contrarian content marketer

How to Not Be Repetitive & Redundant: 5 Unique Ways to Stand Out & Be a Contrarian Content Marketer

If you’ve spent any time in content marketing, you’ve probably already seen this phenomenon: most of the content out there is simply a copy of something else.

While this might seem odd, in an industry that’s so focused on individuality, relevance, and value, it’s true.

Much of the written material in our niche has gone stale.

  • Instead of being groundbreaking, it’s repetitive.
  • Instead of being fresh and exciting, all it does is place a slightly new spin on an old topic.

Copycat content doesn’t do anything to further the industry, and some would argue that content marketing is stagnating because of it.

Today, more than 90% of B2B companies use content marketing in their digital strategies.

But while many of these cloned blogs are produced to populate platforms with content at a high quality level, others are written by wannabe, beginning bloggers who think it’s easy to model after industry leaders and become one.

Fortunately, being a dull content marketer doesn’t have to be your fate – just so long as you know how to avoid it. Today, we’re talking about the power of contrarian content marketing and how you can use authenticity, strategy and controversy to be a standout marketer. Keep reading!

how to be a contrarian content marketer

Diving Into Contrarian Content Marketing: The Secret of Controversial Content

Contrarian simply means having a controversial or standout opinion. From Dictionary.com:

contrarian

The adjective sense fits what we’re talking about today: going against current practice.

Quick, answer this question:

True or false:

Creating controversial content is the last thing you want to do as a marketer.

While you might be inclined to stay safe and believe the answer is true, you’d be surprised to learn it’s false. Today, people don’t talk about things that are old and familiar. If you create another “10 Shocking Ways to do the Thing Everyone Already Knows How To Do” post, you’re not going to break the internet.

Nobody is going to go to their grave with the name of your blog post on their lips unless you develop a real knack for identifying controversial, interesting, legitimately useful topics your customers love.

Today, controversial content causes customers to sit up and take notice.

When people are piqued emotionally by something, whether it makes them feel awe-struck, angry, happy, or inspired, they’re much more willing to share it with their friends, initiate conversations around it on social media, and comment on it, which leads to a greater discussion around your topic.

This isn’t just speculation.

In fact, there’s been lots of research done on the power of emotional content to start conversations.

According to a 2014 Buffer study, there’s a significant correlation between the number of views a blog post gets, and the number of positive feelings (like interest, trust, anticipation, and joy) it evokes.

You don’t have to create purely positive content to reap these benefits, though. The same study shows emotionally complex content and surprising material both earn the same results.

Here are just a few benefits of controversial content:

1. More Traffic. People love being surprised, and controversial content can draw in far more views than a run-of-the-mill post. What’s more, once you create a surprising post, people will come back again and again to read it, boosting your views even further.

2. More Links. Surprising material goes viral, so it’s in your best interest to create it. When people link to your material and share it with their friends, they’ll start conversations and build a community around your content.

3. Shares. Be they on social or in an email, people will share controversial content at a higher rate than boring content. This can drive more traffic back to your site and increase the number of conversions you earn.

4. Comments. Comments are one thing virtually all bloggers want and few get. Because controversial content becomes a hotbed for comments, it’s a great way to start a dialogue around a new or unfamiliar topic and keep it fresh.

What does a content marketing strategy look like that includes contrarian content marketing? Let’s delve in.

Contrarian Content Marketing & The Recipe for an Anything-but-Ordinary Content Presence

In the world of content marketing, being ordinary is one of the worst things that can happen to a marketer.

In addition to annoying your readers, being ordinary makes it exceedingly easy to get lost in the sea of other voices, shifting from a place of prominence and notice to a prison of solitude and minimal traffic.

Luckily, creating truly unique content is possible, you just need to follow a formula.

Our content marketing has brought in over 98% of our clients and sales. Here’s what we do to stand out in content marketing. (For the full version, see our case study.)

contrarian content marketer 1

1. Creating A Ton of Consistent, In-Depth, Long-Form Content

Consistency wins – and long-form, in-depth content wins. In addition to the fact that long-form content ranks better than short-form content, it’s also harder to create, which means few people are doing it. If you want to zig while everyone else zags, dedicate yourself to writing super-exclusive guides or crafting five word compilations that will remain valuable long past their publish date. Trust me, it’s worth the extra work. We do it all the time – and results happen.

More on this subject: An Argument for Long-Form Content

And by “a ton,” I mean a ton. Here’s what our content publishing schedule looks like, per our case study – volume is around 40-45 unique posts a month:

express writers publishing

2. Building Effective, Highly-Engaged Communities

Today, even the best content is only as good as the community you’re building day by day and sharing it with. The more you share your content and engage with real people on your social platforms, and the harder you work to create communities, the better you’ll do in terms of traffic, rankings, and audience conversation.

My team and I have been able to build several communities from scratch: an ongoing podcast subscriber community with my Write Podcast, and one of my favorite communities ever (if I do say so myself), our Twitter chat that happens every Tuesday at 10 AM CST, #ContentWritingChat. Rachel, our social media manager, creates and posts Twitter chat recaps, and I create time-stamped show notes for each episode of my podcast.

Both of these communities necessitate (and create, user-generated-style) content that is posted to our site weekly. We have a dedicated site category, like a blog, linked under the Learn tab to present these sections. Here’s the Write Podcast recap section:

write podcast

And our lively, engaged Twitter chat recap section (bonus: our participants LOVE getting mentioned in these recaps). Rachel curates these by selecting the best tweets shared during the hour, handwriting headers and comments around the tweets, and creating a custom recap weekly:

#contentwritingchat section

3. A Firm Consistency to the Investment of Standing Out

The most important aspect of creating a unique online presence is developing a commitment to standing out. This will require time, money and a strategy, but it will be worth it.

Think about this the same way you would developing your personal style: if you wanted to be regarded as a monster of fashion, the last thing you’d do is wear the same jeans and t-shirts as everyone else. Instead, you’d swim upstream, try things other people weren’t trying, and take risks. This is exactly what you need to do with your content. When you develop a commitment to standing out, it becomes easier to break the mold. (Some of the best, highest-performing content I’ve written has had controversial titles or a firm opinion in the industry, like this one: Stop Selling, Start Helping.)

For another great example of content marketing, check out what WordStream does, which follows a simple (but not-so-simple) pattern of:

  • Create long-form content
  • Promote your content online
  • Commit to being different

5 Unique, Creative Tips for Developing Standout Content Marketing Ideas

Let’s face it: the content sea is 90% crap.

If you want to be a unique blogger, you first need to come up with unique, salient ideas that deviate from everything else that’s out there.

Luckily, this is easier than you might think. Here are your top five tips:

1. Dig Deeper Into Social & Mine for Topics

Social has long since been used as a tool for topic mining and research. Trending hashtags, content shared by influencers, and viral posts are all easy enough to find and, historically, have served as the bedrock upon which so many marketers base their content strategies.

If you want to stand out, though, you’ve got to go deeper.

This means using social platforms like Twitter and Facebook and spending some time each day doing a scan of what’s popular on these platforms and what’s missing. Feel free to use viral content as a jumping-off point here, just look at it differently.

It’s a great idea to see what your audience is already reading. From there, get ideas of how you can do content they already love, but better. Scroll through the social feeds of the people in your buyer persona. Don’t have a persona? Check out our guide here.

Instead of seeking to clone it, read it in search of what it doesn’t have. Is there a question left unanswered or a demographic left unconsidered? If so, jump on it and be the first in your industry to cover it.

2. Develop a Process for Qualification

When you’re on the hunt for the new and noteworthy, it’ll benefit you to create an elimination process to decide which topics are worth writing on, and which veer into the familiar a bit too much. Keep in mind that few brands can afford to be controversial all the time. Not only is that exhausting, but it’s very likely to push customers away and leave you reader-less.

That said, ask yourself these questions before deciding to cover a contrary topic in your industry:

  • Will It Be Shocking To My Target Audience? If you’re going to be controversial, you’ll still need to do it in a way that resonates with your target audience. If the topic isn’t interesting or useful to them, look for something else.
  • Is There More To The Story That You Can Flesh Out? If so, that’s a great place to start. In addition to taking a new approach, you can add details, insight, and perspective that nobody else in your industry offers. This is a fantastic way to carve out a spot for yourself as a leader with fresh ideas.
  • Is The Story Too One-Sided? If so, it’s a good time to strike. People crave perspective, and offering some material that delves into another side of the story, or a contrary viewpoint, is a fantastic way to appeal to your target audience and develop a reputation as a contrarian leader.
  • Is Your Perspective Unique? Even if the rest of your industry agrees with a consensus, you might have an experience or background that provides you with another viewpoint. If this is true, now is a great time to share it. A highly personal viewpoint can add depth to your company and help you snag more of the clients you deserve.

3. Get Visual

If you’re going to write content, long-form is the way to go. When it comes to content in general, though, visual material is becoming more and more in-demand. With this in mind, one of the best ways to stand out is to create custom infographics that visualize data.

In addition to requiring some extra leg work (again – most people won’t do this, which makes the field less crowded), infographics are ideal for an on-the-go audience and can help people synthesize complex ideas in simple ways.

4. Make it Intellectual

When it comes to controversial content, there are some things you don’t want to do. The primary thing is to be overly combative, rude, or crude. Don’t drag anyone else down to prove that you’re right, or be too diminishing to another brand or person.

Instead, seek to be civil, informed, and intellectual. That last part is critical. Today, people crave information, and backing your contrarian claims up with solid data, good information, and unique stats will help you stand out as a leader rather than a troll.

If you can, pull stats from your own experience or data. This will help back up your view and position you as a primary source for unique information.

5. Watch (Select) Influencers

Again, you don’t want to hang on to an influencer’s every move, and then copy it in your own content. This is just a slightly more fine-tuned version of creating copy content, albeit from a great source. You can, however, learn from influencers. After you find a few influencers you love in your industry, follow their content and watch what they’re doing differently. Are they using sources you’re not familiar with? Maybe they’re monitoring social media in a way that allows them to jump on hot new topics, or maybe they’re interacting with the community via platforms like Quora or chat boards in ways that allow them to pinpoint controversial topics and get there first. Whatever the case may be, you can learn a lot from following their lead.

3 Examples of Great Contrarian Content

To close this out, let’s look at a few examples of great contrarian content in its natural habitat:

1. Rand Fishkin’s “Why Good Unique Content Needs to Die” Video Post

In this epic post, Fishkin CALLS OUT mediocre content and proposes a shocking alternative: creating content that’s ten times better than anything else out there. The post earned over 9,000 shares and subsequently garnered dozens of offshoot posts by all kinds of marketers calling Rand their hero and making the new phrase, 10x content, an actual definition. Rand = won the internet.

2. Matt Cutts’ “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging”

In 2014, a time when everyone was touting the virtues of guest blogging, Matt Cutts stuck a fork in it with this contrarian post. Complete with a shocking title and the indication that a brave new world cometh, this post earned 657 comments.

3. “Numbers Don’t Matter, Influence Does,” by Gary Vaynerchuk

When it comes to contrarian material, few would dispute that Gary Vaynerchuk is the master. This post lays waste to the importance people place on impressions and followers on social media, and insists that the impression a marketer leaves and the depth of the interactions he or she creates are drastically more important.

Bringing Contrarian Marketing Into Your Digital Strategy

Contrarian marketing is the one thing that can truly help your brand stand out and make a name for itself.

By incorporating these five tips into your digital strategy, you can develop a more unique content presence.

