Throw a rock and you’ll hit a marketer talking about content marketing (please note that our Legal friends advise that you don’t try this at home). Much like social media has matured over the last five years, content marketing is still maturing and everyone is trying to understand and harness the power of useful, relevant and valuable content.
The problem is, you will never have enough content. Ever. As our products and services change, so do our prospects and customers.
You may have totally new personas to market towards in a year. The funnel may have an extra stage that needs content. The days of spray and pray marketing are over. We, as prospects, are too smart for that now. We want what we want. I don’t care what someone else wants. To that point, Nielsen recently found that 74% of customers are frustrated that web content doesn’t map to their interests. This is a problem for us as marketers.
"Content marketing is a business’ ability to be the most helpful and effective teachers in the world at what they do." - Marcus Sheridan @thesaleslion Click to Tweet this
If we aren’t the best teachers providing the most educational value, one of our competitors will step up and fill that need. That means they’ll get the business too.
Over the past year and a half, I've been all over the place talking about ways you can create more content today to be the most helpful and effective teacher in your industry. Those learnings and some conversations with smart folks in the space - Jay Baer, Marcus Sheridan, Chris Baggott and many more - led to this post.
You probably don't need a new hire or more budget, but hard work, some elbow grease, and maybe a slightly different view of what content you should be creating. Here are five ways you can start creating more content - right now.
1. Brainstorm with your entire staff on questions they hear every day
Marcus Sheridan sums this up as "They ask. You answer." Ask your friends in Sales, Support, Account Management and Marketing how many questions they get asked per day. Odds are – several dozen questions are answered every day. In many cases, the questions are answered in great detail since they usually involve a customer or a prospect. But, most of this happens on the phone or via email exchange and then you move on to the next one.
Have a brainstorm session with all of your colleagues and write down all of the questions they can recall answering. For each of these questions, you should create a piece of content. For most folks, this results in hundreds of blog posts from “content” that was happening every single day.
Marcus Sheridan shared a great example from Des Williams who runs a lighting and landscaping company. After reading a blog post about this technique, he sat down and came up with 70 questions in less than an hour. This is an actual picture of the end result. Assuming that Des and team answer one question per week on their blog, that gives them fresh, relevant content for almost a year and a half. This isn’t rocket science, but something that most of us never get around to doing.
2. Interview your colleagues and partners
While we’re on the topic of tapping into the expertise of your coworkers, another useful way to create more content is to interview them. Literally. Compile a list of questions (or take the resulting ones from the tip above) and let everyone pick what they’d like to answer. Set up a camera or book a videographer to join you in the office for a couple of hours. Invite a couple of partners to participate as well.
The end result will be some quality video content that can be used as is or edited to include whatever you’d like to add – intro, outro, links, etc. These videos are great content assets because you can use them on YouTube, Vimeo and your website. Take a little bit of time or spend a little bit of money and you can transcribe all of the answers and turn each into a text blog post with an embedded video. For a few hours of work, you’ll have a heap of content to use as you see fit.
Here’s an example of how Compendium, now part of the Oracle Marketing Cloud, did that. You can see a consistent background in the office and lots of folks chiming in on questions around content marketing. This happened in two hours.
Another way to do this is to have someone interview an expert on camera. You may have a colleague with deep expertise and knowledge that you can talk about instead of trying to have them type it out or write it down. This results in a natural conversation that is very relevant for anyone considering your product.
3. Turn your email into content
According to Content Marketing Institute, only 34% of CMOs feel like they have an effective content marketing strategy. The problem is that too many folks stare at a blinking cursor on a blank page. The image below will strike fear in a large majority of the folks that read this post.
Instead of thinking of content as all net new stuff, look at what you're already doing. Lots of your colleagues are on the phone with customers, prospects and partners. They're talking shop, answering questions, building relationships and then they hang up the phone. The same thing is happening with email.
Everyone sends email.
