to-one communication requires a lot of humility, and I think all of those things are uncomfortable for a lot of people. Companies are just not thinking through how they’re communicating, and what they’re communicating, and who they’re communicating with.

Companies don’t think through what, how, and with whom they’re communicating, says @rebeccag via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

Listen in to our discussion, then learn more about Rebecca:

One content marketing idea you can use (32:43)

This week, I highlight another post I wrote because it ties so nicely to this week’s theme: An Alternative Approach to Developing Content Marketing Personas.

What’s different about this approach to personas? Well, it’s based on the jobs-to-be-done framework, which I learned about thanks to Clayton Christensen.

Love for this week’s sponsor: ContentTECH Summit

I have something you can muse on. I’m talking about ContentTECH Summit April 20 to 22 in San Diego.

We’ve got amazing, speakers like Meg Walsh who runs content services at Hilton Hotels; Cleve Gibbon, chief technology officer at Wunderman Thompson; and Wendy Richardson, senior vice president of global technical services for MasterCard.

These brand-level folks are ready to teach you the effective use of technology and better processes that can help your strategic efforts to create, manage, deliver, and scale your enterprise content and provide your customers with better digital experiences.

And I’ve got a discount for you. Just use the code ROSE100 and you’ll save $100 on registration.

Check out the agenda and register today.

The wrap-up

Tune in next week for more inspirational nutrition. I’ll noodle on one thought that reminds you nothing is impastable. I’ll talk about a one-in-a-melon news item that – let’s be frank – will have you saying, “hot dog!” And I’ll finish up with one fresh content marketing tip that gives you the encourgemint you need. And it’s all delivered in a little less time than it takes to cringe at another of your friends taking the Dolly Parton challenge.

If you have ideas for what you’d like to hear more of on our weekly play on words, let us know in the comments. And if you love the show, we’d sure love for you to review it or share it. Hashtag us up on Twitter: #WeeklyWrap.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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How to Create a Strategic Social Media Plan [Template]

Editor’s note: Given the ongoing need for brands to handle their social media plan more strategically, we updated this previously published article.

Concerned that the death of the Instagram “like” count might kill your brand’s traction on the platform? Questioning where your Facebook ads might appear across its network of sites, including Messenger? Curious as to whether user trust has deteriorated to where social media is no longer a safe space for your brand to play? You’re not alone.

Social media can be a tough nut to crack, as the rules, opportunities, audiences, and value propositions vary greatly from one channel to another – and can shift gears abruptly without a moment’s notice.

The one thing that will help conquer your social phobias is a channel plan – an advanced directive for how your brand will manage its content on these rented channels – and what you should (and shouldn’t) expect to achieve through your efforts.

Conquer your brand’s #socialmedia phobias with a channel plan, says @joderama via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Think precision

Many brands mistakenly assume they need to distribute their content anywhere and everywhere to maximize its reach. But plastering your brand’s content across every social network, trendy news site, and video platform that comes along is not a channel plan. That attempt to go as far and wide as possible on social media holds no regard for whom it reaches, how they might be impacted, or how that impact might reflect on the business.

Remember: Your content marketing strategy should define your social media marketing strategy – not the other way around. It’s always best to evaluate each social channel against your strategic goals and audience needs before you distribute content there. And when you turn this evaluation into an actionable plan, everybody on your team will know where, when, and what they should post on each channel and what their efforts are meant to achieve.

Here’s how to create and implement a channel plan for social media marketing that will enable you to do just that.


Make informed decisions

There are three core steps to the channel-planning process: (1) understanding the value proposition of the platform, (2) creating the use case for your brand to engage there, and (3) ensuring that everyone on your team works from the same set of guidelines. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

1. Social media channel choices

The nature of each channel and the engagement preferences of its core community play major roles in deciding whether your content is a good fit. For example, your audience might be open to connecting with your brand in a Twitter chat but reserves Snapchat for conversations with personal friends. Long-form content might play well on LinkedIn or Medium, while memes and captioned photos on these platforms would be inappropriate.

A #socialmedia channel is a good choice when its core community is a good fit for your brand, says @joderama via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of each channel and its corresponding community before joining the conversation. Use this helpful tip sheet from Aaron Agius as a primer for matching the content you want to create to the best distribution channel for achieving your brand’s goals.

2. Use case for social channels

With a short list of potential channels in hand, map your existing content assets to their most appropriate distribution channels.

Answering the following questions (adapted from CMI’s updated Social Media Survival Guide) will help you decide whether a channel is a good fit. Your responses also may provide clues as to how to position your content to compel the audience to act on it:

Who uses this channel and what are they using it for? 

  • Is it an important channel for our personas?
  • What are conversations like here?

Will it help us meet our objectives? 

