4 Ways to Fall in Love with Content Marketing (NOW)

by Craig McBreen · 30 comments · Branding, Content Marketing


4 Ways to Fall-in-Love-with-Content-MarketingIt is time to fall in love with Content Marketing.

Why? Well let me explain.

I make a living providing visual branding solutions to small and medium sized companies. But my industry is experiencing a cosmic shift that’s altering my world in a most profound way.

In fact, the companies and organizations I work with are finally beginning to get a whiff of that new media aroma and inquiries are coming in.

“Craig, so what about social media and blogging?”

“Um … where do I start?”

Oh yes,… content marketing.

Yes, content marketing. I know, not everyone is in love with this de-facto term, but sorry folks, it’ll be with us for a while. And it turns out the companies I work with kinda like this fancy new buzzword.

Marcus Sheridan preaches this stuff like gospel. He is like the Energizer Bunny of content marketing and guess what? I feel his excitement.

This special class of online marketing amps me up. Why? Well, like Marcus, I see limitless possibilities revolving around this soon to be universal practice.

And here’s where my excitement really comes from:

Crafting a company’s brand into something special is not the same as it ever was. NO. In fact with this new model it’s easier than ever to incorporate something I love – story-telling.

Cultivating and then watching as an organization’s essence sprouts and flourishes excites me.

And telling a deeper, full-toned and more resonant story is now a lot less painless than it used to be.

Yes, tout your expertise, but learn to weave in the essential story that makes you, Dear Company, stand out.

That, my friend, is sticky branding.

And content marketing done right will make your brand stick. In fact it might just lead to dominance. If you doubt me, please read this detailed piece from Joe Pulizzi, a wizard in this realm …

7-ways-to-dominate-your-media-competitor-through-content-marketing

I think he knows what he’s talking about.

And the main point of my post today is that many are still getting this wrong and missing out. Hey, I’m in the trenches and I can see it.

But here is how your company or organization can make a clean break from the boring old herd.

1. Fall in love with the content.

Part of branding done right is a solid content strategy. Say you’re a firm that specializes in disaster preparedness and recovery (why not pick the most obscure industry ever, right?).

Write a whitepaper on 10 steps to prepare your company for the worst. This pdf could be offered if someone signs up for your list. Then write 10 posts, one for each step. And while you’re at it, do your best to make it less than boring – that’s where the love comes in. Just make it sing a little and you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.

2. Find your uniqueness and build a story around it.

Say your company managers are stewards of the community. I’d say it’s fairly easy to flesh out a good storyline based on this practice and this is just one example. Whatever your story is, let some emotions seep in. Be real, not so boilerplate. This resonates and people want to do business with peeps they know and trust.

Part of the fun in bypassing the gatekeepers is you don’t have to be so boring any more. Brands are becoming their own media companies in a way, so the most creative companies often move to the fore – same goes for your average business. Write with some flare. Have fun with video. Make sure your podcasts are entertaining.

You want practical nuts and bolts stuff? Again, I’ll use Mr. Sheridan, but this post does a fantastic job of detailing the effectiveness of content marketing done right for any business:

The-blogger-of-tomorrow

The content these guys are producing also gives a perfect example of how any business can simply rock video.

3. Work to find that sweet spot.

The more you write the quicker you’ll discover the tone that works for you and your organization. Or, maybe you’ll put your own stars in front of the camera and post to YouTube (see example above). Add a splash of personality to your expert instruction and watch your firm’s essence pop. And work to Embrace the Rich Media Content Marketing Revolution. I sure will be.

4. Discover the brand missionaries under your own roof.

I hear the term insourcing bandied about. Embrace it. Make now the time to discover the writers, teachers (and maybe even performers) in your company. Your organization has a certain “flavor” and an individual’s take on this will make it that much more interesting.

Maybe you have an employee who is absolutely crazy in love with a certain topic relevant to your firm. Cut ‘em loose!

So, what say you?

My tagline is “design your way forward” but this is about way more than cool fonts, great copy or intuitive web design. It’s a new process added to my creative mix, and it should be a HUGE part of your world.

Traditional marketing has bought the farm and this new marketing paradigm IS the way to go forward. And that entity you call a business now has the opportunity to stand out like never before.

Small business owners. Organizations. Individual bloggers. Anyone trying to make their way online really needs to embrace the practices above.

Embrace the content. Love the content. ROCK the content. Just get busy!

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion February 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Craig, really appreciate the kind words my friend but more importantly I love the message you’re preaching, and the fresh perspective you bring to the discussion that is content marketing in a digital age.

Keep doing great things sir :-)

Marcus
Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion recently posted..Goodbye SEO, Hello SCM: The Rise of Search Content MarketingMy Profile

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Craig McBreen February 25, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Hi Marcus,

You’re most welcome, and thanks for the kind words. I just see this as an extremely important component that so many small companies are overlooking or aren’t even considering. So, will be writing more posts like this to spread the message! Just keep leading the charge, Mr. Sheridan.

