Brandon Gearing
Marketing Coordinator
Connecticut Innovations

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend several days in the beautiful city of Cleveland, Ohio, with 2,500 other content marketers from 50 different countries. While there, we were schooled by some of the most brilliant minds in the industry. A few of my favorites were Joe Pulizzi, Andrew Davis, Scott Stratten and Mark Schafer. They highlighted a list of more than 50 different speakers.

Oh…and there was some guy named Kevin Spacey, who, as it turns out, knows a thing or two about content:

What I’m bringing back to you is five of my most important takeaways that I hope will inspire your team to really embrace content marketing so you can do it effectively. Content marketing is both necessary and possible no matter the stage of your company or the industry you’re in. As Spacey said during his keynote, “There are no more excuses. Anyone can build an audience. Just do it!”

So, let’s do it.

1. Content marketing is not a new concept.

Right from the very start, Andrew Davis, the opening keynote speaker, made sure we knew this. Content marketing has been around for more than a century. In fact, as many of us learned, John Deere is largely credited with being the first content marketer. His magazine, “The Furrow,” was started in 1895 to help farmers learn about new technology that could help make their lives easier. It’s still being published today.

1897_Furrow_Front_Page_1897

Knowing this, I think we can dismiss the notion that content marketing is a fad. It has staying power. It has survived more than 100 years. The idea has just exploded now because of the vast number of messages people are seeing on a daily basis and the distribution vehicles that are available. There is a ton of noise to compete with and it doesn’t begin and end with your competitors. How do you get in front of your audience when there is so much to compete with? Think about how much content you see on a daily basis. To give you an idea, here’s my morning:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Check any missed texts, phone calls and emails on my phone.
  3. Shower and get ready for work.
  4. Eat breakfast and browse Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the latest news. There are thousands of messages that fly across my screen in just a 10-minute session.
  5. I flip on the TV and watch the news. I largely ignore the commercials and focus back on my phone where the news is tailored to my preferences.
  6. Drive to work.

Throughout my day, I continue to stay updated in the same way. I communicate with friends and family. I check my social networks for the news and information I care about. I read blogs that write about things I care about. I share things that I think my followers will care about. Everything I see is based on my preferences. And guess what? None of those preferences are your product…unless you make me care.

2. “If you sell something, you make a customer today. But if you genuinely help someone, you make a customer for life.” – Jay Baer

Jay Baer is a genius for this one. It borrows from the “if you teach a man to fish” philosophy. What it tells you is that if you sell someone your product, you have made one sale. But if you broaden your focus beyond sales, and concentrate on helping people, you will keep them coming back for more.

Content marketing is all about offering value to people. Helping people is a part of that value. Everything your business does should be focused on solving a problem that people have. Because you’re a good marketer, you know that no one cares about the technical aspects of your product. When you’re doing your marketing and selling, you’re speaking to how your product solves their problems, right?

Your content should solve problems too. Home Depot is a brand that does it right. They sell home improvement items, so what do they do? They make “do it yourself” videos for various home improvement projects:

This is a retail outlet producing extremely valuable content. These aren’t advertisements about their products. These videos show people that Home Depot cares about its customers’ problems and wants to fix them. It also positions the company as a thought leader. These are two major wins!

On my next home improvement project, I may head over to YouTube to see if Home Depot has covered it in this series because I’ve seen these videos before. And once I watch it, guess where I’m heading to buy what I need to make it happen?

Home Depot.

3. “I’ve learned people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

This quote comes from the amazing Maya Angelou and was told to us by Robert Rose, one of the keynote speakers and chief strategist at Content Marketing Institute.

Now I don’t think that Angelou was speaking about content when she said this, but it absolutely applies to your content marketing. People love to get what I call “feels.” Make them happy, make them sad, make them excited. Make them feel some sort of emotion with your content.