  • Why does it make sense for our business to use this channel?
  • What goals will we pursue through our actions here?

Does it fit in with our editorial mission?

  • Will our content be viewed as unique and valuable or will the community find it intrusive or irrelevant?
  • Have our competitors established a strong presence or is there a chance to lead the conversation?

What results do we want to achieve? 

  • What should we be asking fans and followers to do after engaging with our content? Share it? Comment? Visit our site? Subscribe to our newsletter?
  • Is this an action this community is likely to take?

What kinds of content will work best on this platform? 

  • Are our topics relevant to this audience?
  • Have we created enough content in the appropriate formats to communicate consistently?

If your responses don’t reveal a compelling opportunity to engage on that channel or if the platform’s environment isn’t suited to your brand’s content vision and mission, it may be best to step away and reserve your team’s resources for channels that are a better fit.

3. Standards for your brand’s conversations

The primary purpose of content distribution is to build a trusted connection with your audience. While your company’s goals are important, you need to establish the right tone, the right topics, and the right way for your social team to conduct its conversations.

Establish the right tone, topics, and way for your #social team to conduct conversations, says @joderama via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

For example, everybody who posts content on your brand’s behalf should understand and align their efforts to a single set of social media guidelines to maintain a consistent voice and quality standards across your brand’s conversations.

As part of this effort, Erika Heald suggests reviewing your company style guide to help you refine your social personality and ensure that your content accurately uses (and spells) unique terms – like company trademarks, products, and service offerings.

Develop guardrails for #socialmedia to show employees you want them to engage online, says @sferika via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Take note of any topics or issues your team might want to avoid discussing on social media, as well as any legal or regulatory policies they must follow. For example, if you don’t want to risk falling afoul of the EU’s GDPR rules, North Coast Media’s Bethany Chambers suggests documenting the following criteria in your social media guidelines:

  • Distinguish editorial from advertising – commercial messages have stricter rules.
  • Get a signed model release for every original image or mention you use on social.
  • Include attribution for images sourced from third-party sites and cite original sources for images shared on your social channels.
  • Remove any content for which you can’t identify the source.

Remove any #content for which you can’t identify the source, says @writegirl1215 via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Consumption preferences and audience trends: Are there industry events, media innovations, or consumer behaviors on which your content distribution can capitalize (e.g., livestreaming video consumption habits, device-specific capabilities like memojis, popular memes)? How might these impact the tone/velocity you should adopt for distribution? Are there controversies or algorithm shifts that might cause  you to reconsider their value to your brand?

Current events: Trending topics can present timely distribution opportunities. For example, important, culture-related topics like diversity and inclusivity, racial sensitivity, and gender equality are at the forefront of the U.S. media’s conversations right now. When brands use their social content as a podium for their values – like luxury British fashion clothing company Jigsaw did with its #HeartImmigration Twitter campaign to highlight its views on the importance of diversity in the fashion industry – it can earn them a critical boost in visibility and relevance in social media conversations they normally wouldn’t pursue.

Team resources: If you only have an editor or two managing the content marketing process, the bandwidth for consistent distribution and conversation monitoring may be limited to a few outlets; however, if you have a full team of writers, editors, and other distribution partners at your disposal, the extra manpower (or womanpower, see above) affords increased flexibility and control to manage content across many more channels.


Build your plan

Now that you have the information to determine where, when, and how to distribute your social content, building the plan is simple. Create a matrix of the channels that make the most sense for your brand and note all engagement specifics for each one. When all the fields are filled out, you have a template that can be referenced easily, updated as necessary, and shared throughout your organization.

In my experience, it can be useful to outline as much information as possible in your initial plan so your team can refer to it when new opportunities emerge and a snap decision needs to be made. But it’s perfectly OK to start simply then build on or refine your data fields as you learn what’s working and what isn’t.

The following is a snapshot of the information I recommend accounting for in your initial channel plan, but you can also download the template (go to File > Download As > and select the format), and customize it for your needs:

  • Who we will reach: The persona(s) most active/engaged on this channel
  • Target goals/benefits: What this channel will help accomplish; any unique opportunities that can’t be achieved elsewhere
  • Featured topics: Subject areas/conversations likely to resonate with this community
  • Target velocity: How often and what time of day to post on this channel; how much time to spend monitoring and contributing to other relevant conversations
  • Formats: Content types that have proven successful or emerging formats that might present a chance to own the conversation in that social space
  • Tone and rules of engagement: Conversation style and voice that work best; special criteria or considerations to follow (e.g., “280 characters or less,” “avoid enabling videos to play automatically,” “emphasize visuals over text”)
  • Team resources: Team member in charge of communication on this channel; other personnel authorized to post on company’s behalf; whom to notify if questions arise or issues escalate
  • Call to action: Owned media/conversion point to drive traffic to
  • Key performance indicators: Metrics to gauge content performance against goals

Click to download

Editor’s note:  While CMI was used as a reference for this template, the sample data shown here does not represent our channel plan. 

