“Don’t ever try to sell me on anything. Give me ALL the information and I’ll make my own decision.”
— Rapper Kanye West in a Tweet.
That quote opens the new book from Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton from Valuable Content, and it’s a pitch-perfect choice given the vision for content that Sonja and Sharon want to share with you. Creating content to do marketing isn’t really new. In fact, we’ve been doing it for years and years now. It’s just that we’ve been calling it SEO. But over the years, we’ve learned that attracting the unaware is only one step in a much deeper process. While SEO is critical to a functional content marketing system — you certainly won’t grow an audience without it — it’s not exactly the foundation of content marketing as an idea. Content marketing, as we know it today, is the transformational synthesis of marketing and sales. Together, neither looks much like it used to.
To put it simply, content marketing is an equation:
your expertise + knowledge of your audience + the expression of your expertise’s + SEO + promotion and engagement = content marketing
Sonja and Sharon organize their book around that structure, but the thing they want to integrate is this sense of value. In their words, valuable content is:
“…the kind of content that gets read, shared, and acted upon. Businesses that really win exhibit all these qualities across the variety of content they put out there.”
And here’s where that idea of value backs up Kanye’s tweet:
“But the content these companies share on their websites, in their emails, across social media doesn’t major on the hard sell. Their marketing all starts from the premise of delivering valuable information to me, their kind of customer. They understand their customers well enough to know exactly what type of information we appreciate, and they focus their marketing communications on generously sharing their knowledge. Their marketing majors on delivering high quality educational, informative and entertaining content – the kind that customers like me really appreciate.”
The first three chapters dig deeper into the why of content marketing, addressing how marketing has changed, why valuable content has a business impact, and how to think about what you say.
The next section describes over nine chapters a roadmap for content marketing success — specifically, how to start, how to build an audience by promoting your content and engaging with people, how to frame content for search engines, and then how to extend your reach by exploring new forms of content. If you’re familiar with the ways we’ve discussed content marketing here at Newfangled, this approach will make a lot of sense to you. In the third and last section, though, Sonja and Sharon close with a couple of chapters on what it’s like to actually implement a content marketing plan. In particular, I found the first chapter in that section, “Making it Happen: Seven Steps to Success,” to be packed with advice. Throughout the book, Sonja and Sharon reiterate the big point that sales and marketing need to be more meaningfully connected. But they really hone in on this while describing content planning and editorial calendars. I was hoping they’d use personas, in particular, to illustrate that connection, and I had that wish granted in this line:
“The best marketers link the content they create into the sales cycle.”
Exactly! In my opinion, this is the final step in the maturity of content marketing. I’ve found sales-cycle personas to be far more effective and meaningful than more general ones (like influencer vs. buyer) or more specific ones that have names, desires, and behaviors associated with them. For me, it’s all about the researcher, the evaluator, and the buyer and whether your content meaningfully corresponds to those three steps in the cycle.
So if you’re getting started with content marketing, please check out the Valuable Content Marketing book and add it to your library. You’ll learn a lot, and (hopefully) enjoy the process. You can learn more about the Valuable Content Marketing book new book here, or head right over and pre-order it from Amazon.