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The Problem With Content

I’m in San Diego today speaking at Social Media Marketing World. The message of content marketing has certainly taken root in the digital and social marketing space and as the message of content, content, content grows louder and louder so too does the level of frustration.

content marketing

photo credit: Exothermic via photopin cc

Producing content actually requires some work. Producing lots of content requires even more work and, well, let’s not event talk about the work required to consistently product high quality content.

But here’s the semi ironic thing. The problem with content is not that you don’t have enough, it’s that you have too much. In an attempt to feed the content beast many marketers have lost focus on the narrative of who they are, why they do what they do and why their customers are attracted to their brands.

In effect, we’re attempting to write about everything and in doing so connecting with nothing.

Before content will truly serve as an effective community attracting and building mechanism, it must be laced with a potent dose of focus.

That’s not to say that a good 50 Ways to do X post won’t always draw eyeballs, but so will wearing a really short skirt into a bar – the question is, does that lead towards building a supportive community and achieving your objectives?

Content must spring from the one true thing your business stands for and become a story that becomes a greater narrative that lives on in your community with no real end.

You do this by telling fewer stories – over and over again. You do this by using clarity, the one real thing you’re business stands for in the mind of the market, as a filter for voice and message.

You solve your content problem when you use content to:

  • Narrow your focus to an ideal client’s unmet needs
  • Share stories that build trust and expose vulnerability
  • Help define problems your customers don’t know they have
  • Give your customers a way to collaborate and personalize
  • Help determine the real intent of your prospective clients

I happen to believe that the highest objective of any business is the building of a vibrant community. Start sharing less and focusing more on the content that signals why someone would want to join your narrative and you’ll start to witness how community actually forms.

How to Get More From Every Piece of Content You Produce

This post is sponsored by Viewbix – Easily add apps and calls to action to your video.

Content creation must involve strategy. That’s the part that you must understand or its production is little more than a chore.

Repurpose content

photo credit: markyweiss

For some time now I’ve been preaching the idea of a “total body of work” approach to content for marketing purposes.

Waking up each day and deciding what you might blog about is not a sustainable content strategy – even though many a blogger makes it look so.

The publishing that we must do today requires us to think like, well, a publisher. We must develop a clear set of topics or chapters that make up the foundation content for trust building and SEO impact. We must determine a monthly theme and schedule for addressing each chapter. We must commit to regularly scheduled features.

And, perhaps most importantly, we must develop a mentality that habitually urges us to consider every word we publish or plan to publish as part of a giant Erector set or content that can be used and reused in many ways.

Every press release, blog post, video, article and presentation must have intended uses beyond its obvious initial outlay and it must be an interchangeable element in the total body of work.

It’s simply too costly to produce content with any other view.

I once had a conversation with Josh Waitzkin, eight-time National Chess Champion and author of the Art of Learning and he told me that he got to the point where he no longer saw a game as it was because to him the game always looked as though it was going to be many moves ahead.

I think that’s how content must be viewed – not as something just for today, but for moves ahead.

The process starts with questioning that must evolve into an unconscious way of thinking.

  • How could I expand this blog post as a series of posts?
  • How could I rework this content into other formats?
  • What would make this content worth paying for?
  • How could this content be reworked for real-time consumption?
  • What did I learn while creating this presentation?
  • How could I package this content to share it with a different market?
  • If I were writing a book would this content belong in that book?
  • What content have I already written that could form the basis of an eBook?
  • How can I share this content in a way that helps me learn?

Below are five content development habits that you must employ in the creation of your content strategy and production of your body of work.

New medium

I’m often asked to present a specific topic to a group. As I create or develop my thoughts for a series of slides I write a blog post or two from my research, record a screencast of the presentation, upload my slides to Slideshare and have the video transcribed into text.

There is very little additional work on my part to create four and five pieces of content from the act of discovering what to include in a 90-minute talk.

New form

I’ve produced dozens of eBooks over the last few years and 100% of the content for these compilations has been drawn from my blog posts. Now, understand that this doesn’t happen by some form of chance.

I plan and write my blog posts with these eBooks in mind. This requires a longer view of both blog post topics and the chosen topics for eBooks, but when you understand that this long view is required, it’s actually quite freeing.

