content marketing process

We Interviewed 4 Successful Content Marketers For Their Content Marketing Process: Lessons from the Best in the Biz

Ideas are free and unlimited.

But, it doesn’t really matter what the next brilliant idea is. What matters most is how we execute it.

How can we define a good execution? Here’s a short but straight to the point definition from the book, “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done:”

“Execution is a systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it.”

To execute, you don’t just act — you act according to plan. If not, expect everything to turn into a mess.

The same goes for making great content online. Before content marketers transform ideas into high-quality posts that bring in actual ROI, everything should go through a unique content marketing process. There are also content marketing tools used to save time and improve productivity, and standards to follow in identifying effective content.

However, despite content marketing teams following workflows, some still face challenges:

Since we’re all curious about how the best ones out there create great content, here we’ve interviewed four of the best content marketers today:

  • Kim Moutsos, VP of Editorial at the Content Marketing Institute;
  • Susan Moeller, Senior Marketing Manager at BuzzSumo;
  • Amanda Todorovich, Senior Director of Content Marketing at Cleveland Clinic;
  • and Michael Pozdnev, Founder of I Wanna Be a Blogger.

So, how do they do it? Read on to find out.

[email protected] interviewed four #contentmarketers for the Write Blog, and they shared amazing tips with us. 🔥 Featuring @MPozdnev @kmoutsos from @CMIContent @amandatodo and @SusanCMoeller from @BuzzSumo Click To Tweet

content marketing process guide

We Interviewed 4 Successful Content Marketers For Their Content Marketing Process: Lessons from the Best in the Biz

content marketers process interview

Kim Moutsos, VP of Editorial at the Content Marketing Institute

Tell us about your team’s content marketing process. What happens in each process?

“We always start with the audience in mind: What new topics do our readers need to know more about? What evergreen topics are they always hungry for information about?

We review what we’ve already published on those topics to see if there’s anything we can refresh or expand or whether we need a new piece.

Finally, we consider what’s going on in our own organization, whether that’s the release of new research or an upcoming conference that we might want to create awareness about. But our audience’s information needs are a priority.”

In this entire process, what’s the most important step/detail for you that’s often overlooked by other content marketers?

“Checking for existing content that can be refreshed or repurposed. Starting from a proven foundation means a good chunk of the work is already done.

For us, this means anything from updating an existing article, turning a great conference session into a blog post, combining examples from many different posts into a roundup or ebook, to turning research stats into an infographic, and so on.”

What are your most recommended content marketing tools?

“Every team has to pick the tools that make the most sense for their strategy, team, and needs.

Since we’re a small but distributed team, we rely on our editorial tracker/calendar, which is a shared Google spreadsheet that’s evolved over several years, plus shared storage for files. And, of course, everyone needs analytics tools.”

Share your secrets with us. How do you come up with the most brilliant content ideas?

“I work with really creative people, so collaborating with them generally helps the seed of any idea blossom.

Stepping away from the computer and venturing out into the real world, whether for a work-related event or just a walk in the fresh air, almost always opens my thinking to new possibilities.”

What makes high-quality content truly high-quality for you?

“Of course, high-quality content is well written, researched, and meets an information need. But those are just the basics.

If it’s really a quality piece, it provokes a response in the reader. It drives them to do some action, whether that’s to try a tip or suggestion in their own work, to challenge or agree with us in the comments, to share an article with colleagues, to subscribe to one of our newsletters, or consider coming to one of our events.”

'If it's really a quality piece, it provokes a response in the reader. It drives them to do some action, whether that's to try a tip or suggestion in their own work...' - @kmoutsos on #highqualitycontent Click To Tweet

Kim Moutsos

Kim Moutsos is Content Marketing Institute’s vice president of editorial. She is a 20-year veteran of online and print publishing, specializing in creating business and technology content.  Follow Kim on Twitter @kmoutsos.

Susan Moeller, Senior Marketing Manager at BuzzSumo

In this entire process, what’s the most important step/detail for you that’s often overlooked by other content marketers?

“Collaborating with others. Our content performs best when we have a partner involved from the beginning. It can be time-consuming to create something with a partner, but the benefits in distribution are significant.”

What are your most recommended content marketing tools?

“I use BuzzSumo for ideation, and I use SEMRush for keyword analysis. I also rely heavily on Google Analytics.”

Share your secrets with us. How do you come up with the most brilliant content ideas?

“Thinking and talking!

Content ideation is a bit like making soup. I have a lot of things simmering away somewhere at the back of my mind. Then, I’ll have a conversation with someone who serves as a prompt to reach into the pot and pull out a tidbit or two.

Further discussion will help me to decide if the idea is a juicy bit of chicken or just stringy celery.”

What makes high-quality content truly high-quality for you?

“Trusting the source. As a content consumer, I am very aware of the source of the content I consume. If I don’t see the source as trustworthy, I don’t value the content very highly.”

'Trusting the source. As a content consumer, I am very aware of the source of the content I consume. If I don't see the source as trustworthy, I don't value the content very highly.' - @SusanCMoeller on #highqualitycontent Click To Tweet

Susan Moeller BuzzSumo

Susan Moeller works as the senior marketing manager at BuzzSumo. She’s also the co-founder of “Women in Content Marketing” Facebook Group, creator of BuzzSumo Academy, and coordinator BuzzSumo Expert Webinar Series. Follow Susan on Twitter @SusanCMoeller.

Amanda Todorovich, Senior Director of Content Marketing at Cleveland Clinic

Tell us about your team’s content marketing process. What happens in each process?

