7 Tips We Learned Analyzing 75 Content Marketing Examples

75 Examples cover image

Content creation can be a challenging endeavor in many respects. With so many techniques, formats, and channels for your content efforts, it’s easy to become paralyzed by indecision when it comes to executing your carefully constructed content marketing strategies.

On the other hand, even if you know exactly what types of content you want to create, you may find it difficult to distinguish your brand and ensure that your efforts are heard above all the noise in a crowded landscape.

Regardless of the specific struggles hindering your content productivity, one thing that might help get you back on track is to take a look at examples of the amazing strides businesses are making with their content marketing programs.

If you are in need of a little inspiration, our new e-book, 75 Examples to Spark Your Content Marketing Creativity, serves up some of the most exciting content efforts out there. It illustrates best practices for a wide range of tactics and formats – from content marketing mainstays like blogs and print magazines, to visual-centric social media platforms, to innovative multichannel experiences.

Editor’s Note: Do you want to learn more about the approach we used to create this e-book? Read how we used intelligent content principles to reuse content we had in a streamlined way in this post: Content Reuse: A Super-Simple Way to Get Started.

In compiling this follow-up to our successful 2012 e-book, here are some of the lessons content marketers can learn:

1. Use images to drive deeper engagement

Visual content platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram are more popular with consumers than ever – providing plenty of opportunities for brands to tell compelling stories and forge meaningful connections based on their mutual areas of interest.

Case in point: American Express includes an image or video in the majority of its Facebook posts, and has found other engaging ways to leverage visual content marketing using Facebook’s Timeline – such as posting messages (with accompanying photos) on company milestones from as far back as 1890 (the year Amex was founded).

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2. Connect with your audience through compassion

Supporting worthy causes through your content efforts humanizes your brand and can help demonstrate its commitment to the causes and issues about which your audience cares the most.

Case in point: Whole Foods took visual marketing to a whole new level with its Do Something Reel Film Festival, a collection of provocative, character-driven films that focused on food and environmental issues – and inspired others to help make a difference.

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3. Give audience members a way to share their passions

Empowering your fans and followers to show off their personalities in a brand-relevant way is a win-win – you gain a better understanding of their needs and interests, and they get a powerful, prominent platform for self-expression and creativity.

Case in point: GoPro focuses on customer evangelism as part of its content marketing strategy, curating videos from users of its products and sharing them on YouTube so others can see enthralling examples of those products in action.

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4. Defy expectations 

Some of the most powerful content campaigns are those from brands that zig when everyone expects them to zag. To keep audiences on their toes, go beyond talking about the products and services you sell and, instead, focus on the stories of how those products impact the lives of your users.

Case in point: Software isn’t a topic that typically inspires a visceral reaction. But with its Stories blog, Microsoft is out to prove that it can bring out the “warm and fuzzies” as well as any other brand can. By telling emotionally powerful stories, like Independence Day, the brand brings out the humanity of technology in a rich, interactive way.

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5. Remove the perceived barriers to conversion 

People typically have questions they need to have answered or concerns that need to be addressed before they make a purchasing decision. By supporting their research process, debunking commonly held myths, and clearing up confusion, your content can help steer them in your direction and help them feel more comfortable that they are making the right choice.

Case in point: Prudential‘s Bring Your Challenges lab helps consumers break down the barriers that keep them from achieving better financial management. Visitors can choose from a range of challenges, get advice from behavioral experts who demystify the issue, and access a wide range of interactive tools to help them resolve the problem more effectively.

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6. Scratch their backs, and they’ll have yours

Everyone loves a good story, but sometimes consumers just need to get down to business and find a workable solution for a specific problem. Smart brands know that creating content that provides the answers or guidance consumers seek in the short term goes a long way toward establishing and maintaining brand loyalty over the long term.

Case in point: To help demonstrate its technical authority and expertise, IBM has compiled a library of resources – a centralized location for analyst papers, education, training, case studies, data sheets, executive briefs, FAQs, systems red books, white papers, consultant reports, and just about any other technical documentation a site visitor might want.

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7. Don’t be afraid to experiment and innovate

Creating content in a new format or publishing it on a trendy but untested channel can be intimidating. But, the potential rewards are huge – such as a powerful surge in brand awareness, search engine rankings, consumer engagement, and industry recognition – and can pay off in ongoing content efforts.

Case in point: Enterprise tag-management provider Tealium found a fun, retro way to cut through the content clutter: a children’s book. The company created Taming the Digital Marketing Beast as a fun souvenir that trade show attendees could bring home to their kids; but it also included a handy reference guide on how the company’s digital marketing technology streamlines complexity and helps unify marketing applications and data.

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For more great examples from companies of all sizes and across various industries, download 75 Examples to Spark Your Content Marketing Creativity.

If you know of an example that we might have missed, why not add it in the comments and tell us why it’s one of your personal favorites?

Want to learn many more examples of successful content marketing tactics and save $600? Register by May 31 to attend Content Marketing World 2015, take advantage of early-bird savings ($500 off registration) and use code CM100 to save more ($100).

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post 7 Tips We Learned Analyzing 75 Content Marketing Examples appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

Virtustream Acquisition – EMC Spreads its Hybrid Cloud Wings | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

EMC

EMC has taken a significant step forward in its hybrid cloud journey with the announcement of its acquisition of Virtustream in an all-cash transaction of US$1.2 billion. Founded in 2009, Virtustream is estimated to have clocked ~US$ 100 million in revenues last year through its cloud hosting services and management software (xStream) offerings – while cloud IaaS accounted for 60% of this revenue, the remaining 40% came from management software licenses.

