This article originally appeared in Forbes.
Since the mid-2000s, we’ve been hearing that content marketing – drawing customers to you through the creation of blogs, podcasts, videos, and more – is the secret to cutting through the oppressively noisy media landscape. Instead of paying for television ads that will only be ignored, you can develop useful ‘evergreen’ content that will earn the attention and gratitude of your customers. That was a winning recipe a few years ago, when content marketing (also known as inbound marketing) was still an anomaly. But is it still as effective now that it’s gaining in popularity, and more and more companies are launching their own efforts?
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and author of the new book Epic Content Marketing, says yes – if it’s done right. Here are five tips he shared about staying ahead of the curve in a crowded media landscape.
Go niche. You want to position yourself as the leading expert in a given field, says Pulizzi. “News” or “sports” or even “content marketing” is probably too broad these days, as more and more people have jumped into the fray. Instead, he says, you could try “financial content marketing” or “pharmaceutical content marketing.” He notes, “You have to be a specialist, even if you’re a large company. You wouldn’t have one content marketing strategy; you might have 20 little strategies because every one of your audience [segments] has different needs and aspirations.”
Explore new channels. Says Pulizzi, “The ante has been raised because there are more competitors in the field, so we have to be innovative.” He cites the example of the e-book. “In 2009, not a lot of people were giving away free e-books, so you could get a lot of attention by giving one away, but now everybody’s doing it.” You have to move on and find ways to surprise and delight your customers and prospects. “None of these channels go away,” he says. It’s not that doing an e-book is a bad idea; it’s just less effective than it was in the past.
Go back to basics. Sometimes the best opportunities lie in channels that have been forgotten or neglected. Content marketing, he points out, is “media agnostic – it can be online, social, print, in person.” The real question is who your target audience is, and what’s the best way to reach them. Thus, says Pulizzi, “I’m on a print crusade. I talk about it all the time.” That’s because “there’s less clutter in print today; we get less mail.” And that means an opportunity for your business to get noticed.
Don’t lock your prospects out. Sometimes, says Pulizzi, a company will complain that “nobody’s sharing our content. I go to the page, and there’s a form in front of it. No one’s going to share that.” You have to get clear on what role your content plays. If your goal is at the “top of the marketing funnel” – i.e., you’re seeking awareness building or social sharing – you need to open up your content and make it accessible. He estimates that 90% of your content should be open, and only 10% “gated” (requiring people to enter their contact information in order to download or access it). That’s the only way to draw in a large enough base of prospects; then, once they’re hooked on your great content, “you can start offering super high quality downloads [such as e-books, white papers, or podcasts] that people have to give their information for.”
Repurpose your content. You spent two hours writing your latest blog post. If you hit ‘upload’ and that’s the end of it, you’re wasting precious opportunities to leverage your work and spread your message. How many different tweets can you create that highlight aspects of it? Could you turn the recording of the interview into a podcast? How about a 15 second Instagram video sharing the most interesting point? “When we tell stories, we like to get the most out of those stories,” says Pulizzi. Ask yourself: “How can we tell that story in different channels? Plan for that upfront. People say, ‘we don’t have enough content.’ You have tons of content; you’re just not telling your story well. You have to plan for it and make a bigger impact.”
How are you adapting your content marketing? What’s been most effective for you?
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Learn more about her book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press) and follow her on Twitter.