Time to stop floating on the digital sea of content crap. 😉

 

Visit our Content Shop to find contrarian content marketers and writers who can help you enjoy a truly unique online presence through standout content.

art of copy express writers

john deere and content marketing

Was John Deere the First Proponent of Content Marketing? The Story that Started in 1895

Quick: what do you think of when you hear John Deere?

If you answered “big green tractors,” you’re on the same page as most people.

If you answered “content marketing genius,” you’re privy to a rare secret.

The truth is that John Deere was nearly as good at content marketing as it was at tractors, and marketers looking for some inspiration on how to make their marketing strategies better need only to look backward about 120 years.

We’re here on the Write Blog today, sharing everything you wanted to know about this intriguing story. Read on to learn more!

john deere

John Deere: The Marketing Prowess You Probably Didn’t Know About

John Deere is a well-known, household-name farming equipment company that was originally founded in 1837. While the brand was well known within its community in the years between the 1830’s-90’s, John Deere took a big step in the late 1890’s that ultimately defined the trajectory of the brand: it started a news magazine.

This news magazine was called The Furrow, and it was meant to cater to farmers with “practical information devoted to the interests of better farming.”

Here is one of the earliest recorded images of The Furrow back in the 1890s:

john deere the furrow

The look evolved throughout the years, reaching an incredible peak in 1912, with over 4 million consumers avidly reading its pages. It’s still being published today, reaching about 2 million readers worldwide, in an ultimate testament to the power of incredible content. 

Could this be the longest form of content marketing that’s been around? It very well could be.

The magazine was distributed to customers at no charge, and the only sign that it came from a John Deere dealer was a small inscription on the cover that recounted that the magazine had been sent “with compliments of your John Deere Dealer.”

With the exception of the small inscription, however, there was virtually no indication that John Deere published the magazine. The company ran no ads, and the articles included within the little magazine didn’t focus on John Deere’s products. Instead, they covered topics ranging from how best to address various farming challenges to trends in the agricultural community as a whole.

In 1912, at the peak of The Furrow’s subscriber quantity, John Deere actually purchased its first electric printing press to publish the successful magazine. It could print in two colors and publish 50,000 copies in eight hours: and back then, the cost amounted to what would be $850,000 in 2013 dollars. What an investment!

Look at the artwork on this edition:

the furrow

And the classic look of the 1960 spread:

furrow 1960

Here’s a look at a recent 2015 edition:

furrow

The magazine was a huge success and, today, it stands as one of the earliest and most durable examples of great content marketing. The Furrow still exists today and has since also been digitized into an e-version.

What John Deere Got Right

John Deere knew something very early on that many marketers are still struggling to learn: the best content is informative content.

Suggested Related Read on the Write Blog: Stop Selling, Start Helping

Even in the late 1890’s, customers didn’t want big, splashy advertisements and “listen to how great our company is” rhetoric. Instead, they wanted helpful information that would assist them in addressing their problems.

The Furrow focused entirely on editorial content meant to be informative and helpful. Pieces ranged from scientific breakdowns to funny editorial pieces about the difficulties of living a farmer’s life. Throughout the magazine, John Deere’s name was interspersed on a rare occasion, encouraging customers to build an association between the helpful, informative content and the John Deere brand itself.

Successful content today is no different than successful content back then.

Here are the top six things that John Deere got right in The Furrow:

  1. The content was engaging
  2. The content was valuable
  3. The content shared farming culture and information
  4. The content built brand loyalty
  5. The content positioned John Deere as a passionate, engaged brand
  6. The content developed relationships between farmers and John Deere

Today, marketers who want to increase the effectiveness of their content marketing need only to look back to The Furrow and take some lessons from John Deere.

10 Content Marketing Lessons You Can Learn From John Deere

Despite the fact that John Deere was founded more than one hundred years ago, the company’s first big content marketing move still has a lot to teach today’s modern marketers. Here are the top 10 lessons to take from The Furrow:

1. Address pain points

Before The Furrow hit the scene, farmers didn’t have an organized place to see their challenges, hopes, and community-specific knowledge reflected at them. What The Furrow got so right from the get-go is that it addressed farmers’ pain points.

By offering actionable information about how to cope with difficult farming situations and address various issues in the community, The Furrow proved it understood its audience. What’s more, it offered truly valuable information that increased the quality of their lives.

To bring this into your content, one of the most critical things you can do is address your customers’ pain points. While this requires a background of plenty of target audience research and exploration, learning to hone in on your readers’ difficulties is one of the most active steps you can take toward great content marketing.

2. Focus on informative content

The Furrow did something else that no magazine before it had done – it brought scientific, editorial content to consumers, and it didn’t try to sell them on anything in the process. While the magazine was published by John Deere, a casual passerby couldn’t have picked up on that, and this was one of the magazine’s greatest strengths.

By focusing first on informing consumers and leaving all of the sales pitches and product placement out of the equation, John Deere created a brand of trust, loyalty, and mutual benefit with its consumers.

3. Build a community

In addition to farming insights and instructional content, The Furrow also offered peer insights. By building a farming community that focused on the magazine itself, The Furrow managed to establish itself as a meeting place for information, advice, and relief from the stressors of everyday farm life.

In your content, building a community is a critical step toward good marketing. If you can create a community around your brand voice, content, and material, you know you’ll always have a group to rely on. This, in turn, allows you to leverage the support of your community whenever you need it, which makes for better marketing and a more efficient content strategy.

4. Offer actionable content

One of the things The Furrow did beautifully was that it aimed to teach farmers to run better businesses. By providing tips on more efficient means of harvest and ways to circumvent various difficulties in the industry, The Furrow managed to provide valuable, actionable content to farmers who were hungry for useful information.

5. Be adaptable

Since The Furrow began its publishing debut more than one hundred years ago, it’s continued to adapt to the landscape around it. Today, The Furrow is available online, on social media, and in digital, tablet formats.

Despite the fact that the magazine has its roots in a very different time than we’re living in now, it’s continued to adapt according to the environment around it. This, in turn, has allowed it to be flexible and to continue delivering valuable content to consumers wherever they are at a given moment.

6. Find your niche and dominate it

The Furrow did beautifully at finding a niche with its consumers and dominating it at every turn. By consistently offering helpful, actionable, relevant advice on industry challenges, it managed to create a community of buzz and value around its content.

The other unique virtue of defining a niche is that doing so allows you to cater specifically to a unique group of people. Establishing a niche creates more targeted content, more practical value, and a stronger brand voice – all of which are ideal for ensuring that your content serves its ideal purpose.

7. Use your content to strengthen relationships

The Furrow built two communities – both internal and external. On one hand, the editorial content within the magazine strengthened the relationships of the farming community. On the other hand, however, it was ideal for strengthening the relationship between consumers and the John Deere brand.

By focusing on providing value for consumers first and integrating products much later, John Deere managed to use The Furrow to strengthen its relationships with customers.

8. Use your content to display your passion

Why should people read your content? Are you exceedingly passionate about your topic? Do you know something that nobody else does? What value can you offer? By using your content to display and find a home for your passion – be it farming or SEO – it’s easy to create a group of passionate, like-minded followers who want to engage with you.

With millions of pieces of content shared every day, the only way for content marketing to succeed in today’s environment is to be unique. Passionate content is unique content and using your platform to market things you truly connect with and care about is one of the best possible ways to improve your marketing instantly.

9. Be consistent

If there’s one thing The Furrow is, it’s consistent. With more than 120 years of publishing prowess, it’s easy to look at this magazine and understand the value of being predictable. While the magazine has always been niche-focused and specific, it’s also always showed up when it’s supposed to – providing value to readers on a regular and predictable basis.

This, in turn, helps build consumer trust in the magazine while also ensuring that The Furrow remains a helpful tool for boosting John Deere’s brand voice.

While The Furrow has been required to adapt to various distribution channels and consumer preferences over the years, it’s still a regular, predictable publication that serves readers well.

10. Use your content to establish yourself as the expert in your industry

When it came time to build a dynasty, John Deere didn’t use The Furrow to offer “10 Shocking Secrets of Today’s Biggest Celebrities.”

This wouldn’t have gotten the brand anywhere and, if this had been their approach, we wouldn’t still be talking about the magazine today. Instead, John Deere used its new content platform to tie back to the unique knowledge they were capable of distributing.

While even back in the 1800s there were plenty of expert farmers and ranchers, what The Furrow did well is that it compiled that expert knowledge all into one place. This, in turn, allowed them to showcase their brand while also building a community of dedicated and like-minded followers.

The 3 Commandments of Great Content Marketing

1. Value first

Through and through, it’s easy to see where John Deere used content as a vehicle for value rather than sales pitches. In fact, it’s arguable that putting the value of their content first was the key factor that allowed them to succeed to the level they have.

By avoiding pushing sales pitches onto their consumers, John Deere managed to create a unique, value-based magazine that didn’t alienate people or come off as overly sales-y. This, in turn, has contributed to their longevity.

2. Own the places you publish

While things like social media are fantastic, having a content distribution platform that is entirely in your control is a critical factor in success.

When John Deere began publishing The Furrow, it did two things right: first, it created an environment in which the publishing channel was also owned by the company, thus creating an atmosphere of freedom and authority.

Secondly, it allows John Deere to take full advantage of all of the data and relationships mined from said distribution platform. By cutting out the middleman and speaking directly to consumers, John Deere created a platform for strong content from the get-go.

3. Be the expert people want to talk to

Expertise is about a lot more than just knowledge. Expertise is also about approachability, friendliness, and accessibility. By distributing world-class information and tying it in with phrases like “your friendly John Deere dealer,” The Furrow managed to be all of these things at once. In content marketing, it’s critical to ensure that you’re approachable and authoritative since one can’t exist without the other.

John Deere – The Content Marketing Expert You Never Expected

John Deere is more than just big green tractors –the brand is also a powerhouse of content marketing know-how that dates back more than one hundred years. Today, it’s easy to see where John Deere’s magazine, The Furrow, went right with marketing.

By paying attention to the lessons the magazine has to offer, it’s easy to apply these tricks to your content marketing and boost its effectiveness today.

authority content

content marketing trends

11 Content Marketing Trends to Keep An Eye On

Listen.

Do you hear that?

That’s the sound of the first quarter of 2017 whizzing past you, rapidly disappearing into the rearview mirror.

Crazy, right?!

Once time is gone, you can’t get it back.

So: are you on track with your goals? Are you working on your content strategy? Do you have a content strategy?

The first three months of the year are over and we’re into the thick of 2017. If you’ve gone off course with your content, or you’re wondering where to go and what to do next, this list of content marketing trends will help to inspire you and get you into the groove of where content is headed.

Here, then, in no particular order, are 11 of the hottest content marketing trends you need to pay attention to this year. Let’s go…

content marketing

11 Content Marketing Trends Set to Explode

1. Specificity Rules

If there is one immutable law of markets, it is that they change. Markets move, they drift and shift, they fragment, and they wither and die.

And this happens faster today than ever before.

To keep up with the whims of the market and to stay relevant (a topic we will explore in a moment) to your target audience, you have to be flexible. More than that, you have to get specific.

In fact, the experts agree that we’re all going have to get way more niche with our content marketing if we expect to be successful in 2017.

Businesses, especially those that sell mass market products, are already starting to focus their product and service offerings to cater to various segments of an increasingly fragmented marketplace. But this has still yet to translate into their content marketing.

And yet there’s huge opportunity here.

No matter what business you are in, there is without a doubt a specific need, want or solution you are addressing too broadly with your content.

Imagine the impact of creating content so perfectly matched to your audience’s wants and needs that your business looks like the only option for solving their particular problems.

Things like “The Single Soccer Mom’s Guide to Healthy Kid-Friendly Snacks” or “The Social Media Manual for Gourmet Vegan Restaurants.” OK, those examples are really niche, but you get what I mean.