The U.S.-based company will eventually become the managed cloud services division within the EMC Federation business. The transaction is expected to close by the third quarter of 2015 and be additive to EMC’s revenues starting 2016.

EMC is well known for its deep pockets. With about 70 acquisitions since 2003, the inorganic route is clearly not new to EMC (to put it mildly). The company has not shied away from flexing its muscles from time-to-time to build capabilities for its mainstay storage business and beyond.

EMC’s “Shift” to Cloud

The emergence of cloud has had a strong impact on EMC’s core storage business, which has been witnessing a sluggish demand over the past few years (the overall Information Storage division of EMC has witnessed a CAGR of ~3% over 2012-14). While EMC has rejigged its focus to cover new storage products, this “strategic tweak” in itself is not expected to arrest EMC’s plummeting revenue growth. Therefore, EMC has put its bet on the “next big thing” in the IT industry – hybrid cloud.

EMC’s association with VMWare and Pivotal has ensured that EMC is no newbie to the cloud; however, the real sign of intent from EMC came with the launch of its Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solution last year. The launch also coincided with a triplet of cloud acquisitions – Cloudscaling (an OpenStack IaaS solution developer), Maginatics (a cloud-enabled storage provider), and Spanning (a cloud-based application data security provider).

So what does Virtustream bring to the table?

As EMC looks to make a mark in the enterprise cloud market, the Virtustream acquisition offers multiple benefits to EMC:

    1. Expansion of the Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solution portfolio: EMC’s Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solution is currently an on-premise private cloud offering that provides cloud-bursting options to VMware vCloud Air and other public cloud services. The addition of Virtustream’s xStream platform provides EMC with capabilities to manage both on-premise and off-premise deployments, thereby offering a truly hybrid cloud setup

      The xStream platform will be leveraged by EMC Federation service provider partners to deliver independent services based upon it

    2. Credible cloud managed services capabilities: Virtustream has witnessed credible success in serving large enterprises with complex cloud deployments and managed services requirements, through partnerships with industry-leading vendors such as SAP (which made a US$40 million investment in Virtustream in 2013), Oracle, and Microsoft. Virtustream has been certified by SAP to offer SAP HANA as-a-service. EMC can leverage Virtustream’s managed service capabilities/experience to serve its own existing clientele as well as prospects

    3. Datacenter footprint: Virtustream brings a credible revenue stream based on its datacenter footprint spanning locations such as the U.S., UK and the Netherlands (catering to key demand markets such as North America and Europe)

    4. Meaningful clientele: Virtustream brings a credible roster of clients including Coca-Cola, Domino Sugar, Heinz, Hess Corporation, and Kawasaki, which will get added to EMC’s kitty (to cross-sell its broader hybrid cloud and storage offerings).

The move to acquire Virtustream seems to be a logical one for EMC (although the revenue multiple of ~12X indicates some level of desperation on EMC’s part, given the ongoing stakeholder unrest). Also, given EMC’s traditional modus operandi of allowing its acquired entities to operate autonomously, we do not expect the acquisition to grossly impact Virtustream’s innovation capabilities (barring potential integration and cultural challenges)

Virtustream’s rationale for being acquired?

The development may have come across as a surprise for many market observers, given that the company was grappling with the idea of going public barely six months ago. While Virtustream was going great guns, the brand recognition of a cloud provider typically plays a huge role when it comes to large enterprises looking for sourcing options. Consequently, hitting the “next level” of growth trajectory potentially becomes a significant challenge for players such as Virtustream (especially with a large enterprise focus).

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Virtustream’s CEO, Rodney Rogers, claims to have considered multiple suitors over a period of time, before choosing EMC (based on terms offered and a chance to become a part of the EMC Federation).

Does this point to more consolidation in the cloud IaaS market?

The EMC-Virtustream deal has been preceded by multiple notable acquisitions in the cloud market over the past few years (Terremark by Verizon, Savvis by CenturyLink, SoftLayer by IBM, Metacloud by Cisco, and GoGrid by Datapipe). As various players in the enterprise cloud market, be it global IT service providers, telecom providers, or public cloud providers look to gain a stronger foothold, it is hard to bet against other similar acquisitions happening in the near future. The question is which company will be the next one to get gobbled up? CloudSigma? DigitalOcean? Joyent? ProfitBricks? Or even Rackspace? That only time will tell.


Photo credit: EMC

 

Beyond Cats & Bloopers: Getting Real on the Future of YouTube

Change is coming. You may not realize it. It’s happening slowly. The content we share is evolving. It’s getting more sophisticated and more polished every day. You can trace it in part to a series of hyper-wired buildings around the world where the influential denizens of our time gather; a byproduct of the sharing economy that promises to make film and video production facilities accessible to individual creators. These are the YouTube Spaces.

YT space

Social@Ogilvy recently toured the Los Angeles location, complete with sound stages, equipment offerings, event spaces, and a barista bar.

