The State Of Content With Martin Jones

martin jonesAs we hit the halfway mark on 2014, it’s time to see how brands are living up to the hype and promise of content, clearly the biggest marketing trend of the past few years, with no indications of slowing down. For an expert view, I talked with Martin Jones, Senior Marketing Manager at Cox Communications, and a leading authority on all things content. Martin first caught my attention with a presentation at New Media Expo earlier this year and one of the most Twitter-worthy soundbites of the conference: “Social is how customer hear about you, search is how they find you, and content is how they’ll remember you.”

Let’s start with the content marketing trend for companies. We know thousands of companies are doing it, but who actually gets it right, and why?

I’m happy to say a lot of brands are doing it right. General Electric, Whole Foods, Home Depot, to name a few. They are going beyond Facebook and social across multiple channels. People are turned off by seeing the same content on all platforms. Take Home Depot, for instance: With 160K followers, they are continually updating and making it relevant to their different audiences—by seasons, interests, etc.

We’ve been hearing the term “content shock” lately. With so much content out there, eventually the barriers to entry will increase and only the strongest (best) content will win. Agree or disagree?

One of the arguments against content shock is that whatever you give to your consumers must have purpose. Don’t just throw content up on your site to meet some sort of quota. Unfortunately we still see a lot of decisions made in marketing, PR, IT, and other silos, which can lead to this. There is not always a strong discovery process for content programs or campaigns. Always start with a question about the consumer and ask it. Figure out what problems you can solve for them. Otherwise, people have this natural filtering process and get burnt out on content. What’s important to consumers cannot go by the wayside.

So what can small businesses do to leverage content marketing with teeny budgets and resources?

There are a lot of small business tools out there: Ones like SocialEars let you plug in different terms and see who the influencers are, letting bloggers and marketers quickly see what things are being talked about and what’s the most engaging content right now. It’s critical to know what to talk about by monitoring, rather than falling back on what you know best. It should be about what the consumer is interested in and gearing your content towards that.

I was surprised you mentioned GE: Something I often hear is that B2B brands have difficulty making their content resonate with customers. What do you think the trick is there?

With B2B, it’s about personalizing content in the right voice—your voice. Again it comes down to relevant content. You have to be careful not to alienate your audience if all of a sudden you try to change to the snarky, cheeky Taco Bell-style. It’s not going to work. What’s important is that the content is going to be helpful to the consumer, that it’s personalized, and it answers questions. That’s what your audience cares about most.

What are content marketers still struggling with?

There’s talk of the sales funnel being dead, but it’s really that marketers are creating a lot of content on top of the funnel and then they get to the middle and don’t know what to do with these people. This is where evergreen content really pays off, along with paid media. Your content can still be providing leads to the organization and can move them through the sales process.

What are some of the trends we’ll be seeing as we get closer to 2015?

Deeper content and, again, more consumer-focused. One shift we’re seeing more of is horizontally rather than vertically-focused content on products and services. For example, what are your readers’ passion points? What are they interested in? Talking to companies about growing your business, how to scale, engaging in common interests. Recently I was at a conference where one of the speakers said “Social media is the new golf course”: now that conversation is happening online. Consumers don’t want to talk about products and services, they want to carry on a normal conversation.

 

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The New Age of Non-Marketing


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“Marketing should be an effortless act of informing, conversing, and engaging with your customers, not selling to them.”

Do you agree with this statement? Judging by the presentations at New Media Expo (NMX) earlier this month, the answer should be a collective “yes”. Here’s why non-marketing is the new black, and the time to adopt is now.

Real. Human. Interaction.: The rise of consumer democracy born on social media is now being raised on all the tent poles of marketing. When companies want to connect with their audiences, they should do so at a human level, as individuals, and refrain from marketing speak. As Bryan Kramer has said: “It’s Human to Human, not B2B or B2C.” Along with that, technology should take second priority to the audience you seek. Brands are no longer compelled to be on every social networking platform, or sport 500 sharing icons on their site, as examples. As Dino Dogan said, “The smaller the community, the greater the influence and intimacy.”

Theory to Practice: The human element is the most important factor that connects us; creating those authentic interactions will ultimately propel customers to move towards your company. 

Branding is About “Being Yourself”: Don’t confuse this with putting zero effort into crafting your image—far from it, as Luvvie Ajaya said, “Build a strong voice, be consistent, and be authentic.”  She also reminded us that ultimately, your brand is how your customers define you .Or as Martin Jones said, “If you’re not telling your brand’s story someone else probably is.” If you’re unsure what differentiates your business, Chris Ducker advises, “Find your originality. When you build the business of you, nobody can copy it.”

Theory to Practice: Whether small or large, discover what the special sauce is that makes your company different and run with it, full stop; ultimately your right customers will come to you.

Thou Shalt Not Promote in Content: This is a difficult pill to swallow for most companies. Keynoter Scott Stratten, known for his UnMarketing mantra, pointed out that by listening and engaging with your customers (and—God forbid—mentioning the competition when apropos), you build trust and position yourself as the logical choice when customers need you. Delivering news and insights that are educational, interesting, and even entertaining will build a loyal audience. Tamsen Webster asked thought-provoking, rhetorical questions like: “Does my content make the customer better? Would I share this content myself if I didn’t work here?” And of course, most importantly, “Will it compete with cats?” Jones summed up the importance of content as: “Social is how customer hear about you, search is how they find you, and content is how they qualify you.”

Theory to Practice: All content for your audience should be solely focused on those consuming it, not promoting your business. When you are helping your customers, you will be seen as the go-to, trusted partner.

The Wrap: While all this is well and great to think about for our own businesses, none of us should ever get too comfortable with any “formula” for success.  It’s become more urgent than ever in this fast-evolving digital world, as Keynoter Lynette Young reminded us. She likened our businesses to an iceberg visual,  “…to keep moving, growing, and learning. The iceberg is weakest at the waterline.”

Theory to Practice: I would call this the Three Rs: Reinventing, Risk, and Reach. When you juggle all three, even if you drop one,  pick it up, keep going, and don’t ever stop the show.  

Rise in Consumer Power Center Stage at NMX


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Fresh off the heels of New Media Expo (NMX) in Las Vegas, a blogging conference that has grown into an all-inclusive social media extravaganza, I thought my brain would explode from all the things I learned (you’re welcome for the visual). But now the mish-mash of thoughts, concepts and unexplainable words has miraculously gelled into some cohesive language. Here are the top takeaways for me that not only reinforce social media’s growing role, but reveal a tilting of power to consumers like never before.

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