Content Marketing, Big Rocks & the “Thanksgiving analogy”

Note – header image is from Jason Miller blog/book “Welcome to the Funnel”.

Fall is coming. Thanksgiving is approaching and marketers on the other side of the Atlantic (my side is the European) are ready to take a break, turn their brain off for a few days and stop thinking about marketing, content & ROI.

Well… ever heard about Content Marketing Thanksgiving analogy?

The concept is simple. The idea is to look for opportunities to repurpose the content that you already have – exactly as you’re repurposing Thanksgiving food for some time. The analogy comes from an interview to Rebecca Lieb. When asked about tips for companies struggling to produce enough content, she replied:

“I use a Thanksgiving analogy. You cook up this giant bird to serve up on one glorious occasion and then proceed to slice and dice this thing for weeks on end. If you are like most families you are going to be repurposing this bird as leftovers for quite some time creating everything from sandwiches, to soups, and more. Your content marketing strategy can be thought of in the same way.”

The idea here is basic, but straight forward: marketer have to look for opportunities to repurpose the content that they already have. For instance, eBooks can be repurposed into infographics, SlideShare presentations, blog posts, video and then disseminated via social media channels.

The idea is to look for opportunities to re-purpose the content that you already have,  exactly as you’re repurposing thanksgiving food for some time.

Jason Miller adds:

“This concept can be taken a step further and applied to “Big Rock” pieces of contents . The idea is to develop an all-encompassing guide to whatever your keywords or topics are which is written strategically instead of instructionally. This type of content is very top of funnel and can serve many purposes such as SEO, fuel for social and lead generation, sales enablement, and event collateral to name a few.”

Rebecca Lieb, Jason Miller, Alex Barca (Curata) all mention the analogy, with small variations (the Thanksgiving analogy, the Content Pyramid, etc). Jason Miller put the analogy, together with the Big Rock concept, at the centre of his book “Welcome to the Funnel”.

All good readings, if you are a content marketer.

Resources:

Why Content Marketing is NOT a Campaign

If you are a content marketer you must be familiar with the following statement:

“Content Marketing is a long-time commitment, not a campaign”

The quote comes from Joe Pulizzi and is one of my favourite content marketing quotes, together with “Content doesn’t promote itself”, “Not more content, but more relevant content” (both from Jason Miller, LinkedIn). All easy to remember. Useful, when I need to express a concept in a few words, during my public speeches or in conversations with my peers in Schneider Electric.

Back to the opening quote, here is what Joe says: Content marketing is all about sharing information that is considered useful to customers and prospective customers via articles, blogs, videos, and other media. It’s not a focus on creating salesy or “buy now” messages. Content Marketing is an approach, a methodology, a discipline, rather than a Campaign. It’s a long-term play when building a brand relationship with customers and prospects. Becoming an expert and building an audience doesn’t happen overnight. My experience of the last years reflects the long-term commitment to build a working revenue stream with the content marketing approach.

And its not just a philosophical difference.

Continue reading “Why Content Marketing is NOT a Campaign”

Content Marketing Strategy: a Guide in 10 Easy Steps (the updated version)

This post was originally created as a script for the speech I gave at Content Marketing Fast Forward (Amsterdam, May 2016). Then updated with new concepts, samples and links to reflects the session I presented at Festival of Marketing  (London in October 2016).

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Large enterprises, especially B2B firms, no longer tend to be concerned that their solutions aren’t attractive enough for Content Marketing. In fact, numbers show that Content Marketing discipline has been adopted by B2B firms at faster speed than their counterparts in B2C.

So, if you work in a large enterprise, how can you transform your marketing strategy from a traditional to a modern and successful content marketing model aligned with company growth and business goals? This can be done through proper content marketing strategy, integration of content, social media and PR and a deep transformation of the overall marketing model, facilitated by marketing technologies and tools. Technology’s influence spans all industries and continues to change and revolutionize everything it touches. The content marketing industry is no exception.

