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Lee Odden

Secrets of Content Marketing World: Agent Robert Rose, Content Marketing Institute

By Lee Odden     Content Marketing, Interviews, Marketing PR Conferences, Online Marketing

Robert Rose Content Marketing Secret Agent

Within the Content Marketing Secret Agent community there are a number of operatives that really go above and beyond in their efforts to make an impact in their work. I’m not talking about double agents or moonlighting mercenaries, but people who can see the full spectrum of impact from great content marketing. From concept and creative to strategy and tactics to measurement and conversions, a well-rounded perspective towards content marketing will undoubtedly harvest an abundance of useful secrets.

That’s what we have with Robert Rose, Chief Strategist for the Content Marketing Institute and Founder and Chief Troublemaker at Big Blue Moose. In this interview he covers content marketing goals, the role of search and measurement as well as some great examples of how companies are integrating content marketing with other channels.

You have substantial experience in developing web and content strategies and with your current role as Chief Strategist of CMI, how has your work with content as a marketing asset evolved? What do you think about all the recent buzz about “content marketing”?

Well – as you might expect I’m abuzz about the buzz.   2012 marks the first year I’ve seen Content Marketing (as a recognized practice) really begin to grain traction.  In other words, my work with Fortune 1000 companies has really evolved from getting business cases built, or winding executives up about the potential of content marketing – and is rather now about how to operationalize the practice.   It’s a hugely challenging and rewarding job to work with all these amazing brands to help them transform part of their marketing organization into storytelling organizations.

What do you consider to be reasonable goals for a content marketing program that’s focused on showing a business return, whether it’s sales, retention or something else?

Well let me first take the easy way out and say that we should hopefully also be setting some “unreasonable goals as well” (Heh!).   That said – I’ve seen content marketing programs make all kinds of other efforts more effective.  For example, I’ve seen it make PPC (Pay per click) marketing much more economical and effective, I’ve seen it make Lead Nurturing more effective, I’ve seen it create exponential brand awareness and raise the profile (and therefore value) of a startup company – and I’ve seen it decrease customer costs by 20%.

Maybe most importantly – I’ve seen content marketing create a MORE VALUABLE customer.  In other words – I think one of the most strategic goals of content marketing can be to create what Joe and I call in the book a “brand subscriber”.  This customer spends more, stays longer, is more loyal and ultimately shares their experience more readily.  That’s the real magic.

Your session “Getting the Choir to Sing: Selling & Developing the Process for Content Marketing INSIDE the Organization” is focused on motiving your team to produce great content.  What are 3 of the primary takeaways from your Content Marketing World presentation that you think are most important?

Sure… The first is that in order for ANY content marketing program to work – the entire Team (that means sales, CRM, store associates, the CFO etc..) have to also believe in it.  So, before we start rolling anything out externally we have to make sure our team believes in it first.

The second is that in order to get the team to believe in that story – we must “tell them a story about the story will tell”.  In other words – we need to make sure that the team knows WHY and HOW this story will affect THEM.  We must use content marketing to SELL our team on this idea.  And, lastly – we need to structure (either through roles or functional positions), a center of excellence of content and storytelling.  Everybody needs to know where to go to get the definitive word on content and the voice of the organization.

What are some ways that successful companies are integrating content marketing with other online marketing channels such as social media, digital PR and SEO? Can you share a few examples?

There are certainly examples of all of the above. But I’ll highlight two here.

The first – and I know a passion of yours – is SEO.   It used to be that we focused on dumping as much content out on our sites in order to “rank” for the “long tail”.   This is increasingly ineffective.  So – today building a content marketing program around Quality Content that wants to be shared is the key.   This is how we improve SEO.  I worked with one company that picked a “theme.”  This theme contained a set of keywords and key phrases and was one they were passionate about.  They built their whole blog around it.  Their organic traffic actually went DOWN by thirty percent because the theme was actually very forward looking – and so wasn’t hugely popular.  It’s a good bet that it might be popular at some point, but the key is that they OWNED the front page of Google for  these terms – and the traffic they DID receive from it were engaged, interested people. So, the sharing went up by 150% and the closed deals from organic traffic went up by 300%.   It’s not just about attracting organic traffic – it’s about attracting VALUABLE organic traffic.

The second is PPC – where a company I know changed the call to action on a PPC ad – and instead of saying “click to buy now” they said “click to engage with some content”.   Clickthroughs went way down (and therefore costs did as well) but engagement went through the roof – and they actually decreased the CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) for all of their PPC campaigns as a result.

The lesson – find out what your customers are looking for on Search.  It’s probably higher funnel than you think – and sometimes just getting them to the next step of engagement is more valuable than bringing them all the way to a “purchase decision” conversion point.