Before you create your next blog post, video, or consumer guide, look at the audience you are serving. How can you tailor what you are already doing to perfectly match the segments of the market you’re already serving with intensely specific solutions?

2. Relevancy is on the Rise

Relevancy is closely tied to specificity. The more specific the solution is to my problem or the answer is to my question, the more relevant, right?

Leaving aside for the moment that fact that Google loves relevant content, if you can demonstrate relevancy to your market, you win. And on a few levels, all at the same time.

Here’s what I mean:

Publishing relevant content shows not only that you have something to say that is ideally matched to help your target audience, but also that you are the company or person best positioned to be delivering that information.

Relevancy is all about capturing attention. Making your content as relevant as possible gives you the authority to hold that attention. And as we move further along into 2017, it is the battle for attention that you want to win.

However, there are some issues with making your content more relevant.

Firstly, creating relevant content can be challenging, especially if you have a regular publishing schedule to stick to. Being relevant implies being somewhat up to date all the time, which isn’t always possible when you are creating engaging content, especially when you are trying to create evergreen content assets.

Secondly, it is more difficult to create relevant content that is also evergreen. You may be forced to update your pillar content every year, or even twice a year depending on your industry.

This is where having a clear content strategy becomes indispensable. Creating more “bite-sized” content which is narrowly focused, up-to-date and relevant is an ideal way to supplement your more in-depth authority pieces and pillar content.

3. Content Hubs Are the Future of Content Marketing

It goes without saying that to make your content marketing successful these days you need a strategy. But as content marketing matures and evolves, it is moving more and more in the direction of a few major players dominating a niche.

Think about Adobe’s CMO.com in the B2B space. Or Moz Blog for SEO. Or Hubspot for inbound marketing. These branded content hubs have become highly influential authority sites in their particular niches. And if you’re trying to break into one of these in 2017, good luck, because these big guys have the market locked up.

There are many benefits of a content hub, but one of the most powerful is having all of your most influential, focused content in one place, which contributes to higher online visibility.

You also become attractive to other authors and influencers in your niche, and your content becomes varied and multilayered, which adds variety and credibility to your site. In fact, 63% of online users view blogs with multiple contributors to be more credible.

In some cases – although this very much depends on your positioning in your market – you can even control and shape the conversation going on in your niche, having the smaller sites link to you and reference your work as a trusted source of information.

Another big benefit is that Google loves sites with lots of pages to index, so if you’re going after sustained traffic, building a content hub is definitely the way to go in the long term.

There is, however, one significant barrier to success when creating a content hub, and that is, of course, actually being influential.

Simply having lots of content on your site is not enough. For that you need a solid content promotion strategy, which gets us on to our next trend.

4. Less is More, but Quality First

There is more content being published now than ever before, around 2 million posts every day.

To be honest, most of these are vanilla that don’t add much value to any kind of conversation.

It has become common advice that to stand out from all this noise all you have to do is publish better, longer, more in-depth content pieces.

In fact, in 2015 Rand Fishkin, the wizard of Moz, spoke about needing to create “10X content” to stay at the top of search engine rankings, citing that the only the top 10% of content wins, collecting all the social shares and links.

But this presents us with a problem too.

Creating high quality content is expensive, and the challenge of proving positive ROI to get executive buy-in is real.

So what’s the solution?

First off, there’s no getting away from producing high quality content. It’s the price to play these days, and it’s a very good thing.

But more than a content production strategy, marketers need a well-thought out content promotion strategy. If you’re going to spend the money to create quality content, you want to get as much mileage out of it as possible.

This not only means repurposing and republishing, but also engaging in other communities and seeking out up and coming influencers to promote your work.

It’s time to get creative, because the competition’s only going to get tougher.

5. Social Media is Going Live

One of the most intriguing trends over the past two years is the advent of new innovations in social media platforms.

Social media giants have been merging with agile up-and-comers, like Facebook acquiring WhatsApp and old-guard tech companies getting into the social media game, like Microsoft buying LinkedIn.

This transfer of the buying power of millions of new users is unprecedented and represents an entirely innovative method of cost-efficient customer acquisition.

Almost all major social media platforms have also begun to integrate live streaming video and the “Stories” content format. Instagram and Snapchat Stories, as well as Facebook Messenger Day are redefining how consumers interact with and share social content, promoting visual communication and “jumpstart” chat threads.

Facebook in particular, which launched Messenger Day in early March 2017, is pushing its way into the popular Stories format, as the increasing number of mobile users drives the potential of monetizing this new form of social media.

The potential for using Stories apps like Messenger Day for marketing has already been picked up by some early adopters, but its effectiveness has yet to be proven out.

Where it may prove effective is in the realm of influencer marketing, where influencers could promote products, services and events through this new dynamic social channel.

The development of this trend is definitely one to watch throughout 2017.

6. The Year of Video Marketing

Content marketing influencers have put this trend high on lists of predictions for the future of the industry for the past two years. And it seems that 2017 is truly the year of video.

In fact, according to HubSpot:

  • Watching videos accounts for one third of all online activity.
  • Video is driving engagement and sales, as 90% of customers report that product videos helped them make a buying decision.
  • Mobile video consumption is growing by 100% every year, according to YouTube.
  • 87% of online marketers have already integrated video content into their content marketing strategies.

What’s more, earlier this year it was predicted that by 2019, video marketing will dominate 80% of all internet traffic.

Embedding video on website landing pages already increases SEO, because Google owns YouTube, and social platforms like Facebook are optimizing feeds for video to increase overall viewing experience.

If you haven’t yet, 2017 is the year to increase your video marketing budget and start getting visual.

7. The Slow Death of Advertising is Speeding Up 

While traditional advertising will probably never disappear completely, branded content, social proof and the effect of influencer marketing is giving advertising a run for its money.

In fact, 72% of marketers currently think that branded content is more effective than magazine ads (source: Custom Content Council), and according to Google Trends, consumer interest in print advertising has declined rapidly since 2014.

Traditional advertising is historically a form of mass communication, and as I discussed before, what consumers are looking for these days is a source of information they can trust to make buying decisions, and crave ways to engage in some kind of conversation about the problems they’re facing.

Not only are consumers more demanding in how they want to be communicated to, this trend also refers back to the points about relevancy and specificity. If you don’t have those two things as the core of your strategy today, your content marketing is going the way of the dodo.

8. Content Marketing Integration with Sales 

While sales and marketing departments are still very much completely independent functions in many businesses, content marketing is helping to bridge the gap.

In fact, almost 50% of marketers are looking more closely at the sales process, or what has become known as the customer journey, and have been learning to align their content strategy to map each stage of this crucial process.

Giving customers a “high touch” experience at every step of the buyer’s journey, through the use of social media, newsletters, articles and webinars, is what is really driving engagement, retention, and ultimately sales.

9. Data and Original Research

This trend is related to the idea of publishing less, but better quality content.

Original research also has high authority value as it gives you a genuine way to stand out from the crowd. Instead of publishing “me too” posts about data 50 other bloggers in your niche have already covered, you position yourself as the source of meaningful and valuable insight into your market.

Conducting customer surveys, influencer outreach, reader polls, etc. gives you a wealth of up-to-date, valuable information you can turn into all kinds of content assets, which will then also attract backlinks from other marketers in your niche. HubSpot is an excellent example of this.

10. No Time for Bad Design

As the internet in general becomes more saturated by visuals, and as websites in particular become optimized for conversions (including mobile viewing), consumers are becoming more accustomed to a user-friendly experience when visiting a site.

Bad design equals poor user experience. And, in fact, delivering the best user experience on all browsers to promote better engagement is on the shortlist of modern SEO best practices.

So, if your website or content is driving people away because of bad design, you need to fix it – quick.

With the wealth of affordable professional web development services, as well as low-cost options like WordPress themes, there is no excuse for poor website design anymore.

The same goes for your content.

More and more users are being trained to expect good design and a pleasant experience when consuming content.

So, if you are committed to creating high quality content, the way it is packaged and delivered needs to be high quality too if you want to stay competitive.

11. Being an Authority and Influencer is More Important Than Ever

I’ve touched on this trend a few times throughout this post, but I left it for last because it is arguably the most impactful trend for the future of content marketing.

I’ve already mentioned making high quality content a priority, building towards having a content hub, the importance of original research, having cool new social media toys to play with, getting busy with video, but the deciding factor which trumps all of these is how much influence you have in your market.

A group of industry experts was interviewed recently and they revealed two crucial shifts that are happening in the world of content marketing right now.

The first is that content marketing is going to be a lot harder to do successfully from now on. The second is that it is authorities and influencers who will grab the majority of attention in any niche.

What this means for you and me is that not only do we have to up our game across the board, but content promotion and influencer outreach is going to become a far more critical component of our content marketing strategies than it has ever been before.

Conclusion

Those are the major trends I’ve been looking at over the past few months. Is there anything I left out which you feel is the next big thing for the future of content marketing?

What parts of your strategy can you adjust or add to that will make your marketing more relevant in 2017?

Let me know in the comments!

visuals in your content

10 Ways to Boost Your Copy With Engaging Visuals in Your Content

Quick: what’s black and white and sad all over?

Online copy with no visuals!

Today, great visuals are everything to engaging, readable online copy.

In addition to making your material more exciting, they also help pull readers through your text, making it easier for them to engage with and connect to it.

Without visuals, content is just a sad shell of text, and won’t make it far.

Here’s everything you need to know about why visuals matter and how to use them in your online content.

visuals

What the Numbers Say About Visuals in Your Content

When you were a kid, you loved books with pictures, right?

The illustrations just added something to the text, and you enjoyed learning about new worlds and people through colorful images.

Today, it’s no different.

While it might be true that we’re older and that the visuals in question now aren’t so much illustrations as they are graphics, screenshots, and infographics, visuals are just as important as they’ve always been, and adding them into your marketing copy can take it from “blah” to memorable.

The reason is simple: visuals tell a story, and that story helps enhance your online content. Without visuals, the words must stand on their own, which makes your material less compelling and exciting for readers.

Here are some visual marketing statistics on the power of visuals in your content:

visual content stats infographic

  • 37% of marketers report that visuals are their most valuable marketing asset, second only to their blogs
  • 74% of social media marketers add visuals to their social updates
  • While people only remember 10% of the information they hear, they remember an average of 65% of what they see, making visual information the way to go for companies that want to encourage brand recall.
  • In 2016, 51% of B2B marketers were prioritizing the creation of visual assets.
  • By the end of this year, experts are predicting that 74% of all web traffic will be dedicated to video content.
  • Infographics earn 3x as many likes and shares on social media as any other type of content.
  • Tweets that have images in them receive 150% more retweets than text-only updates.
  • Facebook posts with images earn 2.3x the engagement of text-only posts.

With these numbers in mind, it’s clear that visual marketing is here to stay, and that engaging in it can be the most productive thing you do this year.

10 Ways to Use Visuals in Your Online Copy

New to the world of visual marketing? Don’t fear. Start by using these top ten visual tricks:

1. Add Images To Every 200-300 Words in Your Blogs & Create Social Shareworthy Inset Images

This is one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to incorporate images into every blog you publish.

But don’t just “add images.” Here are some rules of thumb:

  • Add a screenshot per every 200-300 words. By nature, the brain responds more to visual stimulation than text, so you’ll want to break up your content with a lot of visuals. Screenshots work well to illustrate points.
  • Design (or have designed) a beautiful blog topic image, sized for optimal social sharing. Things to consider: theme it to the color code of your logo, have a custom artist design it.

