13 Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your Business

on February 19, 2014

The world is flooded with ideas for creative and valuable articles, videos, and podcasts. What we see far less of is execution. And that’s understandable as not every idea deserves to be produced, nor do we have time to produce every idea.

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew which of your ideas would be successful before you executed on them? Maybe someone could just give you a list of content marketing techniques that have proven to be successful.

That’s what you’ll find in this article.

After reading this list of proven content marketing techniques, please share your stories of successful content production in the comments section. And when you do share your story, please explain, outside of the vanity metrics of page views, how the content was successful to you and your business.

1: Launch a new career with a piece of content

Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your BusinessAny time you post a job listing you’ll inevitably receive an avalanche of resumes from people with zero experience who will express in their cover letter that they’re ready for a career change.

While it’s all well and good that people want to make a career change, such an announcement requests the company hiring to take the risk on an unproven entity. If you truly want to make a career change, you need to assume the risk and demonstrate your mastery of that new career path. If you can’t get a new job doing that, then you’ll need to start producing some authoritative content.

That was the case of Rick Maurer (@rickmaurer2), author of “Beyond the Wall of Resistance,” a book that admittedly launched a speaking career and changed his consulting career to one that focuses on the issues of change management and resistance.

“Today virtually everything I do is based on ideas that I first started exploring in that book,” said Maurer.

2: Introduce your business to a whole new market

Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your BusinessLast year when Tricia Meyer (@sunshinetricia), co-owner of the Wine Club Group, published an article about pairing wine with Girl Scout Cookies it didn’t make much of a blip. The article came out at the end of the Girl Scout Cookies season when all stories and discussion had run its course. After languishing for a year, the article took off dramatically at the beginning of the next Girl Scout Cookie season.

“I’ve seen this particular webpage linked to more times than I can count by many of my wine-loving female friends on Facebook,” said Robin Shreeves, blogger at Mother Nature Network, of the post that generated 140,000 Facebook “Likes” and more than 6,000 pins on Pinterest in just two weeks.

While Meyer’s timing was initially off, the article inevitably proved it to be a clever way to open her business to a brand new market.

3: Provide end-to-end instructions

Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your Business“Most people don’t know how to fully execute a giveaway from start to finish,” explained Giancarlo Massaro (@massarogi), Co-Founder of ViralSweep. “Our goal was to create a guide to educate people on how to plan, build, run, promote, and make sales from giveaways.”

With that purpose, ViralSweep put together a flagship piece of content, “The Advanced Guide to Sweepstakes” that provides an exhaustive guide to everything one needs to know to pull off a successful sweepstakes.

This well designed and written content demonstrated ViralSweep’s extensive experience on what to do and not do when launching a sweepstakes. After reading the guide you knew that ViralSweep was an authority in running sweepstakes.

That message came through and the guide paid off big financially. Massaro said that 65 percent of the people who read through the entire guide clicked through to their site and signed up for a free account. Of those people who signed up from reading the guide, 22 percent upgraded to a paid plan. All their other blog content drives a mere 9 percent to click through to sign up for a free account. And of those free account holders, only 8 percent upgrade to the paid plan.

“High-quality polished content that helps educate people is what helps to grow our business,” said Massaro. “We’ve tried hundreds of marketing tactics and partnerships. This piece of content beats them all in terms of conversions and ROI.”

4: Answer a burning question buried in your own data

Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your Business“For years people have been asking us what hard drives we use and which ones are the best,” said Gleb Budman (@glebbudman), Co-Founder and CEO of Backblaze, an unlimited online backup service that uses lots of hard drives from many different manufacturers.

Backblaze goes through lots and lots of hard drives. Publishing an analysis of hard drive failures has always been on Budman’s “to do” list. It simply never got done until he hired engineer Brian Beach to take the time and do the analysis.

Budman was sitting on an information goldmine that just had to be harvested. If you’re collecting data, there’s definitely a story behind it that you and probably your audience wants to know.

The article was a huge hit. More than 100 articles were written about the Backblaze’s hard drive failure analysis with thousands of comments. All of that awareness resulted in a 75 percent increase in people starting a free trial with BackBlaze. Seventy percent of those users converted to paid subscribers, said Budman.

“Give people what they ask for,” Budman said of this great learning experience for him and his newfound audience. “A lot of people asking us for this data one-by-one translated into a lot of people wanting to read it when it was published.”

5: Reveal your proprietary sales data

Most smart businesses track customer behavior and adjust their marketing plans based on that behavior. The information is proprietary and companies usually keep internal sales data a secret so as to gain a competitive advantage.

What if a company used the information not to outwit their competition, but as a marketing tactic to reveal how much they know?

This was the approach of DeliveryChef.in, an India-based food service that delivers from more than 600 restaurants such as McDonald’s, Subway, and Pizza Hut. The company processes tens of thousands of food delivery orders in a year. With that data they produced an infographic on popular cuisines.

Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your Business

The infographic placed DeliveryChef.in as an authority in the India food industry. Food bloggers and restaurants followed up asking for hyper-local analysis of consumer tastes in their neighborhoods. Plus, the Food & Grocery Forum of India 2014 invited Aditi Kapur (@aditivkapur), Founder of DeliverChef.in, to share his content with the industry.

As expected, the sales data also proved to be valuable in improving DeliverChef.in’s marketing efforts, plus it helped partner restaurants better tailor their offerings to their customers, said Kapur.

6: Uncover a story in someone else’s data

If your company is not creating any fascinating data, or if you’ve already exhausted all the data you’ve got, all is not lost. You can still collect interesting data via open APIs and public data sets.

RJMetrics is a business intelligence company that sells a tool for data analytics. Whenever they write a blog post which requires them to analyze data, it’s an opportunity to show the value of their tool without having to actually write about their tool. Using public data or open APIs to gather data, they’ve written analyses about popularity of stories on Hacker News, the usage of the question-and-answer app Jelly, and even  their logo which looks like underpants.

Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your BusinessAll of these studies have proven to be extremely popular and have generated huge brand awareness.

“This content works for us because it’s on brand, while being about things that people just like,” said Janessa Lantz (@janessalantz), Content Marketer for RJMetrics.

To find public data sets dig through Data.gov, the Google Public Data Explorer, or mine this Quora question that provides lots of answers. For tools to analyze all that data, you can look to RJMetrics and you can also check out this article on Computerworld for recommendations of 22 free analysis tools, plus this article on GigaOM of six data-analysis tools anyone can use.

7: Create a tool for others to help themselves

Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your BusinessThe pattern of a migraine headache is not simple. There are complex triggers, varied symptoms, and episodes married to life cycles. Understanding that patterns differ, the Advanced Migraine Relief health group developed, with the help of Adhere Creative, a migraine diary for any sufferer to download and track their symptoms and construct episode trends, so as to help physicians develop tailored treatment plans.

Releasing the diary for download, the AMR gained new insight into daily usage. Many wanted a mobile app to pair conditions, such as depression and anxiety, alongside the timing of their migraines, explained Matt Lee (@adherecreative), Director of Marketing at Adhere Creative.

While there were plenty of downloads, success was measured by increased brand trust as the AMR provided a tool for tailored migraine plans, reinforcing the community-held belief that “No two migraine sufferers are alike,” said Lee.

8: Email-based drip campaigns for one-on-one engagement

While social media may be about conversations, email is a far more effective and responsive conversation tool. More people respond to personalized emails than they comment on blog posts.

Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your BusinessGiven that email drives greater engagement, Tyler Young (@ConvInsights), Principal Consultant for Conversion Insights, utilizes highly targeted email drip campaigns. His campaigns promise a free email course on subjects such as “Best Tools to Boost Your Law Firm’s Online Marketing.”

“We created this as a way of accomplishing the classic content marketing goals: to build trust and establish expertise with our audience,” said Young.

The course requires the user to register and expect a lengthy 14-day email exchange. By setting the bar high for participation, Young only gets very qualified leads.

“This is an easy way to build rapport. By the end of the campaign, the reader has really gotten to know me and trusts that I know what I’m doing,” said Young. “It also drives a ‘thirst’ for our offer. We give the reader a feel for how darn time-consuming this is, and how much easier their life would be if they paid us to do it for them.”

The results for the email-based content marketing campaign have been fantastic, said Young. At the end of each email Young proposes a homework exercise to get the person thinking about their problem. This forces a conversation. If the lead follows through and engages in conversation, Young said his conversion to paid consulting hovers around 80 percent.

“Engagement with email is astronomically higher than our other content marketing, such as blog posts or any social media. Conversion rates for these email courses are high enough that, going forward, everything we do will be focused around getting an email opt-in not subscribers, not followers, not even direct sales,” said Young.

9: Provide a valuable service for yourself and others

Publisher Tom Corson-Knowles (@juicetom) of TCKPublishing.com was looking for a list of sites to help him promote his ebooks. He couldn’t find one so he decided to just create one.

Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your Business

“I wrote the post because I knew it would be helpful to people. When I first started promoting my own books, I was looking for a list like this but couldn’t find one. It took me months of research to find all the sites that actually worked, so putting them in one place helps save authors a lot of time,” said Corson-Knowles.

In one year, his list to promote free Amazon Kindle books has amassed 10,000 unique visitors, and it helped to promote him as an expert in the field given that he’s the author of “The Kindle Publishing Bible.” Several clients have come to him specifically because of this list, said Corson-Knowles.