The grounds were abuzz with creative energy, buttressed by the influx of creative agencies moving into the neighborhood (Ogilvy & Mather among them). Creators and influencers of all shapes and sizes – from individuals to sizeable production crews – were sharing hallways amid the throws of production. On the day of our tour the main lounge area was being retrofitted for production of a large-scale live-stream talk-show, a game show was shooting on one stage, a music video shoot was being setup in another, and smaller productions were taking advantage of green screens and audio booths. Google even provides equipment for use on site, including a set of Red Epic cameras and cinema lenses. In other words, everything you’d need to make a movie except the crew.

But how can these Spaces benefit brands, many of which already partner with influencers?

There are three key areas where YouTube spaces can work to a brand’s advantage:

  1. Creator skills development
  2. State of the art production facilities provided by creators
  3. Opportunities to create first-of-it’s-kind productions

In order to maintain the social nature of the resources though, YouTube limits the amount of access a creator receives each month, ranging from one day a month in a living room sized studio to six days use of full size sound stages.

The reason for all this lies in YouTube’s emerging business strategy: empowering and educating creators to create better quality content makes YouTube more desirable to audiences and allows the streamer to compete with services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. They’ve already seen success with scripted influencer series such as Video Game High School and The Guild.

The philosophy – which I share – is that better content begets more views, and for YouTube, more views lead to more pre-roll ads, which generate more revenue. The result is clear. We’ve seen it manifest through player design refreshes and the evolution of influencer talent agencies: YouTube has moved past cat videos and bloopers. They’ve even started building their own original content.

Social@Ogilvy already works with creators to generate awareness, such as partnering with Meg DeAngelis (MayBaby) to launch Intel’s Pocket Avatars, and brands will only continue to benefit as influencers become more practiced and familiar with the tradecraft of production through their use of YouTube’s Spaces. However, rising audience expectations could drive up the cost of productions, especially those not filmed at a YouTube Space, when factoring in location and equipment fees.

While brands are welcome to use the Spaces if partnering with a creator who lends his or her access for a brand’s production, there is one line of fine print to be aware of: anything shot in a YouTube Space – even if only partially lensed there – must debut on YouTube simultaneously or before any other medium. That means launching your Super Bowl TV spot on YouTube before it airs in the Super Bowl. And for some, that could be the deal-breaker.

Ultimately, YouTube’s Space facilities – with locations in Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, New York, São Paulo, and Berlin – don’t offer an advantage over renting production facilities elsewhere. The true impact for brands, and the reason to keep a close eye on YouTube’s ongoing investment in talent, is that they’re driving better content. Audiences are growing to expect a higher level of storytelling, an expectation will expand to encompass brands, and quality will only continue to become more important for brands as this space grows more competitive.

YouTube has charged creators with ushering us into a new era of socially successful films and videos. It’s up to the rest of us to keep up with them.

17 Content Marketing Tips for Any Size Budget

content-marketing-tips-coverProducing content when you have a big budget is easy. Producing the right content  for your audience on any budget is the tough part.

I realize small businesses have resource constraints and their own special set of challenges. But there are plenty of examples of small-business content marketing successes.

My first job as head of marketing for a small company included a large objective of driving awareness as well as leads for sales. And my budget was a whopping zero. Nothing. Nada.

So how do you drive marketing results without a budget? The answer for me was to publish customer stories. I also repurposed a lot of existing content. I interviewed folks around the company in sales and customer support.

That is what I call “growth hacker content marketing.”

Guerilla content marketing is content created with almost no budget, simply by repurposing things your organization already produces.

Favorite content marketing hacks

Here are my top content marketing hacks to help content marketers at any size business with any size budget.

  1. Turn your email outbox into blog posts. Look for emails where you are answering popular questions from customers or salespeople. Here’s my latest example on content marketing ROI.
  1. Turn all your PowerPoint presentations into SlideShare posts. Embed the SlideShare into a blog post summary.
  1. Turn your executives’ SlideShare posts and speaker notes into articles.
  1. Turn every video your company has ever made into blog posts and embed the videos. Video Marketer Wistia does a great job of taking its own medicine with its video library. Check out this example of How to Shoot Video With Your iPhone.

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  1. Turn your gated campaign assets into summary blog posts. When I started the SAP Business Innovation site, I had no content budget. So I wrote white-paper summaries from content sitting in a campaign library. Here’s one example.
  1. Answer the simplest questions about your topic.
  1. Create or cover a list of the top people to follow on your topic.
  1. Create a list of your favorite sources of content from others.
  1. Write about your competition or even include negative brand keywords. It’s a bold move, but if done consistently, you can rank for your competitor and negative keywords. Former SAP Editor Bob Evans used this tactic frequently.
  1. People love lists and facts and stats. Create a list of facts to support your business’ overarching theme.

At SAP, we supported the notion that “technology was driving the future of business.” So we created a SlideShare post on 99 Facts on The Future of Business. It has more than 300,000 page views on SlideShare. Then we wrote an article about it that was published by Forbes with click-to-tweet links and gained another 10,000-plus views. This has been the most successful piece of content SAP ever produced!

You can replicate this content marketing hack with your own favorite:

  • Quotes
  • Videos
  • Conferences
  • Books
  • Blogs
  • Articles on LinkedIn Pulse
  • SlideShare presentations
  • Websites
  1. Reference current events and big changes in your industry.
  1. Relate your favorite TV shows to your topic like I did with Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Mad Men.