Getting in the habit of creating an editorial calendar in advance, with your cornerstone topics always in mind, can be a great aid.

New purpose

One of the most puzzling aspects of content is consumption – meaning how people choose to get, read, listen, watch or otherwise digest it.

Understanding that people have distinct preferences in this category opens the door to an interesting aspect of repurposing.

I have a podcast that’s free to subscribe to, but hundreds of people have paid $2.99 to download the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast app (iTunes link) from iTunes because of the added control it gives them.

I have a great deal of content that is available on my site for the taking, yet people are eager to pay $3.99 on Amazon for the package that gives them the content in the form that is delivered to their Kindle reader.

New time frame

This one is a bit mind bending for some, but you have to think about real-time and long-term in the same context.

I tweet as I write something that I think is poignant and again as I write things that seem confusing. People consume this content in a far different manner than, say, a full blog post, but the engagement is incredibly instructional.

Social media is the ultimate real-time content package and this is how you tap it.

New audience

My blog readers and my newsletter subscribers are two very different groups. Sure, there’s some cross over, but some people prefer email newsletters and some won’t read anything that’s not in their RSS reader.

When you understand this fact you can begin to explore the various methods of reaching people in their preferred environment.

Giving away content in the form of a free Amazon eBook is a great way to reach new audiences. Creating workshops and making them available as a Udemy course is a great way to reach new audiences. Reworking your ten all time best blog posts and offering them as guest posts on other blogs is a great way to reach new audiences.

Once you start to think in this vein you’ll never look at a blog post or PowerPoint deck in the same way.

viewbixThis post is sponsored by Viewbix – Easily add apps and calls to action to your video.

The New Marketing Machine

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Aaron Dun – Enjoy!

“Don’t Wake Up With Your Website in a Ditch” Expand Your Content & Your Contributors to Keep Your Content Marketing Strategy Humming

As content explodes around you, if you are the only person contributing to your content marketing strategy, I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to be in trouble–just like the characters in recent television ads from DirectTV.

Between the “always on” nature of mobile, and the many interactive, online social platforms available, marketers face enormous pressure to continuously deliver compelling, cross-channel experiences to their customers, and keep them interested and engaged. Yet, most organizations, big and small, aren’t set up to optimize their content ownership, authorship, and delivery engines.

In the ongoing effort to get found faster, and to convert more suspects into prospects, companies now need to use all of their resources to publish more content, in more places, more rapidly than ever before. And if you don’t, you may wake up with your website in a ditch!”

“Don’t Fall Into a Dinner Party”

The old saying “many hands make light work” easily applies today to a company’s content marketing strategy.

It seems like content became the new hub of marketing virtually overnight. But in fact content has actually been the lynchpin of the commercial internet virtually since its inception. I suspect that even before that, the real-life inspirations of Mad Men would recognize a good story to be told, even if that story required a three martini lunch to be discovered. Consider then, what the DirectTV ads themselves say about the brand, and how they encourage engagement.

The marketing landscape has continued to evolve and old rules no longer apply – meaning the marketer’s imperative to use content to tell their brand story, and engage with potential buyers has had a dramatic impact on content strategy. There are new digital customer behaviors and expectations, increasing social channels popping up, and evolving SEO rules to abide by. Keeping up with these changes and being prepared for what’s next on the web requires a web content marketing blueprint for success.

Let’s break down this new marketing landscape to get a better understanding of these challenges so you can address them head on. Four key drivers are:

  • Interactive Digital Customer: We’re living in a highly- connected world where the customer is online (mainly through mobile devices). This enables instant access to information 24/7, and offers multiple channels for formulating opinions, sharing, and influencing others via Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Slideshare, Quora, and more. Traditional one-way blasting of messages no longer builds brand awareness. Prospects and customers expect more; they want to engage with their brands, they want to “talk back” and even challenge companies with questions and comments.
  • Stiffened Competition: Social’s explosion also presents an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to connect people with brands and build relationships and engagement without being intrusive. However, because the digital era has made it easier for small businesses to look larger than life, competition has stiffened as well. Businesses are competing to capture the attention of the same shareholders in the same online channels.
  • New SEO Rules: Keeping pace with evolving SEO demands presents another challenge for marketers. Google continues to change its algorithm in an attempt to help fresh, quality content shine and penalize those who do not stay current. In fact, these changes require that you shift your content marketing strategy from merely thinking about Page Rankings to how you drive inbound traffic through fresh, incisive and relevant content that engages online audiences. (Read more about the New Rules of SEO on my company’s blog.) http://www.percussion.com/community/blogs/web-content-management/20121030-content-marketing-drives-seo-results-three-themes-and-the-proof-part-2
  • Complex Technology: In larger organizations, traditional web content technology bottlenecks the content marketing machine: it’s too hard to use, or the workflow process is too hard to manage, deterring those outside of marketing and IT from joining the team of contributors. If the end user feels threatened by complex technology, content delivery gets pushed back through a single resource (marketing and/or IT) to post and publish to the site. For smaller companies updating the web site ranges from the simple to the impossible depending on the skill level of the team.

“Don’t Attend Your Own Funeral as Phil Shifley”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcYWvvv75dM&feature=plcp

So how does a company proceed given this laundry list of obstacles today? You’ll notice the common denominator is the need for providing good, quality content, and lots of it! This can be a daunting task, especially for smaller businesses short on resources and budgets.

However, many content savvy companies have found that by deepening their contributor bench, they can deliver better content — whether it’s articles, blog posts, video, podcasts, etc. — more quickly, and push it out to their social channels where customers are engaging.

Follow these four simple steps to ensure your scaling your content engine.

Step 1: Break Down Silos: No matter how small or how big your company, content typically exists in silos. That content may sit with one team or another, or simply a person without the time to get it online. That content just doesn’t have any impetus to become part of the company story. Your job as a savvy content marketer is to harness all of that hidden content, and bring it out into the open so you can use that content to engage with your community.

Step 1A: Break Down Silos (Again): Stop thinking of your website as discrete from your blog, or your social channels as distinct from your blog. All of those are simply channels to tell your story. If they are not synched, you are missing a huge opportunity to engage with your customers across your community.

Step 2: Enable More Internal Contributors: It’s amazing to me how many people we talk to who are perfectly content being the only person with access to post content to the site. They spend all day editing word docs and patiently explain that the challenge with more contributors has nothing to do with technology or process. People just won’t take the time to write because it seems too laborious to them. Yet, those same “non-contributors” are tweeting 5x a day, and posting 3 updates to Facebook and LinkedIn daily. Make it easy and compelling to contribute, and they will come.

Step 3: Enable More External Contributors: This is the hardest area for many to conceive—why on earth would anybody want to contribute to my blog or my site? Just ask. — There is always something in it for them like incoming links or authorship, etc. Ask your customers or others in your industry to contribute, and once they do, promote the *$%$& out of it. Most people like to see their name in lights. Why do you think I am writing this post?

Step 4: Everything is Content: Stop looking for discrete pieces of content. Start by reshaping your definition of content and you will begin to see all of the content that is around you today. Customer support calls are content, blog comments are content, photos from an event are content…and on it goes. Once you realize that all of these daily moments are in fact discrete pieces of content, you will never worry about having enough content again.

It goes without saying that in a fast-moving, content-driven, web content marketing world your technology better not get in the way. So once you have defined your content strategy, make sure your technology has the horsepower to enable more contributors and is easy enough for these new contributors to engage. Otherwise your shiny new process will careen into the same ditch as your website.

Upholding the spirit of the DirectTV ads, “Don’t let your shiny new process careen into the ditch.” Follow the four simple steps here and get your content marketing engine up and running!

Aaron is Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for Percussion Software www.percussion.com, a provider of web content management and content marketing software. He is an avid Boston sports fan, and is known to enjoy a good marketing book or two in his free time. Follow him on Twitter @ajdun.  He can also be reached at [email protected].

The Rise of the Storytellers

I’m taking some vacation time this week and I’m actually going to stand waist deep in the Columbia River in Oregon and cast for Trout. (Don’t worry I won’t hurt any I’m strictly a catch and release kind of guy.)  While I am away, I have a great lineup of guest bloggers filling my shoes.  This post is brought to you from C.C. Chapman.

