Content Marketing Tips Based On Experience (part 2)

Content Marketing tips: I built this list for my students a month ago and I’m sharing it now as I think it could be useful to many. It’s one of these subjects which seem to be very easy but it’s not. You could learn it, or at least its principles, in a matter of minutes. Teaching it is extra hard unless you are not afraid of teaching things that aren’t really – or at least not always – true and are ready to stand up for it and pretend you know the truth and all the content marketing tips and they are all fault-proof.

content marketing tips

Of course they aren’t. Ditto for Word of Mouth marketing and so it is for most subjects linked to digital marketing. One thinks one knows it but when you’re asked to do it then you realise you know nothing. Even I who have been practicing this for 22 years and more. I’m still learning everyday and it’s a good thing because it means I’m never resting on my laurels. Content marketing is all a matter of practice and field experience, trial and error and no truth holds for very long before it is questioned and all you know must be reinvented. So here’s the sequel to our latest post on Content Marketing based on the questions asked by mrs MSC students in Grenoble last month. Our last point was about time and money. I repeat the last question below and we will take it from there. This is part 2 of this blog post, which will be published in 3 instalments.

Content marketing tips

(here I will deliver my content marketing tips through the answer to a few questions I had from my students)

As for SEO vs SEA, engagement could either mean that you pay or you invest time. It’s your choice

(as seen in part one of this blog post)

But that doesn’t mean that the value of social media is in engagement dashboards. In fact, it’s not. It’s in the power to interact and to gain insights from people: clients/partners/influencers/or even the average punter (who cares as long as you have an insight?). One insight only is sufficient for you to change positively and durably a product or service and make a strong impact in your market. Yet, most marketers are lazy and prefer to pay Facebook so that they can show “big” engagement numbers even though you and I know that they are not really “big”.

To sum it up in a few words, I think there is no other technique or strategy to increase engagement, whatever it means. In my eyes, content marketing tip number one is that what is most valuable is the quality of your content (in the broad sense of the term: content could be anything from entertainment to something which is particularly mesmerising or inspirational, something extraordinary which people want to share). I know that the term quality is very subjective and that it’s difficult to define and that it could mean different things to different audiences. That’s exactly the point. Define what that “quality” means for your audience: B2B audiences will most probably favour in-depth content and B2C entertaining content. That’s a starting point, there is no matrix for defining what “good quality content” is. Yet, all we know is that…

Once your content is superior (re the above-mentioned caveat) , all the rest will follow. This is the power of Word of Mouth Marketing. Read more

Questions You May (Still) Have About Content Marketing (1)

content marketing : internet bankingContent Marketing is new. It’s brand new. So declared a few pundits a couple of years ago and to an extent they are right. I can testify for this, I was already practicing it (aka inbound marketing as it is known today) 22 years ago. But as Lyman Bryson once said: “The error of youth is to believe that intelligence is a substitute for experience, while the error of age is to believe experience is a substitute for intelligence.” So let’s not fall into that trap and let’s realise that content marketing, like any other discipline, has evolved over time. I was lucky enough to experiment with it at Unisys in the very early days of Internet Banking and Web content. Here is a screenshot of the old Internet-banking.com Website on the right hand side.

From the easy days of content marketing to today’s field of innovation 

Of course it looks a bit weird now but at the time its little animated barometer looked pretty cool. We’d had some record sleeve designers design this for us, they were a lot cheaper than anyone else because they weren’t working for any business (apart from the major companies of the Music industry) and they wanted to have a go at the Corporate world. They came all the way from Crystal Palace to my house in Pembroke Mews W8 and we had tea and they showed me that barometer and there it staid for at least 5 or 6 years. I moved on to other ventures and somebody else looked after the Website. But this experiment of ours had proven so successful that I never quite looked for a job anymore, people started calling in. That was great. 4 years ago my personal coach made me update my CV and I realised I hadn’t touched it for so long it nearly made me weep. So I founded my own company in order that I wouldn’t have to update it anymore. And guess what I’m doing? Content marketing of course. And Word of mouth marketing too, goes without saying. Writing content for a living is pretty cool. It’s also what I’ll be teaching at Grenoble EM business school tomorrow onwards. 

content marketing - Grenoble EM

And so I asked my MSC students what their main questions about content marketing were and I devised this little booklet which I will publish in three instalments. This is no.1 of these 3 instalments on their content marketing questions and how I propose to address them. At the same time it serves my purpose: I lecture on content marketing, hence answering questions on content marketing, therefore producing content for the blog, hence raising more questions. And so on, and so forth. Many of the students’ questions which aren’t addressed in this document are part of the main syllabus for the March 29-31 lecture. As a matter of fact, some of the questions below were asked in earnest by our students. I made a selection of the most intriguing ones and those that I thought deserved answers and weren’t already covered in my course. 