Traditional marketing has always been about pushing company products and services in front of the audience (outbound marketing). Content Marketing is about meeting the informational needs of potential customers so they become interested in you (inbound). Two years ago I led the implementation of a content marketing program for the IT Division of Schneider Electric, moving from an advanced but traditional approach to a new, modern, model based on content marketing strategy. The new model introduced elements of uniqueness, like the global editorial board and the editorial calendar – many boards and many calendars were in place before the transformation. It seamlessly integrated content, social media and PR, used to be disconnected and misaligned. It made advantage of the latest marketing technologies for content management, workflow, distribution and analytics. A summary of the full “story” can be found on the post published on Contently’s Content Strategist and on the podcast recently recorded by FIR and LinkedIn.

Based on a definition from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) “Content Marketing is 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.”

Continue reading “Content Marketing Strategy: a Guide in 10 Easy Steps (the updated version)”

How to integrate Public Relations into your B2B Content Strategy

PR and Content integration

As a marketer with an engineering and analytic background I have always been very critic about the capability of the Public Relation function to provide proper support to business operations and demonstrate its impact with relevant metrics.

I was clearly wrong with the first argument – PR does provide a huge push to businesses if properly run. Think at Influencer marketing, just to mention one basic example. On the other side, I still don’t think I was wrong with the second point: relevant measurement.

Until Content Marketing came.

Without generalizing too much Public Relations faces three main issues today in large B2B enterprises: 1) a content-related issue, 2) a functional integration issue and 3) a measurement issue. First, B2B companies still keep pushing products and features-focused news releases, in a continuous effort that is totally isolated and detached from the company’s content model and plans (assuming that a content plan is in place). The problem is that many PR firms and companies still haven’t adapted their approach to modern times and still rely on the same format and distribution techniques used years ago, which are far less effective today. Secondly, the PR function is typically separated from other marketing domains and definitely detached from the content marketing function and doesn’t benefit from the synergies that a combined PR, content and social media approach could generate. Finally, PR has gotten a bad reputation at times because PR professionals have historically relied on soft metrics (or not relied on metrics at all) such as placements and impressions to create the perception of value. They have failed to connect actions to outcomes, and demonstrate how PR activities impact key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to the business.

Continue reading “How to integrate Public Relations into your B2B Content Strategy”

Why Blogs are still at the Core of your Content Marketing Strategy

Remember the Blogosphere?

I started blogging in the first years of 2000. Remember vintage terms as “the blogosphere”? Well, I was part of the Italian blogosphere, that small Italian elite. Yes, exactly, the “Italian blogosphere”. I started with personal blogs, moving time to time to new blogging platforms to gain publishing and design flexibility and autonomy. I met other bloggers in Milan, which is the town where most of those innovators were based, to exchange ideas and experiences. After a few years, and with a deeper knowledge of blog technology and dynamics, I created an internal blog at the business where I was leading marketing operations for European countries. I always promoted internal blogs as a vehicle of (employee) freedom and as one of the best way to humanise companies and C-level teams. I turned soon to using external blogs as one of the main distribution channel of my marketing content strategies. Today, after more than 15 years, I am still a blogger and I still believe that bogs are positioned at the core of our content marketing strategy.

In term of technology, after a few years using pre-built blogging platforms (Splinder, Blogger) I moved to the code-heavy Movable Type platform. I finally ‘met’ WordPresswhen I switched to my current blog host, a few years ago. About 25% of websites today are powered by WordPress. This is the technology/ platform I suggest even to large enterprises because of its simplicity and social integration. But let’s go back to a formal definition, for a moment.

Continue reading “Why Blogs are still at the Core of your Content Marketing Strategy”

Big Rock content in a nutshell

It happens, more and more. When I write or talk about content marketing strategy, I am used to get the following question – among others: OK, but what exactly is “Big Rock’ content? And what is the difference between Big Rocks and eBooks?

Let me try to answer here, publicly. Big Rock is nothing more than highly valuable content.

The Big Rock content concept was popularized by Jason Miller when he ran social media strategy for Marketo. Jason defines a big rock content asset as a substantial piece of content such as “the definitive guide to a problem you solve”. Jason is quoted as saying, “A big rock content asset can be 20, 30 or more pages long. It should be visually compelling of course. It can be gated for lead capture. Then, you “slice” up the big rock content asset into blog posts, infographics, Slideshare decks, webinars, etc.”

In a nutshell: Big Rock is a substantial piece of content based on the idea of becoming the definitive guide to a conversation that you want to own.