You may also want to consider including the following data:

  • Target keywords/hashtags: A list of the keywords you are likely to target will make you more effective at including them in the content
  • Potential distribution partners: Any influencers, industry experts, or network connections you may have at your disposal who can help manage and amplify your outreach on the channel
  • Promotion opportunities: Tools, paid campaigns, and other opportunities you can leverage to support the content you post

Make your brand the life of the social media party

No matter how far and wide your business intends to extend its reach, successful content marketing distribution often comes down to having a strategic, systematic, and scalable approach. Our model is one way to ensure that everyone involved with your content is working from the same social media blueprint, but it’s not the only way to get the job done. Let us know what processes you use to determine where, when, and how you share your content and spread your brand influence.


Join us – and your fellow content marketers – on CMI’s community channels Slack, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (or by following our #CMWorld hashtag).

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Don’t Forget These 7 Tips to Get More Search Traffic

Are you using highly relevant keywords in your headlines? Are you actively building backlinks to your site?

Great. But you need to dig deeper into search engine optimization to get your site’s content all the traffic it’s capable of getting.

I’m going over seven often overlooked techniques step by step. Don’t worry. I’m not going to drown you in jargon or tackle anything super technical.

While I focus on Google – as it’s the most popular search engine by far –these tips can help you get more traffic from other search engines too.

Tip 1: Make sure your pages are indexed

A page needs to be in Google’s index to appear in its results. The index is like a gigantic database of all the webpages in the world. How do you find out whether Google has indexed your page? You can check for individual URLs through the cache method or your overall site with the Google Search Console option.

Use @Google Search Console or the cache method to see if your URLs are indexed, says @joetheseo via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet

Cache method (for individual URLs)

  • Go to Google.com.
  • In the search bar, type: cache:[the URL you want to check].

Do NOT put a space between the colon and the URL.

If the page isn’t indexed, a 404 error page appears.

If the page is indexed, a cached version appears plus the date it was backed up or saved (i.e., cached) by Google. (Thus, it may not be the current version of the page.)

Using the cache method for an index check has a couple of drawbacks:

  • It’s not 100% accurate. Occasionally, indexed pages aren’t shown as cached.
  • You can check only one URL at a time. That’s fine if you want to check a few pages but frustrating if you have dozens to check.

Search console method (for multiple URLs)

Google Search Console (previously called Google Webmaster Tools) allows you to see how Google views your site. It provides information that allows you to optimize your site to get more search engine traffic.

  • Verify you own the site by following Google’s instructions here. (You can do it through a domain or URL verification process.)
  • Go to Google Search Console and your site report will appear.
  • In the left column, under Index, click coverage. Your screen will look like this:

This report shows all the valid pages in Google’s index. It also displays pages with errors and warnings as well as excluded pages.

Use the Google Search Console method to evaluate multiple pages or the whole site. It only takes a few minutes to set up and provides loads of useful data.

Tip 2: Improve your click-through rate (CTR)

If your page looks uninviting in the search results, most people will scroll down and click on a competing page. But if your title tag and meta description are enticing, they’ll click on yours.

If your title tag and meta description are enticing, readers will click, says @joetheseo via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet

In many cases, your well-written headline for the page can simply become the title tag. Sometimes, though, it makes sense to craft a more keyword-focused title tag.

Your meta description tag should summarize your piece and engage the searcher to click to read more. Don’t default to the first sentence of your content.

A few different tools let you see how your title tag and meta description will appear before you publish. I like Google SERP Generator because it lets you play around with different possibilities.

BONUS TIP: You also can modify title tags and meta descriptions for existing pages. Just make sure you don’t alter pages already performing well.


Tip 3: Reduce your click-back rate

Just as you want to increase the number of people who like the look of your page enough to click on the link, you also want to reduce the number who click but return quickly to the search results.

Improve your #SEO traffic by reducing your click-back rate, says @joetheseo via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Your click-back rate is the percentage of people who return to the search results. A high rate signals to Google that the searcher’s needs weren’t met when viewing your content. (“Needs met” is a criteria considered by Google’s search quality raters when improving the search engine’s algorithms.)

SEO experts also believe Google and other search engines pay attention to dwell time – how long someone spends on the site before returning to the search results.

To reduce your click-back rate and to improve your dwell time, make sure your page:

  • Satisfies the searcher’s intent. To do this, you must know what searchers want and why – their commercial, informational, or navigational intent. Then you must deliver content that is truly relevant to those searchers.
  • Delivers on the promise your title and meta description make. If your content doesn’t answer their question or fill their need, the searcher will click away.


