12 Essential Tools for the Content Marketer

12 years ago   •   6 min read

By Marcia Kadanoff

One of the questions marketers get asked most often starts like this. “I think I get content marketing, but what kind of content works best?” The short answer is that there are at least twelve types of content you can utilize as part of any content marketing plan.

In this case, the focus is on content that can extend your brand’s reach, beyond your website or blog. There’s no single type that works best for all companies. In fact, diversification and having a portfolio of content you can pull from is key. Here are the twelve types of content to focus on, and how they can be used.

1. Video and Motion Graphics

Yes, video belongs in your content plan, but not for the reasons you think. Don’t create a video with the intent that it will “go viral.” Instead, recommend to your clients that they use video to create awareness. No other medium engenders emotion the way video does.

Consider the video above — it’s motion graphics — from a Palo Alto-based startup called WealthFront. Here the company’s objective was to attract a world-class designer to its team. This video did not go viral but it did get seen by almost everyone in the target market — designers in the Bay Area.

2. Webinars

Tired of webinars? Everyone is. Still, our company recently fielded a webinar that had 1,500 people sign up to learn more about grammar. That’s right. Grammar. This webinar wasn’t the usual talking heads. Instead, it was Scott Abel (who blogs as The Content Wrangler) and Val Swisher (CEO of Content Rules) with the Grammar Girl herself, Mignon Fogarty.

The lesson is to make the webinar appealing by focusing on the types of problems your prospects are facing that your product or service can solve. Don’t go it alone. Instead, reach out to your favorite blogger or pundit and ask them to act as the MC, with your brand acting as the sponsor. And remember, no one ever bought anything because you bored them to death.

3. Infographics

Infographics are, well, graphics. If you make yours compelling, it will get picked up and showcased on sites like Cool Infographics or Good. This sounds great until you realize that everyone is sharing links that reference back to a site that is not yours.

This is why you should always post your infographic with embed code. Don’t know how to create embed code? Here’s a blog post that can help.

4. Q&As

This is content that goes up on a Q&A site like Quora or the answers section of LinkedIn. The content here isn’t very sexy, and it may not be all that findable in a search engine like Google. Still, we like this type of content a lot, mostly because we know that people who post questions here tend be further along in the buying process.

When answering questions make sure you actually post an answer to the question. People get irritated when you try to sell them on “your stuff” prematurely. So don’t. Be helpful, pay it forward, and make it apparent where your product or solution addresses their needs. Got a great example of a dialogue that worked for you and one that backfired? Share it.

5. Case Studies

You are going to need multiple case studies, sometimes called success stories. Ideally, you’ll serve up these case studies in a way that allows your potential customer to see or experience their problem being solved through your product or service. Case studies can be content you position in the media or on your own website.

Focus on making the case studies easy to find based on the problems your buyer is likely to face. If finding them proves difficult for a potential customer, then it can be a waste of time for both parties. Consider this case study on “best design” from Sun Power. This is one of four case studies. Presumably each case study was designed to speak to a specific benefit. But when we did a search on “best design solar panel” or “best designed solar panel” Sun Power did not show up on page one of the search results. Studies show that 60 to 70% of buyers aren’t going to get any farther than page one. This is a lost opportunity.

Case studies work throughout the buying process but especially during the early stages when the buyer is still trying to define their problem and the products and solutions that can solve them. Make search engine optimization a priority when it comes to case studies.

6. E-books | White Papers

White papers, now known as the more visual e-book, can make sense both early and late in the customer buying cycle. Early on, the buyer is looking to get educated about the category and how your product or service can solve their problem. Later the buyer is comparing your product or service to others on his or her short list. Either way, it makes sense to make a related e-book available only after your prospect has filled out some kind of form on your site.

7. Podcasts

Podcasts are relatively easy to create and are easy for people to watch or listen to on iTunes. When creating a podcast, target buyers later in the buying process who are eager to go in-depth on your product or service. Podcasts are particularly good at delivering the back story of your product or service. The one above is an example from Etsy called Handmade Portraits.

8. Reviews

The best reviews are objective and come from people who are seen as either similar to the buyer, someone who has expertise that the buyer values, or someone the buyer trusts. Think Walter Mitty (the favorite everyman), Walter Kohn (the Nobel-winning chemist), or Walter Mossberg ( a reporter at The Wall Street Journal).

If you can’t get reviews from one or more of the “Walters” then go for “wisdom of crowds” approach. Get a lot of reviews, and try to make most of them positive.

Reviews can also be used on your own site. For example, place excerpts from the best reviews on landing pages because testing shows that this placement lifts response by as much as a full percentage point.

If you have a longer review, such as an analyst report, handle it the same way you’d handle an e-book or white paper. Put the review behind a form and make the download something you can leverage to generate leads.

9. Presentations

Business-to-business buyers and consumers who are making a considered purchase will troll the web looking for information to aid them in the buying process. Presentations help buyers get the right information about your products and services.

We typically recommend that you set up a channel on Slideshare to house the presentations you are doing at trade shows and other industry events. By doing this, you are leveraging the Slideshare community, which at 60 million uniques, will drive additional traffic to your website. Slideshare does a great job of optimizing the content it houses for organic search.

10. Apps & Tools

Apps and tools are often used early in the buying process when the buyer is not yet aware they have a problem. A great example of this can be found at WealthFront. The WealthFront tool is for people working at startup companies who have just gone public and need to diversify out of their company’s stock. The idea is to bring people to the tool so as to acquaint them with the need to diversify out of their own company’s stock.

Notice how WealthFront is pretty low-key when presenting its service as the solution to the buyer’s problem. This is intentional. If you are too commercial at this stage of your relationship with the prospect you risk turning them off.

11. Curated Content

When you think curated content you probably think sites like Pinterest. While curated content could fit almost anywhere in the buying process, a site like Pinterest specifically works well early on to create awareness. This is especially true for products or services with a visual component and with a strong appeal to Pinterest’s primarily female demographic.

12. Email Newsletters

Does anyone read email newsletters anymore? Is this still a valid form of content? Yes and yes. Email newsletters can be very good at generating more leads, but there are some rules. Do email regularly, so as to develop your readership. The minimum frequency should be once a month. That’s how you keep most customers and prospects interested and aware of your presence. Also, make sure your design your newsletter so it is easy to skim with click-through links that direct people back to long-form content on your website.

A newsletter works to keep you top of mind with prospects and existing customers throughout the buying cycle and even afterwards. That’ when you want to turn customers into advocates and evangelists for your brand. To measure results, you are going to need some kind of analytics software.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, frender

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