“Our process starts each morning with a daily team huddle. We gather and discuss what’s going on in the news/world that will impact what’s relevant to our audiences. We review traffic data and important performance notes from the day before — what happened on various social channels, what might’ve performed poorly, what is happening with our podcasts and Facebook Live events. We look at what content is approved and ready for publishing to ensure our publishing calendars (blog content, social channel schedules, newsletter content) is still on point relative to our discussions.

When we create content, our writers interview medical experts across our organization and those experts must approve the content before we publish. Our design team works on image selection, infographic designs, Instagram stories, and email newsletter layout as it relates to our editorial calendar and story topics.

There are team leaders for each area (social, editorial, design, email, project management, etc.) and they huddle with their teams first, and then they participate in a roll-up huddle with each other and me. This ensures we’re all on the same page for the day and can address/discuss any issues or opportunities.”

In this entire process, what’s the most important step/detail for you that’s often overlooked by other content marketers?

“We look at our numbers every day and adjust accordingly in the moment to ensure we hit monthly, quarterly and annual goals.

Our growth has been a result of continuous improvement and a large collection of small optimizations. There is significant collaboration across various teams, and we come together every day to identify those opportunities.”

What are your most recommended content marketing tools?

“No software or ‘tool’ is more important than personal interaction, collaboration and relationships. That said, we wouldn’t survive without Google docs — simple.”

Share your secrets with us. How do you come up with the most brilliant content ideas?

“Our best ideas come from personal discussions and collaboratively reviewing data just like how we check our own site performance. We look for what the people in the world are searching for, what questions are people asking and turning to the internet for, or ask each other for answers.

That’s the sweet spot — when we can credibly offer those answers and get the feedback that we’ve ‘read the mind’ of our users.”

What makes high-quality content truly high-quality for you?

“Trusted sources providing the answers users seek. Expert information that is displayed simply and beautifully on a mobile device.”

'Trusted sources providing the answers users seek. Expert information that is displayed simply and beautifully on a mobile device.' - @amandatodo on #highqualitycontent Click To Tweet

Amanda Todorovich

Amanda Todorovich is the director of content marketing at Cleveland Clinic where she successfully established its blog as the #1 most-visited hospital blog from 0 to more than 6 MILLION sessions per month. She’s named 2016 Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute, member of Marketo’s 2018 inaugural Fearless 50, and a finalist for 2017 Boldest Healthcare Brand Marketer. Follow Amanda on Twitter @amandatodo.

Michael Pozdnev, Founder of I Wanna Be a Blogger

Tell us about your personal content marketing process. What happens in each process?

“1. Research.

Every new research I begin with my knowledge, experience or intuition.

This stage takes the most time. I am looking for topics that have great search potential, and I use both the SEO tools and the questions of my subscribers.

On one of the thank-you pages, I use the Google form to collect problems, questions, and reasons that led my readers to me. At the moment, this page has brought me 887 responses.

I always ask myself the question: Can I be on the first page of Google? I am analyzing the power of competitors, their strategy to attract links.

Then I dive deep into the study of competitors on the chosen topic to create better content.

Next, I try to find the words and phrases that users use on this topic. These are not just keywords. Common words that they use when describing their problems. It is necessary to speak the same language as my reader.

2. Who or what can help me amplify my content?

In some niches, such as online marketing, it is impossible to create content that will be successful without the help of other experts or friends.

I make this list:
– My online colleagues.
– Experts on this topic.
– Personal bloggers who left comments on this topic.

These people help me create more valuable and in-depth content. I link out to their blog posts or conduct short interviews.

3. Writing.

It starts with an outline. Sometimes my blog posts are so big that the plan is drawn up on stickers. But most often it is Google Docs.

It consists of subtopics in a tree form, keywords, common phrases from real people.

When I write, I divide the screen into two parts. In one I am writing, and in the second before my eyes this plan with clues.

4. Editing. Proofreading.

At this stage, I create images, while trying to use at least one image per hundred words, and format the text.

Since I am not a native speaker, I always turn to a good editor.

5. Promotion.

Since I have already prepared in advance, and I have a list of people who helped me create content or whom I mentioned, this stage does not take me much time.

But I try to tell everyone practically at the same time to create a possible wave of virality.

Of course, I send the link to the content to my subscribers and share it on my social media.

In this entire process, what’s the most important step/detail for you that’s often overlooked by other content marketers?

“Most content marketers create content alone. Without friends.

Many use influencers, but experts will not waste their time on leaving a comment for example. They will not remember you when he or she writes a new article, does not add links, and so on.

I believe in ordinary people, not stars. Therefore, I strive to make friends and help these people in advance.

Once I realized that my friends are content marketers who leave comments. They are active. They love to help.

I think it was thanks to the friendship that each of my posts received hundreds of comments and thousands of social shares.”

What are your most recommended content marketing tools?

“Keywords Everywhere, MozBar, KWFinder, Ahrefs, Grammarly, Quuu Promote”

Share your secret with us. How do you come up with the most brilliant content ideas?

“Perhaps my secret is that I rely on in-depth data analysis. Analysis of not only the problems and questions but also the feelings and emotions of the reader. I try to identify the key points in his/her journey.”

What makes high-quality content truly high-quality for you?

“Details. Most content answers the question WHAT, and very little HOW.

And those who share the details always win the reader and Google love.”

'Details. Most content answers the question WHAT, and very little HOW. And those who share the details always win the reader and Google love.' - @MPozdnev on #highqualitycontent Click To Tweet

Michael Pozdnev

Michael Pozdnev is the founder of “I Wanna Be a Blogger,” a place where he teaches blogging newbies how to start a blog from scratch, and shares his SEO blogging tricks and blogging success stories. Follow Michael on Twitter @MPozdnev.