Tip 4: Add more internal links to your pages

Getting backlinks to your site from a third party is a great SEO move. But what about internal links? Are you using them as much as you could?

Visitors click on these internal links to see other related content on your site. For example, the three orange-highlighted links in the following excerpt from Jodi Harris’ post Don’t Obsess Over Search Rankings; Do This Instead direct the visitor to other Content Marketing Institute content.

The linking words in the text help Google better understand what your pages are about. They also can elevate reputation (PageRank as Google calls it). If you frequently link to a particular page, Google will see the page as an important one, perhaps a pillar content page.

The more you link to your other pages, the easier it is for your readers to find and consume more of your content – and the easier you make it for search engines to correctly crawl and index your content.

The more you link to your relevant content, the easier it is for your readers to find & consume more of your #content and for search engines to correctly crawl and index it, says @joetheseo via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet


Tip 5: Get broken backlinks fixed

Sometimes backlinks break. You take down a page or change a URL, but the third-party site linking to it hasn’t changed it. But given that backlinks are one of Google’s top ranking factors, it makes sense to fix any broken links.

Plenty of tools like Ahrefs can find your broken backlinks.

Plenty of tools like @Ahrefs can find your broken backlinks, says @joetheseo via @cmicontent. #tools #SEO Click To Tweet

Once you find broken backlinks, you can take steps to “fix” them without contacting the referring site:

  • Use a 301 redirect to point the “broken” URL to the most relevant existing page.
  • Republish the page at the old URL.

BONUS TIP: Start with pages that have multiple broken links, then fix pages with just one or two broken links.

Tip 6: Reach out to people who mention your brand

Just as you want to fix broken backlinks, you also want to catch missing natural backlinks.

Sometimes people mention your brand on their site or talk about your content but forget to link to it. Fixing this can be as simple as sending an email, but you can’t do that until you know who’s talking about your brand.

Ask people who mention your brand in their #content to include a backlink, says @joetheseo via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

One easy and free way of doing this is to set up Google Alerts for your brand name and variations. Then you can click on those mentions to see if the mentioning site links to your site.

Or if your budget allows, you can save time using a tool like BuzzSumo or Ahrefs, which highlight brand mentions without links. Below is an example using BuzzSumo:

Then you can filter to see which sites mention your brand but don’t include a link:

When you notice that your brand is mentioned without a backlink, you can reach out to the company and indicate your appreciation of the mention and ask if they would consider adding a link to your site.  It’s surprising how many will, especially when you respond soon after the article was published.

Tip 7: Ask people who already linked to your content

Alexandra Tachalova adds another opportunity to secure more backlinks in her email outreach guide – contact authors (and sites) who have mentioned your brand.

She uses BuzzSumo to find bloggers who regularly post and have mentioned her brand. Then she reaches out to them to see if they would link to her relevant content again in other pieces and pages. Deepening existing relationships can be a big plus in harvesting future backlinks.

Use @buzzsumo to find bloggers who regularly post & have mentioned your brand, says @joetheseo via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Optimize your SEO process

If you want more search engine traffic (and let’s face it, why wouldn’t you?), then these seven tips are great ways to boost your site in Google’s rankings and attract a a bigger – and perhaps more relevant – audience.

Which one will you pick to try this week?


Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

You don’t have to search far to uncover an opportunity to grow your content tech skills. Join us this April in San Diego for ContentTECH Summit.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Optimal Customer Experience? Content Marketing Plays a Role [New Enterprise Research]

One guiding star shines brightly for both the brand and its customers – the optimal customer experience across the engagement journey.

After all, no customer (or prospect) wants a disappointing encounter at any touchpoint in their interactions with a brand. And every brand wants contented customers who buy its products or services again and again.

But what role does content marketing play in delivering that optimal experience across the buyer journey?

That’s what we investigated in our latest research. The results are shared from Content Marketing Institute’s newly released Enterprise Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America (gated) sponsored by Seismic. This research is based on responses from people who work in B2B and B2C for-profit companies with 1,000 or more employees.

Interestingly, over half (51%) of those who agree their brands deliver an optimal customer experience across the engagement journey say their content marketing is extremely or very successful. Only 29% of the total set of respondents rated their content marketing that highly.

51% of enterprises w/ optimal customer experiences have highly successful #contentmarketing via @CMIContent. #research Click To Tweet

That big gap – 22 percentage points – between those who provide an optimal experience and all enterprise respondents hints at the importance of content marketing in the journey.

Drilling deeper, we discovered two additional categories – audience- and sales-related activities – where major differences occur between the optimal experience deliverers and everybody who responded.