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Lisa February 25, 2013 at 4:10 am

Craig, great advice. I really agree about the “more you do the better you will become.” I look at some of my old blog posts and cringe. (But then I update them too)
I’ve even started doing a newsletter at my “day job” and saw sales immediately from it. It beats the old system of just sending out sales pieces. Content is really rules!
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Craig McBreen February 25, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Hi Lisa,

Glad you like this! And the “more you do the better you will become.” line is partly me speaking to myself, especially as I bring in new services to my business and educate myself of this stuff, so I can give companies and individuals the best possible advice.

Glad you’re seeing results from the NL, and yes it certainly does beat the old system, although print is still a great medium for certain things.

Thanks for stopping in!

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Margie Clayman February 25, 2013 at 5:13 am

Sorry Craig, but I am not a content marketing evangelist. There are several problems I have with this new wave of xyz marketing (because now other ones are popping up, too).

1. Content has always been necessary in marketing. Advertisements always had content. Advertorials were all about telling stories. Ogilvy wanted more words than images on the page and wanted the content to really reach out to the customer. Pictures of mom baking cookies to sell a product was nothing more than content marketing. This. Is. Not. New.

2. Content Marketing evangelists espouse it as something you can do that is non-transactional. To me, this means it is not marketing. “Marketing” means you are ultimately hoping someone will buy from you. If you are writing nice squishy stuff but never promote your own products, that is not marketing, at least not in my book.

3. The idea of storytelling is nice, but frankly, not everyone has a story that would be of interest to their customers. I work with a lot of manufacturers. They could talk about how long they’ve been around or how they’ve evolved, but guess what? Their customers a) Don’t care and b) Don’t have time to read that kind of stuff. The call for content is, “Tell me how I can make my work more effective and maybe I’ll listen to you. If I have time.

I just really feel that this branch of thinking is leading a lot – not all – but a lot of companies down the wrong path. Much as people proclaimed that social media was something EVERYONE needed a few years ago (we’re starting to get away from that now) people are now saying everyone needs to do this “content marketing” thing the way it is described by the CMI and others. It is not true. This will not work for a lot of companies.

I’m stepping off my rant box now :) Your post was good…I just don’t cotton to this philosophy.

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Craig McBreen February 25, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Hi Margie,

I’ve seen more than a few posts by bloggers who are not content marketing evangelists, where the argument is often that content is simply part of the overall marketing umbrella, just one little component and marketing – Your content educates the prospective customer and then on only then does old marketing close the deal. I certainly get that and don’t disagree with it.

I also get that not everyone will benefit from story-telling, but it can be a huge part of the overall brand experience and will keep trickling down from the big brands that do this so well. There is also the case this is all about building up a passionate subscriber base and bypassing the traditional channels … this applies to big brands and small businesses: using your own channel which is marketing, content marketing.

To your points:

1. Yes, and I’m thinking of Soap Operas of course. That is always the first thing that comes to mind and I’ve heard Brian Clark mention this more than a few times ;) So I agree this is not new, just a fancy new term ;)

2. Well, to this I would say – for my clients, content is now the best way to educate their potential customers, so they can fully understand what the company is all about and what is offered. This can be done with a standard website, brochures, etc. But now content marketing is the best possible way to do this. It is powerful. It is part of the mix, but it’s a specific practice that needs specific language (and that would be my main point).

Honestly, the term helps rubes like me explain it all to the small businesses I work with. And I’m really just a branding/graphic designer guy. This is a fairly new world to me, but truth be told, I honestly don’t give a crap what my clients choose to call it or what anybody calls it … I really think this is all a matter of semantics.

3. I agree for the most part, and will never push this on every client. I also have clients in construction, engineering, etc. that honestly would not benefit much from blogging, so I won’t push too hard. But you never know. What if one of these firms did embrace the practice of blogging and did the 10-steps example I used? To me, that’s content marketing and even just a wee bit of story-telling on their part will help … and solidify their overall branding. So, wouldn’t the practice of content marketing make everything else that much better?

Thank you for the rant. This kind of thing helps me work up new posts ;) Seriously, I appreciate your comments! Thanks, Margie.

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Laura Click February 26, 2013 at 10:03 am

Great discussion here. I won’t address all of those points, but I think you both are right.

Content marketing is certainly not new (though, the term is). What IS new is how we go about distributing that content. Before blogging and digital media, companies had to use advertising or a third party to reach their customers (most of the time). Now, that barrier is removed, so we’re certainly in a different era when it comes to using stories and content to sell.

Content marketing can be super powerful for businesses, but it’s certainly not for everyone. I think this is where the type of business and more importantly, company culture, come into play. Without the right mindset, content marketing will fall flat on its face.

Also, storytelling without sales in mind will not be helpful either. Chris Brogan wrote for Copyblogger the other day that content marketing is sales-minded storytelling. I like that. You don’t have to beat your audience over the head with it, but you do have to make sure that your content isn’t just fluffy nonsense or strategically tied to goals. You absolutely must have that in place. Or, it’s going to just be a huge waste of time.
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Craig McBreen February 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Hi Laura,

Agreed and it’s all fun. And a wonderful point about distribution. You’re so right about company culture and planning. Heck they might even hire you and pay you in full for consulting, but once you leave no one will take the helm and then your time and their efforts are completely wasted.

