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Content Marketing is Not a Buzzword – 3 Truths Explained

Some say content marketing is a buzzword. Marketers and industry experts disagree.  It is, however, unarguably all the buzz. Here’s an in-depth look into the subject, but first let’s examine the definitions of the terms.

Merriam Webster defines buzzword as “an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen”. Clearly this is not the case with the term content marketing. According to a leading thought leader on the subject of content marketing, the Content Marketing Institute  ( (CMI) defines content marketing as “ a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

TRUTH #1:  Content marketing is anything but new. In fact, it has a long history and has been around for hundreds of years. John Deere launched its customer magazine – The Furrow - in 1895 to educate farmers about new technology and how they could leverage it to be more successful. The magazine is often credited as the first example of corporate storytelling, or content marketing in that the goal of the content was to drive, or change, consumer behavior (i.e. use technology). The Furrow has been so successful; it still exists today and continues to be published in 14 languages.

In the 1990’s, even though content marketing wasn’t known as such, it was a concept most often referred to in the industry as custom publishing, custom content, branded content and customer media. Today, those words can be wrapped into an umbrella term – content marketing.

Originally started in 2007 and known as Junta42, big brands became eager for information about content marketing. Eventually the need for more education and information about content marketing grew and Joe Pulizzi – a well-respected entrepreneur speaker and author – founded the CMI. Pulizzi and CMI remain passionate to this day that there is a better way for brands to market themselves than methods relied on in the past and that way is content marketing.

CMI produced an infographic – which details the timeline of content marketing. It actually indicates the beginning of content marketing began with content publishing in 4200 BC with caveman drawings.  Unarguably, content publishing has come a long way since then and continued to evolve and change with modern day digital technologies.

TRUTH #2: Quality content is critical to all forms of marketing and today, even plays a critical role in public relations. Content – when it is relevant and compelling – moves prospects through the sales pipeline from generating awareness about a specific brand to converting inquiries into qualified leads and turning those opportunities into profitable sales. Content – coupled with things such as excellent customer service – is also largely responsible for retaining and upselling customers because content marketing builds familiarity, likeability and trust for the brands that rely on – implement and execute – a solid content marketing strategy as the cornerstone of their marketing efforts across all channels.

Imagine today’s world without content marketing. CEO of SEOMoz Rand Fishkin points out in the Content Marketing Manifesto ( that social media would not exist. Communities of online brand ambassadors would not exist. Nor would Search Engine Optimization exist.

TRUTH #3: The term content marketing is commonly known and accepted by the industry, by thought-leaders and by marketers throughout the world. Brian Clark also know as the Copyblogger (, buiit his business starting in January 2006 on the sole concept of content marketing. Today, he and his firm continue to expand other businesses – by showing people how to create valuable content that attracts attention, drives traffic, and builds your business.

Entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker and one of the world’s most popular bloggers, Seth Godin, ( also knows first hand about the concept of content marketing. Not only has he been inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, but he turned the book publishing world upside down by introducing a series of four books through a Kickstarter campaign that reached its goal in only three hours to became the most successful book project since Kickstarter began in April of 2009.

The term is also solidifying the content marketing industry much like the terms similar to what happened in the past with email marketing, social media and word-of-mouth marketing.

Known content marketing agencies such as McMurry  ( - which produces publications for Ritz-Carlton and other big brands -  as well as market research firms such as Altimeter (, have  adopted the term content marketing without question and use it widely.

Furthermore, content marketing titles and jobs are also starting to rapidly emerge in the market place. For example, David Beebe serves as VP of Global Creative and Content Marketing for Marriott International’s portfolio of 18 brands. A quick search in Indeed delivers nearly 800 results for content marketing jobs in North Carolina alone.

Content marketing is also an extremely hot topic at industry and marketing-related conferences held by such organizations as the American Marketing Association. Not surprisingly,  CMI puts on its own worldwide conference, Content Marketing World ( each year, which will take place September 6-9.

TRUTH #4: Content marketing is at a tipping point. That is to say, if content marketing isn’t a clear focus or prioritized strategy for businesses today, it likely will be in 2016.

According to a Google Trends graph, interest in the subject has increased steadily since 2011, but jumped 20% in the fourth quarter of 2015, growing as much in two months as it did over the past two years.

“Content marketing has reached a tipping point, making this year’s report our most important one yet,” writes Contently in its State of Content Marketing 2016 report (

Contently, ( which started about a year before the 2011 industry growth spurt, reports each year on the state of the industry based on research and interviews with top Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) coupled with feedback from their own customers.  They agree content marketing is at a tipping point.

“Our research and pipelines both tell us that the late 2015 spike is an indicator of what’s to come in 2016: more investment in content marketing and more mature content strategies.”

