In this 7-part series, I’m going to break down what I believe are the seven pillars of a strong content marketing strategy. Content marketing is an inbound marketing strategy (i.e. driving prospectives to your site) whereby an organization uses various forms of content to build audiences, drive awareness, or drive sales. Blogs, podcasts, and video series are examples of commons content marketing initiatives. These will by no means be exhaustive. But in the 15+ years I’ve been doing work which could be classified as “content marketing”—from the sketch videos I used to make to promote my wedding video business back in 2006, to the blogs posts I’ve written for the likes of Frame.io and this site, to the three different podcasts and many film series I’ve produced—I believe these pillars are key in having a successful campaign.
I dragged out of mothballs, one of the first “content marketing” campaigns—a comedy video series geared towards brides
In 2008 I produced the first online reality TV series for and about professional photographers. I gathered 24 of the top photographers in the country, secured sponsorship from companies like Microsoft and Nik Software. The 10-part series help WPPI, one of the largest photo conventions, get record numbers.
The film series produced during my time a Frame.io was a video version of the blog’s popular “Made in Frame” series where we highlighted a high-profile customer.
The concepts I plan to cover are applicable to all forms for business and types of content. But I will pay special attention to how video producers can apply them t their own business, or the work they do for their clients.
So, without further ado, let’s begin.
Pillar 1: Know Your Objective
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said a million times. Know what it is you want your content initiative to accomplish.
I’m a huge fan of war movies. I think 1917 was a masterpiece of filmmaking in every way. Saving Private Ryan was ROBBED of best picture back in the day. Robbed I tell you!
What do these, and most other great war movies have in common? The main character knows exactly what they are going after. They have a mission and an objective to hit. There are no shades of gray as to whether or not they attain their objective. Either they find Private Ryan and “get him the hell out of there,” or they don’t. Lance Corporals Blake and Schofield will get the message to the second battalion in time, or the Germans will annihilate them.
You have to look at your content marketing strategy in the same way. It may not be a life or death situation literally, but the “life or death” of the success of your company could absolutely rely on it.
What is an objective
It stands to reason that if you are going to have an objective, you should know what the hell an “objective” is. Let me tell you what an objective is NOT. It’s not…
- “I want my video to go viral.”
- “I want my podcast to hit New and Noteworthy”
- “To get 20 likes and retweets on every Tweet.”
The reason none of the above are viable objectives is because the factors that go into hitting them are too far out of your control.
A good objective is one in which the possibility for success is realistic, given the resources at your disposal.
It’s a tangible goal that when reached, will help your organization get that much closer to its overall goal or objective.
The 4 S’s of a good strategy
During my time as a business marketing manager at Intuit, I learned a helluva lot. Intuit prides itself on hiring the brightest minds from the best B-schools and alum from brand powerhouses like Proctor & Gamble.
One of the key lessons that stick out for me during my time there was “The 4 S’s of a good strategy.” They are:
- Specific: know exactly what it is you want to happen with your campaign.
- Synchronous: it needs to be “synchronous” with your brand. Click-baity titles or titillating topics may generate traffic, but it’s not worth damaging your brand to get there.
- Sustainable: your strategy needs to be something you can consistently maintain.
- Sufficient: and last, your strategy needs to yield results that make a big enough difference to make it all worthwhile (note: this does not necessarily mean financial sufficiency.)
Every content marketing strategy I implement gets run through these parameters. If anyone of these is missing, I know work needs to be done.
Examples of good objectives
Here are a few examples of good content marketing objectives.
- Establish your brand, product, or service as the #1 or #2 service potential customers think of when asked about your industry—ideally, unaided. For example, if you are a post-house that specializes in color grading for Fortune 100 clients when a room full of C-level execs at global agencies are asked “What’s your go-to post-house?” your company is mentioned.
- Generate a large enough “top of funnel” stream of MQLs (marketing qualified leads) to hit specific sales goals for your company or division. “Top of funnel” refers to the sales funnel which I cover below.
- Redefine your brand in the case of a new business direction, logo, or some other major change in the organization. (e.g. ABC Family became Freeform; Vimeo pivoting from a video distribution platform to a full-blown video review, collaboration, and analysis platform; etc.)
One of the best practical examples I can offer is the process I would often go through with clients of mine when I ran my video production company. When engaging with a client for the first time, I inevitably would ask them “What’s the objective of this video?” Thankfully, most of them knew better not to say “I want it to go viral.” I would sometimes get “We want to put it on YouTube.” (which, frankly, is actually a worse answer). I would then gently coach them on a better way of thinking of objective. “What is it you want people to do once they watch this video? Reach into their wallets? Dive deeper into your site to learn more? Pick up a phone to call you? Volunteer?”
Knowing the answer to the video objective question is no different than a greater overall content marketing strategy.
Filling the funnel
In that second bullet above, I alluded to “top of funnel.” I don’t want to assume you know what I mean by “top of funnel.”
As I mentioned above, the “funnel” I’m referring to is the sales funnel. Think of an upside pyramid, where the top represents the audience of potential customers. As you move down the funnel, the number of candidates in stages of business that could use what you have to offer, narrows. Most content marketing initiatives are largely top of funnel. Think blogs and podcasts geared towards a particular audience.
They are casting a wide net to catch as many potential customers as possible. Most people at the top of your sales funnel will never invest in your product or service. But they’re important because sales is a numbers game. The more people who see your product or service, the more sales you’ll generate. Also, people in this part of the funnel can serve as evangelists. They might not be ready for your business, but they may know someone who is.
If you Google “sales funnel,” you’ll find a gajillion blog posts and images on the topic (there are actually a little fewer than a gajillion, but trust me, there are a lot). This one by Oberlo is a good one.
One down. Six to go. In the next installment, I’ll cover pillar #2: Branding.