Content Marketing: Will You Be Writing Big Checks or Cashing Them?

by · May 31, 20135 comments

That “content is king” mantra you’re reading nearly every time you click on an article about marketing has made you royally curious, right? The dethroning of conventional marketing strategies, which has largely called for renting (excruciatingly expensive) time and space in paid media, gives new hope to any size company willing to charge forth in the new world of digital.

The word is brainpower trumps spending power now. Is it true?

It can be.

Content marketing brings home some bacon

Jump ten slides into the 2013 study on content marketing by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs and a list of objectives looks mighty tasty to any growing business. Atop the list are: (1) brand awareness (2) customer acquisition (3) lead generation, and (4) customer loyalty.

These goals bear a striking resemblance to the promises advertising agencies used to make to their clients. Not surprisingly, many of these agencies have gone digital—or gone away.

Today’s accomplished marketers will tell you creating remarkable content is the way a company connects with buyers. The evidence is served in the form of a blogging explosion, the proliferation of online video, the mind-boggling ascent of social media, and an array of infographics, slide decks, eBooks, podcasts, and a very long list of educational and entertaining content types buyers discover via search, subscriptions, social media and various other online escapades.

Are you ready for all this?

content marketing isn’t for media amateurs—it’s for professionals

No question, learning how the game is played is your first step. Non-fiction works, such as “Content Rules” by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, will help equip you with a solid understanding fairly fast.

The next step is far more trying. You need to create great content, in different forms, relentlessly. Essentially, you need to become a publishing house.

The good news is the web and its many free or inexpensive tools puts a blank canvas in front of you. The bad news is no one is attracted to blank canvasses. You need an arsenal of artists now—or if the metaphor is too heavy handed for your taste, you need people adept at making media. Here’s where the myth of content marketing being cost-free crashes and burns.

Let’s assume you’re all in. It really doesn’t work with a small ante and occasionally sliding a small stack of chips into the pot. In “Why You Shouldn’t Do Content Marketing” you’ll gather where I’m coming from with my “all or nothing” plea. In that article, I explain (with fervor) content marketing isn’t for media amateurs—it’s for professionals.

I share this with you here because I want you to understand “professional” implies “paid.” Whether you build your team internally, with agencies, with contractors, or some combination thereof, you’ll need talented planners, producers, designers, and first and foremost, writers.

Time and again, research reiterates the two issues marketers are most concerned with when facing content marketing challenges are: (1) creating content that truly engages prospects and (2) producing enough of it. Quality and quantity—listed here for you in order of importance. You need to produce killer content, often. It’s not easy to apply numbers to either, but be assured if you’re in it to win, you will be writing checks to hire and retain content creators capable of making your program pay off.

You’ll need to justify the investment.

For the purposes of this article, I’m not going to assume you need to lay out an articulate financial plan specifically to an executive, a committee, a partner, or yourself. Whichever the case may be, the advice that follows should apply. To go about building a case for content marketing, or any marketing program, you need to justify the investment smartly and strategically. I hope to help you with a cheat sheet of suggestions.

  • Start with business objectives. You can’t bank on clicks, open rates, or subscriber counts, so steer clear of marketing babble. Build a case based on qualified sales leads, revenue growth, customer retention, or your actual goals.
  • Mind your metrics. Without presenting advanced marketing automation concepts and tools to those who won’t actually use them, make it crystal clear online marketing programs answer to quantifiable outcomes. You’ll determine what they are, why they matter, how they’ll be gathered, how they’ll be reported, and how the numbers will guide your iterative efforts as you fine-tune and focus.
  • Set realistic expectations. Content marketing is not a sales campaign. It’s not direct response. It’s not an ad blitz. While it is indeed a business builder and over time it will slash marketing and sales costs while boosting sales, patience will be required. An aggressive plan can and should forecast the upward slopes you aim for, but you’re unlikely to see serious spikes the first few months. Your first hardcore review should be planned for 6 to 12 months from ground zero.

Also, call attention to what’s happening in marketing today.