Focus on the audience

Here’s how marketers who provide optimal experiences differ from the general group when it comes to focusing on the audience:

  • Optimal experience marketers prioritize delivering relevant content when and where a person is most likely to see it (89% vs. 68%).
  • They also prioritize the audience’s needs over their organization’s sales/promotional messages (70% vs. 54%).
  • And more optimal experience marketers say they create content based on specific points/stages of the buyer’s journey (64% vs. 49%).

Those who feel they provide optimal experiences also were more likely to meet other audience-related goals (build credibility/trust, build loyalty with existing customers, and building subscribed audiences) when compared to the total set of respondents.

The essential focus of #contentmarketing is the audience, says @EditorStahl via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet

These findings reinforce our belief that the essential focus of content marketing is the audience. If you’re not giving them what they need, when and where they need it, in a credible way, you’re not contributing to the ultimate brand goal of providing an optimal customer experience across the engagement journey.

Interestingly, one place where we found surprisingly little difference was in the division of the content creation pie among the four levels of the buyer journey – top, middle, bottom, and post-sale. Only post-sale content showed a difference of greater than 1% between the optimal experience providers and all respondents (13.2% vs. 11.5%). Even though the difference is small, it represents an opportunity for all respondents to re-examine the role content marketing should play in the customer experience after the sale.


All this focus on the audience doesn’t mean content marketers can ignore the numbers. We also looked at how content marketing connects to sales-related and number-focused activities. Again, those who say they provide an optimal customer experience differ significantly from the total set of respondents in several areas:

  • They measure the ROI of content marketing activities (66% vs. 49%).

2 of 3 enterprise marketers delivering an optimal experience measure #contentmarketing ROI via @CMIContent. #research Click To Tweet

  • Their content generates sales/revenue (64% vs. 49%).
  • They align content marketing and sales teams (36% vs. 21%).
  • They use metrics to measure content performance (88% vs. 74%).

Make sure to incorporate sales-minded thinking into your content marketing team. Everybody should know the standards their work is being measured by and how well they’re achieving those goals. They also should connect regularly with the sales team to share details around what content is available and how it’s working from a marketing perspective. It’s also an opportunity to learn what content works best for the sales team.

Make sure to incorporate sales-minded thinking into your #contentmarketing team, says @editorstahl via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet


A few more things

You didn’t think I’d write about our research without sharing our favorite ongoing question, did you? Yes, documenting your content marketing strategy still makes a difference. Sixty-two percent of optimal experience marketers have a documented strategy, while only 46% of all respondents do.

Read the full report to learn more about these areas of content marketing at enterprises:

  • Success and maturity level of programs
  • Team structures and outsourcing
  • Metrics and goals
  • Budgets and spending
  • Technology

Headed for success

These results are helpful for content marketers who want to strengthen their impact on the enterprise. If you truly commit to your audience and view your role as directly connected to sales, you’re well set for ensuring content marketing’s contribution to creating the optimal customer experience across the engagement journey.

Download the report Enterprise Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America sponsored by Seismic.

Bring your team to advance their audience-focus and sales-centric skills at Content Marketing World this October. Group rates are available. Register today. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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4 Content Marketing Goals That Really Matter to the Business

We’re just one month into 2020, and you probably know people who have given up on their personal goals or resolutions.

In our work lives, giving up on goals after a few weeks isn’t an option. Since you’re going to be working on them all year, double check that you’re working toward the right goals – goals that matter to business leaders.

Here’s the truth. Brand awareness ­– everybody’s favorite­ – isn’t going to cut it.

Brand awareness doesn’t cut it as THE #contentmarketing goal, says @Kmoutsos via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Content marketing’s business purpose

Have you ever heard a sales leader or business exec disparage content marketing as “arts and crafts” or wonder about its business value? You wouldn’t be the first.

The myth that content marketing is some nebulous, feel-good, unmeasurable thing gets told from time to time.

Yet the business purpose of content marketing is literally written into the definition:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

So why does that myth of unmeasurable, nebulous content marketing benefits exist? We content marketers might have ourselves to blame. Look at this chart from CMI’s 2020 B2B research, which shows the goals content marketers say they achieved in the past year.

Check out the one goal nearly everyone claims to have achieved. Yep, brand awareness (86%). (For B2C marketers, the response rate was similar at 84%.)

Brand awareness is a fine and worthy endeavor. But if that’s your only goal, you may be pushed to explain how awareness ties into an outcome that business leaders care about.


How to tie content to business goals and outcomes

Instead of setting awareness as THE goal, think of awareness as one step on the path toward a business goal. And what’s the business goal of content marketing? To drive profitable action.

Boom. Goal defined. My job here is done.