The Main Lesson? Every Content Marketing Process Is Unique — and So Is Yours

If you haven’t noticed it yet, all these best content marketers have their own specific content marketing processes.

Some processes require constant team collaboration right from the start, while others can start building their own content alone by thorough data research. Others like to use a bunch of tools, while for others, document sharing is already enough.

What these experts have shared should bring inspiration. But take note that what works for them, may not work for you.

This is why it’s important to be patient in understanding what content marketing process is best for you and your team. To do this, you can start by trying generic workflow templates for email marketers, social media managers, and other content marketers. Or you can even start with something as simple as using these three basic steps:

  • Ideation: Creating content ideas that fit your topic area(s) and content goals.
  • Creation: Writing, editing, adding images, optimizing content, etc.
  • Preparation: Scheduling, distributing, and promoting content.

You can use the three key steps as the main pillars of your content marketing process. It’s all up to you to figure out the rest of the key processes under each step. The more detailed, the better.

We hope these lessons from the best content marketers have inspired you to find your ideal content marketing process. But then, if certain steps are impossible to do without spending more time, money, and energy; don’t ever hesitate to ask for help and delegate tasks to people you can trust.

client story

Client Story: How Express Writers Helped nFusion Solutions Rank for Keywords That SEO Software Missed

This is a guest post by John G., a full-time Content Strategist and expert copywriter in our team. 

nFusion Solutions faced a very common challenge when they came to us: their site wasn’t showing up in search results for their relevant keywords.

However, their challenge was actually a lot more unique than that.

This meant I needed to think outside the box to deliver. Here’s the story.

Download the PDF case study of Client Story: How Express Writers Helped nFusion Solutions Rank for Keywords That SEO Software Missed

Client Story: How Express Writers Helped nFusion Solutions Rank for Keywords That SEO Software Missed

What Happens When SEO Software Can’t Help with Keywords?

Several of the company’s main competitors were showing up for practically every keyword they threw at Google.

Usually, the solution is fairly straightforward. At Express Writers, we use premium software like SEMRush to discover which keywords stand the best chance of bringing our clients lots of traffic. They can’t be too competitive, but they also can’t be too low on monthly searches.

However, nFusion Solutions’ predicament was a first for me.

Even though we knew which phrases would bring up their competitors in Google – and, thus, were relevant keywords – the industry is so niche that these keywords didn’t see enough monthly searches to show up in our premium platforms.

So, there was no simple way of knowing which phrases would be the most valuable to our client.

4 Steps for Using a Competitor to Do Keyword Research

Instead, what I needed was a solution that would tell me which keywords these competitors used most across their entire sites – every single page. It stood to reason that these were the ones having the biggest impact on their rankings.

Once I had that information, I could sift through the results to find the keywords that would put nFusion Solutions on the same page as these competitors.

This involved “pulling apart” the other companies’ websites page-by-page.

Step 1: Finding Every Indexed Page for the Competitors’ Site

The first thing I needed to do was to find every single page of the target competitors’ site.

Sometimes, you can just access the site’s sitemap.

Other times, you might need to use a tool like Rob Hammond’s SEO Crawler, which will scan an entire site and return URLs for each and every page.


If your competitor’s site has more than 300 pages, you’ll probably need a premium tool like Screaming Frog to accomplish this.

Fortunately, nFusion Solutions’ competitors only had around 100 pages apiece.

Once your crawler is done, take the results and put them into an Excel sheet. Here’s what the results look like when I did this for the Express Writers website:


(I used our site for this screenshot because, otherwise, it would show who the competitor is for this example.)

Then, I’d just copy-and-paste the results into an Excel like this:


Step 2: Pulling the Keyword Density for Each Page

Now comes the heavy lifting.

To figure out which keywords showed up the most across all of a single competitor’s site, I needed to conduct a keyword-density report for every one of their 100+ pages.

Again, there are free tools that can do this.

I prefer SEO Centro’s version.

You just enter each of the individual URLs into the tool and it will return the keyword breakdown for each one.


Here are two screenshots of the results from one of the competitor’s main pages:


And for three-word keywords:


As you can see, I was only concerned with keywords that included two or more words.

I left out single-word keywords like “gold” and “silver” because they aren’t nearly specific enough for nFusion Solutions’ purposes.

Step 3: Identifying the Best Keywords

After conducting a keyword-density analysis for each page of each competitor’s sites, I moved the most popular keywords for each page onto an Excel sheet, keeping an ongoing tally of the frequency with which each one was used.

When I was finished, I had an excel sheet that showed which keywords were used the most across all of these sites. It looked like this:


Step 4: Choosing the Right Keywords for My Client’s Pages

The final step was simply choosing which keywords from the list were most important to each of nFusion Solutions’ new pages.

I did this by looking at which keywords the competitors used most often throughout their sites. I also took the time to learn about nFusion Solutions’ market, so I knew which keywords made the most sense for each of their service pages.

Want to hire John to build great content for your brand online? Let us know! You can also request a free 15-minute strategy consultation with him here.

Going the Extra Mile to Find the Best Possible Keywords

While premium SEO software is necessary for online marketing, it might not always be enough.

In the case of nFusion Solutions, I had to get a little creative in order to find which keywords would be most valuable to them.

Fortunately, the above steps are easily replicable. So, if you’re struggling to keep up with your competitors and the software you’re using doesn’t seem to help, you now know how to find what keywords are proving most valuable.

Need great copy? Check out our pricing in the Content Shop.

