Although I prefer a good novel to a marketing book, reading Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi was not terrible even on a beautiful summer afternoon. Plus, it satisfied a crucial metric for me: translating the key concepts to doodles was fun and satisfying.
First, Pulizzi spends some time helpfully defining what content marketing is and what it’s not. He includes a few similar definitions so you can pick what works best for you. Here’s a mash-up that I like:
Content marketing is creating and delivering interesting information that drives profitable customer action.
At a previous employer I had arguments with ex-journalists about the importance of driving action with our content, so appreciate the validation.
The rest of the book was equally strategic and tactical, easy to dig into or skim, and full of practical and actionable advice on how to run a content marketing program for companies large or small.
Although targeted to newbies with an accessible, empathic tone, there is enough there there to help those who have been at it for a while to reinforce, enhance, or tweak their approach.
I read it in one afternoon. And if I can, you can too. It’s good and not hard. And you’ll likely learn things.
Here are four key takeaways
1. Find your niche
Don’t be all things to all people. It’s kind of obvious, but also perhaps hard to remember when you feel you’re competing with the universe of content on the Internet. To be cost effective and useful and drive outcomes, you need to focus. Content marketing is no different from regular marketing. You need to know the problems your customer struggles with and where your business makes the most money. Pulizzi’s simple formula to develop your content strategy is 1) identify the questions your customers most frequently ask through search terms or, better yet, just talking to them, 2) figure out which ones relate best to the products or services that make you the most money, and then 3) develop content that fits that niche.
2. Plan it out
Plot your customers and their questions against phases in the purchase path. And then figure out if those are really the most important questions at each of those times. You should plot each persona separately. You can do this in a simple chart — personas down the Y axis and phases of the purchase path with corresponding questions along the X axis. Then, at each of the intersecting points figure out what answers you can provide and in what format. Content marketing is often mostly a lead gen and retention thing, so you may notice that there is more to do at either end of the cycle than in the middle.
3. Reuse and recycle
Once you have a good story you want to tell, re-purpose it in as many formats as possible. Turn a white paper into a series of videos or a webinar. Turn an e-book into a SlideShare (which Pulizzi says is a vastly underutilized format in B2B marketing, by the way). Turn everything into social media posts. And then keep at it to maximize its value. Everything should always point back to your owned channels.
4. Measure what matters
Data and analytics are critical, but can be overwhelming. Some is more important than others, and is useful for different audiences. Ultimately, the primary metric should be if your content is increasing profits and customer happiness. Everything else is a means to get there. Secondary metrics could be increasing or improving leads or saving costs or time to purchase. And supporting those could be metrics around views, likes, rankings, visits, shares, etc. The point is, don’t get caught in the weeds and miss the big picture. And, especially when you’re managing up to the executive level, primary metrics are the most relevant.
Satisfied, validated, and perhaps a tad smarter, I’m going back to Jazz by the brilliant and inspiring Toni Morrison. May she rest in peace.
I want to remember what I read. So I draw doodles of key takeaways on Post-it® notes and stick them to my wall. Hunting for the ideas keeps me engaged, doodling them is fun, and looking at them later makes me feel good. I figured: Why not share them?
This article can also be found on my blog, Stories That Stick.