Except … you probably have questions. What counts as a profitable action? Let’s explore.

To be useful (and measurable), content marketing goals must be more specific – and match a meaningful business goal your company is working toward.

#Contentmarketing goals must match a meaningful business goal, says @Kmoutsos via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

CMI founder Joe Pulizzi likes to say businesses care about three things:

  • Sales
  • Savings
  • Sunshine (his parlance for customer loyalty, retention, cross-sales, and evangelism)

Choose goals that support one of those three things and you’ll have no problem communicating how your content marketing team contributed to the business goals. Here are several to consider.



Building a subscribed audience is the basis of content marketing. Subscribers give you permission to communicate with them regularly. And that gives you permission to subtly market to them while giving them value outside of a product or service. In fact, Joe and CMI’s Chief Strategy Advisor Robert Rose argue that the asset created by content marketing isn’t content at all, it’s the audience itself.

Building a subscribed audience is the basis of #contentmarketing, says @KMoutsos via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet
When it makes sense: Set building a subscriber base as the goal when your business wants to penetrate a new market, compete with a high-profile market leader, or begin the content marketing journey.

Profitable actions to track: Measure your progress by the number of subscribers to an owned channel (email newsletter, blog alerts, magazine, podcast, etc.) or the subscriber conversion rate compared with general audience conversion rate.

To go deeper into subscribed audience as a goal, check out:


Great content can encourage prospects to sign up for a demo, register for an event, or request access to a resource center. (A lead could be defined as a contact in some organizations.) Unlike subscribers, leads provide more than an email address. They trade more information about themselves because they see a value in the content offer.

Caveat: Some leads really aren’t leads. These contacts might have wanted the particular piece of content, but they may not want to hear from your brand again or aren’t that interested in your product or service now. Consider getting these not-really leads to opt in as subscribers because they eventually may be more valuable over time.

When it makes sense: Focus on leads if your business sees content marketing as a tool for the sales team – to help find or qualify new prospects or to help nurture leads through the funnel.

Profitable actions to track: Measure your impact with form/landing page conversion rates, downloads, and percentage of marketing- and sales-qualified leads.

To go deeper on tracking lead generation, check out:

Sales support/enablement

Supporting sales with content typically involves creating pieces that offer proof points to help customers decide to choose (or justify choosing) your product or service. Think testimonials and case studies that show how similar companies have solved their problems.

When it makes sense: Focus your content efforts here when your company needs to grow sales or open up new revenue streams.

Profitable actions to track: Measure your sales support through lead-to-customer conversion rates, effect on time to close new customers, and revenue generated.

To go deeper on aligning content with sales, check out:

Customer support and loyalty

Though many think of content marketing as a top-of-the-funnel play, content can work to reinforce the customer’s decision after the sale. How-to and activation content can help make sure the customer gets value from the purchase – and is likely to buy again.

How-to & activation #content can help make sure the customer gets value from the purchase, says @Kmoutsos via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

When it makes sense: Focus on customer support content when reducing support costs is a priority (i.e., high volumes of support calls), when the business is struggling to secure repeat business, or when upselling product options and add-ons is a priority.

Profitable actions to track: Measure the impact by the percentage of existing customers who consume content, reduction in the number of support calls, number of repeat customers, revenue from upsell, customer-retention rate, change-in-churn rate.

Don’t hide your goals under a barrel (or in a PowerPoint slide)

Most of us know the SMART framework (specific, measurable, actionable/achievable, realistic, and time-bound) for goal setting. Authors of an article from MIT Sloan argue the SMART framework leaves out important elements that can help eliminate quarter or year-end surprises: frequent discussions and transparency.

The article suggests FAST as a better acronym and framework:

  • Frequently discussed so the team stays focused on the right things and can change/correct course as needed
  • Ambitious so they promote innovative ideas
  • Specific so they include milestones and metrics
  • Transparent so teams understand and coordinate on each other’s needs and goals

The frameworks are seemingly complementary and could easily be a blended mix (SMART-FAST? FARMS-STAT?) for your content marketing goal-achieving plan.

Whichever framework you choose, do your content marketing program a favor. Set ambitious goals tied to a business outcome. And then talk about those goals in ways that make your business leaders care.

Talk about your #contentmarketing goals in ways that make business leaders care, says @Kmoutsos via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

As usual, Joe nails what’s at stake:

Most content marketing programs don’t stop because of lack of results. They don’t stop because they aren’t working … They stop because the people with the purse strings – the ones who control the budget – don’t understand content marketing, why you are doing it, and what impact it could and should make on the organization.