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  1. Write about the tools you use to do your job better. Productivity hacks are some of the most popular articles on the social web.
  1. Have fun and share some of your favorite photos and GIFs.
  1. Create an e-book with the influencers in your space covering a top challenge or future predictions. Lee Odden’s TopRank Online Marketing, Curata, and CMI do a great job of this by creating a theme for each year’s Content Marketing World.
  1. Look for other companies that can afford infographics, then write about and embed their infographics and research reports.
  1. Customers, account people, and sales teams are great resources. Ask them to identify your customers’ biggest questions or FAQs. Then answer them in Q&A format.

What do you think? Easy right? Please let me know what you think or ask your questions in the comments below.

You don’t have to be an enterprise marketer with a large budget to benefit from Content Marketing World 2015. Save $600 when you register by May 31 (early-bird deadline) and use code CM100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post 17 Content Marketing Tips for Any Size Budget appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

Genpact Eyes Syntel Acquisition – Times Of India | In The News

“Peter Bendor Samuel, CEO of US-based Everest Group, said if the acquisition goes through, it would be a good strategic fit. Genpact needs to add an IT capability if they are going to successfully play in the transformation market place. Headstrong (an IT services and consulting firm which Genpact acquired in 2010 for $550 million) is not big enough or diverse enough to do the trick. It appears that Genpact finished second in the Igate sweepstakes. With Bain Capital owning a large stake and being on their board, they are being pushed to be aggressive in growth, both organic and inorganic. An IT firm such as Syntel would be accretive to earnings as well as position them well in the changing market place, he said.” Read More.

 

3 Things to Learn from the World’s 3 Most Popular Blogs

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You can learn some of the best things about blogging by looking at the world’s most popular blogs.

These blogs are popular for a reason. And they only get more popular as time goes on. Viral popularity feeds popularity, snowballing into a massive cultural force.

I like learning from people and businesses who know what they’re doing. Some of the top features of the world’s most popular blogs demonstrate three powerful lessons that you can implement on your blog.

A note about selection: These three blogs – The Huffington Post, TMZ, and Business Insider – are the most popular on the eBiz list, which collates data from Alexa, U.S. Traffic Rank, Compete, and Quantcast.

And are websites truly blogs? Yes. A blog is bigger than you might think.

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Source

Each of these blogs is, indeed, a blog, but each includes a lot of writers and a massive output of content.

1. Find and publish killer content

The Huffington Post: 110 million estimated unique monthly visitors

Question: How does HuffPost manage to publish some of the most viral articles on the Internet?

Answer: Because HuffPost is a news aggregator.

The Huffington Post publishes articles found elsewhere on the web by aggregating or collecting these articles and publishing them on its domain.

The Huffington Post employs people not just to write great content, but to look for great content that other people write. When they find it, The Huffington Post publishes it.

The result? Maniacal sharing and instant popularity.

HuffPost’s most popular article in the past year was the somewhat prurient “5 Reasons You Should Have Sex With Your Husband Every Night.”

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But where did HuffPost find this article with such shareable potential?

On another blog.

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Meg Conley published her insanely popular article in December 2012.

HuffPost republished the article in August 2014.

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That’s one of the reasons why HuffPost can make waves among bloggers, lovers of yoga pants, Christians, health fans, and many other niche groups.

You may not choose to aggregate, which is fine. However, you can offer your own content for syndication – the process of pushing your blog content to third-party sites. It’s like saying, “free article here!” A variety of syndication networks helps bloggers promote their content this way.

You also can apply HuffPost’s trick by inviting popular bloggers to post as a guest on your blog. You’ll probably get a lot of comments and interaction when you do.

2. Feed and fuel curiosity

TMZ: 30 million unique monthly visitors

TMZ is a website about celebrities. OK, it’s an unabashed gossip site. And it’s insanely popular.

The question is why? Keith O’Brien tries, somewhat clumsily, to explain the obsession with celebrity gossip:

I think TMZ and gossip sites are popular of course because of the culture we live in – where celebrities’ lives are spectator sports and where pieces of content – rumors, snippets of video, Instagram photos, insensitive Tweets – can easily power the stream.

In other words, celebrity gossip sites are popular because we like to watch celebrities. But why do people like to watch celebrities?

We are insatiably curious beings. Curiosity is ingrained in the body’s neurology, empowering our learning, our discovery, and even motivating our actions. Add celebrities into the mix and we are curious about how the elite live with fame and fortune – sometimes a life to which we aspire.

TMZ feeds this desire for such information while feeding and sustaining the desire for more content on the subject.

The headlines – specific, salacious, and appealing – pique curiosity.

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Each of TMZ’s headlines tantalizes with information, but leaves readers wanting just a bit more:

  • Mariah Carey in a SKIN-TIGHT Wet Suit – Wait ’Til You See These Curves - The teasing headline compels people to click and see those curves.
  • Justin Bieber Opens Up on Relationship & Was That a Slam Directed at Selena?! – People want to hear the inside perspective and determine if indeed the singer was slamming Selena.
  • You Won’t Even Recognize Candace Cameron Bure Now – Or will we? Must click. Must see.

And on the headlines go, driven by the engine of curiosity.

Thankfully, celebrity sites don’t have a monopoly on curiosity. Every blog has a niche, and every niche has curious readers. Your goal is to engage the curiosity of your readers to elicit their engagement.