Forewarning: no one hold the truth, least of all me. I tried my best to answer these questions to the best of my knowledge but it must be understood that my angle is very personal. 

A few questions about content marketing and my HTG answers (part one)

Do you need to possess creative writing skills to produce good content marketing?

 

content marketing - sounding board On one hand, I would like to answer yes to that question. Of course, you need to be creative to capture the imagination of your readers. It goes without saying. When I refer to content marketing however, I do not refer to Facebook or Twitter posts which are seen more as a mere relay of proper content. Social media is like a sounding board. Your content is like the strings on your guitar (or viola as on the picture). No sounding board, no music. No strings, no sound at all. As simple as that. I know most brands are keen on posting stuff on Facebook for God knows what reason and sometimes, as engagement plummets, they bring Lol cats to the rescue (don’t laugh, I did it one day for Orange, on purpose and it worked). To me, real content comes mostly in the form of long form blogging when talking about B2B. a little less so for B2C. But often you have to write stories on your Website too. Websites and blogs are two different things. Most brands overlook this. They have weak product-centred websites with poor content and they think all content must go somewhere else. This is very weird. So yes! Creativity is a must-have. Not just in writing though, but also with multimedia and God knows most brands are poor with their use of multimedia too.

At the same time, I feel like answering ‘no’ to that question. As far as I’m concerned, I never honed my creative writing skills, I picked it up as I went along, but I have always enjoyed writing stories. I tried and tested things and sometimes succeeded and often failed, and this is how you learn. Would you ask successful writer if she/he took creative writing courses? At the end of the day, I do not know whether you need creative writing skills or not, but I certainly value creativity over anything else. We even use this as a cornerstone of our engagements at Visionary Marketing. Each and every of our employees is capable of not only writing but drawing as well, which enhances the quality of our content and makes it stand out from the crowd.

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A Picture Is Worth A 1000 Words: In Content Marketing Too

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a 1000 words.This morning I came across a presentation by Wakster’s Philippe Ingels. Wakster is a British agency dedicated to the use of illustrations for Marketing. I though the topic was particularly relevant to our readers and so I am sharing his presentation with you. Rather than try to bore your readers to death, why don’t you try something different? That’s the meaning of Philippe Ingels’s presentation and also the gist of our work at Visionary Marketing.

A pciture is wortha thousand words
I used Philippe Ingels’s picture above. You will find others in this piece. His presentation is available hereafter

On the web and elsewhere, advertisers tend to believe their own dreams and their motto is “if customers cannot hear our message, let’s shout it out a wee bit louder!

A picture can make you stand out from the crowd

However, the results are poor. Users hate advertisers for being insistent. The more they are the more they hate them. So both advertisers and publishers are trying to lure readers into reading their uninteresting messages by throwing more and more banners at them. I even counted up to 4 layers of banner advertising on one particular website. These publishers’ web analytics platforms will add up all these “readers” into their stables. But it is an illusion. For readers have averted their eyes from that content for a long time. Big data and a big illusion too.

A picture is worth a 1000 words

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Is De-indexing (NSEO) a real threat to your business? – Part 1

In recent years, the marketing world has been shaken by a new phenomenon that has become a dirty word: Negative SEO or NSEO. The other words associated with NSEO are “De-ranking” and “de-indexing” or, in more common parlance, the “disappearance” of your link from search engine pages. Many people are wondering how real the threat of NSEO is, and what its concrete impacts on a company’s online business can be. We should start by explaining that SEO is the optimisation of your website’s visibility and by extension its position in the search engine result pages; this is done by discovering and using a number of criteria that are factored into search engine algorithms. The more closely your site matches the criteria used by search engines to determine whether content is relevant, the more other sites will post links to your site, and the higher your website will rank in the search results. This basically amounts to raising your site’s visibility without having to pay for advertising space. When a content marketing projet goes online SEO must be performed quickly to gain a top spot in search engine results in order to secure a large audience and make a quick and lasting marketing impact. This is precisely the time when the site is at risk of an NSEO attack that could cause it to lose its high ranking. But before going on to further describe and analyze NSEO, here is a bit of historical background.

The Birth of the Internet: from a mere gadget to an essential tool

At its inception (1995-2000), the Web was used by individuals and academics solely for the purposes of sharing information and communicating globally. The idea of individuals creating a website, inventing a concept and being able to put it online quickly was novel at the time.

Efforts to implement a high-quality content strategy can be destroyed by one NSEO attack. Hence the importance of being vigilant and protecting your website from such attacks.

From the year 2000 on, as interest in this new communication medium grew, more and more people began to use the Internet, and consumers especially became interested in exchanging information about products and services; it was at this time that price comparison websites appeared. Companies came into direct competition due to this new and unanticipated use of the Internet.

