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Why You Must Change Your Content Marketing Approach

Now that pretty much everyone on the planet gets the importance of content marketing it’s time to throw a wrench in the works. To remain effective with your content marketing efforts you must constantly evaluate, change and evolve!

I know you may not want to hear that, but content only provides value when it’s useful and the consumer always determines what useful looks like. As more and more content marketers experiment with content form, length, frequency, mode, delivery, and style the consumer pallet for content continues to mature and evolve and you must do so with it. content marketing

I’ve been participating in content marketing for about fifteen years now, long before we called it that, but I’ve always tried to stay in touch with the wants and needs of the reader.

My first efforts were articles placed in directories and shared in an ezine. (How’s that for some nostalgia) In 2003 I started blogging here and that’s driven a great deal of my growth for over a decade.

Over the years my email newsletter has become more of a place to filter, aggregate and share other people’s content in snack sized versions. I produced my first eBook in 2004 or so and now feature ten, including some I’ve licensed from other writers.

We now feature guest blog post two and sometimes three times a week and I contribute blog style articles to about a dozen publications on a regular basis. Social media has obviously opened new doors in terms of sharing and generating new forms of content.

I believe the future of content marketing, however, rests in our ability to evolve to a more personalized form of creation and delivery where the end reader participates in the curation and creation of the content they request from marketers.

This next step will require even more from content marketers if they are to continue to deliver value in an saturated field of more and more content. I reached out to some well-known content marketers and asked them to share how their content marketing thoughts had evolved over the last few years.

Their responses are both fascinating and informative.

Enjoy!

Online content strategy has changed over the last couple of years. The focus is still on providing value, but this has been honed even further. I see businesses being more strategic about the type of content they publish online, to build the communities they want. There’s more long term strategy in the content they produce. I see businesses blogging less often but with deeper content to create strong evergreen content relevant to their business. I see others sharing more thoughtful pieces of content to connect with the right people. A few years ago providing value might have been enough to get traction to impact your business, but it’s also very important to create the type of coherent online visibility you need to establish relationships. Combining the two is essential today. There’s just too much noise, too many people publishing the same thing. And of course you need a visual marketing strategy to go hand in hand with your written content if you want to really take advantage of social media reach today.

Cindy King
Director of Editorial
Social Media Examiner

Different people in your target audience (whomever that audience may be) have varying preferences for content format, platform, approach, etc. I always knew this to be true, but in the past two years I’ve really embraced the concept that there is no such thing as all-powerful content. No magic bullet. No reliable home runs. Consequently, I’m striving to create more and more content types native to more and more content platforms, so that there is something from me in the style and format that’s preferable to each person in my tribe. That’s why I’m doing more podcasting, videos, ebooks, slideshare and just about everything else. Instead of trying to do one thing extraordinarily well, I’m trying to do many things very good. It’s not easy, but content can’t fully succeed as the tip of the spear – you need the whole spear.

Jay Baer
Convince and Convert

In the last two years, I have changed my ideas about blogging. I used to do more video posts with tutorials but I’ve switched to posting very long text posts with a lot of screenshots as my primary blog post and then occasionally add in video posts. I’ve found that having a lot of screenshots is great for people who are scanners. Even though my video posts were usually around 3-5 minutes in length, not everyone wants to sit through them. My blog posts are typically between 1000-2000 words which is much longer than I used to write when I had written posts. I’m also focusing this year on posting 2-3 times per week on my blog rather than just 1 time per week. It doesn’t always happen but I do like when I can post more often because it allows me to post a little more variety of content. I can post one in-depth technical post about Facebook or social media, and then also post something slightly different about business motivation or more general marketing or even something more personal about my journey. I’ve found that people have really responded to my personal posts – they don’t always get the biggest amount of traffic but they definitely get the most comments and I think they are great for connecting with your readers.

Andrea Vahl

Over the last two years, I’ve attempted to add more contrast to my content. It has often been said that content is king. However, with so much content out there it can all start to blend together so I’ve been focusing on making contrast king. This way, my readers look forward to what’s coming next. There’s more anticipation and surprise and, as a result, more attention and conversation is produced.