I like “sales-minded storytelling” as well. I might just use that in an upcoming meeting ;)

Thanks for stopping in, Laura!

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Barrett Rossie February 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

@MargieClayman — this may be a difference without a distinction but…

When you say: “Tell me how I can make my work more effective and maybe I’ll listen to you. If I have time,” I completely agree.

But to me, THAT IS the story. The story isn’t literally a tale about how the firm got started, or developed secret sauce. It could be anything that makes a connection with the prospect. If you don’t have a story… chances are you don’t have a value prop.
Barrett Rossie recently posted..Is Your Content Radio Worthy?My Profile

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Margie Clayman February 28, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I see your point, but I’m not sure that’s what a lot of people have in mind when they talk about content marketing. The fact that many refer to content marketing as “non-transactional” to me means that they would view a service-oriented message as a sort of infringement. I don’t know. The whole thing seems kind of like a muddle to me. I feel we are trying too hard to refer to an old thing in new ways. Maybe that is the problem I’m running into in my brainz.
Margie Clayman recently posted..Online Ambulance ChasersMy Profile

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Craig McBreen February 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I like what Laura wrote re: Chris Brogan, calling it “sales-minded storytelling” Maybe I’ll use that terminology from now on ;)

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Ryan Hanley February 25, 2013 at 5:44 am

Craig,

I love this dude. The idea that a successful marketing message actually becomes a fun story versus your latest sale is scary as hell to many traditional marketers… Unfortunately that doesn’t make the reality of today’s consumer any different.

And rich media such as podcasting, video, slideshows help us tell that story in a unique and engaging way.

Great stuff.

Hanley
Ryan Hanley recently posted..Content Warfare Podcast #17 – with Srinivas Rao on Making an Impact with Larger Bodies of WorkMy Profile

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Craig McBreen February 25, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Hi Ryan,

Thanks, man! And you are so very right when you say, “scary as hell” because that’s how many think and I certainly understand where they are coming from. But with this huge shift underway it’s all about doing what’s best for the client and this is fast becoming the best way forward for many who haven’t even heard the term “content marketing.”

Appreciate you stopping in and loved your rich media post!

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Michael February 25, 2013 at 6:49 am

Great read, Craig. Content marketing is definitely becoming a HUGE part of our business model and lead generation. A lot of marketing firms around here are starting to add it to their services pages, too.
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Craig McBreen February 25, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Hi Michael,

Thank you, Sir! Yes and I meant it when I wrote that many are just picking up the new media scent. It will start to become a huge part of lead generation for many who just a short while ago had never even heard the term.

Thanks for stopping in!

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Susan February 25, 2013 at 7:57 am

Hi Craig
As a new blogger, I’ve been trying to read and learn from more established bloggers. There are so many out there with so many different topics/messages! Thank you for all your suggestions over the past few months. Thanks especially for the words of encouragement as I try to find my voice and my niche in the blogging world.
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Craig McBreen February 25, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Hey Susan,

Yes, there are more than a few topics to sort through ;) Sometimes sorting through the pile and avoiding the swirling vortex is the hardest part of all.

You’re welcome! I ‘m just glad you got something out of it and were kind enough to shoot on over here and let me know. Really appreciate the kind words!

You’ll find your voice, just keep showing up :)

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Mary Stephenson February 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Hi Craig

Great post and for some that are struggling it is probably the best advice. As I read Margie’s comment I can see what she is saying. Companies that are well established really don’t need to worry about content marketing, people find them, because they want what they have. If I want vitamins online I automatically go to Swanson’s and I don’t bother reading any of their articles. If I want something for my cats I go right to they company that provides what I am looking for. If they have anything to read, I am not wasting my time looking at it. So for some content marketing is a huge waste of resources. The smaller guy probably better get on board and start writing good stuff.

Like your post.

Mary
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Craig McBreen February 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Hi Mary,

I can see what she is saying too and she does have a point about certain industries. But even the companies you mentioned might benefit from this and bring in new customers who never would have considered them. After all people are passionate about cats – just look at YouTube ;)

But my post is mainly about the type of businesses I work with on a daily basis. They now understand the importance of content marketing and they are quickly educating themselves on the best way forward.

Thank you!

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Ralph February 26, 2013 at 3:57 am

Lots of great discussion here. I don’t have a sense when it works or doesn’t but I do feel content “marketing” is a good thing for companies that provide consulting services like the one I work for or Advertising, PR, accounting, financial or any other type of professional services type firm.

Having said that if you visit Barrett Rossie today and see a great example the local businesses are doing in Spokane. Very cool stuff.
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Craig McBreen February 26, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Hi Ralph,

Yes and that’s what I love about this, I keep on learning’. Funny you mentioned that, I’m thinking about starting up some kind of workshop (or will speak locally) specifically to smaller firms that don’t know where to start. Remind me I wrote that ;)

Will check out Barrett’s house, thanks!

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Barrett Rossie February 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

… And I’m so glad you did! Nice post, Craig.
Barrett Rossie recently posted..Is Your Content Radio Worthy?My Profile

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Craig McBreen February 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Me too … and thank you, Sir!

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