Here’s an example of a couple creative blog headers our designer has put together that gained a good deal of traction on social media:

love is in the air

header blog

Need custom image creations? We can help!

2. Create A Custom Infographic

Check out this crazy stat about infographics:

infographics-liked-and-shared-more

Source: MassPlanner

One of the most valuable things you can do for your marketing is to create a custom infographic. It’s seriously worth the investment. We create one every quarter (sometimes more): and to date, this content type has been our most-shared.

Why Blog 2017 Content Marketing Resolutions header cut

The header of one of our many infographics, 10 Blogging Resolutions.

Unique because it’s designed specifically for your company and helpful because it addresses the concerns and interests of your target audience, this form of visual content will help to differentiate your brand online and help you stand out from the crowd.

Infographics perform better on social media than other types of content, so you’ll earn a solid ROI from your infographic.

If you’re looking for a team to create infographics for you, look no further than our creative infographic services!

3. Create Custom Blog Headers that are Themed In Your Colors

Custom blog headers can give your content a unique look and help your blog feel more cohesive. This is the “featured image” section of your blog.

Ideal for brands of all shapes and sizes, custom blog headers are some of the most useful things you can create for your brand.

For best results, create headers that use your company’s colors, utilize your logo, and incorporate a streamlined and cohesive design. Check out how we do this for our content on The Write Blog. The end “blog roll” look is visually engaging:

blog roll

We’ve been experimenting with drawing “visual story steps,” too.

As of late 2016, we added unique, storytelling imagery to our content shop, which is a new variation in our visual products. Here are a few examples from our Process Page, to give you an idea of what these look like.

process

4. Screenshot Everything that Has a Visual Explanation

If you’re writing a tutorial, how-to, or instructive post, you need to be including screenshots. Visually explain what you’re talking about.

Screenshots help your readers understand what you’re saying and synthesize your post accordingly. This, in turn, makes it easier for them to connect with your content and absorb the meaning of your posts.

It also helps your content be more useful to your readers. Be sure that if you’re going to include a screenshot, to add one that’s in-depth and detailed, not a broad overview that won’t help your readers or that they could just as easily find on their own.

One tool I love is the Full Page Screen Capture, in the Chrome app store (free). I use Chrome daily, and to get a full-length screenshot without zooming and messing up the focus, the Full Page Screen Capture is my hidden weapon.

screen capture app

5. Add or Create A Meme

Memes are a great way to add some comic relief to your posts. Break up a long, detailed section with a meme or add it to offset a funny point you’re making.

meme

There are dozens of free online meme generators to choose from, so you can always make your own. Just be sure that your memes, like all your other visual assets, are relevant, high-quality, and targeted to your audience. Otherwise, they won’t perform as well as you’d like them to.

6. Include Process Photos

If you’re in an industry where you’re showcasing tutorials or telling your customers how you make something, include process photos to help them go one step deeper.

Designed to allow your readers to connect more firmly to your material, these images are ideal for articles that tell people how to do things like how to change a bike chain or add oil to their car. The more images, the better for these posts.

Here’s a WikiHow article that does a nice job of this:

Wikihow Article

7. Show What Not to Do

While you can tell your readers all day long what they shouldn’t be doing, an image can be the best way to show them. Ideal for any topic that’s in-depth or complex, a “what not to do” photo can drive the point home more efficiently than a simple explanation.

8. Create Custom Videos

Videos are some of the highest-converting types of visual content out there.

While they’ll work in virtually any environment, from social media to your home page, they can revolutionize your email marketing and landing pages.

For best results, hire a company to create a custom video for you, since doing it yourself involves a somewhat steep learning curve. Once you’ve got a video you’re proud of, add it to your landing page, or email campaign. Of course, you can also share videos across social media and on your blog.

The meditation app Headspace does a great job of including relevant, high-quality videos all across its website and social media profiles. Here’s an example of one that’s gotten more than 700,000 views:

9. Try A Live Stream

Feeling adventurous with video? Try a live stream. Ideal for anyone who wants to tap into the rapidly growing trend of on-the-go video, live stream videos are the perfect way to make your online content more exciting and personalized for your readers.

You can live stream with Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and Periscope, to name a few channels.

10. Create Galleries

Galleries are a unique way to use visuals and can be a smart way to showcase your work or introduce your employees on your website. For best results, ensure each image you include in your gallery is high-quality, relevant, and demonstrative of the gallery subset you’re displaying.

The Case for Compelling Images

If you’re looking for a smart way to go deeper with your images this year, these ten options are fantastic places to start.

Perfect for brands in all industries and specialties, carefully-selected visual content has the potential to boost readership, make content more impactful, and promote brand recall – all of which are excellent things for you.

What’s more, creating and compiling high-quality visual content has never been easier than it is right now, so there’s no reason to wait!

Need help creating professional visual assets you’ll be proud of? Check out our custom image services today!

where to publish content

A Data-Driven Answer on Where to Publish Your Content, & the Downside of Being Everywhere

From the moment we wake up, we consume a crazy high amount of content.

It’s nuts.

In just one minute: 7 million Snapchat videos are posted. Over 2 million Instagram posts get “hearted.” Facebook gets over 4 million likes. Nearly 350,000 tweets happen. Google translates 69 million words. (Contently)

In one day: two million blogs are posted.

So it only makes sense that you should share your awesome content on all of those platforms in order to have the greatest reach.

In a world of endless options for publishing content, we should publish anywhere and everywhere, right? (FOMO!)

Not necessarily. Let’s keep talking.

where to publish content at

Where to Publish Content: Why The Answer Starts With Where NOT to Publish 

One of the challenges we face as content marketers is the rise of social media platforms and the fact that readers don’t just start there – they never have to leave.

We use social media for news, to keep up with trends, to connect with other people, and to follow our favorite brands, which means we’re more engaged than ever before. But we also run the risk of getting stuck in a rut with the billions of others who are plugged in worldwide.

statista

From Statista

Your content may be magnificent, praiseworthy, and top-notch. But that doesn’t mean you should utilize every blogging and social media outlet known to the internet in order to share it.

The more content you publish, the better, but where should you sink all your valuable content marketing efforts into?

Here’s Where to Publish: 3 Areas of Focus We Recommend

When you are ready to share amazing content, here are three of the best places to create and publish on.

1. Your own blog and site

Honestly: this is your real best content publishing real estate.

Upkeeping a blog is key.

Look at these stats:

1) B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not.

2) Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI.

5) Companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website.

6) Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information.

Hubspot

Treat it like your #1 content hub. Grow and expand it, weekly if not daily.

Here at Express Writers, we publish the majority of the content on our site. The combined abilities of our experienced writers allow us to create quality content that brings in revenue while also helping our audience. We post a few times a week, with posts between 1,500 and 4,000 words. Once a week, a Twitter chat recap in our dedicated chat section is also created and shared. Our content is consistent, well-researched, and published following a specific timeframe. Topics are planned and thought out with care.

Our branded content has ended up being a major, major source of our entire company revenue (to the tune of 90%). More on that in my case study.

Your blog content can be an amazing resource for your audience. Here’s why:

  • Blogging can increase your search engine optimization (SEO), especially when you use keywords in the right way and create content in long form.
  • Blogging gives you content to promote across social media channels.
  • Blogging allows you a space to put valuable calls-to-action, which have the potential to generate leads and grow conversions.

A. How to write a strong blog post?

Hubspot offers some simple tips on how to write a blog post that begins with understanding your audience and ends with choosing a catchy title. You can read more about that here and grab some free blogging templates while you’re at it.

The best blog posts always have a clear topic and engaging title; the audience is drawn in and stays engaged because they have been captivated by the introduction.

The content is well-organized and relevant to the issue being addressed.

Experts across the industry craft quality blog content for their sites, including:

  • Neil Patel – co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmeterics
  • Barry Feldman – speaker, author, and creative copywriter
  • Seth Godin – author and founder of Squidoo

B. How often to post?

You may be wondering how often to publish on your company’s blog. While every company is different in size, strategy, and industry, there is some research that can help us answer that question.

In one study from HubSpot, the results showed that B2B companies that published over 16 blog posts per month received more than 3 times the amount of traffic as compared to companies that only published 4 times per month.

For B2C companies, those 16-times-per-month rate saw over 4 times the amount of traffic.

In another study, over 90% of Hubspot’s blog leads and more than 75% of post views came from old posts.

Posting quality content multiple times per week may be just what your readers are looking for, and if it’s awesome content, they will keep coming back for more. Read more about how to write content for a blog over here.

The time, effort, and work put into your own content makes your blog site YOUR real estate.

Why publish your best on someone else's? - @JuliaEMcCoyClick To Tweet

2. Guest blogging in your niche

Before you decide where to guest blog, you should set a goal for your blogging.

These goals could include anything from setting yourself up as an authority in your industry to driving readers to your own site.

Check out how we achieve results from guest blogging: my content, for example a column I keep with 2 posts/week on SiteProNews, has netted us a lead worth $5,000.

content life cycle

When you begin with this sort of focus, it can help narrow your scope as you write.

Guest blogging in your niche is a great opportunity to share your authoritative view on a number of topics, but you must find platforms where your audience is already located.

You may find opportunities by searching for blogs that invite guests to post – just do a keyword search using words from your industry combined with “guest post” or “guest blogger.” From here, you’ll find guides, and the publications publishing them will more often than not accept guest bloggers in this industry. (See result #2: that’s CMI’s guest blogging guidelines!)

keyword search for guest blogger

A recent Google search for “content marketing submit a guest post” presented almost 3 million results. (!!!)

You can also look on the social feeds of your buyers. Check out Facebook feeds and Twitter posts – what content does your demographic share? Your potential audience is already reading content across these mediums, so it’s a good place to start.

At Express Writers, we have seen some serious return on investment from just one guest blog post. I already showed you the Life Cycle graphic, but check out my post for more about it.

What are some of the “secrets”?

  • Focus on less channels, not more.
  • Focus on a relationship with a real person, not a contact form.
  • Focus on the platforms in your niche.
  • Focus on giving your best, most useful content.

Guest blogging in your niche is also a great way to connect with other marketers in your industry. You never know where a relationship may lead or when you will need their advice for your own content development.

3. Be on Two (Very) Authoritative Platforms

Sharing your content on authoritative platforms not only sets you apart as an expert, but allows your voice to be heard by a larger audience. There are benefits when you publish on sites like Medium and LinkedIn.

Why? Because you are demonstrating your expertise through the delivery of valuable content – it’s showing an audience versus just telling them.

1. Medium

Writing, publishing, and promoting content on this platform means you’ll join the likes of Sports Illustrated and the White House.

medium-homepage

Yes, the White House. As in, the State of the Union addresses and policy announcements.

When founder Ev William first launched the site in 2012, he noted that Medium is a place where writers focus on the words while also serving as a place of collaboration so you can say what you want to say.

Wordstream shared 10 reasons content writers should publish on Medium. They include:

  • The simple import process.
  • A built-in audience through Facebook and Twitter.
  • Engagement tools, so you can see who’s reading and how many.
  • Minimum effort – no original content required.

Read more here, including how your valuable content can be discovered by publishers who scout for authors on Medium.

2. LinkedIn

linkedin pulse

This virtual gathering of all types of professionals also serves as a publishing platform. In February 2014, LinkedIn Pulse went public, allowing writers from a variety of industries to share their thoughts with the click of a button.

In order to write successful content on LinkedIn, there are some suggestions noted on the site to help get you started:

  • Offer advice for career advancement.
  • Describe challenges in your profession, both current and future.
  • Discuss how your industry has changed since you began.
  • Give solid advice to one who hopes to enter your field.

Posts should be long-form and are bolstered by relevant images or videos. While there are no limits on word count, the more helpful content you can share, the more value you can bring to the table.

