A Model for Successful Content Marketing

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s annual study, only 44% of B2B marketers in the US say their organization understands what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like. Yet, 76% state that they will produce more content in 2016 than in 2015. So why produce all this content if they don’t know how to use it in an effective way?

Looking at content marketing, or rather at marketing content production, one can discuss whether it’s a game of quantity or quality? Working in a technically-oriented organization for many years, I’ve heard quite a few arguments like “if the white paper is good enough, people will read” or “people want long, detailed, reports full of insights – these build trust in our competence”. With the explosion of video and social media, I’ve also heard quite a few arguing the complete opposite: “People don’t have time to read anymore,” “The YouTube generation only have patience for 1-minute videos,” Etc. So what’s the truth? What do people want? What will be effective content marketing?

Before presenting my answer, I’d like to introduce two different models:
In June, Urban Fjellestad, a former colleague of mine at Ericsson, and I, gave a presentation  where we discussed the question: What should a content marketing strategy be to support the sales targets and build the brand? To answer the question, we developed this model:

Content marketin pyramid_UU.jpg

Basically our idea is that successful content marketing should focus on the desired effect of the content: To seek attention or to build trust? Consider the role of each individual content piece in the purchase process and adjust the (same) message to the formats and channels, thereby triggering the desired effect. The strength of demanding content such as research studies, is that it builds trust in the company’s competence, particularly with other experts in the same area. The strength of a slogan or headline is obviously that it grabs attention, thereby leading people to read more. Stories, examples and personal angles, add emotions, sentiments, and help explain the facts by putting it into context, thereby catching the broader non-expert audience.

Using this model as the basis for a content marketing strategy, it should be easier to understand what content production is required to support the business goals. The question to focus on is the effect sought both by the content marketing program as a whole and by each individual piece of content.

As a coincidence, Curata recently published their “The Content Marketing Pyramid”, taking a slightly different angle which adds a complementary perspective:

Content marketing pyramid_Curata

In their model, Curata focuses on the effort and timing aspects: Level of effort to produce the material vs the desired publishing frequency. A research report is produced based on the idea of a long shelf-life, while a social media post should be produced knowing that it will be replaced by a new one very soon.

Mixing these two theoretic models, the conclusion would be that to form a successful content marketing activity, one needs to take both the aim of the content as such and the characteristics of the formats and channels into account. Social media as a platform, for instance, can be used both for a slogan-oriented campaign and to share a high-effort type report, but to effectively trigger the desired effect and support overall business goals, the individual social media posts must be aligned with the rest of the program. One single post won’t make any difference. It’s the sum of the parts that counts.

Going back to the 44% of B2B marketers who are not clear on what an effective or successful content marketing program is, my answer would be that a content marketing program should help the organization develop its content with a tone of voice and in formats that will support the business goals.

The content marketing program should detail how the main message should be applied to different channels, the relevant content formats to focus on, and also consider the amount of pieces needed to serve different channels. Outlining this already from start, it’s likely that a double effect will be earned for the organization: Both reduced total cost of the program, and a better effect with the audience. Because the content will do the work.

But naturally, this is just my answer. I’d be very interested in listening to yours, so please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Blog first published on LinkedIn November 13, 2015.


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