The third session at last month’s Digital Marketing Workshop looked at content marketing and the key to success. This element of the workshop was delivered by Jamie Lawrence, Editor of (and shortlisted nominee for the 2014 British Media Awards!), and detailed Sift Media’s approach to content marketing, identified how to deliver true value to the reader and highlighted a number of essential steps to create quality content. The following post is part 1 of a two-part summary of this revealing presentation.

Sift Media and content

At Sift Media content is key to everything we do. It’s no coincidence that our sites, which are based on the provision and discussion of relevant industry content, have attracted such sizable and professional communities that are so loyal. Delivering quality content it not a choice – engagement with our audience is the biggest driver (both for attracting site traffic and campaign success for advertisers) and if we don’t get content right we lose that engagement. Significantly however, good content has changed a great deal in the past five years and it has become an even greater necessity to remaining innovative and ‘ahead of the curve’.

So, let’s take a look at our approach:

  • Evidence-based – we tap into expert knowledge on usability, best practice design, and user journeys to ensure we don’t stop our content in its tracks. What may have once been based on ‘gut feeling’ is now based on actual evicence, however, we still believe that gut remains a good measure of the worth of something.
  • Integrated – the best content is worthless if no-one can find it, so we ensure we leverage the power of our audiences, across many sectors, and our social media expertise to give our content the best chance of reaching the people we want it to reach.
  • Collaboration with clients – our clients know their businesses best and we are experts at producing good content. By combining the two and having an honest and frank conversation about the expected outcomes we can produce content that is more on-brand, that is more fit-for-purpose and that has more of a chance of hitting the client’s goals.
  • Realistic – There’s an ocean of content out there and you must have realistic goals that are based on proven ideas and delivery methods to achieve results. Clearly, it’s not like TV where content is delivered direct to the viewer’s eyes. No-one turns off the TV when they don’t like an ad but they do close content.

“Creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behaviour.”
(origin of quote unknown)

This is a common definition of content marketing and we think it’s accurate. Let’s focus on the latter part of this definition, which neatly links in with both how Sift Media produces its content and also how you should be thinking about your own content. And to understand how we can enhance or influence consumer behaviour, we have to understand how people make decisions.

So how exactly do people make decisions?

This is a very important question online because you are competing more than ever before for your readers’ attention. The golden circle (below) is essentially a lesson in biological motivation. You know when you’re being pushed towards a decision and everything logically makes sense, and you know it’s a good idea, but something just doesn’t feel right? That’s because the WHY part of your brain isn’t being engaged.

You’ll notice that so much of content marketing focuses on the WHAT and the HOW. WHAT the product is, HOW it can help the business. These are fine but they are not how people make decisions. You need to start with the WHY, then you can sell them on the HOW and the WHAT. This explains why millions more people happily buy MP3 players from Apple, but not from Hewlett Packard. At its most basic level, both are just manufacturers of computer equipment, but people buy into the ‘defying the norm’ message of Apple.

Connecting with the ‘WHY’ is the fundamental aim of content marketing, because if you do, people will spread your message because of the message itself. They connect with it on a powerful level and this deep connection is what you’re looking for. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Dove campaign

This is part of Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, which you may already have seen. It’s actually a series of very popular videos that hit the WHY head on, with this one receiving a phenomenal level of engagement with well over 17 million views on YouTube! Comments weren’t restricted to the one social platform however, with discussion spilling over onto channels such as Twitter where typical responses included “Tears ahead.” “This is moving.” “Wow, thank you.”

IBM CityOne

This is a brilliant B2B example where prospects were segmented into personas and content was developed to specifically target each one. Here, IBM are targeting groups such as city planners and architects who would benefit from their consulting and systems by directly connecting them with a piece of content that appeals to their vertical.

Is there commonality between these very different pieces of content? Yes, and the following quote encapsulates it well.

“There’s nothing more powerful than a brand really owning an emotional benefit.”
(Dan Hilbert, senior VP, TBA Global)

If you can give consumers an emotional benefit from your product as well as the practical benefit then that is an extremely strong incentive to buy. So when you buy Dove, you’re supporting all the women in the world who should feel happy in their own skin. With IBM, you’re buying a visionary company invested in the future. This, by the way, is why the eco-friendly market is growing so rapidly – there’s an in-built emotional benefit about saving the world that is extremely compelling.

At Sift Media, we have B2B communities where our members are united by their profession, but they are also united by their needs. We aim to provide them with emotional benefits, such as the confidence that comes with up-to-date knowledge, that really makes a difference to the individual.

Defining content marketing
That’s the WHY of the content marketing covered – it’s the holy grail and it’s what we should all be aiming for. But lets take another look at the definition referred to above… two other words which stand out are ‘relevance’ and value’. So what exactly is relevant and valuable to your readers? When they are on a mission – and people who visit B2B communities online related to their community are always on a mission – it’s things that relate to the WHY of their jobs.

This is the point we start from when we produce content marketing campaigns. And that begins a process that has been honed to produce content that hits the mark. In part 2 of this blog we’ll run through that process, put forward some tips to better content marketing and highlight a number of common pitfalls.

Get more information on the other Digital Marketing 101 Workshop sessions on our main blogs page. Alternatively, why not download our free Campaign Optimisation Guide – full of advice on getting the most from your marketing investment.