In my blog, Quicksprout, I’ve tried to engage curiosity with headlines such as this: How a Ferrari Made Me a Million Bucks. (So far, it’s my third-most popular post.)

I knew it worked when people left comments like this one:

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Curiosity is backed by the desire for knowledge. Most blog readers want more knowledge. Here’s how you can feed your readers’ curiosity:

  • Write powerful and intriguing headlines.
  • Offer secrets, tips, tricks, hacks, or inside information.
  • Provide exclusive information to people who sign up or provide their email addresses.

3. Know your audience absolutely

Business Insider: 25.5 million estimated unique monthly visitors

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Business Insider knows who it is trying to reach. Evidently, it does a darn good job of it.

How can I be so sure?

Take a look at the stats. Growing a fanatical reader base of nearly 30 million doesn’t happen through haphazard, unfocused article blasting. Business Insider is bigger than its rival CNBC and outperforms Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and other massive news sites.

Henry Blodget, Business Insider’s CEO explains, “Our site is half the size of The Wall Street Journal, and they have about 1,700 people on staff.” Business Insider, by contrast, runs a lean, mean content-generation machine with far fewer people.

So, what are the characteristics of Business Insider’s target audience?

  • Male
  • Young
  • Affluent
  • Business-focused
  • Many Wall Street traders
  • Consume content during the workday
  • Average four minutes on the site (which is the estimated reading attention span of Wall Street traders)
  • Read Clusterstock more than any other section on site

Business Insider pivots to make the most of this audience and its proclivity for engaging headlines, its love of business news, and its human curiosity about celebs, clothing tips, and cool start-ups.

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Entrepreneur Mark Cuban got it right with his analysis on Business Insider:

I like that they pull no punches. They find stories that you would sit and discuss with friends and associates, that are topical, interesting, and often give a unique side of a story. I’m a big fan.

How do you create content that people would “sit and discuss with friends?” You have to know for whom you’re writing.

Everything about content marketing rests on this one point – who is your audience? If I’m writing for fitness aficionados, I’m going to write a certain way. If I’m writing for programmers, I’m going to write another way. What works for group A is not going to work for group B.

If you want to take your content marketing to the next level, what’s the most important thing you can do?

  • Write more frequently?
  • Write longer content?
  • Post more images?
  • Do more social promotion?
  • Create better headlines?

All of those are important but useless if you don’t know your audience. Defining your target audience is critical to the success of any marketing effort, especially content marketing.

Conclusion

Now, just to be clear, these aren’t the only  things that have skyrocketed The Huffington Post, TMZ, and Business Insider to stardom. A website doesn’t hit the top three by a single trick.

Even so, they’re doing some things right. And you can imitate those things.

It comes down to great content. You don’t need a star staff, a celebrity endorsement, or a $7 million round of funding to be successful in the content marketing game. You have all that you need right now.

Want to be part of the most popular content marketing event in the world? Register today for Content Marketing World 2015 to save $500 (early-bird registration) and use code CM100 to save another $100 by May 31.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post 3 Things to Learn from the World’s 3 Most Popular Blogs appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

Indian IT Firms Like TCS, Infosys To Gain From HP’s Enterprise Services Cost Cuts, Say Analysts – The Economic Times | In The News

Economic Times

“Hewlett-Packard’s decision to cut $2 billion (about Rs 12,700 crore) in costs in its enterprise services business could open up opportunities for Indian technology firms such as Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys, said analysts tracking the development. The planned cuts in the enterprises services division can come from staff reductions, moving more work offshore, delaying or eliminating investments, and writing down assets that are being deprecated, said Peter Bendor-Samuel, chief executive at consulting firm Everest Group.” Read More.

 

Keep Content Flowing With This Easy Agile Marketing Tool

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There are times when a wrench gets thrown into your content marketing machine and you can’t figure out who threw it. Nothing seems different, but suddenly you’re rushing to make deadlines, editors are stressed, and the whole process has become frantic.

It’s time to step back and figure out where the workflow is breaking down.

Instead of the usual laborious process of troubleshooting your entire content management procedure, shake things up by using an easy tool drawn from Agile marketing practices – Work In Progress limits.

WIP limits cap how many projects can be in a particular phase at one time, ensuring a continuous flow through the project life cycle. This agile limit works even if you’re not using Agile methodologies overall so even the most traditional marketing teams can benefit.

Because it’s a somewhat unorthodox approach to content management, it almost certainly will turn up unidentified inefficiencies in your content workflow.

Open the dam

WIP limits prevent too many tasks from accumulating at any stage in the release process (e.g., designing, coding, testing).

Agile marketing doesn’t offer a hard-and-fast rule for a WIP limit, as it can vary drastically for each phase from team to team. The first part of this test will help you determine what your WIP limits should be.

Set up your WIP test

Determine the steps in your content creation process. For our content team at MarketerGizmo, it goes something like this:

Research → Writing → Review → Editing → Publishing

Of course, “promoting” is the final phase, but it’s ongoing and not something we factor into our WIP limits.

Other potential stages in the content creation process could include:

  • Legal review
  • C-suite approval
  • Graphic creation

Again, there’s not a right or wrong setup. At this point, all we’re concerned with is getting your process down.

Co-located teams may find it most helpful to use an old-fashioned whiteboard for this part because it’s a physical representation of a somewhat intangible process (you also get to play with lots of colorful sticky notes).