Michael Port
Book Yourself Solid

1. Publishing on weekends – CMI now publishes posts on Saturday and Sunday, as we’ve noticed that the posts get a bit more attention with less competition on those days. 2. Audio/Podcasts – Last year, we launched our first podcast and have seen amazing results. In the anticipation of more opportunities to get access to iTunes (ala Apple CarPlay), we are in the process of launching a podcast network as part of our core content offerings. 3. More In-Person Events – A decade ago, we were under the impression that social media might lead to people less likely to travel to events. Actually, the opposite has happened. With more networking going on via the Internet, people are actually craving more in-person, face-to-face time. So over the past two years we’ve added an event in Asia Pacific, as well as five additional events in North America.

Joe Pulizzi
Content Marketing Institute

We’ve not really changed much at all with regard to our content during the course of the last couple of years. Since launching our corporate blog, we’ve always focused on just one thing: our audience. We try to write content for the blog that is informative, educational and which can help marketers (our audience) do what they do more efficiently, effectively and with fewer headaches. We try to stay on top of trends, tools, and must-know, must-consider things as marketers develop and execute their integrated marketing strategies. Much like you, we understand that relationships today are built with information, and by giving it away (information), people come to trust and rely on us as a go-to source for whatever it is they need. I use just one phrase as a barometer (and I use this when I’m on the road speaking as well): How do you know if you’re doing it right? Ask yourself just one questions: Is it good for people. If so, then you’re doing it right. I believe that applies to every facet of your content marketing and lead gen initiatives: website, landing page campaigns, blog, social, email, and is applicable both online and off.

Shelly Kramer
V3 Integrated Marketing

“At Social Media Examiner our approach to content has not fundamentally changed in the last five years with two exceptions. We still publish 1000+ word articles that are extensively edited by a team of at least 6 editors. However, the first major change is the use of images. We custom design Facebook open graph and Twitter card images for our high profile articles to help them appear better in social. This means we have a designer create a nice image with words that will compel more clicks and shares. Secondly, we have upped the frequency of our original content from six times a week to ten. This means publishing two articles per day on most days.”

Mike Stelzner
Social Media Examiner

The last two years have been a time when we’ve experimented a fair bit with our content on numerous fronts including: 1. we’ve seen our longer form content do very well so have experimented with what we internally refer to as ‘mega-posts’ that are more comprehensive guides to larger topics. These posts are generally 2000+ words (and have gone as high as over 5000 words). While this isn’t what we publish every day we’ve tried to throw them into the mix ever few weeks and have been rewarded with great sharing, traffic and comments. 2. I’ve experimented increasingly with repurposing posts in different mediums. This has included using content previously published on the blog as slideshares and republishing older posts on LinkedIn and Google+ (usually with updates). I’ve also done it around the other way by publishing content that was still in a ‘first draft’ format to LinkedIn to get reader reactions before publishing it to the blog. 3. On ProBlogger we’ve also slowed our frequency down slightly and have been experimenting with ‘themed weeks’ where we tackle a larger topic over a series of posts over 5-6 days. This means we’ve been able to dig deeper into topics and build momentum. These theme weeks have been very well received. 4. The other major change for me has been the way I’m sharing content. I’ve put a huge effort into Facebook (on Digital Photography School) where we’ve gone from auto-posing new posts to 5-6 manual updates every day. The results of this have been amazing for us – while others are seeing reduced results with Facebook we’ve seen significant improvements in our organic reach, engagement and traffic driven from Facebook.

Darren Rowse
ProBlogger

I’ve become even more convinced of the power of brevity.

Dan Pink
To Sell Is Human

I just made a change… this week! After 5+ years of writing two posts a week, I’m now publishing content every day. It wasn’t so much that I thought “more is better” — the old way was good for a while, too. But then it became stale and I felt like I wasn’t challenging myself. Just as important, I felt like I wasn’t serving my readers well. The new blog has a lot of more frequent, shorter content, as well as a new series of Reader Stories and Profiles to highlight some of the great people in the community. So far, I’m very happy with the change and I think the readers are too.

Chris Guillebeau
The Art of Non-Conformity

I tend to go to longer content in social media and shorter content in blogs and direct response. I’m not sure why other than I use stories in social media and those tend to go longer. I don’t know that I’m using content for just education about ‘how to’ — but education about who I am and how I serve, how I live and how I see the world.

Carrie Wilkerson
Barefoot Executive

I stopped sending newsletters monthly that were long and had multiple subjects to it. I found that they were not getting read. Now I send brief single subject emails weekly with very enticing titles to get open, click thrus and shares. This has resulted in much better open rates and easier content generation.