Client Story: How Express Writers Helped nFusion Solutions Rank for Keywords That SEO Software Missed

panera brand content marketing strategy

How Panera Bread’s Brand Content Marketing Rises to the Top

I’m a huge foodie, and I happen to live right outside of Austin, TX. This delectable city in the U.S. has been named (by Mashable) a foodie’s paradise.

So you might be surprised at the chain restaurant I’m picking for today’s brand spotlight: Panera Bread.

Here in Austin, literally hundreds of great restaurants exist, from organic, farm-to-table brunch restaurants featuring dairy sourced from family owned and operated sustainable pasture-raised organic egg farms (that’s a thing, and it’s called Hillside Farmacy – go there sometime, their brunch is delightful), to French-inspired bistros, a “Wholly Cow” organic burger stop, and açai bowl yogurt stands.

Sorry, not sorry, if I just made your mouth water a tad with all that.

So, why am I picking a nationwide chain?

I’ll tell you, in today’s blog.

Panera hits it out of the park in a lot of ways – yummy and wholesome food with clean ingredients, of course, is the main draw – but it all gets amplified with their outstanding brand content marketing.

Every facet of the messaging they put out, from their social media presence to in-store signage to email newsletters, blogs, and more, drives their mission.

Lunch is calling.

A post shared by Panera Bread (@panerabread) on

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Check with the members of their loyalty program, MyPanera – they stand 28 million strong. Or, just ask their 13 million email newsletter subscribers.

You can also look at the fact that Panera ranked #11 overall on Technomic’s 2017 Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report.

And out of all the fast-casual restaurants that made the list, Panera reined supreme, even beating out the likes of Chipotle and Jimmy John’s:


Let’s not mince words: They’re killing it.

Needless to say, there’s plenty of inspiration to mine, here.

As such, let’s dig into why and how Panera’s brand content marketing is working so well. We’ll also explore the way it perfectly aligns with their food, values, and customer loyalty.

[email protected] says @panerabread's marketing is off the chain. Learn why and how they win in today's blog (warning: may make you hungry) 🍞🥖 Click To Tweet

panera bread brand marketing

5 Reasons Why Panera Bread’s Brand Content Marketing Is So Tasty

Great content marketing always has a strategy behind it. Here is what Panera Bread does to take their brand over the top:

1. They Put Their Unique Values Front and Center

Panera famously made a resolution in 2014 to remove all artificial ingredients, including preservatives and sweeteners, from ALL of their foods by the closing months of 2016.

This was a HUGE promise to fulfill, but they followed through and were totally transparent about the process.

Since making this announcement, Panera has continued to reaffirm their brand values and use them as their differentiator.

For example, they regularly released progress reports as they moved toward their 2016 “clean food” goal.


Now that they’ve reached that goal, it’s prominently displayed on their website, right after “Menu Items.” Panera’s beliefs about what constitutes good food have become central to their brand.


In their restaurants, their signage reminds you of this commitment and promise for clean food:

Panera Bread Seasonal Graphics

Image via CatCoq

The store signs also highlight the healthy, clean ingredients Panera regularly features in their seasonal and year-round menu items:


Image via Willoughby Design

This is not something a lot of other national brands are doing. With this strategy, Panera moves away from the pack and sets the stage for authentic, transparent content marketing.

Takeaway: Identify your differentiation factor, the thing that makes you stand out from similar companies, and own it. Lean into it, stand by it, and live by it.

2. Panera Maintains a Warm, Friendly Vibe and a Consistent Brand Voice

Here’s another secret to Panera’s success – a consistent tone and brand voice across all of their content, from their website to their social media accounts to their menus and store signage.

Here are a few examples of this warm yet casual tone across Instagram and Twitter:

Their brand voice is also emphasized on their “Community Giving” page, where Panera showcases how each store pitches in to support local communities:


“As a member of your community, it’s important to us that we do what we can to support you.”

This same tone is even used on their menus. Check out their seasonal offerings and how they describe these special items (this section is called “What We’re Celebrating”):


Finally, a message from Panera’s founder and CEO seems to wrap up their brand identity into a neat package. It echoes the friendly, down-to-earth, yet health-conscious vibe you’ll see everywhere else in their marketing (note that it’s titled “A Conversation with Ron” – it’s literally shot across a dining table as if you’re sitting down with him for a bite to eat and a chat):

Takeaway: Your brand voice MUST be consistent on every channel, on every platform, and in every piece of content. (This is a great argument for creating brand style guidelines, which you can give to all of your content creators, writers, and marketers to use as a reference.)

3. Panera’s Content Features Mouthwatering Photos and Recipes

Along with their social media accounts, Panera also has a content hub called “Panera at Home,” which ties into the dressings, bread, and packaged products they sell in grocery stores.


Unsurprisingly, the restaurant chain uses it as a place to post food-heavy content, including recipes you can make (with the help of said Panera at Home products, of course).


Every recipe on the site includes food photos that are guaranteed to make you hungry. Most have healthy additions (like the tomatoes you toss into the Tomato, Bacon Mac & Cheese) and the vast majority are easy enough to throw together in 15 minutes.


And, in keeping with their health-conscious branding, you can also sort the meal ideas by your dietary preferences or needs:


The food shots and close-ups that take up your entire screen always serve to remind you that Panera cares about food quality, including seasonal ingredients that are responsibly sourced, fresh, and, of course, clean.

Takeaway: Like Panera, make sure your content reflects and upholds your brand identity and values.