For those working with remote colleagues or freelancers, a Trello board can be helpful. This free, intuitive software lets you visualize the same kind of vertical lanes that you would create on the board, with the added joy of dragging each piece of content as it progresses:

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Write down all of your content marketing projects so you can group them easily. Use sticky notes for a whiteboard or individual cards on a Trello board.

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You can see that we’ve tagged our Trello cards with different colors based on content type. This can help you see not only which part of the process is dragging, but which content types tend to stall at a particular spot.

Once all the content is identified, move each piece of content into its correct lane based on where it is in the content release process.

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Monitor the board

It’s tempting to look at your initial board and draw an instant conclusion. This snapshot indeed may help identify your immediate pain point. But to be able to set accurate Work In Progress limits, update your board for at least a week or longer depending on your team’s typical release cycle.

As new content is planned, make a new card or sticky note and put it on the left side of your board. Whenever it graduates from one phase to another, move it to the next lane.

If you’re using the Agile practice of daily stand-up meetings, host them around the board and make sure that everybody is updating the cards or notes as they work on them. If you don’t have a daily meeting, the content manager needs to check the board daily to make sure it’s up to date and note traffic jams.

This example illustrates way too much content stuck in the research phase:

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Left unaddressed this kind of traffic jam will lead to a significant publication deficit.

Fix content traffic jams

After you monitor your board for a week or so, you should start to see patterns. Wherever you see bottlenecks, rally the troops.

Agile software teams use the practice of swarming – multiple team members attack a single programming problem as a unit. Content marketers must swarm as well.

Maybe your writing team can churn white papers, blog posts, and Facebook updates at a dizzying rate, but that content sits in the Review lane for days because nobody has time to review it all. Your writers need to convene a peer review meeting to swarm all those pieces of content and get them out of the Review lane.

Or if your graphics department gets slammed with work from other departments, you’ll see pretty quickly that cards are spending a lot of time hanging out in the Needs Art lane. Commit a team member or two to learn graphic tools like Piktochart and Canva so they can create a basic graphic that will allow content to release on schedule. Later, if necessary, the professional graphic artists can replace them with snazzier versions.

Determine limits

If this process tickles your fancy, it’s easy to permanently incorporate this Agile marketing technique into your team’s content management process.

To start, identify what the board looks like when your team feels that the velocity is optimum and when things are feeling sluggish. Your WIP limit for each lane should be somewhere between optimum velocity and unbearable sluggishness.

A careful monitoring effort should give an idea of where your team’s comfort level is for each category, and you can use that to set an initial WIP limit. Be explicit about your WIP limit for each lane, and post it with your board.

Keep in mind that the content moves, so anything that’s on the left side of the board eventually comes to the right. That means even if your team is cool with having 10 pieces in the research phase, it’s possible all that content research will be ready to move to writing around the same time. Whenever a lane approaches its limit, convene the team to swarm the projects that are lagging and restore balance to the board.

Be agile

In the true spirit of Agile marketing, release, test, and iterate on your own WIP limits. If you monitored during a relatively low-key week, you may end up setting your limits too high, resulting in your team taking on more than it can realistically handle.

Conversely, your first week of tracking may have been unusually challenging, causing you to set your WIP limits well below what the team can manage.

In both cases, don’t be afraid to adjust and try again.

In Agile marketing, as long as you’re always improving, you’re succeeding.

Looking to further improve your content marketing processes and more? Plan to attend Content Marketing World 2015. Register by May 31 to save $500 with early-bird registration. Use CM100 to save another $100 this month.

Cover image by Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo, via pixabay.com

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team.  No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

The post Keep Content Flowing With This Easy Agile Marketing Tool appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

10 No-Cost Tools to Help You Conquer Writer’s Block

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Writer’s block happens to everybody. Whether you’re filtering content ideas or just sitting down to type, writer’s block can get in the way. A few minutes ago, you were reviewing ideas and getting ready to create premium content for your readers, and now you simply don’t know what to write.

How can you overcome this crisis of writing? Spend hours reading (one of my favorite things to do, but I can get lost for too long), conduct research, provoke conversations with friends to get your mojo back, eat, or exercise.

There are simpler ways. A plethora of free and almost-free tools exists, designed to help you craft stellar content even when you’re terribly uninspired.

Turn ‘I can’t’ into ‘will do’ with the right inspiration

A writer who has nothing new to say about a topic reduces the odds of convincing his audience to take action. But what exactly is the creative force that allows us to come up with new concepts that raise interest and curiosity? Inspiration, according to Psychology Today.

You also can come up with new, insightful solutions to daily challenges by simply looking at old problems from a different perspective. Truth be told, this mission can be difficult to accomplish, especially when you are haunted by multiple deadlines and can’t afford the luxury of digging deeper into your previous content pieces.

Fortunately, quite a few online tools can come to the rescue, allowing you to impress your readers with your polished copy.

