5 questions to turn your content marketing into an asset

You’d love to create great content to lure customers or fans. But it’s such a drain on the budget. Or is it? Brandscaping’s Andrew Davis asks, What if content became a line-item plus?

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A marketing team at the Boston firm CommCreative was powwowing one evening, trying to come up with a strategy to rule the world.

The arrival of their Chinese takeout sparked an idea, says content marketing wild man Andrew Davis. Someone said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if you just took everybody’s fortune cookie and turned it into marketing advice?” according to Davis.

The idea became Today’s Marketing Cookie, in which people send in their fortunes from the cookies and the CommCreative’s CMO use them to inspire blog posts. The simple concept has become wildly popular, bringing CommCreative a following among its target audience.

In “Turn your content marketing costs into tangible assets,” Davis suggests ways to make content an asset, not just a drain on the budget.

What if your content became a product? What if, Davis asks, you said: “We put a lot of energy into our product. Let’s think about our content that exact way.” Do it right, and reap rewards, he says.

Here are some questions to consider:

Does it matter if a customer ever comes to your website, as long as they buy?

In short, no.

Get over the old Ptolemaic model that treats your organization’s website as the center of your digital universe, Davis says. The Galilean model regards the search engine as your orbital center — your “sun.” It is surrounded by objects such as LinkedIn, Amazon, Pinterest, Facebook, blogs, and — way out by Pluto — your website. Who wants to go there?

Forget the notion that people need to clickity-click the characters of your URL on a keyboard to find you and dig through all that fabulous information. Rather, take your content to where people want it and can share it.

What if you focused on a single strategy instead of multiple social channels?

Or as Davis restates it: “What if you kicked ass on one channel; what would it mean to your business?”

Why approach it that way? Think about AOL, AltaVista, and other Internet washouts. If you have a Twitter strategy, you’re out of luck if Twitter “pulls a Hindenburg” and blows up — or simply loses its cachet, the way MySpace did.

Success isn’t about multiple media channels, he says. It’s about finding people who will share your content.

What if you thought like a TV executive?

The Jim Henson Co. doesn’t make money on its Muppet movies, says Davis, who formerly worked for Henson. It reaps millions on the merchandizing and licensing. The content, in effect, exists to sell products.

Or consider Gary Vaynerchuk, who inherited his father’s wine store in New Jersey. It did a few million dollars a year in business — until Vaynerchuk began pondering how people collect wines the way he collected baseball cards.

Ding, ding,ding! An idea. He asked himself, “What about all those men that watch the Jets on Sunday and would like a no-nonsense, ESPN-style show that was all about wine?” Davis says.

Five days a week, he produced a quick video in which he reviewed three wines. Even when he traveled, he reviewed the wines in the minibar. The videos became a hit. Return on investment? His business grew to a $60 million a year powerhouse, and 90,000 people a week watched his video.

What if you thought of this as a ‘subscribe world?’

We at Ragan like to preach that every organization should become a publisher — but such a foray doesn’t have to be daunting. What if you got customers to subscribe to you for one piece of content a week, whether by email, following you on Twitter, or other means? Think of Vaynerchuk or Today’s Marketing Cookie.

What if you made a movie?

Davis is kidding, right? A full-length movie?

Listen. The world is choking on bad content, but people are willing to watch even long-form videos-if they’re good.

Breville, a high-end maker of juicers and a client of Davis’, was looking to increase its profile. So the company made a 97-minute documentary, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” about Aussie businessman Joe Cross, who vows to lose 100 pounds through a juice-only diet during a trip across America.

Davis says his team knew they could increase the total size of the market, even if Breville’s market share stayed the same.

The approach would have struck some companies as too risky. Breville is never mentioned, Davis says, and there is only one glimpse of its juicer in a box. Yet when it was released on Netflix, the results were explosive.

Breville “sold out of juicers in three days,” Davis says. “They didn’t even have any in their Australian offices to ship to us. … That’s the power of inspiring content.”



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