Others agree and say it is surprising that content marketing is still catching on for some.

“It’s amazing how many executives still don’t know about content marketing,” says Arnie Kuenn, CEO of Vertical Measures. “This year, I predict there will be a tipping point and it will become a main part of the conversation.”  Kuenn will lead a content marketing workshop at LeadsCon – an annual conference for networking, education and  content – March 15. The workshop will cover an eight-step formula — from strategy development and ideation through lead nurturing and measurement—marketers can use to create and distribute content that connects with prospects.

Still a skeptic? You won’t be for long.

Why SEO Needs Good Storytelling

This content was originally posted on

Your story directly impacts SEO. If your business wants to engage in search marketing, storytelling is one area where you may not want to compromise.


There is no denying a solid SEO campaign is built on extensive strategy, well-researched keywords, quality links, and intelligent analytics reporting.

But beyond the roadmap and the data that work to improve your online influence is the story – what you are trying to communicate to your audience.

All the right keywords in the universe are not going to matter if you are unable to tell visitors exactly what they need to know, in order for them to take the desired action.

So if you want to use SEO to sell more products, get more subscribers or increase attendance, then you need a good storyteller who can draw in your audience with influential messaging…without compromising SEO best practices.

Clear Writing = Clear Thinking


Have Your Tissues Ready, WestJet Just Released Their Annual Christmas Video

Canadian commercial airliner, WestJet, is known for their spectacular marketing through social media and viral video. Some of their most popular videos include their April Fools videos such as WestJet #SmartSeats: the best way to board a plane and Introducing WestJet’s #FurryFamily program.

How does WestJet manage to produce videos that receive up to fifty millions views? By using a combination of humor, philanthropy and finding that one-to-one connection. WestJet knows their customers, knows how to reach them, touch them, and make a personal connection.

They do it every year when they bring us all to tears with their Christmas miracle videos, and they definitely didn’t let us down this year.

Think your tear ducts can handle more? Check out previous years’ videos:

Writing Copy that Converts

People read your content, maybe they ‘like’ it or visit your website, but what about conversions?  Ideally, many of your readers will become customers.   Below are just a few steps for helping you write copy that converts.

Understand your channels

Are you tailoring your content to your channel?  If you’re writing for LinkedIn, you are speaking to professionals who may want to know how to better run their business or update their resumes to find a new job.  Since you’re speaking to professionals on this channel, you may want to lay off the lingo or jokes.  On Facebook, your audience is more likely to be surfing for something that engages and entertains them.  On Instagram or Pinterest people want to see images.  You get the point.  Make sure the presentation of your content is appropriate for the channels you use.

Be clear

Sure, there’s a lot of room for creativity in your copy.  You can try different things with your headers, images, and other pieces.  Most important though is being clear.  You absolutely have to make sure the reader understands the offer and knows how to take advantage of it. Never let creativity negatively impact the bottom line.

Anticipate objections

In the past, what were some reasons you lost a potential sale?  Rather than obsessing about those situations, reflect on why it happened so you can anticipate objections in your copy.  Is your offer too expensive? Too complicated?  Too simple?  Address those reasons upfront.  You still won’t be for everyone and that’s okay.  This can at least help you qualify prospects.

Address questions


Content Marketing: What to Measure

With all marketing efforts, there is no end to what we can measure.  As someone who spends a lot of time in Google Analytics, I get pulled into mounds of data somewhat frequently.  And what I choose to measure with my marketing efforts may not be the exact same thing you need to measure.  We have different business objectives and different KPIs. What we can probably agree on though is the need to gather feedback on our efforts so we can do more of what works and less of what does not.  Below are a few several pieces of data that you may want to gather.


Where are your readers?  Knowing where your content is being read can help you understand your market.  Do a lot of people come from a certain part of the country – or even outside of the country?  If so, you may want to allocate some of your marketing budget to paid ads in those geographic areas.


On average, do your readers spend three seconds on a 1,000 word piece of content?  If so, you may want to consider some shorter pieces on your website or break down those long articles in blog posts.  But if readers spend 10 minutes or more on a few different pieces, it could indicate they are engaged.  Look at some historical information to determine what types of content leads to more time on your site for the audience.



How to Write Copy for Your Target Audience

Your audience isn’t everyone.  If you’ve been in business for a while, you of course realize that, however, many of us write as if ‘everyone’ is the audience.  To target a specific audience with your content, which includes current customers and prospects, keep these tips in mind when writing copy.

Write for a party of one

Envision a specific person and write to that individual.  Once you visualize a single recipient, you’ll resonate better with your reader because you’ll find the language you use speaks clearly to that type of person. If you’re stuck on how to define that person, take a step back and look at what you’re selling.  Is it a $500 handbag?  Then your party of one is likely a high-income female who enjoys luxury items – not a college student on a budget.