C.C. Chapman is a leader in the online and social media marketing space. He is an avid photographer, author and keynote speaker. His most recent book (with Ann Handley) Content Rules, is a best seller that explains how companies can create remarkable blogs, podcasts, webinars, ebooks and more. C.C. is an advocate who speaks about building passionate consumer communities, and the strategic values of content-based marketing. He is the host of Passion Hit TV and the founder of Digital Dads. C.C. is a graduate of Bentley University and happily lives in the woods outside of Boston with his loving family.

Time for a bit of tough love.

You and your company must figure out how you are going to begin telling your story and creating the media to share it with others. If you haven’t started already, you must start today because you are already behind.

Ever since my book Content Rules hit shelves in 2010, I’ve spoken to thousands of people around the globe and told them the exact same thing. No matter what city I was in, I’d recieve blank stares, vocal challenges that it didn’t apply to certain industries or knowing looks from those who had been fighting this fight in their own offices. I know I’m right and my clients are benefitting from my knowledge and starting to learn how to do this.

Pick any social network you like. Look at what is being said and shared on them. You’ll see a constant wave of photos, videos, articles and more being shared. People are finding content that kicks off an emotional response to it and then sharing it with others. They are taking content that others have created and pushing it out to their communities so that others can consume it as well.

You as a business owner must create content that shares your story for others to then pass along.

Just a few years ago, you could have gotten away with saying your customers were not online or that it wasn’t important for you particular business and I might give you a pass. Now, every single age, demographic and potential customer for you is there. They have phones connected to the web. They are doing searches for everything from peaches to PCs. Your corner store can now have a global market if you so desire.

The rise of the storyteller is upon us. You can choose the medium that is right for you, but you must start creating now. Waiting isn’t an option if you want to succeed. It is that black and white of an issue in my mind.

Google continues to tweak their algorithm so that fresh and relavent content is served up when people search. If you are not giving it things to show, then you are invisible on the web. Plus, people are consuming at a constant rate and if you give them something compelling, interesting or inspiring they will reward you with their attention (and perhaps more).

The 3 Essential Elements of Successful Content Marketing

I’m taking some vacation time this week and I’m actually going to stand waist deep in the Columbia River in Oregon and cast for Trout. (Don’t worry I won’t hurt any I’m strictly a catch and release kind of guy.)  While I am away, I have a great lineup of guest bloggers filling my shoes.  This post is brought to you from Sonia Simone.

Sonia Simone is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Copyblogger Media. Come find her on the Copyblogger blog, where she writes extensively about content marketing for small business.

I don’t care how big or how small your business is.

If you’ve been thinking about content marketing, one issue probably keeps cropping up.

Let’s face it … this would all be a whole lot easier if it wasn’t for that pesky content.

What makes content “good”? What’s the difference between content marketing and just writing an entertaining blog? And can content really be the backbone of a serious marketing plan?

Let’s get very clear … not all content serves a marketing purpose. If you want to build a strong business around content, you need three key elements.

Here are my choices for the three key components of effective content marketing:

#1: Make it entertaining

The biggest mistake businesses make with content is the assumption that the audience actually finds their business interesting.

No one owes you their attention. You have to earn it.

That means your content (and all the rest of your marketing) needs to become relentlessly focused on the desires and needs of your customers.

That means you write content that’s entertaining and interesting. Content that benefits the reader — often by solving a problem she might have, or possibly by giving her a good laugh.

You make sure your formatting is audience-friendly. No one wants to read long, unbroken paragraphs, even if the writing is top-notch. Use plenty of subheads, white space, and a clear, legible font that’s large enough to be read by someone over the age of 12.

And if headlines aren’t your strong suit … fix that. You don’t have to be clever — clarity is much more effective. Be sure the headline communicates how the reader will benefit from reading that piece of content.

#2: Make it strategic

Not all entertaining, readable content will move a prospect closer to becoming a customer.

It doesn’t matter how many Facebook “Likes” you have, if you’re not communicating the benefits of doing business with you.