And don’t forget – editing is your friend!

Case Study: Where We Publish Content at Express Writers

I lead our inbound content strategy (and write a lot of it, with other staff members).

Here’s a visual representation of what my schedule when publishing content looks like.

As you can see, a large portion of our content is dedicated to our site. Hence the huge amount of inbound leads we receive (case study on that here).

express writers content schedule

What About New Platforms? Answer These 3 Questions to Make Sure it’s Worth Your Time

New platforms for content publishing may arise out of the night like a sparkly, shiny marketing tool that calls to you and beckons you to come forward and share your valuable writing.

Don’t fall for it.

When Blab.im was released as a video discussion website and livestream app, people loved it and spent a lot of time on the site – an average of an hour a day. The platform took three weeks to build and went from 0 users to just under 4 million in less than a year.

In August of 2016, the website was shut down, and along with its departure went all of its users’ content.

This is proof that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. So how do you decide what to keep and what to toss?

Ask yourself these three questions first:

1. Does this platform fit my niche?

If it does, you are more likely to attract qualified leads and find the right audience for your topic. Content shared on LinkedIn is not going to look the same as content shared on SnapChat, so think carefully before jumping into a new platform.

2. Who is my intended audience, and do they spend time there?

In order to know if your audience participates in a particular platform, you have to first know who they are. Define who you are trying to reach and then find out where those individuals spend their time.

Copyblogger reminds us:

“Before you can get someone to buy from you, you need to know what to say to them, and how to say it. You’ll never get that right unless you know who you’re talking to.”

3. Will my presence there help me meet my content goals?

If your goal is to increase brand awareness, a focus on guest blogging may be more worth your time than a case study. If you are looking for engagement, being active on social media channels could help your content go viral faster than a podcast.

The Downside to Being Everywhere

Content marketers are busy people, and we’re not just talking about the actual content creation part.

This may be your only job, or it may be in addition to that other job you work. You may or may not have a spouse, kids, a home, and other interests that demand your attention. It’s possible to stretch yourself too thin as you try to be every solution to everyone, and burn out.

There is a downside to being everywhere.  

Can Being Everywhere Lead to Being Nowhere?

When you are just starting out – and even when you’ve been at this content thing for a while – it is easy to fall prey to the notion that your content should be everywhere.

After all, isn’t that how we make an impact?

Actually, the “Be Everywhere” strategy can take you down a long, winding road to the town of Nowhere. No one wants to be here. It’s marked by content creators who have spread themselves so far that they have little to give.

Nowhere is a land of few listeners and even fewer conversions.

Over at Entrepreneur, Jeff Stephens reminds us why trying to be everywhere can lead us to nowhere:

  • Every platform requires time, focused effort, and a learning curve while you try to get to know a new audience.
  • Focusing on too many channels distracts us from what really matters.
  • Being everywhere wastes time and means you are nowhere fully.

For more inspiration on this, listen in to my podcast with Mark Schaefer, one of the top business bloggers in the world, where he discusses the downside of not focusing on and mastering just a few channels – for many years with Mark, it was just one channel, his blog!

The solution to being everywhere is to find the place where you really need to be, and target your content across those channels.

Does targeted content distribution matter?

Among marketers, 53% say that target content distribution is a factor that has contributed to their increased success.

At the same time, the average number of content marketing tactics used is seven, with the top being social media and blogs.

2017_B2C_Research

Graphic from Content Marketing Institute

Intentionality in choosing your distribution channels will not only benefit you – saving time, energy, and resources – it will benefit your audience, as well.

They will get your best content, the content that has been crafted with a focus on their needs and real solutions.

Only you can decide which channels are beneficial and which ones need to go. But whatever you do, don’t get lost in the land of Nowhere. It won’t bring value to your message and it certainly won’t benefit your readers.

Gain Focus with a Solid Content Marketing Strategy & Know Where to Publish Content

In order to know where you want to go, you need a plan for getting there. That’s where a content marketing strategy comes in, although the majority of marketers do not have one.

Only 37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers have a content marketing plan in writing, while 70% of us are creating more content this year than in 2016.

Study after study has shown that success comes when we write down our goals, go back to review them, and share them with others. It is not different for content creation.

No matter how small or how big your team is, a written content strategy can make a huge difference in how you reach and who you reach with your message. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

  • Define your goal – why are you producing content?
  • Conduct your research – who is your audience?
  • Evaluate your content – check out what you did last year, and see if you can switch it up.
  • Secure a content management tool – try HubSpot’s software, CoSchedule, or WordPress.
  • Brainstorm content ideas and types – outline the blog post that’s been simmering, start crafting that e-book, and put together an infographic if these types of content are what will work best for your audience’s needs.
  • Publish your content – Post it on your website, social media channels, or on a guest blog. Create quality content on a consistent basis. Don’t offer your audience something generic that they can find anywhere. Be specific and be intentional.

The Truth About All Those Platforms

If we were to sit down over a cup of coffee and list all the platforms available to content marketers, it would be extensive.

  • Social media sites
  • Video sites
  • Email marketing
  • Webinars
  • Graphic tools
  • Paid promotion tools
  • Blogging channels

In addition to the countless number of publishing sites we already have, there are new ones popping up all the time. Where you should focus your efforts depends on your goals, your audience, and your resources.

And all of those platforms? Just because they are there doesn’t mean they are the right ones for you. The last thing you want is to put all your efforts into something that doesn’t reach your target and ends up taking you to the town of Nowhere.

When you know your readers and you know where you want to go, where to publish will make much more sense. Combine this with a confidence in your abilities, and you can be on your way to publishing the right content in the right places.

Find Your Rhythm, Know Where to Publish Content that Works for You

Challenges for content marketers abound, whether you’ve been in this field for a week or a decade.

Where to publish your content can only be decided by you, but these tips can go a long way to help.

With a bit of thought and planning, find your rhythm, choose the best outlets for your audience, reach the right people – and do amazing things!

engagement cta

authenticity in content marketing

Why Brand Honesty & Authenticity in Content Marketing is Key to Building Customer Trust

How much do you agree with this thought:

“Honesty is something you can’t wear out.” – Waylon Jennings

Here’s another question.

Is it possible to be too honest? Over-transparent?

Everyone has at least one person they know who says too much. It can be irritating.

But in content marketing, brand honesty and authenticity are the opposite of off-putting.

In fact, these virtues are necessary to build trust for your efforts.

Maybe Waylon Jennings was onto something.

Let’s explore my data-driven research on this important, perhaps critical, marketing topic of today: brand authenticity and honesty. (You’ll also see why I believe in it so much. I put it all out there when it came to an issue I faced in 2016.)

authenticity in content marketing

Consumer Reviews in an Age of Content Marketing

Did you know that 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before already forming an opinion about a business?

In an age of ever-advancing technology and communication, online reviews remain an important part of consumer research and decision-making.

Why is this?

Because online reviews are honest. And we need to know that the product we are purchasing, the realtor we are working with, and the pizza place we’re thinking about for dinner are both trustworthy and worth our time.

The same is true for our content. If our brand’s integrity and honesty shine through, we are setting up an environment where our audience will trust us and keep coming back for more. But while consumers want honesty, not all feel like it’s present.

According to Chon & Wolfe, 75% of consumers surveyed across 14 markets believe that companies are not open and transparent. While this may seem like a negative statistic, it actually opens up the door for us to engage in the type of practices that will close this gap.

Ready to jump in with us?

How Brand Honesty and Authenticity Build Serious Trust for Your Content Marketing

There is tremendous power behind authentic and honest messaging. When the story resonates, the audience listens, and when we hear what they are saying and respond with thought, the conversation continues and we all benefit.

Brand honesty and authenticity build trust for your content marketing efforts not because you are saying what they want to hear, but because you’re saying what’s real.

Did you catch that? It’s not about throwing out a catchy sales pitch or trying to be something you aren’t. When we are real, all of a sudden, we feel less alone. We find that someone else “gets” us, makes mistakes like we do, and finds it in themselves to move on in spite of it.

Here are three ways brand honesty and authenticity build trust in your content marketing efforts.

1. Honesty adds value

Presenting an honest front adds value because it sets you up as an authority. Would you take parenting advice from someone who’s never had kids? Would you take your car to someone who’s never popped a hood and trust him with your engine?

Probably not.

But maybe you notice your neighbor working on cars every weekend and then you talk to him, and he mentions that he’s been a mechanic on the side for 20 years. In this case, maybe you would consider asking him why your car is making that funny noise.

Why is that?

Because you have seen him act as an expert. You can now take a step forward in trusting him with your own vehicle.

When our content marketing is backed by personal stories and experiences because we’ve been there, it adds value to what we’re saying. We are moving ourselves from an advice-giver to a credible source of information and real solutions.

We are adding value to our brand.

2. Honesty shows you care.

Genuine interest in the midst of a busy life isn’t as difficult as it seems. At the same time, failing to communicate authentically leaves an empty space that leaves your audience wondering where everything went wrong.

It is true that customers want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly, no matter what. Silence begets distrust and suspicion, openness builds trust. (Forbes)

Honesty in your brand’s message communicates to your audience that you care enough to tell the truth, even if it isn’t pretty. As an authority in your field, you are looking beyond your own reputation and moving into an attitude of transparency with your readers.

3. Honesty clarifies who shouldn’t invest in your brand.

HubSpot recommends that in our attempts at insane honesty, we tell the world who should probably not buy our products.

Really.

Why is this? Because it clearly identifies those who should purchase and alienates less likely customers, those mismatches and time-wasters. And contrary to what we may think, people won’t walk away mad or turn against us. They’ll just keep looking until they find a good fit.

It’s less about wasting their time and more about attracting the right audience for your message.

What Makes a Brand Authentic? 2 Factors

The Cohn & Wolfe survey cited earlier found that among consumers, authenticity from brands would earn them more loyalty. Consumers would also be more likely to:

  • Refer to friends and family
  • Invest in the company
  • Consider working as an employee for the company

What makes a brand authentic?

1. Reliability

Your audience expects you to be reliable. Start a Fire reminds us that instead of just talking about our products or services, the key to drawing in an audience is to create reliable content that they can easily relate to.

Each time we provide authoritative content in an honest way, we are building a foundation for our current readers and potential future connections.

One example of a reliable brand is John Deere. From building the first polished plow back in the 1800s to the publication of The Furrow, which attempted to educate farmers on new technology and how to be more successful business owners, Deere & Company has proven itself to be a reliable brand for its customers.

john deere

Graphic from Contently

The current art director for the publication credits the magazine’s focus on the audience, rather than the equipment they sell.

Can your readers count on you to deliver consistent, high-quality content that meets their needs?

2. Respectfulness

Respecting someone, even if we don’t agree, is not always an easy thing to do. And what about your competition? Yes, even that brand or company is headed up by a real person who deserves respect.

One example of a respectable brand is Nike.

nike

Scroll through their separate customer support account (@NikeSupport), and you’ll find phrases like “we’re here to help,” and, “if you need anything else, we’ve got your back.” This makes a big difference, not only for those who need to approach the company for assistance, but also for future interactions.

The audience will know that they will be treated with kindness and respect.

In your interactions with your audience, do you put their needs first?

Realness: When content marketing is too salesy or comes across as promotional, it drives an audience away. Rather than trying to tout a product, focus on providing real value to your readers and see where it takes the relationship.

It’s our responsibility to deliver authentic content every time. This extends to social media, visual content, and email content. When Southwest Airlines made the move to “Transfarency,” they showed the heart of the brand and the foundation of how the company does business.

transferency

How does your message express the heart of your brand?

