I got an email the other day from a client who wanted to share some ideas for topics for his content marketing… but was concerned he wouldn’t have enough for an on-going program. And he was right. A dozen article ideas does not a content marketing program make.
Which, sadly, is why so few firms actually have a consistent, structured content initiative. (Well… that, and many people thinking they’re lousy writers – which is often true!).
So, how do you create a content program that will resonate in the marketplace and, more importantly, that you’ll be able to deliver on for a long time to come? The answer is in how you think about content.
Types of content
First, understand that there are several kinds content you can create. It falls into three broad categories:
- Educational content is the “big stuff.” Lots of content. Lots of depth. Very valuable. So valuable, in fact, that an interested person must give up their contact information before they can access it.
- Informational content is similar to above, only less of it. Think 1-2 page content.
- Personal content is everything else. Opinion pieces, vision pieces, general commentary… whatever you want.
Spread across these three categories, there are a variety of ways in which your content can be packaged. (E – Educational; I – Informational; P – Personal)
- Blog: Your blog should be the cornerstone of your content program – the place you go to most often to provide your readers with good information, insight and observations. Most importantly, you must be consistent with your blog posts… create a schedule and do whatever it takes to stick to it. Importantly, make sure that it’s easy to find your blog from your website’s home page. (I/P)
- Articles: Think of these as really long blog posts… only they’re not posted on your blog. With articles, you can dig a little deeper into a particular subject. Get a little broader. These longer articles can be posted in a Resources section on your website and – where you have a good relationship – published in industry magazines and websites. (I)
- White papers: These are “clinical’ examinations of a particular topic… very fact-based. A white paper might have a title like “How Online Bulletin Boards can Save Money and Time vs. Traditional Focus Groups.” White papers usually include charts and graphs that prove how and why the claim is true. (E)
- Case studies: These are reviews of specific projects for specific clients showing, in the end, how working with your firm benefited them. The four parts to a Case Study are:
- The Client (describe them, don’t name them – unless you get permission)
- The Situation (or problem the client was facing)
- The Recommendations (what you proposed and implemented to solve the problem)
- The Result (how your efforts solved the problem) (I)
- eBooks: A broader and deeper exploration of a particular topic, eBooks are anywhere from 8-50 pages, attractively-designed and looked at as a legitimate resource for your clients and prospects. (E)
- Live Presentations: Stand in front of a room to deliver a presentation and the assumption is that you are the “expert.” Leverage that assumption, deliver a presentation that genuinely helps to educate (not sell to) the attendees and the result is a level of credibility and trust that money can’t buy. Presentations will generally happen as a result of being invited to speak at a conference or workshop for an industry association or trade group. Like writing for an industry publication, speaking there also comes with an implied endorsement. (E/I)
- Webinars: Like ‘Live Presentations’ above, webinars provide a forum for sharing your expertise… only this time, remotely. While the attendees don’t get to “look you in the eye,” there are several benefits to webinars vs. live presentations:
- Generally, there is no limit to the number of attendees.
- They’re convenient… attendees can participate from virtually anywhere.
- The session can be recorded and re-used.
- There is much less stress for those who don’t like public speaking.
- There are no travel-related expenses. (E/I)
- Podcasts: As the adoption of smart phones continues to increase at a dramatically clip, offering podcasts provides a way for your clients and prospects to “take your message with them” and listen to it when and where they want. (I/P)
- Videos: We are a video-centric society… so take advantage of it and present your content in the way that most people like to process it. And with outlets like YouTube and Vimeo, you can even create your own ‘channel’ if you’ll be posting videos regularly. (E/I)
- Engage in social media: Having a social media presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) is one thing… but to disseminate content, you really need to participate in online conversations… post comments on top industry blogs, initiate or participate in discussions in popular LinkedIn groups, get involved in Twitter Chats, etc. (I/P)
- E-newsletters: While generally thought of as a way to promote good content and link readers back to your website, e-newsletters themselves can also contain quality content in the form of short articles, images and graphs. (I)
- Infographics: A relatively new tool, infographics are attractively-designed, 1-page, online documents deigned to present complex information in an easy-to-understand manner. (I)
- Books: If you have enough knowledge to share in a full-length book, it is an option that will provide you an enormous amount of credibility (and maybe even a little extra revenue). (E)
OK… 3 main categories and more than a dozen ways to package content… the last questions is – where does the information for all that content come from?
While much of it will come from you – based on your experience and knowledge – it’s doesn’t all have to be from you. There are a number of ways to find/create/capture information from which to create good content, including…
- Guest writers. Invite/coerce/bribe others to do a little writing for you. Ask for help from your employees & colleagues, client & vendors or other industry contacts.
- At conferences. Don’t attend conferences just to learn and network… it’s also a rich source of fodder for content. Take ideas from what people are talking about (in the hallways), what the hot sessions are and what’s new in the exhibits.
- Interview leaders from the industry. Develop a list of basic questions and ask them of clients, vendors and other well-known ‘talking heads’ from our industry. This can be done via email or in-person, even while at a conference. Where appropriate, record the interview for use on a video or podcast.
- Research a topic. It could be that you don’t know a lot about a particular topic, so do a little research. There are enough free and easily available resources to make this a fairly simple process.
- What you think. Your readers don’t just want facts… they also value personal opinions, observations and perceptions. This kind of content is ideal for your blog. Write about your vision for the industry, observations you’ve made and their impact, your opinions on new trends and technologies, etc.
- Disagree. Pay attention to what others are posting on their blogs and social media sites. You might have a contrarian view and responding to their posts with your opinion is also “good content.”
- Real-world triggers. Many of my blog posts come from something that happened to me in the real world. It might be a unique experience I had at a restaurant or a conversation with a friend – which have nothing to do with my work – but it triggers an idea or a lesson to be learned from it. Keep your eyes open to the possibilities.
- Repurposing. This is the practice of taking a piece of content and using it more than once. For example, a collection of articles and blog posts could be put together to create an eBook. Your webinar content could become a series of blog posts or an infographic. There’s nothing wrong with using content more than once… everyone learns differently and not everyone will see your content the first time – repurposing ensures you cover them all.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Get creative… get outside the box… just try something new.
While Content Marketing is a good fit for many industries, it’s a perfect fit for the Market Research industry. Why? Because of what you sell. Yes, you sell services… or technology… or the unique insights that you work so hard to uncover. But what your clients are really buying is your knowledge and expertise. And the only way to prove to prospective clients that you have the knowledge and expertise they need is by giving them a taste of it… and Content Marketing – in all its forms – provides a vehicle for you to do that.
And the key to successful Content Marketing is in its frequency & consistency… in delivering value to your readers (clients and prospects) again and again over a long period of time. I hope the suggestions above help you to do just that. Good luck.
For more ideas on how to enhance your Content Marketing efforts, download our recent eBook, Marketing & Sales for the Market Research Firm: A Content Marketing Guidebook.