Williams-Sonoma is one of the best-known, high-end kitchenware companies. While big box stores such as Bed, Bath & Beyond and Pier 1 Imports, as well as smaller boutique stores such as Sur La Table, struggled last year around the holidays, Williams-Sonoma had a 10.4% increase in the fourth quarter. All of these stores are well-known, and most of their target audience (25-50 years old, middle-high income household food lovers and connoisseurs) could tell you the general location of one if not all of those stores in their area. Arguably, Williams-Sonoma has a more expensive product, so why were they so successful?
They’re #winning the all-around jackpot in content marketing.
Traditionally a company built on catalog sales, Williams-Sonoma has adapted to the digital world and become one of the most effective multi-channel marketing retailers. Their own Chief Executive, Laura Alber, coined the company “marketing maniacs.” While their fall/holiday catalog is still in existence and does drive consistent sales, they’ve created an online presence to be reckoned with. Not only is their website rich with content and user friendly, their social media presence and activity is exceptional, and they’ve gone above and beyond with their blog, Taste.
Their blog has eight distinct categories that any person who entertains guests relates with: recipes, cook, drink, entertain, make, learn, meet and live. Within these sections there are a myriad of articles, posts, videos, detailed how-to explanations and so much more. Each has visually-rich imagery. Even their Instagram account is linked to the blog in seamless fashion.
But what they truly mastered was strategically partnering with other companies and professionals that complement their brand. More and more brands are turning to “lifestyle” marketing, which means you want to be known by your target audience as the brand to turn to for their lifestyle. At Williams-Sonoma they call it the food-lover lifestyle. But how can they cover EVERYTHING their customers want? There are two options:
Expand products and services and try to be a one-stop-shop for anything and everything for cooking and entertaining.
Stick with what you’re GREAT at and create mutually beneficial partnerships.
Clearly Williams-Sonoma picked the latter. There’s something to be said about knowing your craft or brand and being the best at it. Why dabble in other areas and confuse your brand identity when you can partner with the best of the best in other categories and not battle over market share? (Unless, of course, your company goal is to take over the world.)
Great content is no longer the only thing that matters. You may have an excellent blog or a slew of top-quality YouTube videos, but these days, so does everyone else. The past two years have been banner years for content marketing, and producing content is very in. Bank of America now sponsors political luncheons. Microsoft offers its opinion on cybersecurity. Red Bull famously has a man jump from space — all in the name of good content.
If you’re in charge of content marketing for your company, you probably already feel the pressure to endlessly create better and better content. Your blog posts aren’t enough anymore — they need infographics, videos, podcasts and branded photos. Your white paper needs to be presented as a keynote speech somewhere. Guest blogging is a thing of the past; now popular websites charge native advertising fees, which can get pretty hefty.
Internet marketing has evolved, and simply producing good content isn’t enough anymore. Content may be king, but he’s powerless without his better half. If content is king, he needs the queen of audience curation to maintain his rule over the marketing land. (Cheesy, but you have to give me credit for sticking to the “king” metaphor.)
To fully understand the importance of audience curation, it’s necessary to reexamine the original goal of content creation. By producing enough interesting content, you’ll get eyeballs on your page which will lead to brand exposure and, hopefully, sales leads. Obviously, this process requires an audience for your content. Previously, it wasn’t that hard to generate such an audience, but now that good — dare I say great – content is everywhere, it’s gotten much more difficult.
It’s similar to what happened to social media. Brands were able to create strong loyalty and huge followings for Facebook and Twitter until everyone had created a Facebook page. Gaining 1 million Twitter followers today is still possible, but it’s far more difficult than it was five years ago.
The point is that you can’t produce content — even if it’s genuinely great content — without also focusing on building and audience for that content. Otherwise, your potential customers are only going to get swept away in the aura of another brand’s blog/social media/white paper/podcast/blah blah blah. And with them is going to go any chance of increased sales conversions, brand exposure, and every other potential content marketing benefit.
Number 7 in our series of Content Marketing Campaigns of the Week is the one and only General Electric.
General Electric used to be the number one name in appliances, at the same level as Maytag/Whirlpool. Instead of going by the wayside like the latter, GE decided to rebrand themselves as more than an appliance company. Their Imagination at Work slogan, established in 2003, holds true to their current content marketing campaign, which revolves around being an innovative and competitive science and technology leader.
In the past year, GE has created content to exemplify that mantra, with customer-centric marketing campaigns that focus on innovation and science. These campaigns were also noted by the Digiday Content Marketing Awards in May when GE took home Best In Show. Most notably it was acclaimed for great storytelling through visual means. Pair that with the timing of many STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education initiatives, and you have powerful and meaningful content with lots of support.
Here are a few General Electric content marketing pieces that have increased their social media presence and favorability.
#6SecondScience Fair (Vine) and #GravityDay
The final product for #6Second Science Fair and #GravityDay are five-minute videos with about 50 Vine videos streamed together.
You look at your analytics data occasionally and do some SEO work, but have you considered using analytics to determine how things are going with your site’s SEO? Here are a few items to consider about SEO while you are digging into analytics.
Performance Over Time
Start simple by viewing organic traffic only over a period of time, such as six months. Hopefully, you will see this number go up each month as you work on your site’s SEO. If the reverse happens and this number has suddenly gone down significantly, there could be some kind of penalty from Google. This is why it is so important to stay away from sketchy SEO practices. Many people engage in these because they want ranking immediately, not realizing it will hurt them in the long run.
You may already be checking out your top pages report once in a while to see which pages are popular. But have you looked at it by the source of organic traffic only? As with most things in analytics, it’s useful to look at the good and the bad. Is there a page with a lot of visits originating from organic search, but with a high bounce rate? If so, it’s possible these pages may need some optimization to keep people on there a bit longer, which is what you especially want with a content site. You can also look at these pages compared to the site as a whole by using the “Comparison” icon. Using your own website as a benchmark for performance is always a great place to start.