Case Study: Our Move to Go Completely Authentic

In May of 2016, Express Writers made the move to be totally transparent with some things that happened in the company around that time. In response to previous staff members failing to deliver quality content and embezzling funds, we determined to be honest and upfront about the entire issue. Rather than hiding behind a façade of we’ve-got-it-all-together, we chose to come clean and make changes in the process.

After talking to a ton of people about it, I decided to write an “immediate-response” blog about what we were going to do to improve our entire workforce and company, and later on, tell the story in a podcast.

Read about what happened and what our response was here on the blog, and here in the podcast episode.

Although it was a difficult choice for me to make – being that transparent to our entire client and subscriber base, I heard positive responses from the majority of readers. (Of course, there was that 2% that said “TMI.” But I’m glad I went with my gut on this one.)

Strangers on Facebook even shared my podcast about it:

brand honesty

Ready to Build Trust for Your Brand?

Authenticity cannot be faked.

It requires commitment to delivering through on promises and engaging on an honest level.

It’s work, and it isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the time and resources you invest.

Your brand will be better, and your audience will stick around because they know they are only getting what’s real and reliable.

If Waylon Jennings was right about honesty being something we can’t wear out, our content marketing should be as honest and authentic as possible. This approach not only connects us with our audience, but sets us apart as an authority.

One more time: real connection happens not because you say what they want to hear, but because you’re saying what’s real.

cta

why your content marketing is failing

3 Reasons Why Your Content Marketing is Failing

Does the following sound familiar?

  • Send out a newsletter,
  • Update your social media,
  • Check search engine rankings,
  • Try to engage with your audience and respond when needed,
  • Put some effort into blogging.

Is it getting you somewhere?

Or do you fit the more common mold: unhappy, the results aren’t what you had hoped, and it’s A LOT of work to get all of this done. It should be easier than this, right? Shouldn’t the product, as amazing and worthwhile as it is, sell itself?

Unfortunately, this scenario happens a lot in content marketing.

We hate to break it to you, but it’s kind of like paying for McDonald’s and expecting Panera – or P.F. Chang’s.

why your content marketing could be failing

Why Your Content Marketing is Failing: You’re Not Doing Anything Different

What is your favorite fast food joint?

Before you go touting your love of all things organic and kale-based (I’m a clean food freak, myself) – keep in mind that fast food restaurants in America serve millions of customers every day, even while we claim to understand the health benefits of all things green.

So why do those greasy, salty chains still do so well? Why are seven out of the top ten chains marked by fried food, calorie-laden sodas, and “unclean” food?

qsr magazine

Graphic from QSRMagazine

Because somewhere along the way, they set themselves apart and became different from the competition – and made a permanent impression upon their target audience’s mind.

When it comes to content marketing, you get what you put into it.

There’s a reason your content marketing efforts are producing Happy Meal-sized results when what you really want to serve is a delicious, home-cooked meal with a side of conversions and authentic engagement.

If you're not doing anything different than the competition, you're not going to stand out. @JuliaEMcCoyClick To Tweet

The good news?

You can change that, and we’re here to help you. Ready to chew on it?

Creating Compelling Content By Using the Right Approach

Joe Pulizzi reminds us at CMI that what we are creating must be valuable, useful, compelling, and different.

This means we have to step aside from the time we spend worrying about the process and approaches to content creation and move toward being more concerned with the actual content we create and the difference it makes for our audience.

Which means it actually has to make a difference.

Why post to social media? Why send out a newsletter? Why should your readers step away from their fried greasy plate over to your buffet of deliciousness and take a bite?

After all, there is a fast food joint on every corner.

There are 300 hundred hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute in addition to over 4 million Facebook “likes” and 347,222 Tweets.

CM Failing 2

Graphic from Contently

So – what’s so great about you?

3 Ways to Take Your Content Marketing from Greasy to Great

Our content marketing is failing not because we aren’t trying, but because we all look the same. There are some ways to change that and take your content from greasy, drive-thru fare to take-a-seat, dive in greatness of the finest of meals.

Are you ready to begin creating quality content with the maximum amount of engagement?

1. Be okay with changing course & diving deeper

No one likes to be in pain, but changing course and diving deeper usually means pain:

  • More investment/money
  • More time on your part
  • More hassle

But there is good news! This effort and time will give your content marketing so much more of a return on investment. Have you always done a blog post, social media post, and e-newsletter, right on time? Switch it up and do a podcast, experiment with Facebook Live, or move toward something more interactive.

It’s okay to pass up that burger place and keep driving for something more satisfying.

This is the number #1 trait that goaded me to work harder and achieve greater results since early 2016. Before that, I was a mediocre blogger. But today – I care.

Check out the case study I wrote last year on where we’re at: and for an example of a “more time/investment” post, check out the big spend infographic we did. Content like that isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it. Don’t do anything less.

2. Turn your focus back to your audience

Are you confident in the voice you are developing as an authority in your field? This requires effort on your part and takes some investment in understanding the readers and staying current on the content you are offering.

exist

One way to turn the focus back on the audience – where it belongs – is to create a list of the biggest and best blogs in the niche you are in, and then analyzing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

No matter the subject matter, if it isn’t different, the audience won’t care. They will keep looking until they find the relevant and interesting solutions for their needs.

Remember that you aren’t writing to the whole world.

Find your niche, get to know it, and write/publish/create for the people in it. @JuliaEMcCoyClick To Tweet

3. Use only the best tools

Let’s say you are looking to market your new business, which sells custom-made home décor. Besides the obvious competition from the big names, you have a host of smaller shops on sites like Etsy that will be selling similar products as your own.

How do you even begin to market to your audience and set your brand apart from the others? Here are a few tools we love.

  • Quora: This collaborative information-sharing and learning site connects the information needs of real humans (your target audience) with solutions provided by real people (you).
  • Answer the Public: This site finds and maps keyword suggestions and predictions that users see when they search on Google. Here, you can find out what questions your customers will have by way of a free report.
  • KW Finder: When you’re ready to research keywords and get the best bang for your buck, KW Finder gives you exact search volume data for your needs. The process is simplified and your results are a helpful way to find out which keywords to use based on the competition.
  • BuzzSumo: This powerful online tool lets any user find out what content is most popular by topic or by website. Quickly identify what content works well in a given industry and who the major influencers are. See a more extensive guide I wrote on BuzzSumo, here.

Boost Your Content Presence & Never Worry Why Your Content Marketing is Failing Again

The question now becomes, what are you going to do differently?

How can you change course, focus on the audience, and use effective tools for maximum impact?

You don’t have to be average, or settle for that – in any shape or form. There are so many ways to be different, so many ways to stand out and let your brand authenticity through.

Dare to be different – I dare you! 😉

cta great copy

interview for content marketing

How to Conduct a Content Marketing Interview: An Essential Guide to Prepping & Interviewing Your Subjects

This post was co-written by our staff members, Tara Clapper and Hannah Darling. 

 

In content marketing, interviewing is a crucial component.

Giving a successful interview is not only an efficient way to generate content, but it also provides fresh material that people will genuinely want to read.

As project managers with backgrounds in feature interview creation and publication, we’ve streamlined our processes for the workflow here at Express Writers.

Here’s our co-created guide to save and refer to when it’s time to conduct an effective interview for your content marketing subject. Enjoy!

how to interview for content marketing

How to Conduct a Content Marketing Interview: An Essential Guide to Prepping & Interviewing Your Subjects

Here are our top tips for preparing your interview subjects for the interview.

1. Schedule and Confirm

When you’re juggling multiple interviews, organization is essential. Sometimes, you may need to work through a third party to schedule calls – a press contact, content manager, or someone who wants you to interview a client or employee.

Tools to Use

Tara: I use Calendly to schedule all my business calls. I block out time (marked as busy) when I don’t want to take calls, such as on weekends or when I need time to answer clients’ emails or create content. Calendly also sends you and the interview subject an email confirmation.

If you need to schedule with multiple interviewees frequently, Doodle may suit your needs better.

2. Prep Your Interview Subject

Before you get on the phone with your interview subject, it will help them to know exactly what the interview will be about. That’s best done in the introductory email, which should be professional and enticing.

Once they accept, follow up with some more detailed information:

Email 1 – Initial Interview Pitch

Subject: Interview Invitation – [Brand Name] Blog

Hello, Name of Potential Interview Subject:

My name is Tara, Content Development Specialist at Express Writers. I’m writing on behalf of our client, Brand Name. Brand Name knows you’re an industry leader in Industry, and they’re very interested in featuring you on their blog, located here: ExpressWritersClientBlog.com/blog.

To get an idea of how it would look, please check out this blog post with Other Industry Superstar: ExpressWritersClientBlog.com/blog/superstarpost.html

If you’re interested, please let me know what days work best. You can book a time most convenient for you here: www.calendly.com/this-is-an-example.

I’d love to discuss [unique thing they’ve done in their industry], and I’d also like to provide you with the opportunity to promote your book. We could even include a discount code or link to a sample.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Tara

Email 2 – Follow up email

Subject: Thank You For Scheduling an Interview

Name of Interview Subject:

Thank you so much for accepting the interview invitation. I look forward to speaking with you on Monday, February 17th at 4 p.m. ET. I’ll call you at 555-555-5555.

I hope to focus on your impressive career in Your Industry: how you got started, what drives you to innovate, and where you think you’ll be in five years. I’m also curious about what prompted you to write and publish a book.

Thank you,

Tara

Unless you’re dealing with a veteran interviewee, it can really benefit you both to prep them a second time in person (or over the phone) right before you start. If you need long, direct quotes, you can encourage them to expand as much as possible when a question is asked and to try and avoid one word answers.

3. Set Parameters for Promotion

If the interview subject has a new book or a product they’d like to promote, you should let them know whether it’s okay for them to push their product. I usually handle this preemptively (see above emails), stating that I’m going to include a link to their product, and confirm which link I want to use.

Since they know it’ll be included, they usually feel less inclined to insert too much self-promotional speech. I also try to put one question in there about their product or book, even if that’s not the center of the conversation.

4. Ask the Softball Question, Then Play Hardball

Interview subjects vary – some get on the phone ready to talk about their unique place in their industry or field of expertise. Others are reticent and don’t know exactly what to say. Either way, you want to use the interview to develop a piece which highlights and distinguishes your interview subject from every other expert in their field.

In your research, try to discover:

  • What makes them interesting?
  • What are they best known for?
  • What personal facts and experiences help shape the human element of this person’s story?

Once you begin the interview, ask some ‘easy’ questions, like “How did you get your start in this field?” Once you’re a few questions in, ask something a bit more hard hitting. (In a business interview, you don’t need to ask a Barbara-Walters-make-them-cry question, but try for something thought-provoking.) If your interview subject says they need to think or that they’ve never been asked that question before, you’re on the right track!

Make sure not to ask ‘yes or no’ questions unless absolutely necessary, especially if the purpose of the interview is to serve as the foundation for a blog or article. If you do, there will be very little material to work with when all’s said and done, and you won’t have anything quotable.

More is more. The more information that you have to pull from, the better. Ask every question that comes to mind, whether or not you think it will be interesting.

Pause. As unnatural as it feels, when your interviewee is answering a question and they come to the end of a thought, pause before you say anything. Sometimes in that moment, they’ll keep talking if you let the silence hang there for a moment longer than feels comfortable. Don’t fill in the blanks or utter too many affirming phrases. In normal conversation, encouraging words to show that you’re listening or understand are important. In an interview, it can ruin the moment.

Oprah Winfrey is a master of thoughtful, emotive interviews. This is especially noticeable in her 2015 interview with J.K. Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” series.