This is where your copywriting skills will pay off. You don’t actually have to be able to put the words together yourself — but you need to understand the underlying strategic elements of copywriting.

That means you know the difference between benefits and features — and your content focuses on the benefits of your product or service.

It means you know how to overcome your most common objections.

It means you understand social proof, calls to action, your unique selling proposition … and you use these elements in your content.

You don’t need to cram every copywriting element into a single piece of content, and you probably shouldn’t. Content should look like content, not advertising.

But it still serves a strategic purpose.

To borrow a phrase from classic sales training, your content exists to get prospects to know, like, and trust you. (Duct Tape readers know this is the top half of the marketing hourglass.)

That high-quality experience is what paves the path to a sale.

#3: Make it shareable

Did you get sucked into the “social media marketing” buzzfest over the last few years?

Well, social media marketing (when it’s effective) is content marketing. Banner ads and promoted tweets can’t hold a candle to strong content. And social media is typically the most cost-effective way to carry content right to the prospects you’re looking for.

Take a look at what Oreo did last weekend by posting a single piece of visual content to Facebook. It’s generated publicity (overwhelmingly positive, despite some rumblings for a boycott) that even Kraft/Nabisco couldn’t buy.

Social media is a terrific venue for getting your entertaining, strategic content shared. The specifics change somewhat year to year — this year’s hot spots are Facebook and Twitter, next year we may be looking at different platforms.

But the essential strategy remains the same. Look at how your prospects and customers share the type of content you’re creating … then make it easy and enjoyable for them to actually share it.

How about you?

Is content marketing an important part of your business? What elements do you consider essential to a successful program?

Let us know in the comments …

Image credit: npmeijer

The Crazy Busy Marketer’s Guide to Content Creation in the Real World

Free eBook covers every aspect of content creation – download here

free content ebookIf you’re like most business owners and marketers you’ve been beaten down and submitted to the fact that you need to produce content, lots of it, in order to compete, educate, be found and convert sales.

The fact that content has become such an important element has also made it one of the most frustrating, time consuming and confusing for the typical small business.

Some of my most popular blog posts over the last few years have been ones where I dive into practical ways to make content creation and implementation in the form of blogging, eBook creation, article writing, workshops and strategic partnering more attainable.

That’s why I created a new eBook appropriately titled – The Crazy Busy Marketer’s Guide to Content Creation in the Real World.

In this 34 page work I cover how to find content, the types of content every business needs, how to use content in every phase of the customer cycle, how to use content for referrals, and how to amplify the content you produce to get the greatest exposure.

The eBook is my gift to you my readers. Go download The Crazy Busy Marketer’s Guide to Content Creation in the Real World and let me know what you think.

5 Ways to Create Dead On Content

Over the course of the last few years I’ve been telling business owners about the need to create content – lots of it. But, I ‘ve also been talking about content as a strategy, as a tool to create trust and educate and as something you simply must make a priority.

No matter how I position it, however, I always get the same question – How do I come up with enough ideas to write about?

The answer to that question really has two elements – first and foremost you must have a content plan that spells out the key content subjects that make sense for you to dive deeply into. This should be a list of eight or ten major themes that comprise your organization’s keywords and phrases. In other words, it’s not enough to have ideas to write about, they need to be the right ideas.

When you create this list and stick to it you can create a body of work over time that includes a thorough exploration of every subject on your list and build up a library of focused content that can extend to fact sheets, eBooks, videos, articles, interviews, and case studies that support all of your major themes.

The second element to this question involves the tool set required to keep content inspiration high. If you simply sit down each time you’re going to write something armed with only your keyword list, you’ll struggle to create fresh ideas.

Below are five ways that I keep content pouring over my brain in an effort to help me stay focused and excited about content creation.

Questions

This one is my power tool. Think about it. People ask questions because they want to know something. Your customers ask questions constantly. One of the easiest ways to create content that relates to your business and fills a need is to simply get in the habit of writing responses to questions you know need answering.

Before you know it you’ll have a powerful group of answers that you can turn into an FAQ document. The great thing about most questions is that if one person wants the answer, there’s a pretty good chance that others do as well.