Barry Moltz
barrymoltz.com

More Long Form Content We are gravitating away from shorter more informal “blog” posts and are investing much more in creating lengthier, more authoritative articles. There’s a glut of blog content of the short style, and while it may be shared on social media widely, it also tends to have a short shelf life. Longer, more in-depth pieces on evergreen topics tend to deliver a better ROI on the investment (time or money) in an article. In other words, if you’re going to write an article, you might as well make the extra effort to make it rich in detail and fantastic! It’s not unusual for Small Business Trends to publish pieces I’ve personally written or we’ve commissioned from others, at 1,500 – 2,000 words each, several times per week. (We publish around 50 articles per week, since we are an online magazine.) We don’t have a steady diet of long pieces, but we do a greater percentage of them today than two years ago. Here is why we do more long-form content. We find that people AND search engines tend to favor well-written, in-depth pieces. For instance, Google recognizes Schema markup for in-depth articles. But even if you don’t know what Schema markup is or don’t want to bother with it, you may just find that longer content helps your site’s engagement because (a) people tend to spend more time on your site reading longer pieces stuffed with useful information; and (b) they are more likely to explore the rest of your site, not just consume a short snack and immediately go away. Also, a page with a lot of quality content on a specific topic tends to naturally rank well in search because of the sheer quantity of information for the search engine spiders. That means more people may find your article — and your site — via search. And perhaps hire you or buy from you. However, everybody has their own style, and every site is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all. I recommend that people experiment. See if long-form content works for you.

Anita Campbell
CEO and Publisher
Small Business Trends

My approach is much different now than in years past. When I first started out with my blog in 2006, I posted ten to twelve times per week, then a few years later, I brought on contributors in order to scale the blog, while I focused on writing for business media outlets. Now, I rarely publish on social networks and only write articles six times each year when I have new research I want to push out to the marketplace. Part of this is because I believe the marketplace is changing and part of this is because I burned out from posting so much. I have so much going on now that I would rather focus my content production when I need to get something out there rather than random articles.

Dan Schawbel
Author of Promote Yourself

The biggest change for me has been that there are more outlets to share my content on. Specifically I think of Instagram. In the past the only way to share what I was seeing out in the world was in a blog post. Flickr has always been around as someplace to upload photos, but that is where it ended. There was no real community. But, using Instagram I can take a photo, tag the location and then write as little or much as I want and share it out to all other channels. I love having that flexibility and functionality right in my pocket anywhere in the world. I no longer have to take out my laptop to create and share.

C.C. Chapman

“Social media has changed the way I approach the content I create. Twitter, Facebook, et al have reduced our attention spans and at the same time increased the amount of “noise” we have to wade through, in order to get to the “signal.” As a result, I am creating more visuals and making any written content more succinct. I’m using images to gain attention, graphics to convey my message, and even my new book, Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation, is just 194 pages, spread out over 30+ concise chapters. In short, less truly is more.”

Andy Beal
CEO of Trackur

I’ve changed it all. I write once a week or so for chrisbrogan.com, instead of once or twice a day. Instead, I write my newsletter once a week, and write for private communities multiple times a day. I’m sharing a peek from outside, but only the faithful gets the payload.

Chris Brogan
Publisher of Owner Magazine

So, if you’ve made it to this point why not share thoughts on how your content marketing is evolving!

The Myth of a Salesman

Marketing podcast with Dan Pink

photo credit: ernestkoe via photopin cc

My father was a salesman in the classic Willy Loman kind of way, without the sad tragedy part. He got up each week, packed his bags and went on the road to exchange his time and information for the monetary reward of an order. However, one thing he knew and stated often was that everyone sells for a living he just happened to know that’s what he did.

While 1 in 9 people in the workforce seek sales in the classic sense, we all “seek resources other than money.”

When I write a blog post I am selling in today’s world of marketing, when I speak at a conference I am selling, when I talk to a journalist, when I refer another business. All of these activities collectively make up the world of sales today just as surely as an appointment for the stated purpose of getting someone to buy my wares.

Few people have addressed the changing manner in which the world works over the past decade better than my guest on today’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, Dan Pink, author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.

Pink’s earlier works Drive, Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation defined working trends that have become accepted norms in the world of work today. His TED Talk – The Puzzle of Motivation has been viewed nearly 5 million times.

Prior to becoming a free agent in his own right he wrote speeches for Vice-President Gore and helped sell a nation on ideas worth investing in.