Check out the magic that happens when an experienced, conversational interviewer questions a celebrated storyteller:

5. Demand Empathy From Yourself

In the above interview, the empathy Oprah has for J.K. Rowling is unspoken, but facilitates the flow of the interview. Both women struggled with poverty and rose to international success, and at this point in their careers, they are ready for their next chapters.

Similarly, a successful interviewer has empathy for their subject. It can be as simple as both being parents, owning the same brand of car, or being pet owners. Whatever it is, finding that one simple thing to mention to your interview subject can really generate some trust and make the conversation a bit easier.

6. Consider the Interview a Conversation

Unless you need all of your interview questions strictly approved by a third party prior to the interview, you should remain open to asking spontaneous questions. This is why phone or Skype interviews may yield better results than email interviews – however, you can always ask follow up questions in email interviews if necessary.

Your interview subject could bring up an interesting point or something you hadn’t previously considered – and if it’s relevant, it’s like finding a strand you can spin into fresh yarn about a brand or individual.

Learn From Four Professional Journalists

These top journalists, interviewers, and producers provide some valuable tips on how to interview and present your subject’s story in an appealing way.

1. Katie Couric

“Nothing’s worse for me… as a viewer, to watch someone go down a laundry list of questions and not explore something with a little more depth… You have to be willing to veer off in a totally different direction.”

Katie Couric offers tips on:

  • Interview preparation
  • Creating concise and informative questions
  • Adjusting tone based on interview subject
  • Anticipating follow-up questions

2. Tavis Smiley

“There’s a very simple but poignant rule if you want to be a good interviewer….what makes sense to me is a conversation. It’s not scripted; it’s not laid out…it’s what works best in terms of media approaches to getting the most out of people.”

Tavis Smiley suggests:

  • Be an active listener
  • Understand both the subject and the issue at hand

3. Larry King

“If you see more times…that the host is on camera, it’s a bad interview to me…you want the guest to be good…The best way to learn something is take a step back and ask good questions.”

Larry King says his success comes from:

  • Leaving himself out of the interview
  • Following up on insightful interview responses
  • Being naturally curious
  • Putting guests at ease and being a ‘why’ person

4. Scott Simon

“The story ought to have a point – I don’t mean a lesson, or a moral, or even a punchline, but a point. Something people can take away from you.”

To make your interview memorable, Scott Simon advises:

  • Give them a small detail to remember and to pass on to others as they retell it
  • Ensure you have a strong beginning in your final piece
  • Tell your story in “short, breathable sections”
  • Have fun discovering the story in the interview

Need Help Conducting Your Interview Questions for Content Marketing?

Are you interested in having an expert, employee, customer, or content partner interviewed for your company’s blog?

Express Writers can take care of that for you!

Our experienced writers employ the above tactics and will provide you with a resourceful, insightful, natural interview transcript.

We can even transform the interview into a blog based on your desired format, afterwards.

Need help with your content marketing focused interview content? We have professional assistance on standby. Visit our interview service here and blog writing services here.

super bowl ad

How to Spend $37,000 for 2 Years of Content Marketing & Outperform a $5 Million Super Bowl Ad (Or, Why Content Marketing Is the Best Marketing)

Super Bowl ads cost a lot.

The average cost of an ad is around $5 million. Marketing for one commercial spot can cost as much as $1.25 million.

That comes out to about $41,600 dollars / second.

$5 million for one short spot?

Could it be wasted money?

The truth, according to a Stanford study, is that commercials by soda and beer companies have an insignificant effect on revenue. And 80% of commercials do nothing to boost sales or purchase intent, according to Bloomberg experts.

Here’s my next question.

Could content marketing outperform a Super Bowl ad?

I think so.

In today’s post, I’m making the argument that it can, by comparing a two-year investment in content marketing ($37k) vs. a 1-second Super Bowl ad investment ($41k). Read on.

super bowl vs content marketing

The High Cost of Being in the Super Bowl Ad Game

Companies justify the cost of advertising in order to keep pace with the competition, to give their brand greater visibility, and to keep consumers talking long after the winning touchdown is made.

To add to the mix, the rise of social media and advanced technology means we can share, YouTube, and tweet these commercials over and over again after companies have rushed to take the first place in line when commercial previews are unveiled in January.

Fun fact: the steep $5 million price tag is double what a Super Bowl ad cost ten years ago.

NY Times Graph

Graphic from NY Times

Can you afford to spend that much on content marketing?

The best of content creators could come up with a variety of efficient ways to spend $41,000 dollars in their efforts aside from a 30-second television spot.

Content marketing doesn’t have to be crazy expensive. And there are many ways a brand can spread a message that are both cost-effective and impactful.

Check out these incredible content marketing statistics:

  • 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. (BlogHer)
  • 70% of consumers say they prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. (SlideShare)
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing. (Demand Metric)

See the pattern? Content marketing costs are less expensive and the preferred method for consumers to get to know a brand. This frees us up to explore other avenues in our quest to deliver authoritative and authentic copy.

Thankfully, those methods are cost-effective, allowing us to market a brand without a hefty price tag; we’ve gathered three effective tools and some powerful stats to show you how.

Ready to jump in?

The Math: Content Marketing Costs vs. Super Bowl Ad Costs

super bowl infographic

 

(Content costs based on our agency services at Express Writers. Keep reading for the breakdown.)

Why High-Quality Content Marketing Plays a Vital Role in a Brand’s Life (& 3 Winners)

Content marketers have proven time and again that they don’t need to spend thousands of dollars per second on flashy advertising in order to be successful. Reasonably-priced content marketing has the potential to make a difference to a brand’s online life.

High-quality tools like e-books, blogging packages, and social media can do wonders for a marketer’s efforts and bring a new vitality to a brand’s online presence for a non-millionaire price.

Here are three cost-effective, lead-generating content tactics you can use when you don’t have millions to invest in a Super Bowl ad.

1. Ebooks

With the right promotion and the support of a collaborative team, an e-book can not only generate leads, but also be the tool that converts. An e-book can set you apart as an authority in your field and can serve as a powerful source of information for your audience for years to come.

Another benefit of ebooks is the opportunity to deconstruct the content into smaller pieces, which could include:

  • a series of newsletters
  • blog posts
  • podcast series
  • a list of do’s and don’ts

Barry Feldman over at Convince and Convert calls this the “e-book equation.” He notes that while planning for your ebook, it should be formed in such a way to “cast a wide net over a fertile area that traces to one of your strengths,”  then outlined, researched, and written with the knowledge that it will “foster offspring.”

2. Blogging

In the 2017 Content Marketing Institute Benchmarks report, 75% of B2C marketers noted that blogging was one of an average of seven marketing tactics used in their efforts; this fell just under the top answer of social media content

SlideShare CMI

Graphic from SlideShare

Just over half of those surveyed said blogging will be most critical to their content marketing success in 2017.

In their most basic form, blogs are easy to use and can cost almost nothing to maintain. As a converting tool, blogs can be the fuel that moves readers to your social media channels and sales pages. Blogs are the place where SEO is maximized.

Successful blogging in today’s world of content development is easier than ever. The accessibility of quality tools for content marketers leaves us with little excuse for delivering subpar content on an inconsistent basis.

  • Quora is a question-and-answer site that will help content creators with new ideas for topics. (link)
  • BuzzSumo allows you to enter a topic or website into the search box and find the key influencers to help promote your content. (link)
  • Canva lets users express creativity through custom-made images, and many of the elements are free. (link)

If used consistently and creatively, blogs can be a powerful tool in your arsenal. Why does consistent blogging win? Read more here.

3. Social Media

The rise of social media over the past several years has had both a direct and indirect impact on content marketing and search engine optimization. Having a social media presence is not only one way to build brand awareness, it also connects us more closely with our audience with opportunity for engagement.

In the CMI research mentioned above, social media channels followed email as the top for distribution of content, which means marketers are becoming more aware of how important it is to be linked to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Why invest in social media?

  • Nearly 70% of Americans use social media to connect with others and engage with content. (Source)
  • Vision trumps our other senses. We remember 10% of what we hear and 65% of what we see. (Source)
  • Tweets with images received 18% more clicks than those without. (Source)
  • 81% of marketers found that increased traffic occurred with as little as 6 hours per week invested in social media marketing. (Source)

Social media continues to be an important and affordable component of an overall content strategy, and with the right approach, it’s reach can be wide.

What A 2 Year Investment in Content Services Can Bring You

The services available from our own agency offer a higher value for the cost, and our clients receive much more than they would with other avenues. Our team is made up of trained and committed writers, designers, and social media experts who combine their trained approach with industry knowledge to deliver top-notch content for your needs.

Here are just a few of the high ROI services available from our specialists at Express Writers.

  • Ongoing blogging plan: Choose this plan and we will provide your website with 16 blogs per month with up to 1000 words each. Includes branded imagery, meta descriptions, and publishing. Every blog is SEO optimized, written by our engaging blog writers, and includes high-quality links and reader-friendly formatting (H2s / H3s). Proofreading by our editorial staff is included. Price: $980 per month. Additional services include content planning and expert writing. (See it here)
  • Authority blogs: Receive up to 4500 words backed with keyword strategy and research by our trained Content Strategists who will find a low competition, high opportunity long-tail keyword to include and optimize for in your content. Your content is then assigned to an industry-fit Authority Writer, and written from scratch. Original illustrations will be created by our designer and you will receive a feature graphic to use on social media. Price: $900 per month. (See it here)
  • Web pages: Custom Expert copy services begin at 500 words and include content written by a handpicked writing expert who specializes in your chosen subject. Select your word count, send us the details, and we will take care of the rest! Price: $90 per piece. (See it here)
  • E-book/whitepapers: These two products serve as the perfect lead magnet for content marketing. A ten-page e-book is created with expert copywriting and original illustrative designs crafted from scratch. Price: $750 (See it here). Our creative and experienced marketing team writers produce whitepapers for a variety of services and businesses that can be delivered as copy only or beautifully designed for your need. Price: $100 (See it here)
  • Social media plan: The social media Enterprise Plan offers you the maximum mileage for your content. You will receive custom-designed text images added to your posts, which will be posted multiple times daily to various platforms. Five custom premium branded images are designed and posted on a weekly basis, including to Pinterest. Price: $1025 per month. (See it here) 

A Content Success Story

Here at Express Writers, we remain committed to delivering custom content that works for our clients. Check out what happened when a marketing agency connected with us for their content needs.

Marketing Labs is a digital marketing agency located in Worksop, England that is dedicated to helping online businesses increase their website traffic and improve conversion rates. Their team of professionals includes many individuals who possess more than a decade of experience in the area of online growth and customer service. Based on their expertise, they were set to become a premier digital marketing agency in their area.

In their search for a copywriting agency that would bring a certain level of competency to the table, they realized they needed not only quality writing, but the speed and knowledge necessary to deliver authoritative content for their digital marketing efforts.

After connecting with Express Writers, our team began creating and implementing a content plan for the Marketing Labs blog, as well as cleaning up and optimizing the product description copy for one of their clients. The results were amazing.
EW Success Story 2

EW Success Story

See our success stories here.

The Marketing Labs team is now in place to become a leading digital marketing agency throughout all of England. As their CEO Matt says, “Being able to add the kind of quality writing (EW provides) to our services makes us an extremely attractive proposition to those seeking to optimize their digital exposure.”

Recapping the Challenges to Content Marketing

We can’t end without recapping some of the top challenges facing content marketers.

Going back to the CMI research in 2016, the top one was content strategy. The second challenge was time.

Only 40% of those surveyed claim to have a documented strategy; 42% plan to increase their content marketing spending over the next year.

