I’m excited to have been asked to moderate the Performance ROI track for this week’s Content Marketing World in Cleveland, just an hour north from our home base (#ClevelandRocks). As part of my participation in the conference, Content Marketing Institute asked me to answer several questions for a series of posts they ran on their site leading up to the conference. In addition to my contributions to these articles, you will find advice from some of the best minds in content marketing, including Ian Cleary, Jay Baer and Rand Fishkin. Be sure to check the Content Marketing World Speakers’ Advice series out for some awesome content marketing insights and advice, and read on to get all my complete answers.
If you were to hire someone to join your content marketing team right now, what skills would be on the top of your must-have list, and why?
Creative thinking outside the box. It’s not just a matter of being a good writer, but you have to think of ways to be creative about the writing you’re doing. In the right hands, there is no such thing as a boring topic!
What is your favorite content marketing revelation in the past year? How has it changed the way you are executing your content marketing strategy?
I think we realized this year just how important visual content is. Even on Twitter, where the focus had traditionally been on the short message, it is becoming almost imperative that you include an image if you want to stand out in the news feed. Without fail now, we make sure each of our blog posts has a large image and one that can be shared easily across social media. Most of our images now include a message so it can easily be included on Pinterest. We also have started publishing infographics and quote images.
We all know we need to focus on audience. Besides creating personas, what do you suggest marketers do to really (really) better understand what their audience wants and how they can help?
Social listening is critical. Too many brands go into social media with the intent to promote, promote, promote, but one of social media’s biggest strengths is it gives you a window into your audience’s wants and needs. By monitoring what they are saying in social media and other places across the Internet, such as blog comments, you can find out what their unmet needs and unanswered questions are. You can then craft your message and products/services to fill in those voids.
Building a subscriber base on your owned properties (e.g. you blog) is critical. What are your favorite tips to growing your subscriber base?
A really simple thing to do is include a checkbox on each of your lead generation forms asking if they want to be subscribed to your blog. Many times, people coming to your landing page may have never seen your blog. If they are interested in the content you are offering on your landing page, they would likely be interested in your blog as well, but you have to offer it. All of our lead forms include a box to subscribe to the blog, and it’s pre-checked, so if they DON’T want to subscribe, they need to uncheck the box.
What’s your favorite content marketing hack and how does it help you? (i.e., productivity booster, tools, time-saver, budget saver, etc.)
There are actually two things that go hand-in-hand. The first is making sure that you write down your ideas as soon as you have them. If you don’t write an idea down, it will most likely disappear. The second thing is to plot those ideas out on an editorial calendar. This accomplishes a couple things. First, when you sit down to write, you don’t have to worry about coming up with an idea. You already know what you are going to write. Second, it ensures that you are providing a variety of content, both in the topics and in the way that you present them. People tend to get bored if you keep talking about the same things and always use the same format or type of content. You should try to mix it up to keep them engaged, and planning ahead is a great way to do that.
What is your favorite Google Analytics tip that would help other content marketers do something with the data (not simply report on it)?
Some people get in the habit of checking Analytics every day, but it’s really hard to spot trends that way and really easy to make kneejerk decisions. We look at our data once a month and record it on a spreadsheet so we can easily see how things change month to month. This makes it easier for us to see what is working and see trends over time.
What trends do you foresee influencing content creation?
The biggest trends come from whatever Google seems to want. We’ve seen a lot of content trends come and go and they all seem to be based on current Google algorithms. The best trend, however, is to simply just write great content and not to worry about “what’s hot” today. If the content is great for your audience, do it, regardless of what Google wants today.