The best way to do this is usually by telling a story. Every industry has its stories. Find yours and tell it. Here’s one of the more popular examples of great storytelling:

Chipotle’s mission is to serve “food with integrity.” This video is an absolute home run in delivering that message. I grabbed a few top-rated (verbatim) comments on the video just to show how it resonated with people:

  • “That poor cow. looked sooo sad”
  • “beautiful movie ! proud to be a vegan..”
  • “Shocking!!! if we don’t do something now who knows what will happen to us”
  • “I saw this at school I like the song but it almost made me cry because the poor cow”
  • “I cried… It BURNS”

So, we gather that people were saddened by some of the images, shocked by what happens to some of the food we eat and proud that Chipotle caters to vegans and has “food with integrity.”

Emotion spawns brand advocates. It creates customers for life. Emotion is one of the most powerful things in the world. If you can draw it out of people, it will be more effective than just about any other tactic you’re using right now.

Here are some other great examples of storytelling that may inspire you:

And perhaps one of the best examples of brand storytelling of all time…The LEGO Movie.

Pretty amazing, right? You can do this, too. I know that many of you reading this don’t have large staffs or big budgets. The concept of storytelling doesn’t have a price tag, though. Your production value might not rival some of these examples, but if you can tell a good story, you’re going to do really well.

4. “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.” – Jay Baer

Another quote from Baer here. The guy is good, what can I say?

One of the common problems companies have with social media is not knowing how to use it effectively. By now, everyone knows they need to do it. They just don’t know how to do it.

I actually did a podcast on how to use Twitter for B2B recently, so if you want to dive a little deeper into that, I recommend checking it out.

But back to Baer’s point. Your social media strategy is entirely dependent on your content strategy. You can’t have a good social media strategy if you don’t have content.

You need to produce great content “fire,” and then promote it with social media “gasoline.” Listen to the way Baer breaks it down here:

It makes sense, right? If we’re producing helpful content or content that incites emotion, we need a way to get people to it so maybe it can go “viral.” If you think throwing it up on your website is the way to do that, well, you’re wrong.

Even the best content needs to be promoted. Social media is that “gasoline” to make that fire bigger. You have access to networks with billions of people. Bring your great content to them there and if you do it right, watch what happens.

By the way, if you don’t yet have a large audience on social, you should:

  1. Still produce content and share it on social.
  2. Experiment with some paid advertising.

If advertising on social media is a bit foreign to you, I strongly suggest subscribing to the content put out by both Jon Loomer and Mark Schafer. I sat in on sessions with both of these guys during CMWorld and they have my stamp of approval.

5. Twitter (and all social media) is powerful social proof for your business

While we’re talking about Mark Schafer, let me bring up an important point he made during his session. Twitter (and all social media) is an extremely powerful social proof for your business.

What does that mean? Well, let’s first understand the concept of social proof. From Wikipedia:

“Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”

From a marketing standpoint, this means that people rely on their friends’ suggestions to make decisions about your business. It is Yelp personified.

From a social media standpoint, it means that the more people that follow your business, the more social proof you have. When you come to a Twitter profile and see that someone has 25,000 followers, does that pique your interest a little more than someone who has 100?

Yup.

But before you go run off and start buying your followers and likes from some follower farm…stop. Irrelevant likes and followers will hurt you a lot more than having a smaller number of followers that actually care about your business and engage with you.

Consider two scenarios:

  1. I throw a baseball into a room of 25,000 mannequins.
  2. I throw a baseball into a room of 100 living, breathing people.

Which room is more likely to have someone catch the ball? You guessed it, scenario 2.

You want people that can potentially catch your baseball and then come ask for your autograph.

In marketing terms, you want people that will engage with your content and then eventually become leads.

Spending money to get an audience works, but only if you do targeted campaigns through the various platforms. Refer back to Jon or Mark if you want to learn more about that.

So, yes, size does matter. But only if you do it right.

The wrap-up

The bottom line is this: Content marketing is powerful and extremely effective when done correctly. I think many of us know this, but sometimes, one of the best ways to evaluate what we’re doing is to take a step back and look at what other people are doing.

We’re sometimes so engrossed in the day-to-day activities of our companies that we don’t consider the big ideas. CMWorld opened my eyes to some big ideas that simply make sense.

Like Mr. Spacey said:

Kevin-Spacey

Got a sixth thing to add to this list? Let me know in the comments. And don’t forget to share this with someone who could use a little marketing inspiration!

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