If we want to enhance our efforts, we need both a documented strategy and a marketing budget. Those are two tangible steps we can start working on today, right where we are.

Once a strategy is documented (what you want to accomplish and when), and a budget is set (how much you can spend and on what), the next challenge comes with researching, writing, and scheduling all of that awesome content.

That is, if you have the time.

If not, there are some options out there.

  • Delegating a team member: If you are part of a larger team, there is a good chance someone is a skilled writer or social media guru who can take over the responsibility of content creation. Maybe that means hiring someone to join the team with the specific task of writing and managing your e-books, social media, and blogs.
  • Hiring a freelancer: A freelance writer may charge by the hour or the piece, and rates may be negotiable. Quality of the work may not be guaranteed, and you should remember that you get what you pay for. A freelancer may or may not be well-versed in the topics you are focusing on, so there needs to be clear communication so that the right message is delivered.
  • Working with an outside agency: A well-qualified agency with a reputation for excellence and a commitment to quality will have a team of trained writers who are prepared to fulfill your content creation needs. Beyond a single, pay-by-the-page blog post, a team of writers can be invaluable for e-book creation, ongoing blog plans, and social media management that will increase the visibility of your brand and put authority behind your message.

Is Your Brand Creating Content That Makes for an Extremely Attractive Proposition?

It can be a tough business, this content marketing gig. Almost half of us feel like we are only somewhat more effective when compared with a year ago, and that’s understandable.

We face deadlines and budgets and client expectations every day, and we all know time stops for no marketer. And that’s saying nothing for our life outside of work (hopefully you have one. If not, that’s a topic for another post).

While some things are out of our hands, there some things we content marketers can control.

We can do things like:

  • document a strategy
  • set goals for our content
  • develop a vision for our own brand that we strive to live out in our daily schedule

These are the basic parts of effective planning, and should be the basis for every piece of content we create. The strategy, goals, and vision for our brand need to be woven into the message we convey.

There are other things that are out of our control. Contrary to what we may believe, we can’t do it all, and we need the support of a collaborative team and guidance from industry experts.

We can’t perform miracles like:

  • put more hours in the day
  • accomplish all our goals without support
  • make $41,000 suddenly appear in our budgets for advertising (unless you can, in which case, give us a call)

For all that we cannot control, there are cost-effective, time-saving options that can work wonders for our marketing efforts and make us an extremely attractive proposition. The tools at our disposal like automated scheduling and the use of repurposed content are designed to make content creation easier and are a good place to start.

Consider is a partnership with an agency of well-qualified writers, designers, and social media managers who can take your good ideas and turn them into a conversion masterpiece.

Keep Moving Forward

We can’t all afford Super Bowl ads. But we can all take steps forward in the journey of creating high-quality, authoritative content that will engage our audience and keep them coming back for more.

All without breaking the bank.

Are you ready to connect with Express Writers? See our values, or get in touch today.

customer love

Love is In the Air:​ 7 Unique Methods to Inspire Customer Love for Your Brand

It’s Valentine’s Day!

Time to enjoy the sweet, sweet flavor of chocolate-covered strawberries, write a perfume-scented note to the person you love (if you’re the type that handwrites, like me), and/or receive an abundance of chocolates, roses, and maybe a special date. If you’re single, you might be basking in a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s, a chocolate bar, and a tad of Netflix binge-ing.

Whatever the scenario, love is the name of the game today—if that’s loving on yourself, or your special someone.

We’re taking this opportunity to talk about a topic that’s crucial to your brand this Valentine’s Day (and far beyond):

Building real, authentic customer love for your brand.

Here’s the problem, and why many customers still feel “un-dated” or, worse yet, “broken up with” after they engage with a brand.

Brands still think that it’s okay to stay in a ho-hum relationship with their customers. It’s okay to stick with average, and not try any harder. #valentinesday @JuliaEMcCoyClick To Tweet

The hard truth? Those lackluster exchanges eventually find their rock bottom, and your readers will eventually move on to more vibrant and exciting brand experiences.

To avoid this now is the time to use all the tools in your tool belt to create a brand that your customers can’t help but love for years to come.

customer brand love

Fortunately, it’s easier than you might thing. Heck – you don’t even need a pair of wings!

 7 Cupid-Worthy Methods for Making People Fall in Love With Your Brand

Whether you’re a new brand or an established company looking to deepen your relationship with your customers, these seven tips are your Valentine’s Day holiday go-tos.

1. Go Beyond Posting to Social Media, and Engage with Your Fans

It’s not enough to just be present on social media.

After all, anyone can have a profile.

Instead, you have to engage. 

What are you giving your customers to fall in love with if you’re not engaging with them? How do you engage? Why should you matter to them? What are you giving them in return?

Now is the time to think outside of the box. Instead of just tweeting once or twice a week, use Twitter to start a Twitter Chat that answers questions around a hot topic in your industry! I did this exact thing when I set out to create a Twitter Chat in January 2016, and #ContentWritingChat was born. It’s been an incredible journey of user engagement, brand awareness, and community growth since then. To learn more about our Twitter Chat and get some ideas for your own, check out our hand-curated roundups of each live tweet hour in weekly recaps on our site.

Our Twitter Chat has worked wonders for us, especially when it comes to creating brand loyalty. In December of 2016, we asked our participants how long they’d been joining us – the average was “eight months!” That’s some serious longevity—the relationships your brand can build through Twitter with real engagement can last forever.

2. Blog to Win Customer Love

Blogging is a critical component of creating a lovable brand. By developing relevant, in-depth blog content, you can show your clients that you care about them and that the feeling is mutual.

Blogging to win a customer’s eternal love, though, requires that you take it a step further.

Instead of just writing or creating average content (we call that the floating-by blogger syndrome), this type of blogging demands that you focus on answering the biggest questions in your industry with seriously in-depth, long-form content (check out our recent long-form content guide for more information on this topic).

Here’s what you need to do to go a step further with your blogging this Valentine’s Day holiday.

– Find The Top Questions In Your Industry.

There are a few great tools for this. Quora is one of them:

Quora Screenshot

 

The amazing answerthepublic.com is another great tool for this:

Answer the Public Screenshot

 

 

Both platforms are designed to allow you to access customer questions according to industry, keyword, or category, and they can be fantastic resources for finding the top inquires in your industry.

– Look at the Top Posts And Recreate Material Based On The Inspiration You Gain From Them.

The best way to be a blogger your readers fall in love with is to give them what they need. When it comes to their questions, this means being the one who provides insightful, long-form answers that go deeper than the average writer. Take a look at what’s performing well on these top question sites and adjust your content accordingly.

3. Find Content That’s Ranking #1, Create Yours to Rise Above

Using KWFinder, it’s easy to locate the content that’s ranking #1 for a phrase when you do a keyword search. Here’s an example of what a search looks like in the dashboard:

KWFINDER screenshot

On the right, you can see a list of results. For this search, “content marketing,” the top result is Content Marketing Institute’s “What is Content Marketing?”

Using KWFinder or a tool like BuzzSumo, you can find the content that’s ranking #1, and then find a way to create content that is better than the competition.

Look for gaps or weak areas in the material. What did the first author miss? How did he or she fail to meet the needs of customers? Did the readers walk away wanting something? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you’ve got an avenue to blow that post out of the water.

4. Create a Podcast!

Did you know that 21% of Americans listen to a podcast? That's an astounding 57 million Americans! Click To Tweet (EdisonResearch)

For years, Buffer ran a blog. Eventually, however, they turned it into a podcast called The Science of Social Media. Since they made that decision, they’ve enjoyed massive engagement.

I started my own podcast mid-2016, called The Write Podcast. Designed to echo industry questions and create more in-depth information for our audiences, The Write Podcast has been a fantastic tool for us, and we’ve heard from many listeners how much it’s helped their efforts grow.

Podcasts are working very well today for a few reasons. In addition to the fact that they’re the ultimate on-the-go form of content (you can listen to a podcast at work, at the gym, in the car, etc.), they’re also a very conversational and approachable form of content, which makes it easier for listeners to develop an attachment to your brand.

Worried about how your podcast will do since you’ve never created one? Know the tools you need, and set a goal of doing at least five episodes and then reevaluate. You’ll learn as you go and, while the first few episodes might be a bit rough, it will be, at the very least, a fantastic learning experience that will help put you in closer contact with your customers.

Check out the Twitter chat recap I had with Madalyn Sklar, host of her own podcast Twitter Smarter, all about how to podcast!

5. Encourage User-Generated Content

User-generated content is hot right now, and it’s only going to get hotter. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, make your love for your customers reciprocal by showing your readers you care about them as much as they care about you. Engage people with your brand by having them add content to your social media profiles or pages.

Run contests, social campaigns, Instagram giveaways, and more. The more you can bring your customers into your online presence, the more lucrative it will be for you! After all, ads based on user-generated content earn a 4x higher click-through rate and a 50% decrease in cost over traditional ads.

What’s more, making user-generated content a central part of your content strategy is a great way to make your brand unique, show off your commitment to your customers, and secure a consistent influx of fresh content for your company.

6. Ask Your Readers What They Think

What do your readers want to see more of? Are they hungry for more tutorials? Do they wish you’d cover content you don’t?

Are they interested in other topics or conversations? You’ll never know until you ask, and reaching out to your customers about these questions is one of the best ways to earn their love and stand out as a customer-centric brand, both now and in the future.

Poll them!

If you’ve never polled your readers before, it’s the first step to creating the type of unique back-and-forth that only the best brands enjoy. To create polls that engage your readers rather than alienating them, follow these tips:

  • Keep it short. Don’t overwhelm your readers with dozens of options. Keep it short, sweet, and simple. The more to-the-point your poll is, the more helpful the information you gain from your customers is likely to be.
  • Keep it relevant. Every question on your survey should fulfill your end goal, whatever that is. If you add anything that’s even moderately irrelevant, you risk turning your customers off (a serious Valentine’s Day marketing faux pas) and damaging the helpfulness of your survey.
  • Keep your rating scales consistent. If you’re asking users to rate certain parts of your site or content, don’t ask them to rate it on a 1-5 basis in one section of the site and a 1-10 basis in another. The more consistent you can be, the more valuable the information your customers will return.
  • Don’t Ask Leading Questions. If you ask leading questions, you’re not doing much besides shooting yourself in the foot. Give your customers room to speak their peace, but don’t lead the in the direction of any one response.
  • Thank Respondents! Answering a survey or poll takes some time, and your readers deserve to know you appreciate it. To thank them, give them a bonus in the form of an incentive or discount. You’ll strengthen their relationship to your brand and increase the likelihood that they’ll complete your next survey, as well.

7. Reciprocate When Your Customers Reach Out

All good relationships have to be give-take. If your clients keep giving to you, but you never give anything back, you’re going to lose them. With this in mind, reach out to your customers when they share your content, write on your Facebook timeline, like your Instagram posts, or engage with your Pinterest material. The more seen and heard you can make your readers feel, the better chance you’ll have of making them into lifelong evangelists for your brand. Plus, you make them feel special, which is what Valentine’s day is all about.

Customers + Your Brand = A Match Made in Heaven

Great relationships take time, and you can’t force your customers to fall in love with you overnight. You can, however, take a series of proactive steps to make your brand more appealing and memorable to your clients, and encourage them to stick around for the long-term.

While many marketers assume the only benefit of long-term customer relationships is more sales, it goes a lot deeper than that. While loyal customers are more reliable and easier to sell to, brands with a strong batch of long-term customers also look more trustworthy.

By creating a brand that your readers and customers love and feel loves them back, you can simultaneously secure your success as a company and ensure that you’ll get enough adoration from your customers to make even Cupid jealous!

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