4. Their Email Campaigns Are Customer-Centric and Personalized

Panera’s brand content marketing doesn’t stop with blogs, recipes, social media posts, and lots of food photos. It also extends to their email newsletters, which, if you’re a member of MyPanera, are personalized and totally customer-centric.

For example, I’ve gotten a “heads-up” email about better ingredients coming to different sandwiches/bagels. They also send out emails announcing new menu items, limited-time ingredients, or seasonal dishes based on your tastes and what you’ve ordered in the past.


Why, yes, I do love bacon.

Also, note that this email is heavy on “you” language:

  • “Love bacon? You’ll want to take note.”
  • “If you’re a bacon fan…”
  • “Find your favorite”
  • You can’t go wrong with this sandwich classic…”

The emphasis is on my love for bacon, and my interest in these new menu items. It’s not about how great Panera is.

Who doesn’t love getting emails tailored to their tastes?

Takeaway: Always make your content marketing about the customer/your audience. It’s about their wants and needs, not what you’re selling.

5. Their Rewards Program Marketing Is All About Delight

On top of their email personalization, Panera aims to delight you, too.

Just take a look at the email you get when you sign up for their rewards program:


You instantly get a surprise reward to redeem in-store. (Could it have something to do with that giant cookie? ?) In addition, the welcome email also contains a promise of more emails “to help you make the most out of your MyPanera membership.”

As you rack up points with food purchases, Panera keeps surprising you with not only tasty rewards, but also cooking and baking tips, exclusive previews, recipes, or invitations to special events.

In short, the brand aims to delight you as well as make you feel warm and comfortable. And, judging by the number of sales that Panera Bread gets through their membership program (over 50% of their total sales, according to QSR), they more than succeed.

Takeaway: Always look for opportunities to make your audience feel special, delighted, or surprised. Give them the good stuff, and they’ll repay you with brand loyalty and trust.

Ready to Level-Up Your Own Brand Content Marketing?

If you want to hit the big leagues with your content marketing, think like Panera Bread.

They’re a brand that obviously focuses wholeheartedly on their customers and target audience. It’s always about serving the people, not about promoting themselves.

Furthermore, they have a solid differentiation factor that sets them apart from other fast-casual chains. In fact, it informs their entire brand image and content strategy. It underlies everything they do.

Finally, Panera practices consistency with content. Their blog posts, social posts, website copy, images, and branding are all seamless. The vibe, style, and message that comes across is always on-point and makes sense for Panera’s 100% clean philosophy.


Take inspiration, then try applying these principles to your own content.

Here’s to better, more effective content marketing just down the road ahead!?


brand content strategy

How Netflix Is Dominating With Their Brand Content Strategy

Over the years, slowly but surely, Netflix has morphed into an original content machine.

At the same time, they have honed their brand content strategy into an incredibly sharp tool.

One that literally mows down their competitors.

Look at their brand growth numbers:

  • In 2016, Netflix reached over 109 million streaming subscribers worldwide (that’s one gigantic list).
  • The company additionally raked in well over $8 billion in revenue during 2016.
  • And, according to Tech Crunch, over 75% of U.S. households subscribe to the streaming service.

Netflix’s success has been staggering. Some have even touted that the company is changing movie culture as we know it.

Think of one streaming service that competes nose-to-nose with Netflix. Which ones have the same amount of quality shows? Which ones offer original content at the same level?

There are competitors (like Hulu and Amazon), but let’s face it: Right now, there is no competition. Not for content, not for content delivery, and not for content promotion and engagement.

Nobody says “I’m going to stay home and watch Amazon” when asked about their plans for the night.

Instead, the following phrase has become part of the cultural consciousness: “I’m going to watch some Netflix.”

So, how do they do it when it comes to marketing?

You might be surprised to know that Netflix heavily relies on content marketing, and key brand engagement strategies that every content marketer can implement.

Read this guide — all the way through — and be inspired with your content efforts.

Let’s delve into Netflix’s brand content strategy.

netflix brand strategy

How a Blazing Brand Content Strategy is the Formula for Netflix’s Dominance

Netflix’s brand content strategy is obviously strong.

But why, exactly, does it work so well?

Let’s start with a look at their history.

The Early Beginnings: How Netflix Became an Original Creator

Let’s explore their history first, a bit.

Netflix used to merely offer up a buffet of movies and TV shows created by others. Now, they’ve got their own table groaning under the weight of shows cooked up in their very own kitchen.

For example, look how many of these shows have the Netflix logo stamped proudly above their titles:

Note the ratio of “Netflix originals” compared to the amount of off-brand content in these feeds. Every other option – more than every other option – is from Netflix’s own studio.

The thing is, nobody is complaining. People are eating up Netflix’s original shows and asking for more.

Some shows have reached beloved, cult-status territory. Think Stranger Things, House of Cards, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Others have been outright hits – Mindhunter, The Keepers, Orange Is the New Black, and The Crown come to mind.

6 Ways Netflix is Killing It With Their Brand Content Strategy

Now, let’s piece together how it all ties up into a neat bow (a red one, naturally).

1. Using the Data at Their Fingertips (Can You Say “Content Audit”?)

Netflix’s success didn’t come from lucky guesses or half-hearted research about what their audience wants.

Think about it: Before it started producing original content, the streaming service already had tons of data to work with from looking at their customers’ habits. This included how people watch TV and movies, what they like to watch, and when they prefer to watch.

This was undeniably a huge advantage for them.

A giant amount of information about user preferences was ready and waiting to be turned into audience-specific content gold.

They looked at what was winning with viewers, and they ran with it. This kind of content audit proved vital to the success of their fresh content ventures going forward. And, there’s no doubt looking at the data will continue to do so.