Around 2005, marketing departments started telling management that it was important to be present on the Web, although at that time the commercial side (sales of new products, before and after-sales service, etc.) was not yet part of that presence. With sites like eBay and PriceMinister, exchanges and sales of secondhand goods developed exponentially. Marketing departments quickly realized that it was to their advantage to use Internet too: there were opportunities for product advertising and promotion, for using new marketing tools, maintaining customer databases, tracking customer behavior, etc.

amazon e-commerce site

As the Web and especially the social networks developed, marketing departments kept control over the company website without necessarily working with their IT departments, although they were in charge of DATA and network services. They gradually turned their sites into sophisticated and highly customised marketing machines that became the chief source of data on customers’ online behavior in addition to data from their retail outlets. Social networks also made it possible to communicate directly with customers.

Today, the situation can be described as follows: the company website has become the cornerstone of sales and marketing activity for companies across all sectors. Another interesting fact is that IT departments are often not part of the team when projects are being implemented, although they should be included not only in the technical side (hardware, back and front office software), but also in Web security in order to protect the investment made by the marketing department.

The aim is not to pit company departments against each other, but to show that historically Internet has arrived in businesses from an unexpected direction and responsibility for Internet activity sits between two departments with different cultures and ways of working. Therefore, website security and NSEO attacks were not necessarily on the marketing department’s radar screen, especially when they were under pressure from the sales department which was following its own agenda. This created a kind of no-man’s land between SEO as it was understood from a marketing standpoint and Web security as seen by the IT department.

While this situation still exists today, the website is now critical to the life of a company. In addition, the fact that the Web is global and totally open has resulted in the appearance of techniques designed to thwart the sales and marketing strategies used by marketing departments on the corporate website; these techniques are questionable (if not outright dishonest) and extremely devious, and one of them is NSEO.

What exactly is NSEO and what are its impacts on content marketing?: information or disinformation?

In the keen global competition that companies encounter on the Web, some may be tempted to harm their competitors by using means that verge on the illegal. These damaging tactics are nearly impossible to trace and have a direct impact both on the company’s turnover and share price. Expedia appears to have been the victim of precisely such tactics in the U.S. in January 2014. Read more

Content: the past, present and future of marketing

‘Content marketing’ is under the spotlight. Blogs and tutorial videos are surging everywhere on the Internet. Some brands are doing it perfectly right: they are telling the right stories to attract and retain new and existing customers. The common belief that ‘Content marketing is a new concept’ is completely wrong. It has existed for ages. The difference is the impressive exposure posts can get today, with a little marketing effort. In this article, content marketing will take us back in time to tell us its story.

The art of content marketing

Content marketing is an art. The art of educating customers, without selling. The brand accompanies the customer in a continuous way, by delivering information, educating them and making them more intelligent. Like every strategy, content marketing has a purpose: enriching customer behaviour in a certain direction, towards a goal. In other words, content marketing is based on a constant delivery of information to customers. In return, the brand wins loyalty and sales.

Accompanying customers - inspired by www.hubspot.com
Accompanying customers – inspired by www.hubspot.com

We live in a highly visual world: a post that includes a picture, a graph, an infographic gets much more exposure than an ‘empty’ post. Consumer are more attracted to visual content than text, and thus interact more with it. So when creating a worthy content, enhancing it with visual element is a golden rule.

A good content must be relevant. The brand should understand what its target audience finds interesting, appropriate and useful. By doing so, it can be referenced by influencers, and gain a multiplied exposure!

Content marketing is not new

As promised, this article will take us back in time.

1897_Furrow_Front_Page_1897
John Deere – The content marketer

Some believed John Deere to be the original content marketer. In 1985, he started publishing ‘The Furrow’. This magazine was an educational resource for his customers. In it, one could learn how to become a more fruitful farmer. Back in the 19th century, publishing magazines was the only way to transfer content to consumers. The Furrow had 1.5 million copies in circulation in 40 countries.

Another name we have all heard: Michelin. A few years after the conception of the Furrow, in 1900, the Michelin guide was created. This guide helped drivers maintain their cars and find travel accommodation. In addition to offering advice and content to consumers, this guide helped the tire manufacturer drive sales, by encouraging consumers to drive and wear out their tires.

Content marketing is so powerful it not only drives sales, but also saves companies. Jell-O would not be where it is today without content marketing. In 1904, the plant was on the verge of being sold, before one last strategy was attempted: the distribution of free Jell-O recipe books. This initiative lasted 11 hours and was very effective. By 1906, Jell-O sales were boosted to $1 million.

If we travel back to 2010, we observe that 80% of brands use content marketing and 25% of their budget is spent on it.

All in all, content marketing has always existed, and has always had a huge impact on a company or a brand’s performance. It has increased in importance, in power and in exposure.