10: Launch a microsite to own a conversation

Most content efforts are singular in nature, and not ongoing. If you want to be known as a top expert in your field you either have to create the singular piece of content that everyone refers to as an industry bible, or you have to create targeted content on an ongoing basis.

Successful Content Marketing Formulas You Can Pull Off for Your BusinessBeing in the business of curation, Curata decided to launch and curate a microsite, Content Curation Marketing, on the business of content curation. The site offers up the latest news and best practices on content curation. The goal of the site is to position Curata as a leader within the curation industry by managing an online publication on curation, said Pawan Deshpande (@getcurata), CEO of Curata.

While the microsite generates traffic, what’s most important is it drives referrals to their corporate site. It also allows them to talk about the industry, but not within the confines of their corporate blog, said Deshpande.

11: Turn your content creation into an event

One popular form of content that’s rarely exposed in content marketing is the actual creative process. Watching people create content is a proven market. For example, “making of” extras on a DVD, improv comedy, and improvisational jazz are all popular examples of voyeuristic views into the creative process. The meta information around the content becomes another stream of content to deepen an audience’s interest in your content.

Scott Yates (@BlogMutt), Co-Founder of BlogMutt, entered a 60-minute blog writing challenge on Hubspot. Of the 100 entrants, Yates wrote one of the top five winning posts. While it was a well written piece, what really set him apart was the fact that he live streamed his entire creative process via Google Hangouts.

“It was successful beyond the vanity metrics because we got a few new customers out of it. Also, a bunch of our writers tuned in and said it was helpful for them,” said Yates.

As for producing the live stream while creating the post, Yates said, “Writing while talking about writing is really hard. I’ll have more beer on hand to drink when I do it next time.”

12: Stand out with a unique content format

Far too often a potential client will come to me and say, “We need to make a video,” or “We need a ‘how to’ article.” I’ll ask why they need it, and they’ll answer that they heard from some expert that videos are really popular, or “how to” articles do really well in search. All of that may be true, but it may not be true for their business.

Joshua Weinberg (@joshuaw) is the founder of Digital Life Group, a startup consultancy that helps launch products. Weinberg has strong philosophies about how a product should be launched. In fact, he has 50 of them, just two shy of the number of cards in a deck of playing cards. In an effort to spread his product launch theories and become a useful and memorable marketing piece, Weinberg decided to release his “50 Principles for Successful Product Launches” as a deck of cards.

Weinberg could have easily written these principles up as a blog post, a book, or a SlideShare presentation. He surely would have gotten his message across, but he may not have stood out.

“When meeting with prospects or speaking before groups the deck of cards brings instant credibility and differentiation,” said Weinberg. “The deck of cards has helped change people’s image of me from a PR person to business consultant specializing in customer experience.”

“Find a way to intelligently stand out,” said Weinberg. “Many folks recommended I write a book for the credibility. I think I have been far more successful with the card decks then I would have been with a book.”

The deck of cards has led to multiple client engagements for Weinberg plus reporters have tapped him as an expert for interviews.

13: Educate your customers with a video series

“It’s hard for service companies to devote marketing time for themselves,” admitted Shawn Amos (@shawnamos), CEO of the content marketing firm Freshwire.

If Amos was going to advise others to create content to market their business, he was going to have to do it for his business as well. You must do for yourself if you’re going to advise others – if not just for credibility, at least to also learn what you should and should not do. The trick is to find something you can create within your means and sustain it on a regular basis, said Amos.

Thus began the launch of Freshwire’s the “Content Brief,” a weekly video series, hosted by Amos, about the content industry. It was their first content project in which they had full creative control.

“It’s not all about volume and slickness, it’s about authenticity and consistency,” said Amos who began recording these pieces on his iPhone and then ramped up to a more professional studio with a green screen.

“The content of the videos proved to be instructional for our clients,” said Amos. “They believed they were students and we were teachers of this world. We gained their trust and they liked our style.”

The Content Brief has turned into a flagship brand for Freshwire. And while the video series isn’t bringing down huge view numbers, it has been responsible for landing two clients who brought in an excess of $1M each in new business.

CONCLUSION: The Work You Put into Creating the Content

“Producing great content is hard work and it takes time. That said the time you put into writing it you save in the ‘getting people to share and promote it’ department,” said RJMetrics’ Lantz.

“If you’re a B2B company, the best content marketing result is people sharing a piece internally, usually via email. Quality, not marketing tricks, drives this behavior,” said Matt Gratt (@MattGratt), whose company BuzzStream created a successful “how-to” ebook on creating linkable content.

Gratt also echoes something that I strongly believe for which you can see evidenced in this very article: “Get other people involved in your content – co-creation improves both content quality and builds sharing into your content.”

Continuing that theme of co-creation, I invite you, the reader, to publish your successful content marketing story. What was the formula and outside of vanity metrics, why was it successful for you and your business?


Creative Commons photo attribution to Jinx!

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