2. A Defined Target Audience

Let’s backtrack and look at Netflix’s current roster of new shows out right now.

You may notice a bit of a pattern appearing:

Are any of these shows for children or families? Would they appeal to the average teenager? What about seniors?

No, no, and no. Netflix quite obviously has their target audience cornered.

Over and over, they target their shows to the 18-49 age bracket. Of course, there are always exceptions, but most of these shows will only appeal to adults looking for smart plots, escapism, or nostalgic escapism (Stranger Things is arguably a love-letter to ‘80s movies, while Godless is a modern take on Westerns that still has all the hallmarks of the genre).

Here’s the key, though. They’re sitting at the intersection of knowing their target audience and understanding that audience’s preferences. What Frank Sinatra sang about love and marriage applies here, too. You can’t have one without the other.

Netflix knows their customer and what they want to see. (The aforementioned content audits/data analysis helps, undoubtedly.) The content they produce reflects that to a tee.

3. The Brand Content Strategy Crux: High-Quality Content Pushed Out Consistently

Part of Netflix’s success is the quality of their shows. They keep putting out binge-worthy, good stuff.

Just look at this list Thrillist put together of the top TV shows of 2017. Many lists like it are out there, but they all have one major similarity: Netflix is overwhelmingly the top media producer represented.

Others make appearances, like HBO, NBC, and FX, but Netflix beats them all for the highest number of shows on the list.

Out of 42 total, 11 are from Netflix. That’s over a quarter of the pie.

Their commitment to quality is part of the reason viewers come back for more. It’s additionally why Netflix is practically a household staple.

However, the way they deliver their content is of equal importance.

Strategic Release Dates

Instead of releasing new shows and new seasons of shows randomly, Netflix does it strategically.

Look at the release of Stranger Things 2. In the U.S., the streaming service dropped all episodes on October 27, which happened to fall on a Friday. For the show’s creepy, ‘80s-monster-movie-adventure vibe, the weekend before Halloween was a perfect launch date. Plus, to make things more perfect, the show’s action in season 2 took place around Halloween.

Don’t forget, the weekend is the best time to binge-watch a new season of your favorite show. (Around the release date, Time even proclaimed “Stranger Things 2 Is Your Halloween Binge.”) You can bet that Netflix banked on all that.

stranger things

It totally worked, too. During the first three days the episodes were available, the show pulled in over 15 million viewers from the target demographic, 18-49 year-olds.

This is a great example of how publishing your content at the right time can have dramatically awesome results.

I’ve tied content pieces to strategic publishing dates: this Thanksgiving, for example, we launched a holiday-specific infographic on how to map your content marketing strategy out like a perfected Thanksgiving feast. It had far more shares and traction (including in our Facebook group) than many of our non-seasonal pieces of content. So, this particular content strategy can work for any size business – not just a brand as big as Netflix.

The Netflix App: A Superior Viewing Platform

High-quality content served to viewers consistently and strategically is huge, but what else contributes to Netflix’s content dominance?

Answer: their viewing platform, including their apps across devices. Netflix delivers content only on their own turf, and they do it very well. Here’s what Venture Beat says about it:

“…it can take eons to scroll through a category of shows or movies on Amazon to see what’s there. In contrast, the Netflix app lets you glide through with nary a hiccup.”

The Verge, meanwhile, calls Netflix’s app “a TV channel programmed just for you” and “one unified TV interface to rule them all.”

The Netflix Tech Blog describes why the design works, but it really boils down to a few basic ingredients:

  • It’s clean, readable, and stylish
  • It’s tailored for users
  • It highlights the content, especially the original content
  • It helps you find what to watch with mini trailers, descriptions, and screenshots – which essentially sells the content

Netflix doesn’t just nail content, they also nail how that content is served to their customers.

On-Demand Streaming vs. Live Streaming

Another brand content strategy choice that works well for Netflix is staying true to their commitment to providing ad-free, on-demand streaming to their customers.

Many other streaming companies are looking at (or have already moved into) live streaming territory backed by ads, but not Netflix.

Many critics and competitors have questioned this decision, but the company has stubbornly stuck to its guns. It will continue to commit to quality rather than changing its core service just to compete. This is definitely a differentiator for them.

Forbes puts it this way:

Netflix is aiming to build a portfolio of movies which will attract and retain viewers and optimize the cost of licensing these movies in relation to the number of subscribers who watch them. The company has categorically stated that its focus is on ‘on-demand commercial free viewing rather than live, ad-supported programming.’ This should help Netflix to stand out from its competitors and attract more subscribers.”

4. A Distinct Brand Voice

Now that we’ve covered Netflix’s content creation strategy, we can move outward to how the company presents itself across the web and promotes its own content.

To start, Netflix has a distinct brand voice that fits with the main audience they serve and the content they create.

The humor is a little dry, a lot witty, and plenty snarky. The key, though, is that it’s consistent across all their social channels.

5. Seriously Engaging Content Promotion

Netflix also promotes its own content in a compelling way. They regularly post videos to Facebook with mini trailers of their newest or upcoming releases, like this one for Mindhunter season 2:

They also do video posts that show you ideas for what you can watch right now to get into the current season.

Here’s a good one with suggestions for what to watch with your family around the holidays (with their customary dry, witty brand voice adding that these films are “safe to watch with your parents”):

Note the engagement on these posts.

It’s always high:

But it definitely helps that Netflix engages back.

They tweet at and retweet their followers and celebrity fans:

They respond to comments:

And poll their followers:

The result is they’re a fun company to follow. They engage and promote in equal measure while retaining their brand voice, which helps boost their overall success.