We've all read about a handful of companies that eliminated email altogether, but I've also heard plenty of ghost stories and there are people who still chase Bigfoot. It happens. For the rest of the world, we send lots and lots of mail. We rarely see Inbox Zero. We get overwhelmed. Things get buried. And we send more mail. Most of the time, it gets archived or lost and useful information lives and dies in our inboxes.
We've seen a few customers who are using Oracle Content Marketing that are using all of this content to their advantage. The most notable example is from a company that sells tires online - lots of tires. Their reps were answering more than 150 questions per week.
Someone would ask, "What's the best tire for my Honda Odyssey?" A rep would provide a detailed response with several tires specific to that car. They'd talk about their favorite, why that works best, what to consider in that area based on weather and terrain, and surprise and delight their customer or prospect with detailed information. That was all sitting in their inbox. Dying.
Now, they BCC an email address specific to each rep. That routes it into their content marketing software (Oracle Content Marketing, formerly Compendium) for a marketing manager to polish it up. They strip out identifying information, add in some images, throw in trackable links and then they have an amazing blog post. They share it on their blog, it integrates with their marketing automation solution and can be pulled into any landing page or email they need to send. It is searchable, it ranks well, and it delivers a very relevant answer to anyone asking that question. It goes from a simple email to this:
By the way, those trackable links are specific to the rep. That means that if someone clicks and buys that piece of content, the rep gets paid. They now make money for what would have been a 1-to-1 email. Needless to say, they get lots of user generated content now.
4. Interview your customers
We talked about interviewing your peers earlier, but don’t forget to tap into the advocates you already have – your customers. Depending on the study, most research shows that more than 70% of people online consult reviews or ratings before a purchase.
Giving your customers a platform to share their experience benefits everyone – your customer, your prospects, and you.
"Your story is not about you; it’s what you do for others." - Ann Handley @annhandley
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For the most part, the days of talking about how awesome our company or our product is are over. The average consumer probably doesn’t trust what you’re saying about yourself anyway. Recent findings show that 75% of people don't believe that companies tell the truth in advertisements (Yankelovich).
Find a way to get in a room with your most passionate customers and get out of the way. Let them talk. Ask questions. Understand how they use your product. What was the Sales process like? What results are they seeing? Why did they pick you?
There should be tons of questions you’d love to have answers to and this is the best way to get them. Build strong rapport with your advocates and find ways to help them too. Shorten the video as needed, post it on your site and video sharing sites, and include a link to their website (with their approval of course). You’ll be well on your way to providing valuable information to your prospects and further enhancing the experience of your customers.
By following the same video interview structure, you’re eliminating the fear of the blinking cursor. Most customer testimonials start on the phone or in person and turn into email exchanges. Questions will be thrown into an email and the hope is that the customer takes the time to answer each question completely. Giving your customers a platform to have a casual conversation makes it easier to get the information you need and each video can be turned into other pieces of content, transcribed or used on your website.
5. Host your first company blogathon
Another content exercise that Marcus Sheridan shared in a webinar we did last year was conducting a company blogathon. Think of it as an all hands on deck content creation session. They can be customized to fit each company and their goals, but let’s take a look at how Kirk Drake, CEO of Ongoing Operations structured and ran their first blogathon and see how it worked for his business.
Kirk took three steps towards creating more content with his entire company.
Those three simple steps led to over 100 quality blog posts. In less than one week enough content was created to publish two blog posts per week for the entire year. Customers and prospects of Ongoing Operations will now have new content to consume each week with answers to their most frequent questions.
When Kirk was asked how this impacted his business, it was rather monumental. By his estimates, this contributed $500,000 to $1,000,000 in year one.
Let’s recap…90 minutes per day per employee for three days led to almost $1,000,000 in revenue. This is something any company can do!
As marketers, we can get caught up in the activities driven rat race. Take the time to map your content to your business goals and grind to create more relevant content. You can never have enough content when it meets a need. Keep up the hard work and let me know if I can help. Feel free to chat on Twitter too @cnmoody.
Want more help with content marketing? Download the Modern Marketing Essentials Guide to Content Marketing.