The current trend in content marketing is to develop an all-encompassing guide to whatever our keywords or topics are which is written strategically instead of instructionally. This type of content is very top of funnel and can serve many purposes such as SEO, fuel for social and lead generation, sales enablement, and event collateral to name a few.

Big Rocks should be launched with the same emphasis of new products.

A great example of Big Rock content is Marketo’s definitive guide series. Guys at Marketo have created a series of eBooks clocking in at close to 100 pages each. This Big Rock piece of content is something that was repurposed using the turkey analogy mentioned in a previous post. Out of this one Big Rock piece of content Marketo had carved out 15 blogs, two infographics, two webinars, two videos, two SlideShare presentations, a number of cheat sheets and much more. Imagine the pieces and parts you can pull out of a Big Rock piece of content and remember that this is the foundation that is going to fuel your campaigns for quite some time.

A good example of Big Rock in the Data Center/Cloud space – which is where my company leads the way – is VMWare’s Virtualization 2.0 for Dummies. Same concept, same approach (not sure about VMWare’s launching capabilities, but the book/Big Rock is superb).

Before closing, let’s go with the second piece of the question: what’s the difference between Big Rocks and eBooks?

An eBook can be a Big Rock if it matches the definition given above: an all-encompassing guide to whatever your keywords or topics are which is written strategically instead of instructionally. Also, eBooks can be considered a Big Rock if sliced up into “turkey slices” and not just considered as a single piece of content. EBooks of course could also be just an individual repurposed pieces of a Big Rock.

Some super-useful resources:

Why Enterprises need a Content Marketing Platform to address content chaos

I have been designing content marketing strategy in large B2B enterprises for the last few years. If I have to list the top challenges I have had with its implementation there is no doubt that the first was a missing Content Marketing Software Platform. Other major challenges were, in order: 1) setting up proper analytic and 2) moving our content strategy from central pilots to global deployment (see my post on NewsCred Insights).

Our complex marketing technology stack, heritage of endless company acquisitions and integration, miss in fact this critical piece: we had to invest a relevant amount of time thinking at how to replace all processes and functions that a content marketing platform could offer: content creation, content curation, planning, editorial calendar, workflow management, publishing, internal and external content distribution, analytics, and last but not least, intelligence.

There has been a mind-numbing proliferation of technology vendors and solutions to address the needs of content and digital marketers in the last few years. For instance, Curata’s content marketing tools map has increased from 40 to over 130 vendors in its most recent version. NewsCred too has helped navigating across the ocean of marketing technologies with one of its latest posts. Mergers and acquisitions have contributed to make things even more complex.

Now, let’s go back to the basics for a moment, and let’s define what a content marketing platform is. The latest Forrester’s Wave report on Content Marketing Platforms (end of 2015) provides some clarity (note: the report has restricted access).

To address this challenge (the challenge of the enterprise’s content chaos), several technology vendors have developed a single software platform for all involved parties to collaborate on the strategy behind the content and its planning, creation, and distribution; these are called content marketing platforms (CMPs):
 
[Definition] Content marketing platforms are solutions that help marketing teams collaborate on a content strategy, orchestrate the numerous, concurrent streams of activity by content creators, curators, and distributors inside and outside of the company, and optimize downstream cross-channel distribution to key audiences.

Forrester Wave’s report further clarifies the need for a CMP: CMPs, the report affirms, are a “nascent category of marketing technology stack”, and are quickly growing to provide:

  • A single environment for teams to collaborate on content for all phases of customer life cycle
  • A replacement for Excel and email and facilitate collaboration across organizational silos
  • A place to aggregate data, content, and metrics from many sources

A Content Marketing Platform is this, and much more. CMPs act as a glue among several enterprise technologies managing content, distribution, analytics, pipeline (which is in general the primary goals of all B2B marketers) and insights, one of the new frontiers for such kind of software platforms. It is clear why CMPs have a central role and integrate several pieces of the marketing technology stack.

Where a CMP is supposed to be located within a full marketing stack? Curata introduces the “Emergence of the Content Marketing Platform”:

Sales Force Automation platforms fuel revenue by tracking and supplying sales opportunities and leads. Marketing Automation Platforms drive Sales Force Automation by supplying marketing qualified leads. But what drives the marketing activities and leads of Marketing Automation Platforms? Content. Like a car without gas, marketing automation can’t get very far without content. Content is needed for everything from a website (which is tracked by marketing automation), to email campaigns, to even pay-per-click landing page offers.