While the need to sell in any environment has perhaps become more important than ever, the role of the traditional salesperson has forever been altered in ways that require us to rethink what it even means to be a salesperson.

Traditionally, the salesperson was the outgoing go getter who possessed the secret information. Today’s successful salesperson is a cross between marketer, educator, information seeker and innovator.

According to Pink this is not a change in degree, it’s a fundamental change in kind.

The days of transactional selling are over, the days of solution selling are coming to an end as today’s sales skill is one of problem finding – correctly identifying and solving problems people didn’t even realize they had.

So the idea of selling now must be woven through everything that everyone in the organization is doing.

In our interview Pink cites an example from his book of a company doing a quarter billion in sales that claims they have no sales force. Their view is that they have no salespeople because everyone is a salesperson.

The implication of this idea is extremely important for both entrepreneurs and those that would call themselves salespeople in today’s market.

Is everyone simply a salesperson or has the role of the salesperson simply changed?

How To Become a More Effective Speaker

TEDSpeaking, or, at the very least, effectively presenting an idea, whether to two or two thousand, is an essential business skill. I would argue that marketers should have one or two core presentations that they make routinely as a way to share their companies’ unique point of view or story. Small business owners should think of presenting information in online and offline seminar formats as an important lead generation and conversion tactic.

Many people struggle with speaking in front of an audience and the only real cure for this is to get up and do it, realize no one will suffer permanently from it, and then get up and do it again. There are, however, three bits of advice that I would give to anyone that desires to become a more effective speaker. For me, effective only means getting your point across in a way that inspires the listener to do what you want them to do.

Share the love – one of the most important elements an effective speaker brings to an audience is passion. This can be passion for helping people get something valuable from hearing the lesson or advice presented or passion for the subject itself. You can’t fake passion, but when you have it, your message often comes through more clearly regardless of the polish of your speaking presence.

If you’re naturally passionate about your subject or the purpose of your information, then just don’t hold back, let people be attracted to that passion. If, however, your position requires you to present information that may be useful, but doesn’t exactly capture your imagination, then your job is to inject something you are passionate about. Let’s say you are talking about network security, but what you really love is World of Warcraft, music, or baseball. I believe you will be a much more compelling speaker when you find a way to weave topics you are passionate about into your presentations.

Become a TEDhead – If you’re not familiar with TED, then I am thrilled to be the one to introduce it to you. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. It has grown to be a worldwide phenomenon and one of the best places for you to learn how to be a better speaker.

TED speakers are chosen because they are fascinating and have passion for a big idea. The format challenges them to present that idea within 18 minutes and most use very little in the way of slides or media. Every TED Talk is recorded and housed on the site. Make this your classroom and you will have access to a tremendous collection of speakers that will inspire and teach you how to be better speaker. Watch everything they do. (Start with Dan Pink on the Science of Motivation)

Shoot Your Free Throws – Legend has it that Larry Bird, the great NBA star, shot 100 free throws every day, even after he became a superstar. He also led the league in successful free throw shooting year after year. In order to be a better speaker you’ve got to practice. You may choose to spend a lot of time in front of mirror going over your presentation, but I suggest you get in some pickup games pretty quickly too.

Hunt down a Toastmaster’s Chapter in your area and start forcing yourself to present and receive critical review from a peer group. Seek out opportunities to present your ideas wherever you can. Speaking to the knitting club monthly lunch may not get you in front of the audience you ultimately desire, but it will get you live feedback and help you get better. Another thing about practicing in front of an audience is that it almost always leads to other speaking opportunities. Don’t let weeks slip by without rehearsing and presenting live, keep refining your ideas and approach by listening to your audience.

The Truth About What Motivates Us

Dan Pink has a new book coming out at the end of the year – Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – that may help people rethink the entire notion of the carrot and stick approach to motivating and rewarding employees. Seems that autonomy is a much greater motivator than we understand.

Dan will be a guest on an upcoming episode of the Duct Tape Marketing but this past summer he presented the central theme of his book durting a TED Talk. The 18 minute clip below is worth watching over and over again. (Dan’s a great presenter and this video could be used to teach how to present.)

Weekend Favs August Twenty-nine

mountainsI’ve added a weekend post routine that I hope you enjoy. Each weekend I write a post that features 3-4 things I read during the week that I found interesting. Generally speaking it won’t involve much analysis and may range widely in topic. (Flickr image included here is also fav image of the week)

Enjoy!

