The very nature of content marketing as a helpful medium means that a lot of what we deal with as content marketers could be termed ‘low-hanging fruit’.
We know what people are searching for and talking about; we create content calendars because we have a good idea about what people are going to be talking about in the future.
That’s not to say that content marketing means quick win after quick win – great content takes time to research and plan, create and promote. What it does mean is that implementing a long term strategy that comprises of one or two pieces of big content is something that seems to be out of the reach for brands that don’t have much money.
There’s plenty of press for big brands publishing and winning fans, and it’s easy to understand why: big money for content creators. But the fact of the matter is that even small brands have to start creating content if they want to succeed online.
REALLY big content. Guess who.
Is “Big Content” a thing now?
Before we delve into how to plan and execute a big content piece, it would be helpful to define what we’re talking about. Firstly, I’m going to go ahead and agree with Moz’s Dr. Pete and say that big content isn’t really a thing that needs its own name. Simply put, what I’m calling big content is content that requires investment – what Hannah Smith might call “big budget content.” The reason I’m not calling it “big budget content” is because it doesn’t necessarily require a big budget to create, but if you need more reasons why big, creative content pieces are a good idea for your brand, I’d recommend watching Hannah’s BrightonSEO video. We’ll use Dr. Pete’s definition and say that what big content requires is effort and innovation.
If it’s not big budget content, you could call it big because it provides big ROI. Even content that requires a massive outlay can produce a massive return, but it doesn’t necessarily need huge financial backing. It will probably require a significant amount of time to create, but that time doesn’t even have to be spent all at once.
It’s a catch-22, but big content requires more research. If you’re going to spend more time on a project, you need to spend more time working out whether it’s going to be worthwhile. It’s also important to remember that not all ROI comes from search…
1. Identify your audience
Before doing anything you should know who your audience is and what they want. This doesn’t just go for creative content pieces, but for every blog post you write, every video you shoot and every tweet you send.
You should never be taking a stab in the dark that someone will want to read something that you’re taking the time to create. The more interested parties there are in a subject that you have the authority to speak on, the more justice you’ve got to do the topic.
Providing a comprehensive resource means doing comprehensive research, but a common trope in internet marketing is that you get out what you put in. According to Google in 2011, people used, on average, 10.4 different resources before making a purchase. A convenient case for a big piece of content is to assume that this might mean that people have, on average, 10.4 questions about the product they’re looking to purchase.
Look at the question keywords coming into your site using Google Analytics, and consider answering related questions in one great, easy to use resource. An SEO brain with smarts tells you that these would make great separate landing pages; a lazy marketing brain tells you that you can stuff them all into an FAQ section.
Think about what people actually want from your page, and it’s as simple as guarantees that your product solves their problem. People don’t share FAQ pages on Twitter when their friends have the same problem; they share big pieces of content. Every (good) product is there to solve a problem, no matter how big the marketing budget is behind it, and as long as you’ve got access to Analytics you can find out what people’s problems are.
2. Know what you’re trying to achieve
Traffic is easy (relatively speaking). Any piece of content that answers a question that people are actually asking is likely to get some traffic from search engines and from social shares. The difficulty is creating a piece of content that drives conversion. If you want people to purchase your products or take you up on your services, it helps if you’ve provided them with their Zero Moment of Truth.
Driving conversions can be a long term goal, and an example of this comes from seasonal industries – travel, for example. People generally do research before and after they’ve booked their holidays, and missing out on that all-important booking doesn’t mean that you’ve missed the boat. People book holidays every year, bear genuinely useful resources in mind and share them with friends that might not have booked their vacations yet.
3. Spread the cost over time
If you’re thinking of creating something visual, the chances are that it will cost something beyond your own time to execute. Whether that’s the time of someone else in your company, or the cost of a freelancer, there will be bills that need paying.
Spreading the cost over time is a good idea for a couple of reasons; one is that you’re likely to need time to research the project, too, which can coincide quite nicely and the second is that if you’re paying for something to be created over a period of time, it absolutely rules out knee-jerk marketing.
Newsjacking is a great way of getting links and exposure, but spending lots of money newsjacking is not something that small brands should be thinking about. Big content should be the gift that keeps giving.
Everybody should be measuring the ROI of their content marketing efforts anyway, but if you’ve spent a lot of time creating something you should certainly make sure it was worth all the effort. Delve into your analytics regularly to see how your content is performing, and tweak it where you can.
The questions that people have will change over time, and new questions will crop up every now and then – make sure you’re answering them. The advantage of so-called evergreen content is that you’re trying to capture new leads through a piece of content that is likely to already rank fairly well. Better still, a relatively small amount of effort is required to maintain even the biggest resources once they’ve been created (think: adding new words to a dictionary compared to writing a dictionary).
Maybe you can’t edit a video, but you can add new videos to a YouTube channel that answer new questions (also remember to transcribe ALL the things). If you want to over simplify, more videos = more brand awareness, and a well-stocked YouTube channel (or even a SlideShare profile) is going to do you more good than one or two embedded videos in your own blog posts.
4 examples of big content from small brands
Small brands are already creating big content pieces, and if you’re not then there’s a chance that you’re being left behind. Companies with pretty small media budgets are creating huge hubs of information and images that make people stand up and take note. You don’t need Coca-Cola budgets, you just need to do your research and work with what you’ve got.
Poler’s strapline is “the world’s highest standard of stuff,” which does a great job of summing up the brand. Using simple techniques – such as high quality but amateur photography to create a series of “photo essays” – Poler have taken their brand global with just three full-time staff…and if you’re the adventurous type, check out the Tumblr account – simple, yet highly effective.
Norse Projects’ brand identity is broadly similar to Poler, but the Danish company have chosen to put their content focus on their products, rather than simply being excellent at curating content relevant for their audience. Check out the “Journal” for a master class in getting the most out of each of your products with visual teasers and fresh posts, and carefully repurposing that content across social networks and an unobtrusive email campaign.
Brewdog actively positions itself as a small brand, and creates incredible content that reinforces that image. Whether or not the Equity for Punks campaign is actually getting investors for the brewery (it should, and apparently it is), it’s definitely getting attention. It’s a wonderful example of a brand living in the internet age, doing something that seems to be genuine (and not for links), and actually getting links out of it, too.
Clothes and beer are pretty interesting anyway, right? The three examples above are brands that know what their audience like about them, and utilise that to create advocates. After all, earned media now equals 80% of your reach, according to [email protected] data. What about brands that are in “boring” niches?
Soap is not the most interesting of products – it’s an everyday necessity, and traditionally everyday necessities aren’t viewed as being the most researched products online (hello: ZMOT). Method has done an excellent job of taking on global megabrand rivals like Johnson and Johnson with a comparatively tiny budget. A fun blog helps, but the real winners are an interesting newsletter and an entertaining YouTube channel as part of the “People Against Dirty” campaign.
The advantage that small businesses have compared to their multimillion pound adversaries is that they’re able to listen to each of their potential customers. The chances are good that if one person wants something, there’ll be more people who want the same thing.
One thing that makes a great marketer is the ability to sell things to people who don’t know they want your things, but that can easily spread if you’re someone’s Zero Moment of Truth. The advantage of big content is that you can address each individual customer’s individual question in one place, and use that to create brand new leads as well as brand new content.