1. HubSpot Blog Topic Generator

Don’t know what to write about? Not a problem. HubSpot has come up with an impressive algorithm allowing you to generate relevant blog topic ideas in a few seconds. Enter three keywords (preferably nouns) and let the tool work its magic. This handy program isn’t perfect. At some point, it might return topic suggestions containing errors, so make sure you read all titles carefully and tweak them if needed.

hubspot-blog-topic-generator

2. Übersuggest

To craft and optimize your copy, you need to count on strong keywords that your prospects might use. Übersuggest is a great starting point when you want to find keywords relevant to your brand and industry. Using this tool, you can write a term in a box, choose your preferred language, and select your source (web, images, news, shopping, video, recipes). Übersuggest extracts keyword suggestions for your term. Click on each word to discover the more pertinent options and come up with a network of keywords that could help you set up the best direction for your writing.

ubersuggest-example

3. Ahrefs Content Explorer

Sometimes, lack of inspiration is not your worst writing problem. At some point, figuring out how to cover popular stories that already have broken on the Internet can become the real challenge. How can you stumble across high-impact news that your readers would share a lot?

Use the Ahrefs Content Explorer tool to spot the most shared types of content for every imaginable topic. This is one of the simplest ways to discover stories that have generated thousands of shares and tweets during the last 24 hours. This tool makes it easier for you to create interesting, high-value content pieces that mirror the current interests and preferences of your audience.

ahrefs-example

4. Topsy

When it comes to delivering information to their public, some content creators take the safe way by using the best free and almost-free tools to measure the impact of different stories that already hit the web. Topsy is designed to help you analyze and search the social web. Enter any word and view its trends on Topsy Analytics.

We searched the word monkey and found no less than 3,437 tweets over the previous three hours. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? You can even refine your search based on several filters (language, latest results). Topsy seems to be the perfect go-to resource when you are determined to find out what people are tweeting these days.

topsy-example

5. Quora

Reportedly, Quora has the best answers to any question that you could ever ask. This popular Q&A website is built around questions introduced, answered, organized, and edited by the members of its community. This interactive platform enables users to edit questions and suggest edits to answers published by other users.

At the beginning on 2013, Quora inaugurated a blogging platform. Toward the end of the year, the company introduced the Stats feature designed to give writers the opportunity to check statistics and find out how many people have shared, viewed, and followed their answers and questions. Using Quora, you can select the subjects in which you are interested (business, movies, design, sports – the list of options is incredibly diverse and even fast food is seen as a topic of interest in its own right) and follow them to discover the most interesting answers to questions related to those fields.

Sometimes, a clever question or a smart answer can make you see things from a different perspective, allowing you to present your facts from a new angle.

Quora

6. Paper.li

Ideally, you should invest a lot of time, money, and energy in content creation. You obviously need fresh content to individualize your voice, increase brand awareness, and keep your readers engaged and entertained. But sometimes, for one reason or another, you could be forced to put your content development strategy on hold for a time. What’s the best option that you could explore during this hiatus? You could use a tool created to help you curate the content that you wish to serve to your public.

Paper.li gives you access to a generous curated collection of videos, photos, and articles. It lets you identify, select, publish, and promote this content in a simple and convenient manner. If you want to let a machine do the heavy, time-consuming content-lifting, use this tool regularly and simplify your tasks related to niche publishing, web monitoring, and/or content marketing.

paperli-example

7. Meme Generator

Any experienced business owner knows that emotion-rich content is the key to maintaining a flawless, longer-lasting connection with a targeted segment. According to Buffer, the popularity of viral content is linked to the presence of positive emotions that stimulate readers to share ideas and concepts within their circles.

With this thought in mind, it’s safe to say that you can win the hearts of your visitors by making them laugh. Based on this idea, the Meme Generator lets you add a pinch of salt and pepper to your content. Using this tool, you either create a meme image revolving around an existing character or upload a photo and create your own.

Meme Generator also lets you check out a nice selection of memes already floating around on the Internet and draw your inspiration from the hilarious images made by others.

meme-generator-example

8. GIMP

Can’t afford to hire a team of brilliant minds to design your visuals? Not a problem. Small-business owners whose options are limited by a tight budget can always turn to GIMP to create and edit stunning visuals. This free Adobe Photoshop-like tool is free and fairly easy to use.

Wondering why you should use the best tools to breathe new life into your website images? Here’s a good reason – 40% of your visitors will respond better to content pieces based on a combination of text and rich visual information, according to Kissmetrics.

Gimp-Example

9. Issuu

You have to love tools that offer a choice between free and paid versions. In this case, you can test the free option for a time, see how it works for you, and decide if you want to give the more complex paid alternative a try.

Extremely versatile, Issuu allows you to rediscover the pleasure of reading, and contemplate the works of millions of enthusiastic publishers worldwide. Aside from helping you keep up with news extracted from different fields of interest (such as science, fashion, or sports) this tool also lets you organize your favorite content pieces by building stacks you can share with your friends.

Issuu turns reading and publishing into a marvelous experience and lets you stumble across a complex network of premium online sources that could inspire your next written masterpieces. The basic version is free and lets you upload and share content. The premium one comes with a 14-day free trial, costs $35 a month, and was created to help enhance user engagement. For $26 each month, the plus version allows you to unlock limited analytics and basic features, and customize your reader.

issuu-example

10. Your own analytics

We can all learn from our mistakes and draw our inspiration from our past successes. Return to your most successful pieces and embrace a similar writing style or topic.

Take a closer look at blog posts that you published one year ago. Do they still get a lot of traffic? Did they create quite a stir on social media platforms? Did you get feedback from your readers after publishing them? Some of these posts could inspire your future content pieces, and some of them could also be rewritten.

