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3 Characteristics of Content Marketing From the Heart

October 5th, 2012

by Steven Shattuck

Almost everything you consume on the web today—blogs, tweets, videos, white papers and eBooks—is part of a content marketing strategy, whether the creators are aware of it or not. Despite the fact that it’s been around for hundreds of years, it seems like marketers have only recently started to embrace content marketing as an online strategy. Mass adoption has inevitably led to issues of quality, as some marketers are simply churning out content for the sake of churning out content. Consumers who are bombarded with content on a daily basis will become more aware of what quality is, and what isn’t. If you want to stand out amongst the rabble, it’s important that you focus on three key characteristics.

1) Intent

While content marketing can be a great way to generate leads, foster brand equity, promote authorship, improve customer service and increase client retention—all at a relatively low price—one piece of content cannot and should not attempt to accomplish all of those goals at once.

Consider your sales funnel when producing content:

  • Above the Funnel Content (Generates Traffic)
  • Top of the Funnel Content (Generates Leads)
  • Middle of Funnel Content (Generates Prospects)
  • Bottom of the Funnel Content (Generates Opportunities)

You can even create multiple funnels based on personae: What kind of leads do I want to generate? Mid-market? Enterprise? What pain points is that particular job title feeling that we can address?

Once you know your business goals for producing a piece of content, focus next on your medium. Ask yourself how best this message should be communicated. If you want to share a lot of data in an engaging way, consider an infographic. Got a complicated process or concept to explain? Try a video. The medium isn’t quite the message in this case, but it’s close. Chances are you have a lot of this material already in existence—it just needs to be repurposed.

Content marketing above all should be responsive. Our Ask An SEO Expert video series is based entirely on questions from our community. Your content should be a solution to an actual problem, not a solution looking for a problem.

2) Relevance

As a company operating in a specific industry vertical, it’s important that your content is relevant to the business you’re in. A plumber should blog plumbing DIY tips. A realtor should produce home tour videos. An Internet retailer should create unique and engaging product descriptions. While content doesn’t have to be about your product or service per se, it should do two things:

  • relate contextually to what your consumer is trying to accomplish
  • align with your brand’s purpose

Creating a topic model is a great exercise: Just start with your industry keywords, and then branch out into everything that might be related. If you’re selling surfboards, you could explore recreation, swimming, beaches, travel, safety and even aquatic ecology.

At the same time, it’s okay to take risks. You wouldn’t expect a travel medical insurance company to produce an infographic about how to survive a zombie apocalypse, but they did—and it became one of their most successful campaigns.

3) Authenticity

Now that you know what kind of content to produce as well as its medium, goal and topic, it’s time to actually create the content. Here’s where the process often breaks down. As you’re writing, designing or shooting, continually ask yourself and your team two questions:

  • Is this educational?
  • Is this entertaining?

Often the answer is: “No, this is salesy.” Avoid salesy. Salesy can come later, after a piece of content has brought someone to your website, or facilitated a user’s journey through your website (strong calls-to-action). Red flags include a white paper or eBook that’s only a few pages long and lacks any hard date or calculations, or an infographic that’s nothing more than a graphical interpretation of the company’s product line. Content that’s gated is even more prone to scrutiny. Don’t underestimate the savviness of the modern consumer—they’ll see through any veiled attempts to hawk one’s wares.

Steven Shattuck

Senior Marketing Associate / Community Manager at Slingshot SEO, Steven Shattuck is Senior Marketing Associate / Community Manager at Slingshot SEO, responsible for the overall corporate online presence (website, blog, social media) with an emphasis on lead generation, digital PR and content creation.

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