We recently asked a group of thirteen inbound marketing experts about the lessons they learned during 2015. Their responses were interesting, insightful, and definitely thought-provoking.
In this blog series, we're highlighting their responses by topic and question.
Here, four smart people tell us about their biggest content marketing learnings from the last year. Our hope is that their realizations will help your business use content better in 2016 and beyond.
On standing out online:
“My biggest aha moment this year is that it's really, really, really hard for new companies to stand out from the crowd online. And since most buyers start their research online, sales and marketing are getting harder and harder for most. The internet has made business a ridiculously competitive thing.
Back in 2008, I remember Dan Tyre telling CEOs that if they don't start doing inbound marketing, they're going to get left behind. It sounded like a bit of a sales line to me at that time, but I now think Dan Tyre was prescient. The companies that got started with inbound internet marketing, and stuck with it - are crushing it. They are acquiring new clients now because of the work they did years ago, even a decade ago. The flip side is that companies that haven't started need to really do something extraordinary or unique. They have to give more away for free. Whether it's getting traffic, leads or sales, the companies that are winning are the ones who are giving away more and more value - to attract and pull prospects down the funnel.
You have to be a real expert too. Gary Vee said this well in a post the other day:
You can't build a personal brand unless you've actually done something that makes you worthy of the attention and accolades.
In business, that usually means stepping away from the keyboard and creating a product or building a business. The content can't be remarkable unless the story is. So, marketers that want to break through the clutter have to be great storytellers. They have to be willing to share their story, warts and all. They have to make forward progress, set a goal and share their story.
Nectafy, a marketing agency that's growing fast, shared their journey with doing their own inbound marketing and launching services to do it for clients. GrooveHQ is sharing their journey and their monthly revenue on their blog: https://www.groovehq.com/blog.
Now that the ebook should be ungated, companies need to get more clever with their gated offers. If they want site visitors to give them their contact information, if they want to get permission to market to someone via email, you need to do more than give away the ebook.
You'll need to build tools that answer their questions like Kula Partners has done for their clients and how SnapApp has done for their customers. Interactive content is getting bigger because it helps site visitors answer their questions like a salesperson should, it gives away more to prospects.
And finally, if websites are now dynamic experiences that guide a visitor to a solution, salespeople need to get better at being even better.
They have to stop leading with their pitch. They have to be real business consultants who listen and understand before they even mention their solutions. They have to be thought leaders themselves in order to get invited to the table. Lastly, they have to put client success above else, including their quota.
Whether it's generating traffic, leads or sales, the world is moving more towards an inbound way of doing business. Businesses that want to survive, let alone thrive need to step up their game. Every part of the funnel needs to get better; you need to give more to prospects. Else, as Dan Tyre would say, your company is going to be behind like a chain smoker running a marathon.”
Pete Caputa, VP of Sales at HubSpot
On creating high-quality content:
“We need to be working harder to give our content legs. As marketers, we spend so much time creating. We think that something is done when it is published.
In 2015, we've challenged ourselves to think about how we can better promote our content, encourage others to promote it, and how to repurpose it for different platforms. This has helped us get a greater ROI from our content across the board. It also makes for a better experience for readers and listeners. They like the consistency.”
On not making inbound marketing unnecessarily complicated:
“Start with the basic inbound recipe first even though it’s not shiny or exciting. It’s necessary for success.”
-Susie Kelley, Owner and Business Development at The Spot On Marketing Agency
On keeping content consumable:
“Our approach to creating content was turned on it's head with the realization that universally, most readers engage very little with most long form content, and when they do snackable formats are preferred.
Throughout 2015, we ran a very detailed analysis of reader engagement metrics across a wide array of content and uncovered data proving that the vast majority of people who find your content don't actually read it. For instance, 35% of visitors to a brand’s long form content spend fewer than 30 seconds engaging with a resource!
These findings opened my eyes to the importance of getting to the point, and designing content with the "serial skimmer" in mind. In fact, based on these findings we produce two versions of our Ultimate Guide to Content Engagement Benchmarks, which performed in very different ways. The first resource was a dense, 6,500 word, 50+ deep dive guide, the second a much lighter, 800 word metrics at a glance takeaway featuring much the same data, but took us 1/10th the time to create.
Data captured to date indicates that not only is the shorter takeways driving 21% higher engagement, it is converting 36% more leads. If you are a marketer who likes 3x the return for 1/10th the work, then you might also want to consider the snackable long-form content strategy.”
-Steve Peck, Cofounder & SVP Marketing & Sales, Docalytics
What was the biggest content marketing revelation you experienced during 2015? Let us know in the comments below.