Most #contentmarketing programs stop because the people who control the purse strings don’t understand content marketing & the impact it makes on the org, says @joepulizzi via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

What goals are you working toward this year? How are you making sure the purse-string holders understand what content marketing is contributing to the business? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


There’s still time to set growing your content marketing skills as a professional goal for 2020. Then join us at ContentTECH Summit in San Diego this April and Content Marketing World in Cleveland this October.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Under Pressure? Don’t Worry, Stop Overthinking [The Weekly Wrap]

Listen to the Weekly Wrap here or subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. If you enjoy the show, please take a moment to rate it or post a review.

And that’s a wrap of the week ending February 7, 2020

This week I’m ruminating on rumination (and suggesting an alternative to overthinking things). I offer my fresh take on the role of content marketing in brand activism. Julia McCoy joins me to talk about how following her gut instinct – even when it scared her – helped her build a profitable content marketing business that ended up being a true lifeline. Finally, I share an article that will help you quit worrying and find and fix the inefficiencies in your content pipeline.

Listen to the Weekly Wrap

Our theme this week is “What, me worry?” Let’s wrap it up.

One deep thought: Making decisions under pressure (2:30)

Are you overthinking things? Many people believe rehashing problems in our heads helps us figure out the answer. We become so focused on making the right decision, we lose the ability to make one at all.

Overthinking often rears its head as we plan a complex change. I recently worked with a director of content strategy at a large B2C company to map 12 weeks of tasks related to a major content initiative. Worry over whether the e-commerce team would meet the deadlines of a tech project in time to line up with the content efforts weighed on him – especially since he didn’t control that part of the project.

Overthinking often rears its head as we plan a complex change, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

I share the advice I gave this client about planning for the future but living (and working) in the moment:


A fresh take on content activism in a ‘post-truth’ world (10:15)

Commentary from PublishersDaily/MediaPost caught my eye this week. The article, Content Activism Can Help Brands Shape A Positive Future, covers a topic on my mind right now.

The article starts by covering ground most of us are familiar with – brands are using content “to align themselves with the key issues of our time.” It goes on to talk about content’s role:

(C)ontent marketing is simply a bigger canvas for brands to develop a narrative, but more recently, the narrative has changed from just product or services to include ethics and principles. We’re asking ‘how’ more than ever. As conversations develop around profit vs. purpose or inclusive capitalism, what they do creates brand value, preference, and differentiation.

The author points to the example of the Food Sustainability Index developed by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition and the Economist Intelligence Unit to promote knowledge around food sustainability. As the article notes, “In a post-truth world, content surfaced within quality editorial environments allows audiences to feel confident that a similar level of diligence and attention has been applied to the facts.”

I share my take on this interesting trend, including another example of how corporate social responsibility (CSR) content is no longer just about what the company is doing (getting rid of paper cups in the office or having the team run a 5K for charity), but where media is the CSR program. Interesting stuff, and I’ll be watching and writing about this more in the future.

#CorporateSocialResponsibility content is no longer just about what the company is doing, but where media is the #CSR program, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet


This week’s person making a difference in content: Julia McCoy (14:44)

I often talk about how my guests are making meaning in content. And this week’s guest is the living standard of that.

Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and author. She founded a multimillion-dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, Julia has been named an industry thought leader in content marketing by Forbes and is the author of two best-selling books, founder of The Content Hacker, and educator. Julia has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online courses. Her latest book, Woman Rising, is a memoir that chronicles how she escaped from a religious cult and rebuilt her life.

Julia is somebody who definitely doesn’t let worry stop her from making (and meeting) ambitious goals. We talk at length about her unique path to building a content marketing business. Here’s a preview:

Three months into it, I had more work than I could handle. It was a breaking point for me. Do I continue solo and turn down all these gigs or do I build a business? Naturally, because I am that type of persona, I wanted to build a business. That’s where Express Writers came from. It was a five-minute idea I honestly thought wouldn’t last a year. Eight years later, 90 people on the staff, it’s like “pinch me.” But at the same time, it’s that equation of working hard really does equal success. It does come down to how hard are you willing to work?”

It all comes down to how hard are you willing to work, says @JuliaEMcCoy via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Listen in to our discussion, then learn more about Julia:

One content marketing idea you can use (31:45)

The post I’d love for you to look at this week is right in line with what I’ve been talking about – figuring out how to make worry-free plans.

In Fix These Big Inefficiencies in Your Content Pipeline, Kimberly Zhang offers really good tips on avoiding content marketing waste. She points out really smart areas to address, including writing for multiple personas, lacking in accountability, expertise on too many topics, creative teams that lack support. Fixing these areas will help you worry a little less.

An overloaded or overwhelmed #content team can lead to #contentmarketing waste, says @KimZhangCEO via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

Love for this week’s sponsor: ContentTECH Summit

Here’s something you don’t have to worry about – where to find education on content and technology – and a healthy dose of sunshine. I’m talking about ContentTECH Summit April 20 to 22 in San Diego.