Check out popular question and answer sites such as Quora, Focus or LinkedIn Answers. These sites are great because you can sort by topic and get a sense of the most popular questions people in your industry are asking. You may choose to participate on these sites, but the real value from a content standpoint may lie in the inspiration you gain from addressing the questions in your own content.

RSS Feeds

I subscribe to over 100 blogs and I make a habit of scanning them daily using Google Reader and an iPhone app called Reeder.

This allows me to stay on top of what people are saying in my world and often stimulates ideas for things I should write about. Many times I can take an idea and explain it differently or apply it to something totally unrelated.

This is also where I get exposed to other people’s content that I want to share in my newsletters and tweets.

Books and Magazines

I still subscribe to about five print magazines and, even though I can consume them online, I find that sometimes I gain additional insight through the use of different mediums. So in addition to the content in these magazines there’s value for me in the context as well.

I read lots of books due to the nature of my business but I also intentionally seek out books that people recommend that are seemingly unrelated to my business. I often get incredibly insightful ideas from books on philosophy, architecture, math, science and nature. There are so many parallel ideas in these studies that help me express business ideas in fresh ways.

Here’s a list of five books that taught me to look at things differently.

Bookmarking Sites

I love to dig into sites like Reddit and Delicious just to see what other people are finding interesting though their bookmarks. This helps me uncover content, tools and ideas that might take weeks and months to trickle into the mainstream and also provides tremendous intelligence on what makes something popular.

I also make extensive use of the tool on my own by bookmarking lots of content that I find and tagging it with my core topic list for later use.

Intentional Reading

This last one isn’t a tool so much as it is a behavior. I discovered this years ago when I was compiling information for my first book.

One of the most potent ways I know to develop unique content is to read a number of books related or unrelated to your topic with a single, intentional point of view.

In other words, if I’m looking to develop ideas around the topic of referrals I will read books that may or may not have much to do directly with referrals looking for ideas that I could apply. So for example a book on technology might be talking about how to design something in a way that makes it easier to scale and from my referral point of view I might very well gain a unique way to express how to build a network.

It’s almost as though I turn into the narrator while reading.

The bar for content creation is ever increasing. Where simple quantity was enough several years ago, today’s need for insight over shear information calls for a much deeper relationship with the ideas you choose to own.

Getting an Education Through Content Creation

Many business owners, and certainly most marketers, have succumbed to the need to consistently product high quality, education based content as the foundation of their marketing efforts.

Without looking too hard you can see that many successful organizations lean very heavily on their content to generate and convert leads. In fact, the wildly successful online marketing service Hubspot appears to do little more than produce, aggregate, syndicate and promote useful content as a way to expose potential customers to their way of doing business. (Granted they do a lot of it.)

With content production comes work, however, and that’s the part that even marketers that realize how important good content is struggle with.

I’ve written many posts about tools that make content production easier and even where I find inspiration for things to write about, but there’s one bit of leverage that I’ve not shared that may help kick your content production into high gear.

What if you looked at content production as a way to get yourself educated?

See, I’ve found that one of the surest ways to get something done is to increase the payoff for doing it. (It’s sort of why after months of not being able to get our taxes organized we magically get it all done one day in early April – the payoff, or perhaps threat of fines, makes it a high priority.)

So, what if instead of always writing about the things you know, you chose to include writing about the things you need to or should know.

For example, as a business owner I need to know more about cash flow, balance sheets, profit and labor productivity. Not so much so that I would advise others on these things, but certainly enough that I can understand them, teach them to my staff, use this data to run my business and, in some cases, teach my CPA how to actually be an adviser.

So what do I do? I ask around and find what some are calling the best book on these matters. (Here’s the one I landed on: Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential) I read the book. (That part most people do) Then I find the author, interview him, create a podcast, and write about the very subjects I needed to know more about – an act which deepens my learning.

This is such a powerful way to learn what I need to learn, get advice from leading experts, and produce high quality content all at the same time.

You likely couldn’t make this your only content strategy, but you can certainly create a list of 8-10 topics that you need to know more about and go to work on finding someone that would be happy to teach you while you create content.