Content is both art and science with high demands on coordinating necessary planning, time and resources. This seems especially true for large, complex organizations with multiple players and diverse needs. What tools, software or services can recommend for large enterprise companies that want to be more efficient and effective at using content to drive new business and engage their customers?

There will certainly be many of these at Content Marketing World – so I won’t belabor the point too much here with specific tools.  But generally, content management tools are extremely important – and especially ones that enable us to be more responsive, adaptive and flexible in the conversations/content we’re generating.  We’ve operated for so long, as marketers, as content management being a governance tool.  So, things like workflow, and versioning, and scalability etc.. have all been very important.   And, don’t get me wrong – they are really important.  But more important today – and especially for content marketing – is the ability to quickly adapt, and change and be conversational.  So, CMS tools that enable that are VERY important – even if they are separate from the more”governance” focused tools we may be deploying.

Goals can vary of course, but what are some of the essential “must have” measurements for content marketing success?

The key to measurement is really making sure that we look at measuring the right things – and delivering the right metrics to the right person.   What I mean by that is that one of the absolute keys is that we have the ability to measure the KIND of customer that content marketing is creating.  For example, I’ve seen examples where using regular analytics tools we discover that a “content marketing lead” takes 1.2x the time to close and 3X the cost to close.  If we stop measuring there – our teams will look at that and say “content marketing sucks”.   But if we even took it one step further and said – but that content marketing generated a customer that spent 2x as much, stayed 5X as long and shared their story 2x more readily – well then we’ve actually shown a TRUE value for that program.

So – we have to change our view of measurement and stop trying to draw a straight ROI line to revenue for everything tiny thing we are doing.  See, what happens now is that we look at a blog – and say “how many leads is that blog giving us”.   That may not even be the right question -  so why are we surprised when we get an answer we don’t like?  Rather – if we as marketers take responsibility for (and this can be the hardest part) as well as the opportunity for the ENTIRE customer lifecycle and creating an engaged consumer – then we can make MUCH better business cases and show ROI much more effectively.   A perfectly good goal for a Facebook page, for example, is How much organic traffic is it feeding into our Customer Help site – and ultimately how many of those people (e.g. organic traffic from Facebook) are feeding into a self service mechanism (which is decreasing customer service costs).

What are 3 “secret” predictions that you have for the future and importance of brands and content marketing?

The first prediction is that the lines between paid, owned and earned media are going to blur substantially.   The difference between a paid “commercial” and a piece of “earned” media will start to really become indistinguishable.  For example, if we pay for an advertising spot – but use that space to tell a story that simply is the “first chapter” in a story that continues on something we OWN – and then is SHARED – with both paid and earned sharing techniques – through other partner channels that we work with – how do we classify that?   It will, however,  be incumbent on Marketers to understand how our story is being told – and what we’re paying for and what we’re not.

The second is related to that – and I’d start to also look for Brands that are partnering to leverage each other’s audiences.   A question that marketers will quickly start to ask themselves is how can I leverage a complementary brand’s audience.  The new “media buying strategy” might be me looking at a complementary product’s blog or content marketing program and asking them how I get my content in front of their audience.

The third prediction will be the rise of storytellers in the organization.  Brand marketers will increasingly begin to staff up on journalists, english majors – and just great communicators in general as they build out capabilities for using content to drive marketing results.

You’re a secret agent on a mission and you’re having a rendezvous with your agency contact after pulling a dangerous undercover operation. You now have a coveted secret. A content marketing secret. What secret for achieving success with content marketing will you share? The content marketing world depends on it, so please make it good!

Wow…. Hard to pick just one.  Here are three – see if you want me to elaborate on any one of these or include all three…

Big Data for marketing is a trap – don’t fall into it.

You must look at the total spectrum of customer engagement (from awareness to brand evangelism) to appreciate the value of content marketing – so you MUST change your measurement philosophy.

Your content and stories are the only differentiator you have left.  Hire and invest accordingly.

Agent Rose, you are a GO. Mission accomplished.

For more content marketing smarts of the Robert Rose variety, get his session, “Getting the Choir to Sing: Selling & Developing the Process for Content Marketing INSIDE the Organization” on your calendar while you’re at Content Marketing World next week. September 6th at 3:05pm to be exact.

Also be sure to check out the TopRank session on the future of optimization: Optimize and Socialize for Better Content Marketing” – Sept 6 – 3:00 pm (Content Creation & Optimization Track).

What’s your best content marketing secret?
Share your best content marketing secret in the comments below and we’ll pick 3 winners this week to receive a free copy of “Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing”.

The next agent in our series of Content Marketing Secrets is Todd Wheatland, VP Marketing & Thought Leadership at Kelly Services.


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