Be personal

I am writing for you.  Don’t be afraid to use first-person pronouns to be personal, but also keep in mind that readers are still the center of the message.  It’s about their interests, their worries, their needs.  Make it a conversation rather than a one-sided sales pitch.

Have a relevant headline

Yes, you need a good headline because that’s what people glance at when they decide whether or not to read your copy.  Grab their attention with your headline so they are pulled into what you wrote.  A relevant headline also uses language your target audience understands.  Are you writing about something serious or light-hearted?  Are you using lingo that people in a specific demographic won’t even understand?


Web Seminar Recap: Creating a Content Marketing Strategy

Writing for the web is about writing for search engines and writing for people. Neglecting one or the other will lead to a poor ROI. And simply putting content online is not enough. It needs to be engaging and measurable.Whether you have been writing for years or are just getting started, there are guidelines for your content marketing strategy.

On Wednesday, September 9th Tina Arnoldi presented a 1-hour web seminar on how you can optimize your content and content marketing strategy to increase your ROI.

Missed this web seminar? Catch up by downloading the presentation slides and recording.

How to Develop Your Content Marketing Plan

content-marketing-ss-1920-800x450Assigning one person in your office to post content on Twitter and another to measure performance in your Google Analytics account is not a content marketing plan. Although those are important tactics, there are other steps that come first in order to develop a complete plan.


Defining Purpose

What is the purpose for your content?  What do you hope to achieve with content marketing? “Because our competitors create content” or “Because ___ is a really popular channel right now” are not enough.  The purpose has to be more than that and should start with a focus on your company and its message.  What is the differentiator for your business?  Understanding that first is crucial to creating content that is uniquely yours.

Understanding the Audience

Who is your audience? In a perfect world, your pieces of content will appeal to very targeted audiences as defined by your customer personas, as well as where they are in the purchasing funnel.  Serious buyers have different needs from those who are considering a purchase.  Think about where your content fits in each stage of the funnel.  Those who are considering a purchase may want to see a comparison table of benefits and features for your service or product.  People who already made a purchase might appreciate a YouTube video demonstrated how the product is used.  Think about the questions your audience has along each step of the buying funnel.

Telling your Story

A generic piece about your corporate history will not engage most readers.  Instead think about what’s interesting about your business and how it addresses their needs. You may want to incorporate testimonials from satisfied customers into your story.  Although you may look at what competitors are doing for some ideas about presenting your story, the goal is never to copy.  Tell your story in a different way about things only you can provide.  Include an emotional component so it is not just corporate lingo (because that is rarely interesting!).

Choosing Channels

Now you can start thinking about channels.  Think through these other pieces first so you don’t get caught in the mindset of “We need to be on Instagram” – or whatever channel may be a hit at that moment.  Maybe you do need to be on there, but be sure that channel fits with what you decided regarding the type of content and audience.  How do people absorb content on each channel? What are the demographics of users on each channel?  When you have excellent content to distribute, you want to repurpose on multiple platforms as long as you speak the language of each channel you use.

Including the Whole Team

Often times marketing and sales staff don’t know what the other one is doing.  Even in marketing, there may be a disconnect between different roles, such as social media managers and blog writers. Stay connected so you have a consistent message regardless of the platform. This is where an editorial calendar can be useful.  It helps you plan the content so you have messaging lined up throughout the month.  With a plan that’s followed, it also makes it easier to check the performance of each channel and content types at the end of the month. And more importantly, it ensures everyone understands the appropriate tone to use when representing the brand online.

Measuring Performance

Each channel has its own tool to measure activity, such as Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics.  Performance can also be measured through “listening”.  Do people respond to your content on social media?  Do they re-tweet/like/share?  Do they love it or hate it?  Did they like your company before the purchase and not like you now?  That’s important to know so don’t forget about speaking to, and taking care of, existing customers online.  The words people use on social media help you understand how they feel about your brand.  You still want to go beyond the channel statistics and see if those channels drove people to your website where sales are made.  For that, you can use Google Analytics.  It lets you view all of the channels in your toolkit and how site performance varied based on how people arrived at the site.

Choosing channels, measuring performance, and having the whole team involved are must haves with your content marketing plan.  But don’t overlook the basic step in planning, which is defining your purpose.  Keep asking and answering “Why?” and you’ll be in great shape with your content marketing plan.

Web Seminar Recap: Content Marketing Basics

On August 18th, Chris West presented the free webinar, Content Marketing Basics. In this 1-hour presentation Chris discussed how the wording you use on your site or articles is very important when trying to gain and retain customers. This information will set you on the right track to getting results through content marketing. Your content should be engaging and more importantly it should be targeted to a specific audience. Even ranking high on search engines requires a site to have good consistent content.