Many of today’s content marketers have little accountability and transparency in terms of how their content is performing. Their content is often warehoused and stored in multiple disparate systems and spreadsheets. That’s why a CMP is required.

Now, regardless the market studies you will look at and the marketing domain you belong to (business or consumer) content marketers have common evergreen challenges (source: Curata):

  • Limited budget for staff and program spend;
  • Creating enough quality content on a regular basis, whether in-house or externally sourced;
  • Distributing content across multiple channels, including publication and promotion;
  • Measuring the impact of content, i.e., what works and what doesn’t work to drive awareness, leads and sales enablement.

CMPs help marketers addressing all of them.

Back to my past experience and projects, as soon as we recognized the need for a CMP for our organization, we started to list all requirements for the “perfect CMP”. We segmented the requirements in six main categories, which I list here below. Using this simple and repeatable methodology, we evaluated several vendors.

(Download the CMP requirements in table format)

1) Content Development and Workflow Management

  • Workflow management capabilities
  • Ability to create different workflows based on content type and link those worklows to campaigns
  • Ability to view all assets & status of assets related to a specific campaign
  • Attach to asset and campaign name additional information such as persona, asset type, brand attribute
  • Ability to send emails to content owners, content requestor or project managers about changing status of developed asset
  • Ability to send emails to task owners informing them of task and work assigned
  • Ability to provide workflow capabilities for translation and associate workflow to master assets, campaigns etc.

2) Editorial Calendar

  • Editorial calendar management
  • Capability to view content development requests by content type, campaign and persona, where contributors can view tasks assigned
  • Ability to share internally the editorial calendar
  • Ability to view production and publication calendars

3) Content Management

  • WYSIWYG editor for direct publishing, meeting requirements to publish to blogs and major social media platforms
  • Ability to manage all content development requests: ebook, infographic, whitepapers, rich media content

4) Integration with existing stack and Distribution functionality

  • Ideally connect to company’s DAM to pick up imagery and post content
  • Ability to integrate with blog platforms (e.g. WordPress)
  • Ability to connect to existing email platforms for content to be emailed as part of newsletter
  • Ability to integrate with corporate web CMS
  • Ability to connect to Marketing Automation platforms (e.g. Marketo, Eloqua, etc.) for reporting information as well as to send content to be distributed via email or on landing page
  • Ability to connect to CRMs (e.g. SalesForce)
  • Ability to connect to social media publishing tools (e.g. Sprinklr)
  • Sales enablement: ability to provide shared content to sales

5) Analytics and Insights

  • Content Performance – Content Pipeline contribution
  • Top performing content list by persona, by campaign , by brand attribute
  • Amplification and engagement rate on content whether or not we use the CMP platform for distribution
  • Internal consumption: which content assets are most used by sales and in which part of the buying process
  • Localization rate: how many content assets have been internally consumed and localized
  • External consumption: which content are customers consuming in which part of the buying cycle
  • Insights and recommendations

6) Mobile app

  • Availability as app for Smartphones and Tablets

There is not a single way to evaluate the best fit for your organization. All starts with your company/division objectives. In our case support for our content marketing strategy and in addition integration with the existing stack, support to existing internal processes and analytics were the main goals and then main criteria for selection.

A few months ago I created a comprehensive post outlining an twelve-step Content Marketing strategy. That’s exactly what the implementation of a CMP will support.

Step 1: The Case for Change
Step 2: Finding the Optimal Balance Between Central and Local
Step 3: Editorial Process- the Content Editorial Board and the Content Ecosystem
Step 4: Global and local audience persona, buyer journey and content map
Step 5: Alignment with your company’s Brand story
Step 6: Selecting a Content Hub and Content Marketing Platform
Step 7: Distribution channel strategy – distribution and amplification
Step 8: The POEM Model -Paid drives Owned which drives Earned Media (aka: How to integrate Public Relations with your B2B Content Marketing Strategy)
Step 9: Launching an Internal Communications Strategy
Step 10: Piloting Your Content Marketing Strategy
Step 11: Measurement and Optimization
Step 12: Finally, Going Global

A CMP will definitely address and support most of the points above, and as a consequence, the overall content strategy.