7 key components of successful content marketing

These elements include following journalistic tenets and combining the art and science of the discipline. Here’s how they can and should apply to your efforts.

These days, few marketers would dispute the need for a thoughtful and robust content marketing strategy.

Most brands are upping their investments and output for content creation and dissemination, but that doesn’t mean all those dollars are well spent. The effectiveness of your content marketing will depend heavily on your brand and its marketplace.

For example, according to 2016 reports from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, B2C marketers rank e-newsletters, in-person events, illustrations and photos, and social media content as their most effective tactics. Meanwhile, B2B marketers list in-person events, webinars, case studies and white papers as their most effective tactics.

Effective content marketers aren’t defined solely by which channels and tactics they use. The best content marketing comes from those who respect and embrace both the art and science of the discipline. Whether they’re marketing cars or candy canes, the most effective content marketers share the following characteristics:

1. They respect basic journalistic principles.

To some, it might seem blasphemous to equate marketing with journalism, but the best content marketers recognize that many tenets of good journalism should apply to their content efforts.

According to CMI and MarketingProfs, 66 percent of B2C marketers have an editorial mission statement, although only 39 percent have documented it. However, among the marketers who ranked their organizations as being most effective at content marketing, this percentage of documentation rises to 50 percent.

Editorial mission statements within marketing organizations help to establish a culture in which content is understood and respected. Furthermore, they underscore the importance of creating content in a thoughtful fashion.

Content will deliver value to a brand only if it delivers value to the consumer, and consumers are not unaware of bias when it comes to content. They want information presented in an objective manner and based on documented facts, not a brand’s contorted version of those facts. The best content marketers do their research and cite their sources.

2. They’re not afraid to get emotional.

Like good journalists, good content marketers respect the need for objectivity and accuracy, but they know that emotions are what drive people. Even the driest content can be infinitely improved when given a human face.

You have about two seconds to capture someone’s attention, and your likelihood of accomplishing this is much greater if you appeal to their emotions. The emotion you choose to tap—humor, fear, shock, compassion—will depend on the underlying story you have to tell.

The key to effective content is leading with emotion and letting the story unfold from there.

If you ask someone whether they’d like to talk about insurance, you’re likely to be knocked over by the force of their derisive laughter. If you instead tell them the story of the family that lost everything except their dog in a devastating tornado, you have their attention. Then you can put it to use.

3. They go outside their comfort zones (and demographics).

At some point, every aspiring author will be told to “write what you know,” but if you’re a content marketer, that advice is best ignored.

What you know doesn’t much matter. It’s what your target audience knows that is most important.

Who are they, and what moves them? What common experiences do they share, and how can your content speak to them in a meaningful way?

Don’t assume your own world view applies here. Talk to your customers, and channel their experiences when creating content. Better yet, let their experiences become your content.

4. They think across multiple channels.

The best content isn’t created for YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or some other channel. The content might live there, but the story behind it should run much deeper and manifest itself in different ways on different platforms.

The best cross-channel brand stories exist at the nexus of art and science.

The art involves the creation of compelling and meaningful assets that can be disseminated across various channels. The science comes in when you use analytics to find your core audience, distribute your story and refine your narrative as the campaign unfolds.

The most effective content marketers create consistent brand narratives across multiple channels and devices. The calls to action should vary by channel, but the underlying theme should be unified so that each new piece a consumer encounters builds on—rather than repeats—the previous one.

5. They don’t reserve metrics concerns for the data folks.

As noted before, the best content marketing is a fine blend of art and science, but that doesn’t mean the artists should handle one side while the scientists handle the other. The most effective content marketers aren’t afraid to dabble in both.

So, how do you take something qualitative, such as a social media post, and turn it into something quantitative?

Without a solid metrics strategy in place, it’s hard to know which pieces of content are contributing the most to your marketing efforts.

The right metrics for your campaign will vary according to your objectives, but Salesforce Pardot offers 14 useful factors to consider in its content creation guide:

  • Unique page visits
  • Downloads
  • Time on page
  • Inbound links
  • Shares
  • Comments and interactions
  • Cost per click
  • Cost per lead
  • Lead generation
  • Annual contract value
  • Influence
  • Conversion rates
  • Followers or subscribers
  • Growth

You don’t need all of them, and maybe the best metrics for you aren’t even on this list. Choose wisely, but most important, make sure you choose something.

6. They meet to discuss their strategies frequently.

Effective content marketing doesn’t happen by accident, and it certainly doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The most effective content marketers are part of a team whose members work in concert.

According to CMI and MarketingProfs, 48 percent of content marketers meet to discuss their content strategies on a daily or weekly basis. Fifty-five percent of those who rate themselves as most effective in content marketing meet with this frequency.

Furthermore, B2C marketers who meet daily or weekly are more likely to consider their meetings valuable (70 percent) than those who meet bi-weekly or monthly (54 percent).

7. They look beyond sales.

Finally, as noted before, it’s important for content marketers to carefully track the success of their efforts. This starts with basic metrics on content effectiveness such as those listed earlier. But such metrics must feed into broader organizational goals for marketing.

It’s no surprise that “sales” sits high on the list of ultimate goals related to content marketing; 83 percent of content marketers cite sales as an important goal.

The most effective content marketers place more importance on brand awareness (91 percent), followed by customer retention and loyalty (86 percent), engagement (86 percent), and then sales (82 percent).

Drew Hubbard is a social media and content marketing specialist. A version of this article originally ran on iMediaConnection.

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