Are Brands Really Becoming Content Marketers?

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

As the digital landscape continues to shift, so is the behavior of online users. Who plays the role of content marketing and what are...

This week I'll be attending the iMedia Brand Summit, "Brands as Content Creators," and it got me thinking about the current content marketing efforts here at Business.com. Like many of you, we are a growth company in the SMB market. We have the same challenges and questions: what stories can we tell that haven't been over-told, how can we leverage new delivery channels, how can we measure the quality and reach of our content to make it meaningful enough to continue. As the digital landscape continues to shift, and rapidly, the flow chart and behavior of your online users is also changing.

Related: The Boost in Branded Content

Yes, We Know the Digital Landscape is Changing. So What?

There's no doubt a shift is occurring. Shifts in the digital space itself aren't new and there's no doubt a shift isoccurring with content marketing.

  • More brands are publishing more content than major media properties. IPG announced in July that it was creating a new internal publishing group to help advertisers create content like videos and manage their sites.
  • 9 in 10 organizations market with content (Content Marketing Institute).
  • 79% of marketers report their organizations are shifting to branded content (Forrester).
  • More than 50% of B2B marketers are looking for new ways to connect to potential buyers via content marketing lead generation (Business.com).

What Are We Doing About It?

Here at Business.com, we are harnessing this trend as well. After all, there is something to be said about the wisdom of crowds.

We asked ourselves the common who and what questions; the same as other organizations looking to govern their content marketing efforts. We then realized there wasn't one person hired on for strict content marketing so we had to create a team to avoid fragmentation and ad hoc inconsistent messaging. We even pulled in our CEO and President and gave them a calendar of when we expect posts from them and what insights we'd like them to share.

Related: Check out the posts from CEO Tony Uphoff and President Andrew Rogers

To further engage our audience, we put out a call to experts in July to recruit external contributors for key functional areas of interest that appeal to our audience. This practical and actionable content aids in not only the steps, or tips that you so boringly see (although we still produce those), but expands on genuine experiences.

To help grow our database of engaged users, we launched a series of 'content landing pages' turning the data we collect back into content. Data is a whole separate post, but some things should be noted here. Each day, we collect data from the actions of our digital users, the winning results from A/B tests on our conversion pages, and purchasing insights of over 5,000 businesses a month during phone interviews.  What use is this data if we hoard it for our own use? The concept here is to go inside-out with our data -- turn it into actionable information our audience and marketers can use to ultimately become smarter and more predictive in aiding our audience of decision makers through the buying process.

Last, our 'of the day' content is an effort to beat the 'ZZZs' and wake up the audience. We've compiled business tips and quotes to help inspire our audience daily and have had incredible results with the engagement here.

Related: 90% of Consumers Find Custom Content Useful: Ramp Up Your Content Marketing Strategy

How Marketers Can Take Content to the Next Level

Besides producing more content and sharing your data with your audience, what else can you do to take content to the next level? First, think about the concept of gamification. Gamification, according to Wikipedia, means the use of game thinking and mechanics in a non-game context to engage users and solve problems. Legacy examples of this are a loyalty point-based system where a user gets more points (coupons, rewards) by coming back to your site. Today, brands are taking this idea and applying it differently. Again, there is a shift.

  • Adobe launched a series of online video content to reach marketers called "Marketing Myths" in 2012, taking their own data and making it public to all marketers. No bull-sh*%, just what works and doesn't work -- according to them, "Done with metrics, of course, not myths." Point taken, marketers came back.
  • Target Corporation created a 'Behind the Scenes' campaign recently where they provided a series of online tools (aka content) to help students create their ideal living space. A video of a virtual dorm room experience allows the viewer to take in the content and also purchase items featured in the room by simply sliding it from a screen to a 'cart.' Now who says content doesn't lead to conversions?

As you and your brand move rapidly to create content, it's important to remember that just producing content isn't enough. Define a strategy and work through the painstaking steps to make your content compelling enough to build an audience at scale.

(Image: stockimages via freedigitalphotos.net)

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