Here in the US of A, we worship football. When fall finally arrives, we plan our weekends and Monday nights around it. Ah, the sounds of pads colliding, the buzz of the crowd, the intense tension of third and long. Football is the game of Patriots. And Packers. And Saints. I think you follow me.
YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP PLAYBOOK
Here in the arena of modern marketing, where we semi-officially compete in the frozen tundra of Google Field, Joe Montana, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the 17-0 Miami Dolphins are sacred beyond compare. And at the dweebie tailgate parties us online writers and designer nerds go to, we raise our Budweisers to content marketing champions and aspire to compete in the biggest of the big games.
Welcome to my metaphor
Are you ready for some football?!?!? Or, are you ready for me to finally kickoff this article?
Here we go sports fans. Let’s say it’s Sunday and we’re ready for some fun. That pigskin game we love so much and the powerful new marketing playbook we’re about to crack open are going to meet at the 50-yard line.
It’s kickoff time
Game on. It’s time to talk about content marketing, so as your head coach today, I intend to make a few points.
Point #1: Content marketing is for champions. Want to be one? Okay, great, there’s no messing around now. This ain’t Pop Warner. This is the big league where it goes without saying you need a great website—not the kind you created in the 1990s.
Your website game plan calls for:
- Constantly updating your content.
- A content plan that ties into your SEO plan in the biggest way.
- A blog, which serves as a major foundation of your game.
- Having a super-duper playbook. (I’ve seen many of these, but the most comprehensive one was published by CMI, sponsored by Eloqua and PR Newswire and available by clicking here.)
It sucks to punt
Though the punter may disagree, if you understand the game of football, you understand to punt means to surrender. You were on offense, but you failed to make the progress you need. Time to make a tough call.
Timeout. The coach wants to think it through, weigh the risks. If we punt, we need to rely on our defense. However, in football, you’re far more likely to score when you have the ball.
Point #2: Go for it. Plod forth. One great play might blow the game open for you. Content marketing requires taking some chances. It requires perseverance. Forget about punting.
Three points are better than nothing
Another option on fourth down, if you believe you’re close enough to the end zone, is to attempt a field goal. If the ball goes through the goalposts, it’s good for three points. You have something to show for your possession and can feel good about it. Scoring three points at a time is definitely a slow way to go, but field goals add up, sometimes slow and steady wins the race, and many, many games are won by three points or less.
Point #3: In the content marketing game, you don’t want to underestimate the significance of putting points on the board. Score any way you possibly can.
A number of content marketing tactics will help you achieve steady progress:
- Promote your blog relentlessly. Write guest posts on other blogs.
- Forge relationships with strategic allies.
- Monitor your competition’s activities and what’s trending in the media.
- Learn how to plug social media into your marketing strategy. Be active on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and social networks in general.
- Create a variety of free resources your customers will find valuable such as how-to articles, case studies, checklists, expert interviews, reviews and more.
- Offer some curation in the form of ezine-type services.
- Syndicate your content by finding relevant outlets for publication.
Touchdowns are the highlights of the game
The object of the game is to cross the goal with the ball. The refs raise both arms. The crowd goes wild. The players start loving on each other and the guy who scored celebrates in some wild and crazy way or jumps into the seats to party with the fans. And the hoopla’s all well deserved because you accomplished what you came to do—score 6 points.
How do you score big in content marketing? First of all, start listening to people who tell you to stop trying to go viral. You create something of real value. It educates or entertains, or both. And then some beautiful things could happen. People respond to the content, save it, share it, praise it, and paraphrase it in their own work. Your ideas go viral. You’ve done something remarkable. You’ve inspired people to take action.
Point #4: Conceive and create content with the goal of inspiring people.
It’s not impossible to accomplish this with a blog or some tactic we qualified as field goal material, but your real touchdowns, your top plays, are likely to require some extra effort.
Here are some content marketing plays that could possibly get you dancing in the end zone:
- White papers, which switch on light bulbs.
- Industry reports, which reflect an investment was made in the interest of uncovering answers.
- Events such as shows, broadcasts, and webinars.
- Videos crammed full of value.
- Books, which inspire readers to invest their time and money to discover secrets to success.
The extra point can be the difference
Admittedly, in football, the extra point is a bit of a chip shot. You merely need to execute a clean snap for the holder to place and the kicker knocks it through. Let’s forgo the research and estimate 99% of the time, the team succeeds in getting an extra point and the touchdown drive ultimately becomes a 7-point score.
Extra points are far from insignificant. Games could very well be won or lost because of made or missed extra points. And you know what they call it when you make it? Conversion. (Sometimes metaphors can be so sweet.)
Point #5: Conversion is key.
The muckety-mucks of new media might tell you content marketing need not focus on conversion, but I feel otherwise. I’ll concede that conversion isn’t strictly defined as invoking a purchase, but I maintain your audience does indeed need to “buy” something, even it means no more than buying into the point of view you’ve presented.
I believe it’s best to think of content marketing conversion as getting the visitor to do something, to take action, such as:
- Tweet your content and pass it along one way or another.
- Submit information such as an email address or phone number in an effort to get more information.
- Bookmark the page where your content resides either locally or with a web-based bookmarking service.
- “Like” it.
- Dig further into your website or resource library.
- Learn from it and apply the lesson.
- Follow-up with a complement, comment or question.
- Call, email, ask questions.
- Try your product.
There’s one more way to score
Every once in awhile, in football a safety is scored. Though technically, there is more than one way to score a safety, the 2-point play generally occurs when the defense stuffs the opposing team behind their own goal line. And then, to pour a little salt in the wound, the rules dictate the humiliated team must immediately give up the ball by punting it to the team that scored. It’s a triumph of the defensive unit, which conveniently leads me to…
Point #6: You have to play defense too.
What I mean here is however successful your efforts to score have been, you want to always protect your turf. This is the essence of the territorial game we call football. So, take this to mean there’s no excuse for coasting in content marketing either. To win is to keep gaining—and relentlessly refusing—to give ground. The best teams tend to have the most fearsome defenses. So establish trust, establish authority, and prove your value by playing fearlessly.
See you at the Super Bowl
At the conclusion of the regular season a series of playoff games shrink the field to the two top dogs who will meet on neutral territory in sport’s biggest event, the Super Bowl. Prior to the big game, the media fixates on every detail. The story grows bigger with every practice and press conference as the fans place bets, enter pools, and plan parties. When the game comes, the world takes pause. An astounding number of TVs are turned on. Advertisers invest gazillions in revealing some of the silliest commercials ever to an audience that’s gathered around the keg.
A few hours later, one team revels in the glory of hoisting the coveted Lombardi trophy. Invariably, the MVP announces he’s going to Disneyland.
Point #7: Get on that team. Be valuable. Exult.