Content Marketing-Traction Channel #8

Content Marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc. Why Engage in Content Marketing? In Weinberg and Mares book, Traction:  “For this traction channel of Content Marketing, we spoke with two successful entrepreneurs who have very different approaches toward content creation. 1. Rick Perreault, founder and CEO of Unbounce, told us how Unbounce started using their blog as a marketing platform the day they started building their application. In fact, they began blogging a year before they even had a product! Unbounce’s blog raised their profile in the online marketing industry and is still their main source of traction.  Perreault said, “If you invest in content, it gets picked up by Google. People find it, they share it, and it refers customers almost indefinitely. By the time we launched in the summer of 2010, we were doing 20,000 unique visitors per month to the blog.  It was up and running for almost a year before we launched. This blog-from-the-beginning approach allowed them to launch with an email list over 5,000 strong. This wasn’t your typical startup product launch. The Unbounce team:

  • Relied heavily on social media to drive readers to their blog.
  • After every post they wrote, they’d ping influencers on Twitter asking for feedback and thoughts.
  • They also engaged with their target customers by writing useful answers on targeted forums like Quora. These efforts allowed them to build enough of an audience for their content to start spreading more organically.
  • They gave away free infographics and ebooks, like 101 Landing Page Optimization Tips, to grow their email list. This meant that when they finally opened up their product beta, they were swamped with customers. Getting to this point wasn’t as easy as it might seem.
  • Even with awesome bi-weekly posts about online marketing, it took six months for the Unbounce team to see results from their blog. But, once they had an audience they never looked back.
2. Sam Yagan of OkCupid. The popular online dating service launched in 2004, but didn’t start seriously blogging until 2009. Though they focused on other traction channels early on, OkCupid really started to take off when they focused on content marketing. OkCupid had two goals for the blog in the early days.
  • First, they wanted to raise their online profile. Online dating is a competitive space and in order to stand out they needed to do something unique.
  • Second, they wanted to make it acceptable to talk about online dating. There was (and still is, to some extent) a stigma about online dating. OkCupid wanted to remove that stigma.
  • Much like Unbounce, their blog was the focal point of all their marketing activities. They intentionally wrote controversial posts to generate traffic and conversation.
  • Each of their posts took a month to write and drew on the data they had from studying the usage patterns of their members.
  • Their blog also has major SEO benefits. When they launched it, they were nowhere near the top of search results for the term “online dating.” About a year later, they were the first result for that highly competitive term.
Keys to Effective Content Marketing
  1. Creating Strong Content  Write about the problems facing your target customers.  In the early days, it’s unlikely that your blog will see much traffic, regardless of content quality. Even Unbounce was receiving less than 800 monthly visits after six months of consistently putting out content. It took a while for them to grow to 20,000 monthly visitors.
  2. Grow Your Blog  There are ways to build momentum faster. Unbounce engaged in any online forum where conversations were taking place about online marketing, doing their best to contribute. They were particularly successful reaching out to influential people on Twitter. They would simply follow marketing mini-celebrities and ask them for feedback on recent posts.  One of the best methods of growing your audience is guest posting. This tactic is especially powerful in the early days when you essentially have no audience to work with yourself.
  3. As you move forward, monitor social mentions and use analytics to determine which types of posts are getting attention and which are not. Many bloggers are surprised at which posts do well. That is a good reason to keep a regular content schedule: it can be hard to anticipate what exactly will resonate with your audience.
  4. Recognition as a primary voice in an industry leads to opportunities to speak at major conferences, give press quotes to journalists, and influence industry direction.  One of the best things about this traction channel is how it positions you as a leader in your space. It also means your content is shared many more times than it would be otherwise, states Weinberg and Mares of Traction.
Rick Perreault of Unbounce put it like this: “Our blog drives search. It drives word of mouth. The blog is top of the funnel. People find the blog, and it’s attached to our website. We don’t market the blog, per se, but we’re constantly – several times a week – releasing content that gets shared and drives people to the blog.” Necessary Tools (Before You Begin) from A Not-So-Brief Guide to Content Marketing 
  • Self-hosted WordPress blog (that’s along with some solid WordPress hosting, my current favorite being WP Engine.
  • Choose an email newsletter software.  People are much more likely to buy via email than over social networks, it’s a much more private tool that is typically used to get stuff done, like  AWeber and MailChimp.
  • Define you content strategy.  Your topic needs to be broad enough that enough people will find it interesting.  Having this unique twist is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT in creating a startup blog that is “citable”, as people will continue to refer and link to your site as the go-to place for a unique style of content.
  • Content Funnel-Conversion Optimization Once you’ve got a decent flow of visitors coming in (minimum 100 uniques/day), it’s time to really start focusing on conversion optimization.  De-cluttering is your #1 priority, Optimize email sign-up forms, use resources galore.
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