From the Overview section, you have a glance of your visitors by age and gender. You can change the small drop-down menu above the overview charts to look at new sessions, average time spent, bounce rate, and pages/session. These basic metrics are not new to people who have used analytics for a while. However, the ability to look at these metrics by age and gender will help determine if your preferred audience is coming to the site and interacting with it as you had hoped.
Think about just the age metric for a minute. Is your brand more relevant for millennials or seniors? I have one retail client that caters primarily to the 45-54 year old crowd. I looked at that specific age group in their account and added a secondary dimension of traffic source. Although they received more of these visitors through organic search, the ones they received through their email list were more likely to make a purchase. This makes sense since their email is going to people who request it and are already fans. If the reverse was true, meaning people who were 45-54 bought more when they came in organically, it might indicate a problem with the content in their e-news which is valuable data to have. Basically, this information can be used for troubleshooting if a strategy does not seem to be going well.
If you’ve spent any amount of time (and money) on mobile advertising, then you already know every pixel represents valuable real estate. So it’s only natural that you carefully consider each character that is participating in high-stakes mobile search results pages.
Next up in our epic list of content marketing geniuses is Net-A-Porter.
Unlike most retailers who have cut back on their monthly, semi-annual or annual catalogs of merchandise, online fashion retail empire Net-A-Porter has done the exact opposite. Their 284-page, bi-monthly glossy magazine Porter debuted in February with 400,000 copies in 60 countries. With it, they are creating a new way to communicate with their customers
Other publications, brands and companies have tried to incorporate digital shopping and interaction before, but Porter is different. One of its core features is that it’s specifically designed with digital interactivity, not the other way around. While having a similar feel to better-known Vogue and Glamour (it was created by former Condé Nast Creative Director Robin Derrick), its pages are functional and scannable with the Net-A-Porter mobile app.
This goes to prove that content marketing does not have to be purely in the digital sphere, though it does need to weave into the overall interactive marketing approach. When Net-A-Porter conducted some market research, they found that the majority of their customers who purchase exclusively online still purchase or have subscriptions to fashion magazines. Women into fashion may have decreased their magazine purchases, but getting their fashion bible on a regular basis is still a requirement for them.
With this knowledge, Porter was designed to give consumers an additional medium in which to shop. Once a reader scans a page of the magazine with the app, it takes them to a layer for the magazine within the app. Then there are options to view and buy products, visit a brand’s website, view additional video content and more. Not only does this apply to spreads containing products, but also in editorials and articles in the magazine. It is a seamless transition from magazine page to product or desired site without the extra step of having to search for the desired target.
For those of you who are just now joining us for our Content Marketing Campaign of the week series I’ll catch you up a bit. For the past 4 week’s we have been featuring the best of the best content marketing campaigns from companies in all kinds of different industries. You can catch up on all the previous weeks’ campaigns by using the links at the bottom of this post. But first, this week’s featured campaign comes from Petplan®.
Petplan faced a common problem in marketing their product that many companies encounter: a “boring” product. Petplan is a pet insurance company, and insurance in general is not a likeable topic. But Petplan used Pinterest to engage and entertain people. Not only did they find a way around their “boring” product, they excelled at creating a great content marketing campaign.
What better platform to use for visually rich content, such as pictures of dogs, cats, bunnies, iguanas and many other adorable four-legged friends, than Pinterest. While many of their boards and pins have nothing to do directly with healthcare for pets, Petplan’s use of boards gives an endless amount of informative and entertaining content. Here are just a few examples:
Breed All About It – not only do these pins highlight the personality, history and fun facts about different breeds of dogs and cats, it also educates readers about common, breed-specific health issues. This information serves the purpose to give people interesting information, but also keeps the idea about health issues in mind.
Callout extensions in AdWords do exactly what they sound like. They “call out” to searchers the things you believe are important about your products and services. The beauty of this is that it provides an opportunity to include additional information in your AdWords ads.
How They Work
Callouts are lines of text that may run under your typical paid ad on the Google SERPs (search engine results pages) and are a maximum of 25 characters.
However, Google suggests a length of 12 – 15 characters for each callout which does provide an opportunity for multiple callouts to be displayed under one ad. Advertisers who decide to use callouts need to create a minimum of two per account, campaign, or ad group and can create up to four. There’s no reason to not create the maximum of four though to see how they perform and how Google chooses to display them. The same rules apply for callouts as for regular lines of text: no gimmicks or cute symbols to get attention.
Callout extensions are different from sitelinks which are hyperlinks that take the searcher to a new page. This makes it easier for advertisers to benefit from because there’s no need to have a landing page for whatever is highlighted in the callout as there is with sitelinks. If the callouts are used well, they can help businesses stand out from other results on a page.
Content marketing is a popular topic today, as more and more businesses are trying to produce content that will establish thought leadership and draw potential customers. A few years ago, social media marketing experienced a similar time in the spotlight. How can businesses adjust to the new model of content marketing while not ignoring their social media channels? This webinar sought to answer that and other content marketing questions.
● Which comes first, social media marketing or content marketing?
● Should small businesses approach social media marketing and content marketing differently?
● How can I create content that is social media-friendly?
● Can I count social media content as part of my content marketing strategy? If so, how?
The webinar held on October 30th by Joseph Havey, How to Incorporate Content Marketing into your Social Media Marketing Plan, gave a broad overview of content marketing and the types of content small businesses can produce, with real-life examples.
You shouldn’t ignore social media, but you should also pay attention to the trend of content marketing. The good news is that there’s no need to pick, and this webinar will help you do well in both areas.