Good stuff I ran across this week:

Image credit: Philippe sergent

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2009 Will Be the Year for Small Businesses to . . .

With 2009 just around the corner I thought it would be fun to collect the thoughts of some of the leading marketing folks around the web, but do so in what I am calling snack size fashion – so welcome to Snackfest 2009.

In keeping with the current trend in social media for small bites of info, think twitter sized responses – Plain and simple, I asked some thought leaders this question:

2009 will be the year for small businesses to . . .

Want to play along? Here’s how, post your comment answer to the same question, comment on the snack answer of each expert and tweet your thoughts using #snack09. (Follow the Twitter thread)

Here’s how some thought leaders responded to my question.
Seth Godin, author of Tribes said . . Run/grow/compete like mad because the big bad companies that have been slowing you down are in such disarray.
Seth Godin – Sqidoo page

Aaron Wall, author of SEOBook said. . .buy great domain names, as their perceived value drops due to an ad slowdown and browsers eating type in traffic.
Aaron Wall – Twitter ID

Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting said . . . to assertively reinvent their relationships with customers and prospects, because you can’t grow by cutting back, can’t improve if you’re afraid, and can’t lead from the back.

John Battelle, founder of Federated Media said . . . get closer to its best customers, add value to their lives, and build new business from that value. Twitter ID

Andy Beal, author of Radically Transparent said . . . take their head out of the sand and start listening to the social media conversations customers, employees, and other stakeholders are having about their brand. Twitter ID

Tim Ferriss, author of the Four-Hour Workweek said . . . get advertising at 70-90% off. Recessions mean budget cuts for larger corporations, which means advertising cancellations, just as in 2001 and 2002. There will be fire sales on remnant advertising, whether print, TV, radio, or online.Twitter ID

Dan Pink, author of Whole New Mind said . . . think boldly and push frontiers while the big guys run scared and retreat to safety. Twitter ID

Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software said . . . refocus on fundamentals: core strategy of identity, market, and focus, plus specific metrics and milestones, basic numbers, and planning as management, with review and revisions. Twitter ID

Bob Bly, author of Persuasive Presentations for Business said . . . prove their unique value to their customers and earn rather than expect repeat orders. Twitter ID

David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR said . . . stop spending $$ on marketing. Instead create interesting information people WANT to consume.Twitter ID

Chris Brogan, publisher of ChrisBrogan.com said . . . demystify the business effects of social tools, and bring real projects to light.Twitter ID

Bryan Eisenberg, co-author of Waiting for Your Cat to Bark said . . . stop waiting for a magic bullet and realize the magic comes from hard work they do.Twitter ID

Look for another helping of expert snacks tomorrow – Snackfest – a second helping!

Is small business ownership a career?

Johnny Bunko

Dan Pink is the author of two very important books on ideas around careers – Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind. If you own a small business, that’s your current career – but I wonder how many small business owners actually view it that way?

In Free Agent Nation he defined what a lot people were starting to feel, that it was becoming cool to do your own thing, start a business or just jump from project to project.

In A Whole New Mind he revealed a great deal about the nature of the Free Agent Work and how it had changed from information work to strategic, right-brain work.

I caught up with him for a recent episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast to discuss his latest take on work called The Adventures of Johnny Bunko – The last career guide you will ever need. One of the most intriguing elements of the book is that it’s written in the Japanese comic style known as manga – a book style known in the US primarily by teens, but widely used to communicate every possible topic to kids and adults in Japan.

One of my favorite lessons (there are six in all) is – There is no plan.

Now, Pink has written this book in the point of view of career guide, but every word of it applies to the small business, even if it hadn’t dawned on you that your business is a career.

With that in mind, I share Pink’s notion about “the big plan” – I believe that small business owners need to have an intention, a vision – the big idea, but sometimes you’ve got to let go of just exactly how you get there. Sticking to the plan is what often stifles opportunity. I’m not suggesting that you use this bit of advice as an excuse to tilt at windmills, I’m just saying, create the vision and let go of some of details.

Don’t confuse what I said above as a dis of planning, I’m also a big fan of planning – not because of the end results, a neatly bound document, because of the process and what it means to creating, keeping and growing the vision.

Actively participate in planning, stoke the vision, but understand that sometimes just getting up tomorrow with an open mind and paying attention to what’s happening in this moment is the plan.