Attendees learned about a variety of methods including:

• Content Marketing Overview
• Writing Effective Headlines
• Choosing the right Keywords
• Converting Visitors into customers
• Tactics to avoid

Missed this seminar?  Catch up by downloading the presentation slides  and the full audio visual recording here.

Content Marketing Campaign of the Week: ADP

We see a lot of great content marketing examples for B2C organizations, but where is the B2B love? In 28 content marketing campaign of the week posts only two of the featured companies could be considered B2B. Shame on me considering I’ve worked primarily for B2B companies during my career. It’s true that we hear more about the B2C publicity because they tell stories on a personal level, and they are speaking to individuals instead of businesses. But that doesn’t mean B2B content marketing campaigns are any less creative or effective.

In the 2014 B2B Content Marketing Research study by Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, results showed that 90% of B2B marketers are using content marketing, and 44% have a documented content marketing strategy. This is a core concept that has been lost on many practitioners, you need a strategy. Many people say they do content marketing, but they don’t have goals, metrics or results they can show you.

Automatic Data Processing (better known to all of us who get a paycheck as ADP) is an example of a company that created a strategy and followed through with content marketing efforts, earning monumental results. People often complain that it’s hard to do content marketing with a boring product. You don’t ge

The Value Added Services division of ADP, along with the help of agency Stein IAS, created a quarterly, multi-touch campaign mixing digital materials and other collateral. The results are staggering:  $1 million in new sales opportunities. In 2014, ADP attributed $3.7 million in closed business to its content marketing and an ROI for the effort in the first three quarters of 905%.t more plain or droll than payroll and human resource management. So what did ADP do?

Here are a few lessons to learn from ADP’s success:

1.       Set yourself up for success:  Determine how you will measure success or failure

If you don’t monitor your data, you don’t know how you did. If a weight lifter trains for a year and at the end can bench press 300 pounds, great. But how do you know how much he actually improved? Maybe he could press 295 to start with and his training wasn’t really all that successful.

Where do you start with numbers for marketing? Everywhere and anywhere. Whatever data you can get your hands on about your sales pipeline, revenue, followers and likes on social media, web traffic, in-bound calls, database size, etc. is useful. Prior to this multi-touch campaign that started in late 2012, ADP hadn’t run a trackable digital campaign. Head of Brand Management Jim Ferrauilo stated they didn’t even use landing pages before then.

2.       Have clear objectives

Some people confuse objectives with measuring success or failure. The simple difference to ask yourself is what outcome you want to accomplish. Whether it’s actionable or awareness based, what do you want people to do? All of the KPIs can go toward measuring how much you’ve accomplished, but make sure you have a consistent message that follows your objective, both internally to fellow employees and stakeholders, and externally to the customers. ADP had a clear business objective:  build awareness and demand for ADP Workforce Now; One clear goal.

3.       Know your target audience

In promoting their Workforce Now software, the campaign strategy was to associate customer pain points with the Workforce Now solution from ADP. To determine these pain points, they defined their audience as businesses between 50-999 employees as the prime audience. Further, they identified HR decision makers, chief human resource officers and midsize business owners as the people within those businesses. Finally, they used their own research about top concerns of midsize business owners in a post-2008 economy to develop a persona and read into what are the true concerns of their ideal buyer.

4.       Offer something different that captures attention of your target audience

Is payroll exciting? Doubtfully. But ADP created content that made peoples’ jobs easier and informed them of a massive change in their profession (the Affordable Care Act). Take a look at the ADP tools and resources page. The infographics are informative AND pleasing to the eye. This short style of information is easy to digest, much easier than reading 100s of pages of legal jargon that affects the HR of a company.

Not only were these infographics on the site and distributed via social media, this and other content such as white papers, online videos and case studies were leveraged with display advertising, industry publications, and stalwarts like Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.

5.       Test different ideas

The more you test, the more likely it is you will find the best solution. When you know what works you can invest more in that and let the less successful ideas fizzle. About the ADP content marketing strategy, Ferrauilo said, “We refocused the entire campaign on five strategies to help navigate healthcare reform – specifically for midsize business. We did a lot of optimization along the way – pulling out elements that just weren’t working – and the response rate went way up.

The bottom line is that there is no one way to do marketing anymore. A content marketing strategy is unique to every organization, and success depends on the ability to create a plan, follow it, test it, measure it, and adjust when needed. This type of content marketing can attribute to hard sells of products and services, for B2B and B2C companies, but it’s the ability to measure and report findings that will give a voice and recognition to deserving marketers.

Note:  Much of the information in this post came from the Advertising Age article ADP Content Campaign Pays Off.