6. Little (If Any) Traditional Advertising

One thing you may or may not have noticed about Netflix is its lack of advertising – at least, traditional advertising.

Can you even determine the last time you saw a Netflix ad for its services, or one of its shows?

That’s because it doesn’t run many of them, whether that means Facebook ads, TV commercials, or other spots.

Instead, the company mainly relies on content marketing to get the word out. Their subscribers grow, and their audiences binge new shows, based on high-quality content, social media engagement, and the resulting word-of-mouth.

In other words, it’s an organic brand content strategy.

AdAge even named Netflix their 2016 Marketer of the Year, and specifically attributed the company’s success to content marketing:

“Ultimately, Netflix’s content is its biggest marketing tool, said Michael Goodman, director of digital media strategies at Strategy Analytics. The company has managed to turn out enough high-quality content to satisfy subscribers and pique the interest of non-users.”

Netflix is one of the only major, global brands doing this, too. On top of that, it seems to be working quite well for them (which may be the understatement of the year).

The One-Two Punch for Netflix: A Killer Brand Content Strategy

Netflix seems to be doing everything right.

They have seamlessly transitioned from exclusively serving other people’s content to dishing up mostly their own.

Granted, they started small, and they had years to hone their game plan. (Remember when they rented DVDs out by mail?

Unbelievably, that service is still available.)

However, there is much to learn and take away from their current brand strategy. We can look at their successes, understand how they happened, and apply them to our own content marketing.

From their content, to how it’s delivered, to their social media presence and their brand voice – all of it is worth analyzing for inspiration.

If you’re smart, you’ll take note.

As for me, this blog is done…

And now I’m gonna go relax and watch some Netflix.

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brand content spotlight

Cool Brand Content Spotlight: 6 Ways Farmers Insurance Wins at Incredibly Great Content (in a Boring Industry)

There’s a brand out there that is able to seriously transform dull into delightful.

You’ve seen the commercials.

Actually, we all have.

From partying deer in your backyard pool to dogs performing water ballet after flooding the kitchen, Farmers Insurance has seriously catchy advertisements on TV.

Their commercials alone get you excited about their brand, and what is even more captivating is their tagline. “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”

It’s catchy, but also tells you that Farmers has been around for a while and that they are prepared to tackle just about any claim you have to give them.

That’s superbly brilliant advertising. They’re establishing their superiority, longevity, and expertise in a single sentence.

Did you know that they go well beyond that with their content marketing? From their blogs to helpful guides, all the way to social media, you’d be surprised at how word savvy the people behind Farmers Insurance really are.

(PSA: Krystal leads our brand content spotlight initiative (her post on Denny’s was marvelous). I just had to step in and add one of my own today :-))

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Insurance Isn’t Sexy, & Farmers Knows That: Here’s How They Turn that Around

Let’s face it; we all know that insurance is not a sexy or compelling topic.

People usually gag at the idea of having to hunt down a new insurer for anything. It’s one of those pesky things in life that we all need, but dread.

Yet, Farmers Insurance tackles the natural urge to run and makes their brand fun, engaging, and almost exciting to interact with.

They are all about creating compelling experiences in their content, from social media to YouTube to the articles and guides on their website.

That’s why I’m here highlighting them: because Farmers Insurance took a boring topic and made it fun. That’s skill.

6 Ways Farmer’s Insurance is Brilliant at Brand Presence (& Great Content)

Let’s look at six ways Farmer’s Insurance takes the cake with an incredible brand presence.

1. Farmer’s Kills it on Facebook

Are you following Farmers Insurance on Facebook? If not, you probably should.

They belt out tips on a weekly basis that are not regurgitating the same facts you have heard over and over.

For example, here’s this post about a hand-crank charger for your car’s battery this winter! I didn’t even know one existed.

The social media team behind them is excellent.

While they don’t have thousands of shares yet, if you follow them, you notice that they are quickly gaining momentum in followers and shares. That’s quite impressive for an insurer on Facebook.

2. Expert Tips and Articles to Guide Customers as well as Non-Customers

Farmers Insurance does not discriminate. Instead, they provide valuable information to all.

Neil Patel’s post on Content Marketing Institute highlighted how Farmers Insurance empowers customers with excellent information. He specifically focused on their Inner Circle content. Here is a resource center that is created to provide consumers with information (whether they are customers of Farmer’s or not).


Their information does not just focus on insurance-related topics. They also provide information about anything life throws at you.

Getting divorced?

Lost a pet?

The Inner Circle tackles your biggest hurdles in life and provides you with well-thought-out advice on how to cope.

3. They Create Easy-to-Digest Content

What is more impressive about Farmers Insurance content is how easy it is to read.

They include statistics and facts — showing that all their content is well-researched.

However, they break it down and make it easy to consume. When you walk away from a post, you feel educated and empowered.

Take this post on easing student debt:

See how they give you the facts first to help you understand the problem with student debt? They also show that they are more than aware of the issue student debt poses for consumers.

After they reel you in with the problem, they dive into their solutions. They don’t just offer a quick bullet list of solutions either. Instead, they provide real-life solutions that include savings plans, insurance policies, and even encouraging children to work.

4. They Touch on Real Pain Points & Get Relatable

What is brilliant about Farmers is the fact that they know how to touch on pain points in their content.

Pain points are one of those areas that are not easy to dive into. According to Henley wing at Buzzsumo, these topics are things people do not like to talk about, but if you can successfully bring them up, you get a conversation and following going for your benefit.

The content from Farmers touches on topics like death, divorce, debt, and failure. However, they take it in an approachable way and make it easy for customers to solve those sensitive issues.