We’ve got amazing speakers like Meg Walsh, who runs content services at Hilton Hotels; Cleve Gibbon, chief technology officer at Wunderman Thompson; and Wendy Richardson, senior vice president of global technical services for Mastercard.

These brand-level folks are ready to teach you the effective use of technology and better processes that can help your strategic efforts to create, manage, deliver, and scale your enterprise content and provide your customers with better digital experiences.

And I’ve got a discount for you. Just use the code ROSE100 and you’ll save $100 on registration.

Check out the agenda and register today.

The wrap-up

Join me next week as we look for the sharpest tools in our shed. (Don’t worry, we’ll nail it.) This is not a drill – and we aren’t nuts. But we will wrench one thought to level your head, pick one news item to hammer our point home, and share one content marketing rule that will help you measure up. And it’s all delivered in a little less time than it takes to learn that Kansas City is actually in Missouri.

If you have ideas for what you’d like to hear more of on our weekly play on words, let us know in the comments. And if you love the show, we’d sure love for you to review it or share it. Hashtag us up on Twitter: #WeeklyWrap.

To listen to past Weekly Wrap shows, go to the main Weekly Wrap page

How to subscribe

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Content Marketing and Your Budget: Here’s What to Expect

content marketing budget

We all want to know: how much does it cost? 

That’s usually the first question I have whenever I’m shopping around for a service or product.  Most of us are thrifty buyers, and we’re looking for someone or something who can help us solve a problem we’re having.

Because of that, I don’t give two hoots about you and your story.  I’m a buyer, and I need something.  Lead, follow, or get out of my way.  Stop throwing how great you are down my throat! 

Businesses are adding too much extra noise to our digital world, and I’ve made it a goal to find more ways to help more businesses make better content marketing choices and stop contributing to the noise. 

That goal usually starts with the right price.  Most agencies and freelancers will NOT put their price on their website or anywhere in public.  We don’t have what would be considered “standard pricing” either.  There are a few reasons for this:

1.      There’s no telling what you need or want in a content marketing plan.  Once we have an idea of what you’re trying to do and the timeline for your goals, we’ll be able to tell you how much time and effort it’ll take us to help you. 

2.      There’s a bit of a price tag because of the time and materials required to perform the work.  Further, the industry is highly competitive, and certain competitors will do a half-assed job for you at half the price.  We’re not going to help them prey on you.  It’ll end up costing you more in the long run.

3.      Would you hire an employee without meeting them first?  Probably not.  And you shouldn’t hire a marketing consultant without meeting them first.  I act as an extension to your team, and I want to meet you before we do anything.  I don’t do hard sales – that defeats the purpose of my goal to minimize irrelevant noise and build B2B partnerships. 

What should you expect in terms of content marketing costs?

If someone is offering content marketing for under $1,000/mo, you should be wary.  Here’s why:

  • Unless they’re working for minimum wage, it’ll be difficult to create and implement a content strategy on that budget. 
  • The best people in the industry who can use content marketing to grow your business start in around $80/hour and can go up to $250/hour.
  • Expect a good content marketer to need a minimum of 20 hours per month to do this work. 

I’ve been in the content marketing niche for more than a decade, and I’m still surprised by the drastic differences in prices from freelancers and agencies.  It’s important to know what to expect.  Never hesitate to ask questions of someone trying to sell you marketing services.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. How will you track my return on investment? 
  2. Who will be responsible for what? 
  3. Who owns all the assets?
  4. Are there long-term or short-term contracts?

Helpful Tips

When looking for content marketing support, keep the following in mind: 

  • Small and medium businesses can benefit from a small, yet powerful content marketing team with a diverse skill set.  Don’t overspend at bigger agencies where you’re paying for skills you may not need, and don’t under-spend by hiring a single freelancer without the appropriate skill set.
  • Outsourcing is usually better than bringing someone in-house because you don’t have to worry about management, spacing, or overhead. 
  • Don’t try to put the tasks on a current employee.  Content marketing is a skilled trade, and one of the biggest, glaring holes in small and medium business marketing plans is a lack of qualified talent. 
    • For example, your secretary or cashier may know how to use social media, but she is not a social media expert who sells online. 

Reality Check

Respect your brand, respect your customers, and respect the industry.  Don’t insult your customers with cheap marketing ploys and ugly branding efforts.  They notice.  Marketing should be all about giving customers what they want and need in a way that benefits your business.

If you don’t know what that means, I’ll put it another way – if you have someone who has never been formally trained in the marketing industry in some way, you are cutting corners, your audience can see that, and they respond by giving their business to someone else and forgetting all about you. 

Let’s talk more.