  • Gather and present facts. Address the risk-averse by painting a picture of what’s happening in marketing today. You’ll have no problem finding credible reports that spell out exactly how content marketing is big and getting bigger all the time. You can prove how budgets are increasing. How tactics are working. How companies are achieving new levels of success. If there’s one thing content marketers love to produce, it’s content about the success of their efforts.
  • Profile the competition. The better marketers in your industry are doing content marketing. Document what the competition is doing. Look at their content, digital footprint, and results. Google is a logical place to start. Higher-ranking companies with highly trafficked sites are doing something you’re not.
  • Cross departments.  By espousing the many benefits of effective content marketing programs, you’ll build favor with business managers and those tasked with sales, SEO, PR, direct marketing, customer service and various other responsibilities. Content marketing is a uniting force. Don’t let that notion slip by unmentioned. It’s real and very tangible.

Finally, demonstrate what you’ll soon be doing.

The content itself, provided it clearly demonstrates a clear connection to the charter, might be the ultimate closer. Content can—and should be—exciting stuff. Prove it.

  • Serve up a menu. Put together a list of tactics you’ll explore: media plays, creative ideas, new territory you’ll traverse. You might mock up a thing or two. If you don’t yet have the resources, your competitor’s content could be presented.
  • Consider a few carefully constructed reports. You can easily preview some of the tools of the trade, prepare reports with some essential metrics from relevant companies and even look at case studies and success stories. Trust me, they’ll be easy to find.
  • Introduce the glorious economies that come from repurposing content. Smart and strategic content marketers amortize their investments in the development of content by repurposing reports into articles, slide presentations, webinars, infographics, videos and so on. Great content can be sliced, diced and served up many times over. Demonstrating how a modest investment multiplies into a vast portfolio of content can be very compelling.
To join the ranks of accomplished content marketers you will indeed invest in strategy, processes and talent

We’ve covered a lot of ground here because I want you to do far more than try or buy into content marketing. I want you to make it pay. Hell, six months from now, I want you to cite this story and come back and tell us how much sense it made.

It takes money to make money. Cliché? Sure. True? You betcha.’ To join the ranks of accomplished content marketers you will indeed invest in strategy, processes and talent. Putting a plan together is simply the beginning. And there really is no ending. However, the chapters you’ll write along the way can be colored with all kinds of milestones, meaning, and money.

If you or those you work with, or for, prefer to look at it from a financial point of view, I congratulate you. This is no hobby. We’re all in it to cash checks. Build a rock solid plan to realize ROI and you shall.

[By the way, I’m a content marketing strategist and creator who offers a heap of insights in the form of articles, presentations, eNewsletters and eBooks that demonstrate how content marketing accounts for the checks I cash. These materials are yours for the taking at the “Free Pointers” section of the Feldman Creative website.]

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About Barry Feldman

Barry Feldman

Barry Feldman creates compelling content by telling stories. He's a freelance copywriter, creative director, content marketing consultant, and an alright guy. He specializes in persuasion and engagement and has authored the eBooks "21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website" and "The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketing" to help improve your online marketing. If you would like a piece of his mind, visit Feldman Creative and his blog,  The Point.

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  • Choice Golden

    This really is the only content marketing strategy that works for me. Maybe cause I need simplistic ideas, and it doesnt get any simpler than this YouTube strategy. Did I mention its free to do, and you get twice the ROI of paid ads like Facebook. Check it…http://bit.ly/11f58lb

  • MarketingUnlocked

    Great article!

    “Professional” implies one who actually puts food on their table, a roof over their heads, and sends their kids to college through the friuits of their labor. Although one can certainly find “writers” to hammer out keystrokes for less, retaining those who can deliver on-point, compelling content, while understanding the nuances of SEO and meeting deadlines is considerably more difficult.

    Large organizations and their commensurately large budgets understand this and have the resources to do what’s necessary. Many small businesses on the other hand, either try to go it alone, or don’t understand the need for a stong content marketing initiative.

    In most cases, content marketing success requires commitment and an effective plan. Failure often reflects lack of one or both more so than an indication that content marketing itself doesn;t work.

    DIsclosure – Being a content marketing consultant and content creator, I am biased…… Go figure!

    PS – Just because content marketing works, doesn’t mean “conventional” marketing doesn’t, despite what many seem to be saying lately!

  • http://themedia3.com/ Media3

    Good article

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  • http://www.genesisnetdevelopment.com/ Trent Erwin

    Definitely agree. Snappy, fun, interesting and intriguing content will catch they eye and your target market will be captured. You want your content to stick in their minds.