Kit Seeborg is a content marketing expert. From her time organising the WebVisions conference to writing the book on using SlideShare to grow your business, she is steeped in content knowledge. She’s worked for SlideShare, the University of Colorado and is currently the Content Marketing Manager at Sovos, a tax compliance & regulatory reporting software company. The variety of her work experiences, along with the amount of time she’s been working in content, mean that Kit is an amazing resource.
Below, she shares her thoughts on the state of content marketing and where she thinks it’s headed…
What skills are necessary to succeed in content marketing?
Three things come to mind: editorial, publishing, and data analytics.
I wear an editor hat every day. Since the majority of content is generated by subject matter experts, guest speakers and bloggers, and our creative team, I have an eye on every piece of content before it is published. There’s the task of copy editing and proofreading, making sure the content is correct, plus making sure the voice and tone is appropriate. Be a good writer, but be a GREAT editor.
The power of content marketing is in our ability to publish on multiple channels while managing the timing of distribution. That said, it’s worth taking time to understand which channels are reaching your target audience, and which are just so-so. For example, in using social media to share content hoping to get the attention of wineries, we noticed that Twitter wasn’t getting much activity, but Pinterest and Instagram were. This makes sense as wine is more of a lifestyle and very visual product – not so much for micro-bloggers and news consumers on Twitter. That helped us focus on the more visual channels to catch the eye of winery staff and connect them with content that then generates sales leads.
Data, data everywhere! Now that most content publishing platforms are cloud-based, those platforms are able to capture and share tremendous amounts of data about audience behaviour. The same metrics that have applied to websites for many years can now be applied to individual content assets, helping us understand how people are interacting with the content and what’s working (or not).
This user data is content marketing gold, as it tells us how many people engaged with the content (watched the video, read the white paper, etc.). It also tells us what action they took next and, in the case of requiring registration, it tells us who they are, where they work, and how to get ahold of them! This matters for your sales team, of course, and it also helps your marketing team determine where to put content resources (time and money) in planning the creation of future content.
What are the big trends in content marketing?
A trend that is affecting content in general is the change from focusing on features and benefits of your product and instead speaking to the buyer’s need. This more empathetic approach to communicating helps a buyer who is overwhelmed with content and email quickly realise that you understand their circumstances. This, in turn, positions your product as a strong solution for fulfilling this need and solving the buyer’s problem.
It’s an interesting (although time-consuming) exercise to re-write content assets from the buyer-need perspective. Get rid of the language that brags about all the cool features your product contains. Instead, demonstrate that you have taken the time and interest to understand your customer’s pain points and what they need to make their work easier and more successful.
We’ve taken this on as an initiative in our positioning and messaging strategy which has generated some very fruitful discussions about how well we actually know about our customers. Develop personas by interviewing customers, find out what will make their work more productive and enjoyable, then create some smart, well-designed content that reflects back to them what you heard. That’s the basis of an empathetic, persona-based content marketing strategy.
An advertising trend that has taken hold involves retargeting to content by way of a landing page. Ads on LinkedIn and other social channels take your target audience directly to a webinar, white paper, or infographic with the price of admission being their name and email address. When the content is enticing enough and the source is credible, prospects will gladly give up their contact information in return for “free” access to your content.
What are the differences between content marketing in the US and the rest of the world?
Outside of the United States, the importance of building relationships and establishing trust takes longer and requires more attention than in the States. Americans do value relationships, in-person events and meetings are still very important to every business. My observation, however, is that the U.S. often thinks in terms of replacing human interaction with technology, whereas most other parts of the world think of using technology to support and enhance their relationships and in-person experiences.
What content marketing lessons have you learned throughout your career working for different types of companies from SlideShare to University of Colorado’s Climate Science programs?
The importance of watching the analytics has always been important to any project. It’s essential to know how people are engaging with your content. This knowledge also includes qualitative observations, like the types of comments and feedback the content elicits. I also have found great value in distributing short surveys to newsletter subscribers, webinar attendees, etc. In the survey, I ask what topics the reader would like us to cover. And be sure to ask what format (blog posts, white papers, podcasts, video) they prefer.
Another insight that has been helpful is that the target audience is often not one person or role. Especially when marketing software, the buying decision is rarely determined by a single individual. The executive decision maker is influenced by those who will be using the product, IT staff who will install and support it, and finance staff who make sure it’s paid for. As content is planned, make sure your content marketing mix addresses each of these stakeholders in a format that they are most likely to consume.
I try to be mindful of creating content that makes a human connection, whether that’s presenting a clever perspective on an established topic or using creative design to illustrate a concept in a new way. People don’t want more information from us. They are being flooded with information every day. Instead, most people prefer meaningful content that inspires them and triggers their curiosity. People want to know that they are heard and that their needs matter.
How do you see content marketing changing or evolving in the next 5+ years?
I’m fascinated by the use of using artificial intelligence to target content more specifically to individuals. With the advent of account-based-marketing (ABM) it is essential to gather specific information about individuals, not just the company they work for. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are already contributing to this level of understanding about the addressable market.
Mobile and video will continue to grow. A generation of digital natives will show us with their behaviour how to reach them. The sheer volume of available data will continue to generate the need for smart analysis and well-designed reporting. Finally, as marketers we will be stretched by our prospects’ expectations of us as we compete for their attention and do our best to create meaningful interactions.
There are many helpful websites and blogs that share ideas and best practices for successful content marketing programs. For a deeper dive, I have found these two books immensely helpful: Winning the Story Wars, by Jonah Sachs http://www.jonahsachs.com and Optimize, by Lee Odden http://optimizebook.com.
If you want more, you can follow Kit on Twitter. We appreciate Kit taking the time to share her thoughts and expertise with us.