Content: Getting Started

Don't worry if you've been uncertain about what it even means. "Content" is primarily a marketing term and, as much as it may seem like it some days, not everyone is a marketer. We live and breathe content. It's kind of our thing. So here's a quick primer for the uninitiated! - md
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There's a nugget of thought leadership that suggests we should be able to explain our work "to our grandparents." The idea is simply that distilling complex ideas down into simple terms shows thorough understanding. I'd add "regardless of age" to that, since I know many brilliant individuals with grandchildren who don't need things dumbed-down for their benefit.  Phrased in a less insulting manner to grandparents, let's say you're doing well if you can explain your work to anyone who isn't in your same exact business.

To explain what we mean by "content," I like to use A Christmas Story. Everyone's seen it, even if you don't do Christmas.

You know how Ralphie's favorite thing in the world, besides the elusive Red Ryder BB Gun, is the Little Orphan Annie radio program? He never misses it. Once Ralphie finally finds that decoder ring in the mailbox, he is even more keen to tune in, eagerly awaiting the next episode. Well, the Little Orphan Annie radio program is content.

Every marketer, every brand and every media publisher that's generating content wants all of us to be as engaged as Ralphie, with the express goal of selling more Ovaltine. Or, you know, what-have-you.

Content, Technically Speaking

By today's definition, content is any purposeful online communication, in any format, intended to reach people, convey your message, spark interest, or coax some kind of response from your audience, such as a click, a share, or a purchase.

Content rules the lives of professionals at digital agencies and company marketing departments. These are tech-savvy creatives & creative data scientists. Marketers craft strategic campaigns aimed at one or more audience segments. To support a variety of digital campaigns, marketers generate and curate a massive amount of written and multimedia content (video, infographics, etc), which they deploy via websites and blogs, emails and texts, social sharing and more. It's actually pretty amazing.  

Content Tools

The godfather of modern digital marketing tech, Scott Brinker, publishes an annual supergraphic. It's officially called the Marketing Technology Landscape, but most marketers refer to it as "the eye chart." Why? Because at last count there were about 7000 different kinds of software to help today's marketers compete in the 24/7 digital omnisphere.

Approximately 1/10th of the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2017)

To support just the Content Marketing piece alone, the industry is constantly developing more advanced data-driven tools to generate, score, share and manage the content lifecycle. Marketers use SEO tools and specialized ad tech to boost search engine rankings. They use predictive algorithms to figure out how many people are likely to click on which content, at what times of day, and even on which devices. They pore over detailed content performance dashboards for insights as to what kind of content yields the most clicks, shares, likes, up-votes and, ultimately, revenue. They analyze, customize, personalize, and target. They optimize for mobile like you can't even imagine.

If it sounds like a gargantuan amount of work, that's because it is a gargantuan amount of work. Let's just say there's a truly impressive amount of coffee flowing at a great many jam-packed marketing conferences.

Marketers are fueled by this crazy combination of artistry & industry. There's real data-driven science at play, and new tools are put to use every week. And that's why top brands hire global agencies & marketing superheroes.

But What Are Your Content Goals?

Just because you don't have the resources of an amazing 24/7 data-driven global marketing machine, you can still get started generating better content right now. Your ultimate objective is to achieve success in your venture. So how do you even begin? The same way you begin literally anything else: first things first.

Content ≥ Intent

Everything you put online should have a purpose. That's what you need to keep top-of-mind when you think about your content strategy.

A content strategy that worked for your buddy's business may not work for you. The good news? The converse is also true. We know a rock band whose publicity guru hooked up with a micro brewer and used actual cans of beer as their record distribution platform. That won't work for most other kinds of business, but you've got to admire their innovation.

Define a set of goals, then figure out what kind of content will help you reach every goal.

Define Your Content Goals

It's not a one-size-fits-all situation (stop thinking about the beer) but here are three pretty good goals for most modern enterprises.

1. Blog as a Thought Leader

Peter Sagal, host of NPR's "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me"
addressing MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum.
Keynote Speech: The Art of Telling a Joke (Boston 2015)
You know your stuff. While your website proper is where you pitch your products and services, your blog is less formal. Loosen the tie, get real with the people. You can use your blog as a platform to talk frankly about what's trending in your field right now, make cool top 5 lists, and show that you're keeping pace with the latest innovations. Be funny. People love funny.
Related: The Art of Telling A Joke
  • Your SEM Marketer will tell you that you need to write with SEO in mind. That means writing with clarity and intent, with the right keywords, so your content gets found when people search online for exactly-what-you-offer.
  • Your Social Media Marketer will guide you about when and how to share your blog posts on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter, cleverly hashtag-enabled for ultimate reach.

2. Build a Bigger Email List

It's tempting to just add everyone you've ever met to your email list. Don't do that. Instead, try giving away a relevant, easy-to-read eBook, Flipbook or Slideshow that people will gladly download in exchange for their email address. Unlike your blog, these materials are "gated content," meaning people need to take some action in order to get it.
  • Your Email Marketer will tell you that these opt-in subscribers are now qualified leads that have taken a big step along their journey towards conversion.
  • Your Lead Generation Marketer will know what to do next to convert that subscriber and leverage that to find and engage more of the same kind of people (it's "lookalike" or "influencer" marketing.)

3. Engage Your Customers

On a regular basis, send highly engaging, informative newsletters to your mailing list subscribers. Every modern email marketing platform has automation & tracking built-in, so you should be able to easily separate your mailing list into leads and customers.
  • Your Email Marketer will tell you to send one kind of email to the leads, and a totally different kind to the customer, so as to engage, but not to annoy, either segment. They will help you to track bounces and open-rates to see how well you're doing with your email campaigns.
  • Your Customer Relationship Management Marketer will integrate email results with whatever CRM you're using so you have a record of every interaction. This will be important later for upgrades, upsells and cross-sells.

It's All Connected

Fresh, quality blog posts that you share on social media will drive more traffic to your website or landing page.

Enticing, informative eBooksFlipbooks or Slideshows will drive more email subscribers to your mailing list.

Engaging newsletters will keep your brand top-of-mind for your subscribers. That is, if you make sure the content seems interesting and relevant enough to open. People need to welcome an email from you, not reach for the "unsubscribe" link. ♛


Need a Hand? Hire A Writer

Even if you've got a full-time marketing pro on staff, or you are one yourself, Gearshift can be a great resource. You can hire an authentic writer on an as-needed basis to generate any kind of content to help you, or your client, reach the goals & objectives mapped out in your marketing strategy.


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Words Provided Proudly For Awesome People