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Published August 8th 2016

Content Jam Review: 40 Tips To Improve Content Marketing

“Remember somewhere the sun is shining” sang Chet Baker. It was certainly shining in Chicago last Thursday for Content Jam. The event, organised by our friends at Orbit Media and sponsored by our friends at SEMrush, was attended by over 300 enthusiastic content marketers. We were privileged to listen to a great set of speakers including Robert Rose, Ardath Albee, Brian Fanzo, Ian Lurie, Andy Crestodina and others, who provided ideas and inspiration in equal measure.

View from the Gleacher Center venue

I originally intended to write a short review of the event but I found myself making so many pages and pages of notes that I decided to list the key points and ideas.  Here is my take from the event.

25 Tips For Content Marketing

  1. Content shock is real.

    For those that don’t believe in content shock, consider this. If you search for “How to drive more leads” on Google it returns over 236m articles. It will take you a little time to search through that lot. This reinforces the power and importance of the Google algorithm in deciding what you see. Realistically how many pages down those 236m articles are you going to go?

  2. 4 trillion webpages = overload.

    Drew Davis, author of Brandscaping, kicked things off at the event after a nice jazz sax introduction by Sean Packard.  Drew emphasised the theme of content shock “we live in an information overload world” but just because there is more information available doesn’t mean we can consume more. The reality is we will only ever see a fraction of the 4 trillion indexed webpages.

  3. Own the moment.

    How can you get people to consume your content? Drew advised thinking about the moments you can own and also posed the question “do you need them to come to your site?” If people watch your video on YouTube or review your slides on Sildeshare and become a customer, does it matter? I think the answer is yes and no. I had the words of Joe Pulizi ringing in my ears about not building your house on rented land.

  4. Focus on creating value.

    Content marketers can be self-deprecating. Only 34% feel they are successful in what they are doing. Robert Rose reinforced that point that content marketing is hard work but done well you create strategic value for your business.

  5. Build a content brand.

    Don’t simply create branded content was Drew’s advice.  Branded content is created for a company whereas content brands are created for an audience. Thus think of your content as your product and its brand tone and values.

  6. Short form content is ok.

    People have limited time, can you use short form content. Drew’s example was the 15 second videos from Fish Friday by Fish Tales. Even owning 15 seconds can be useful, though Fish Tales videos were later extended to 4 minutes.

  7. Tell stories.

    Fish Tales was a good example of telling a story, in their case about where the fish comes from, which is reinforced on their products. Ardath Albee reinforced the importance of stories in her session. She quoted research that indicates stories activate parts of the brain that allow a listener to turn the story into their own idea and experience.

  8. Think like a TV executive.

    Think about your content like creating a TV show. You should commit to a format, which is repeatable, such as videos or podcasts. Audiences often fall in love with the format such as popular TV and radio shows. What format will you adopt and use?

  9. Make an appointment with your audience.

    Schedule your content and reinforce the expectation even if your audience doesn’t consume it at that time. A great example is Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Fridays.

  10. Find your audience.

    Drew talked of finding a valuable branch of your tree, a specific niche. “Go niche to get rich” was his suggestion. Look for content holes, are there gaps in the content market? Yes, these do exist despite 4 trillion web pages.

  11. Build relationships.

    A common theme that emerged during the day was the power of relationships including building long term, subscription style relationships. Robert Rose emphasised the importance and cost benefits of maintaining and keeping your audience. Relationships are built with people more than brands. Brain Fanzo emphasised this point in his session on influencer marketing.

  12. It is about individuals.

    Drew emphasised the importance of building and nurturing talent your audience trusts, as the audience builds relationships with individuals.

  13. Understand your audience.

    Develop buyer personas and write them in the first person, advised Ardath Albee. Not Diana wants to make product launches more efficient but “I am struggling to get products to market faster my boss is worried that changing them will create more chaos.” Get inside their head and really understand your buyers.

  14. Understand your users job role.

    Use Linkedin to do a search and see profiles buyers have written about themselves. Try typing in ‘a day in the life of a ‘job role’‘

  15. Do original research.

    Andy Crestodina shared some great practical advice on how to improve your content marketing starting with original research.  Andy quoted the research we did with Moz showing the power of original research and how research content gets more links. Andy gave the example of CMI’s research that has been linked to by over 4,000 websites.

  16. Different research options.

    You can undertake different forms of original research for example: Observation research – chose a dataset, such as the 10 best practices on top 50 websites. Aggregation – review pay scales for marketers Surveys – Andy gave an example Orbit Media created on how long it takes to create a blog post (350 websites link to the results of the research)

  17. Have strong opinions.

    One way to get people engaged with your content is to share your opinions. Andy’s example here was Mark Schaefer’s post on content shock, who owned and still owns this conversation.

  18. Create and own a term.

    Robert Rose emphasised the option to create your own category or term as Mark did. Robert referenced Hubspot who created and own the term inbound marketing, so much so that I actually exclude their domain from my BuzzSumo results on inbound marketing.