More importantly, they establish themselves as the go-to resource for customers and non-customers alike.

5. They’re Simply Genius (Example: The Hall of Claims Content)

Okay, we’re back to the commercials.

Now, some of these claims sound outrageous, but if you visit the Hall of Claims on Farmers Insurance website, you are surprised to find out that these were real-life outrageous claims that their agents have handled and settled in the past.

That’s pure genius.

They take the outrageous, hilarious, real-life events a person suffers and makes it into a commercial.

Naturally, they embellish them a little for entertainment value, but they bank on the fact that life happens and they make it a reality in their pitch to consumers.

farmers insurance example

View all the Hall of Claims videos on their YouTube.

6. Let’s Not Forget: Farmers Establishes Their Capability to Cover Just About Anything

The entire purpose behind Farmers’ content is to show that they have experience.

They do this through their Inner Circle articles, YouTube videos, claims assessments online, and of course their hilarious commercials.

By employing actor J.K. Simmons, they were also able to tack on an infamous Hollywood voice and face to their branding — giving them even more credibility.

Let Farmers be Your Muse: Turn Your Boring Industry into Sexy Content

Are you in a boring industry? Take heart from Farmers Insurance.

Take what is the “norm” for your company and turn it into something exciting just like Farmers did with their off-the-wall insurance claims.

By thinking outside of the box, Farmers has revamped their brand and created a content marketing strategy that appeals to all ages, because they establish themselves as a company that gets it no matter what “it” is.

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brand content spotlight

Cool Brand Content Spotlight: How Denny’s Wins at Social Media

We need to talk about Denny’s.

I’m from New York City. Born here, raised here, still here, and will probably die here.

If you’re from the New York tri-state area, you know that diners are a dime a dozen. I’ve only been to one Denny’s, and I think it was in Oregon.

So why, might you ask, do I care about Denny’s?
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Cool Brand Content Spotlight: How Denny’s Wins at Social Media

That’s why Denny’s is unlike any other social media account I’ve ever encountered. They don’t actually promote any of their food on a regular basis. In fact, it’s a rare occurrence. They’ll throw in some tweets about… foodstuffs. Food that’s on their menu – sometimes.

Bottom line: it’s unpredictable. When I first came upon this social media presence a year ago, I had no idea how or why their marketing team had chosen this approach. That confusion was short-lived. Because a year later, I still think about Denny’s tweets and share them with my friends.

Where else can you get lowercase quips about The Walking Dead with a reference to food?

In some ways, it’s impossible to describe how these tweets make me feel. It’s akin to stumbling upon scrupulous spam like @Horse_ebooks:

Or an account like @dril:

Weeks later and I’m still laughing at that tweet.

This sort of social media posting is like a free-association experiment. I’ve no doubt in my mind that whoever runs their social media was around for the birth of You’re the Man Now, Dog and 4chan.


My people.

What Denny’s Does Right: Niche Content Audience-ing

That being said, Denny’s is clearly targeting Millennials and Gen X’ers. I’m still not sure which one of these I belong to; though for the sake of my ego I’ll go with Gen X. We were around for the birth of memes, both creating them and sharing them. Moot was a household name for us (I had the odd honor of working with him professionally many years later in Manhattan — touche!), and may or may not have (almost) failed out of college because of late night raids in World of Warcraft.

Denny’s knows this demographic. They know quirky memes and they embrace the randomness that certain niches of the internet also embrace, even desperately fall in love with. Who needs proper grammar and punctuation? Not Denny’s.

They win because they make your brain associate good feelings with their product. Let’s call it the Meme Sensation. It’s that instant gratification that you feel when you find a great meme. It makes you chuckle, makes you hit the little Retweet arrow, or copypaste it into your Facebook Messenger group chat.

In Denny’s case, their social media makes you want to join their business’ culture, not necessarily hook you in with their food. You’re investing in the brand, which in Denny’s’ case, is a weird world of puns and run on sentences. It’s how we (my generation, the just-turning-thirty-year-olds) talk when we’re really excited about something. You know, caps lock is cruise control for cool. So when you RT that weird tweet about eggs or how scared of Negan we all are, you associate it with Denny’s. It’s a brand new world of marketing, akin to getting jingles stuck in your mind – only this time, it’s something entirely different.

Denny’s embraces the randomness that certain niches of the internet embrace, even fall in love with. Who needs proper grammar and punctuation? Not Denny’s. And yet, it’s still highly unique and marketable.

What Denny’s Needs To Work On

Pet peeve alert! Despite how quotable Denny’s is, the fact is they don’t seem to engage with their customers. I talked about my great interaction with @PenguinRandomHouse in an earlier blog.

Interaction like this would only further cement their fans’ loyalty. We are all attention-starved on social media, after all.

For instance, Denny’s passed up a perfect opportunity to get involved in some great, free marketing. Widely popular webseries @GameGrumps (SHOUTOUT TO MY OLD FRIEND @egoraptor) engaged in exactly the kind of random quirky banter with a bunch of food chains’ social media, and Denny’s missed the mark and never replied:

This thread is absolute gold, by the way. I highly recommend checking it out.


Honestly? I don’t know if I’ll ever go out of my way to go to a Denny’s while I’m at home. But if I’m outside of NYC and need American comfort food, their tweets will definitely come to mind. They’re tapping into an unconscious need to laugh at random stuff that your parents wouldn’t even begin to understand. The stuff you find yourself remembering and laughing about on the toilet at 3am.

The difference? It’s connected to a company. And it’s 3am. Guess who’s open at 3am?

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