According to State of Digital, the words that you put on paper not too long ago can serve as your most prominent fountainhead of wisdom. This doesn’t mean that you should live in the past and stuff your audience with topics that have been done to death. However, it may be a good idea to revisit a few of your most popular posts and find the best way to give them another spin, as long as they are based on facts that could still be considered relevant and interesting.

Want to be inspired in real life? Plan today to attend Content Marketing World 2015. Register for $500 early-bird savings by May 31, and use code CM100 to save another $100 this month.

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Cover image by SplitShire via pixabay.com

The post 10 No-Cost Tools to Help You Conquer Writer’s Block appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

This Week in Content Marketing: Facebook’s Move to Swallow Publishers

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PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s episode, Robert and I discuss two large venture capital investments in the content marketing technology space – Percolate and Kapost. We also debate whether Facebook’s launch of its Instant Articles service represents the end of times for publishers or a stairway to heaven. After discussing whether brands could really create a Mad Men-type show, Robert and I rant and rave about Adobe’s new audio white papers and a huge media purchase by one of the world’s largest action sports retailers. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from Poor Richard’s Almanack.

This week’s show

(Recorded live May 18, 2015; Length: 55:02)

Download this week’s PNR This Old Marketing podcast.

If you enjoy our PNR podcasts, we would love if you would rate it, or post a review, on iTunes

1. Content marketing in the news

  • Showing PNR listeners some love (4:52): We love our PNR listeners. That’s why we’re giving you some extra love. Listen to the podcast to find out about an exclusive discount – just for you!
  • Money, money, money – money… but really content marketing? (7:11): Content marketing technology firm Percolate has announced that it has raised $40 million in Series C financing. This latest round of venture capital investment brings Percolate’s total funding to $74.5 million. Kapost also announced it has secured $10.25 million in new funding to accelerate the company’s growth. Robert noticed that both Percolate and Kapost have eschewed content marketing to focus on their own big-picture concepts like “marketing content.” Robert and I discuss what it means to be “the marketing system of record” and whether or not a single technology tool can manage this far-reaching role.
  • Why Facebook’s news experiment matters to readers (19:24): Facebook’s new plan to host news publications’ stories directly on its site is significant, not because of page views, advertising revenue or the number of seconds it takes for an article to load. It is about who owns the relationship with readers. So says The New York Times UpShot column. This raises some serious journalistic questions about which articles get shown on Facebook and which get ignored. Robert and I ponder the pros and cons of media companies posting their content on Facebook and Google.
  • Could a brand make the next Mad Men? (30:32): A new article by Aaron Taube on Vice questions if a popular TV show like AMC’s Mad Men could ever be produced by a brand. After interviewing a number of marketing and branding experts, he comes to the conclusion that it couldn’t happen because brands have a different agenda – usually to sell something – that colors how they craft content. Robert and I disagree with his contention that the future will be filled with “insipid, brand-safe drivel.” TV and radio shows have had sponsors for almost as long as these media have been around. We believe it is possible for a brand to create a show like Mad Men.

2. Sponsor (38:49)

  • This Old Marketing is sponsored by ConnectiveDX (formerly ISITE Design), an agency that helps organizations bring together the customer insight, design, and technology capabilities necessary to build delightful digital experiences. It’s offering a new report entitled Creating Connected Experiences that outlines seven essential digital experience competencies, shares relevant data and insights on the shifting digital landscape, delivers best practices for delivering digital experiences that differentiate, and provides tips and tools for mapping customer insight, vision and content. Learn more at http://bit.ly/connective-dx-guide.

connective-dx-report

3. Rants and raves (41:53)

  • Joe’s rant/rave: Adobe is promoting a new series of “audio white papers” that promises to teach marketing professionals how to develop a mobile app marketing strategy in only 10 minutes per session. One of them is narrated by Malcolm McDowell, who brings a new level of gravitas to “the voice in your head.” I love the format, which is ideal for busy people, and I’m glad to see they’re amplifying it with native advertising. But Adobe could have done much more to take advantage of the strengths of this medium – such as rewriting the papers for the spoken word.
  • Robert’s rave: Robert gives a big thank you to Roger C. Parker for his wonderful review of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, Robert’s new book with Carla Johnson. Robert says the level of effort Roger put into writing his detailed Amazon review was extraordinary. He also gives kudos to Roger for doing an eloquent job of summarizing the book’s focus.
  • Robert’s rave: The SurfStitch Group is the world’s largest online action sports and youth apparel online retailer. It has now become a media company with its recent acquisition of two surf lifestyle magazines. Robert cites this as an example of something he and I have been talking about on this podcast: A brand buying an existing content platform and its audience rather than attempting to build one from scratch.

4. This Old Marketing example of the week (49:07)

  • Poor Richard’s Almanack: Benjamin Franklin published the yearly Poor Richard’s Almanack under the pseudonym of Richard Saunders from 1732 to 1758 to help promote his printing business. It contained a mixture of seasonal weather forecasts, practical household hints, puzzles, and other entertaining and useful information. It was a best seller for the American colonies, with print runs of up to 10,000 per year. Franklin did such a great job at creating needed, valuable, and entertaining content for his audience that it became recognized, respected, and successful in its own right. This publication is the oldest example of content marketing we’ve discovered, which makes it an excellent example of This Old Marketing.

poor-richards-almanack-example

For a full list of PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page.

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The post This Week in Content Marketing: Facebook’s Move to Swallow Publishers appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.