  19. Be controversial

    . Be careful there are risks with this, no one was suggesting you become Donald Trump. Andy’s example was a post he wrote titled “PDFs are the rust of the internet”.  Make a list of your strongest opinions and the questions in your industry that are people afraid to answer. Dare you write about them?

  20. Cover the buying cycle.

    B2B customers only contact vendors after they are fifty percent of the way through the buying process. Thus your content needs to help them along the way while they are doing research.  Make sure your content strategy covers content for all stages of the buying process from awareness through to conversions.

  21. Collaborate on content.

    Marketers are now journalists and everyone you know and meet is a potential source. Thus include people in your content, quote them, ask them for a quote, include them in an expert roundup, or interview them for a deep dive post. As Andy says an ally in content creation is an ally in content promotion, and we all need as many allies as we can get.

  22. Help people.

    Relationships are about reciprocity, you get what you give but most importantly do try to help people. Ask people: What they are doing that we can promote? What are you writing that we can collaborate on? Who can I introduce you to?

  23. I will say it again, help people.

    Fundamentally try to be helpful, people will never say you are helping too much.

  24. Bridge the trust gap.

    Brain Fanzo pointed out Neilson research that shows that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know. Brand advocates and influencers play an important role. Brian puts it this way “influencer marketing bridges the trust gap between the audience and the customer” as “no one trusts a logo”.

  25. Identify your influencers.

    Brian also outlined 3 types of influencers: these include Social amplifiers and Thought leaders

15 Content Marketing Tips From Subject Matter Experts

  1. Influence is about trust and engagement.

    The amount of influence someone has is based on the trust they have with their audience. It is NOT about numbers of followers but rather do they inspire people to action? It is very common to see people with large numbers of followers getting very few retweets because they don’t have an engaged audience. Also does the influencer have influence with your audience? It would be great if Adele said BuzzSumo is the best content marketing tool in the business but would it move many of our audience? Adele, if you are listening, we would be grateful for any mention, we loved Hello by the way.

  2. Pick your content battles.

    Don’t go up against Hubspot for inbound marketing. Use the Moz Keyword Explorer tool to see how difficult it is to compete for different keywords relative to your own domain authority.

  3. Make sure your content is relevant.

    This is not about putting your terms in the title, header tag and body. Google is increasing semantic, it understands things not strings of letters. You should include semantically related topics in your content. You can use the keywordtool.io to suggest phrases connected to your topic or Google related searches.

  4. Be the best answer on the topic.

    Andy quoted Marcus Sheridan “They ask, you answer.” You need to help your audience and you can do this by simply being the best answer to the questions they are asking.Buyer questions are unlikely to be about your services or features but how do they achieve something and overcome obstacles.

  5. The buyer should always be the hero of your story.

    The story may follow a typical arc such as the hero has a problem, they seek a solution, they decide to take action, they encounter obstacles, they learn from you as their mentor, they gain acceptance for their ideas and achieve a successful resolution.

  6. Upcycle and recycle your best content.

    You might simply refresh the content, use a different format or just re-promote the content but get it back out there to work for you. Don’t get too distracted by the new.

  7. Content ultimately needs to convert.

    Content is the cheese but you also need a mousetrap to catch the mouse, to misquote Barry Feldman. A great conversion page emulates a sales conversation, it is a question and answer process.

  8. Track what matters.

    Views and likes can be vanity metrics if they don’t drive action. Track users, measure time spent on page and did they convert. Remember, It don’t mean a thing you ain’t got that swing, I mean revenue.

  9. Evidence backed content.

    Always support any claims you make in your content with evidence. Provide sources and links.

  10. Never make a testimonials page.

    This was Andy’s advice who says people don’t visit, testimonials pages instead make every page a testimonial.

  11. White space is valuable.

    Ensure you have plenty of white space around your call to action. It is important to very clear what you want your reader to do, remove unnecessary distractions.

  12. Try something different.

    Be aware of best practice, do trust your instinct sometimes and try different things. A great example was from software company Drift. They ungated their content and found they actually got more subscribers with ungated content than gated content, they just had a sign up option. Drift achieved 30% growth in subscribers by scrapping lead generation forms.

  13. Create a content strategy.

    You need a documented content strategy, even if it is as simple as: Who – audience, personas, target map What – purpose and journey maps When – the buying process Where – channel and distribution plan Why – goals tied to business objectives How – business plan, editorial calendar, value proposition

  14. Build related assets.

    Robert Rose emphasised that in every content driven success story, it is the collection of assets that is important.  You need to provide focus for your content, so that you build set of related and reusable assets. Often the business case is not what to start doing, it’s what you should stop doing.

  15. Remember your core purpose.

    Finally, Robert Rose closed the event by making the point “content marketers are there to create strategic value.” We help create value, communicate value, and deliver value to a target market at a profit.

I told you I wrote a lot of notes. Next time why not check out the event yourself and share what you learn.

Finally, just for fun here is Drew’s welcome on stage.

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