Content Strategy Meetup

MelissaIt was the first Content Strategy meting I attended, and, schedule permitting, I will be there for the next one.  It is a pleasure to discover a new group in Twin Cities!  We are so lucky to live within a vibrant business community – even if so many people do not care about the weather 🙂

The group is fantastic – people who understand marketing, content, SEO, issues of the online marketing channel…  and in many cases face the same obstacles in their jobs or businesses.   These obstacles are discussed during the meetings with interesting insights.

dialogMelissa Rach was fantastic in a question-answer format, and the event felt more of a conversation and collective problem solving.  I usually prefer a lecture format, as in many cases, the audience may not be able to generate thoughtful questions…  not only participate in discussing the answers.  The members of Content Strategy meetup are absolutely excellent.

My notes from the event:

  • Generally, most modern terms are relatively new, and may not have clear understanding in the business world…  What is the difference between Content Strategy and Marketing Strategy?  Content strategy is marketing strategy implemented around content…  Content marketing vs. Content strategy?  In general, Strategy and Marketing are new concepts… (now complete lack of understanding of these terms in corporate world makes sense 😉  )
  • Reminder of the industry perspective: adapt something interesting from one industry to another
  • Long-form content is also acceptable on the web – the length is based on the audience and objective
  • Stages of the content strategy on the web (hilariously universal!)
    1. just placing content designed for print online
    2. any technical elements are so cool!  Adding technical elements, widgets, etc. and considering it content
    3. design is awesome – the “pretty” site is enough to consider it having good “content”
    4. oh…  people are actually coming to the site to get something useful… we need… content!
  • Content strategy can be done by a person who can not write… though it does need to be executed by somebody who can 😉
  • bookContent person needs to be involved into the process at the point of CMS  setup…  or, the CMS can be setup in a manner that is not suitable for providing content in a reasonable fashion.  I can add that CMS or even selection of CMS, can not be done by IT – it creates sites not suitable not only for content, but also for marketing in general
  • Content provided by a company can be different in tone or style, as a company can have different audiences

They did a web site redesign and then realized that something was wrong with the site

They did not have a writer – they thought that PDF placement was sufficient

Quotes from colleagues – very common for the industry 🙂

  • Which companies are succeeding in content strategy?  “Smart ones…”  In general, it is easier for companies not burdened by the stock market pressure to show growth every quarter to have better content strategy – they can afford to experiment, take risks, and invest resources
  • If there is nobody who’s job description requires content creation in a large organization – there will be no content
  • In many cases, good content requires reorganization – including elimination of silos
  • Preoccupation with SEO for the sake of SEO is generally common…  When SEO is done, realization that nobody is converting can help in creation of the content (smaller companies seem to have more lack with this approach 😉 ).

Very interesting concept from – brand’s history may not be a benefit, but might be a burden in the eyes of the consumers.


heritageBy the way, the PDF is done very well from marketing perspective – easy to read, easy to quote and add to presentation (I will do that!!) and has irresistible calls to actions to follow.

PPT posted on the site and Slide Share has the same remarkable quality – excellent “What to do next…” last slide of the presentation.



Book – Epic Content Marketing


Very interesting book full of practical advice and inspiring stories.

The first example (and a significant challenge for B-to-B companies) is described in foreword:

SAP had content for people who needed product information, but not the people who did not know that the type of technology that SAP sold even existed.  It was a significant gap.

Difference between Social Media Marketing and Content Marketing:

  • Social media marketing uses the channels and places the content suitable for the channel into that channel.
  • Content marketing creates content that lives on the company’s site (or blog, or microsite, etc.) and social media is used as a channel to promote the content.

The goal of marketing is not to find customers, but to create passionate subscribers to our brand.

General Electric hired Forbs editor for their content marketing needs.

johnContent marketing existed in a variety of forms for… centuries 🙂  One of the first examples of content marketing of a B-to-B company in the US agriculture would be John Deere Furrow magazine, which appeared in 1895.

Companies marketing to us, marketers, have similar approach. – content approach from Adobe (does not work on Chrome)

Epic content marketing process (similar to a publisher):

  1. Goal or objective
  2. Defining the audience
  3. Understanding how the audience buys
  4. Choosing your content niche
  5. Developing content marketing mission statement

Quite interesting – print might becoming a novelty as less marketers use it…  and novelty could get attention.  Another benefit of print – people are searching for an opportunity to “unplug” – and printed magazine is a very welcome option to do it.

To start content marketing program (content marketing is not a campaign with a defined start and an end, it is a program), a pilot is recommended.  The pilot needs to be at least 6 months and the KPI for the pilot need to be aligned with business objectives and accepted by the management who will evaluate pilot’s success.

Marketers often use irrelevant data for the content persona (for B-to-B demographics are not relevant).

5 points content marketing persona must have:persona

  1. Priority initiatives – what are top 3-5 top problems to which he/she dedicates time, budget, and political capital?
  2. Success factors – what are tangible or intangible metrics of success?
  3. Perceived barriers – what can encourage the persona to question if your solution can help (competing interests, politics, previous negative experience with similar products)?
  4. Buying process
  5. Decision criteria – includes information from a prospect who bought, a prospect who chose competition and why, and a prospect who decided not to buy at all

Up Close and Persona – free persona-generating tool.

WordPress has a free Editorial calendar plugin.


Very interesting point about SEO: it is not as effective (in the traditional form) post Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird, so many SEO agencies are making transition to content marketing.  Top Rank is considered one of these organizations with a successful transition.

Writing a book for marketing purpose – spend 40% on writing the book and 100% on the promotion of the book.

Hilarious: Analytics could become WMD (Weapons of Mass Delusion)

Book has excellent section of examples for inspiration (starting page 299). 

indiumIndium – a blog “From One Engineer to Another

The blog provides useful information to engineers on the use of the company’s products and industry topics.

The topics are immediately useful to the target audience and written by the experts in the area.

Interesting: quite a few engineers are participating in the effort – it is clear that the organization is managing (and investigng) significant effort into the blog.

600% jump in leads after starting the blog. I guess, repeating a call to action at the end of each post could increase this number further (per HubSpot data).


Coursera – Understanding Europe

EuropeQuite an eye-opening class.

One of the most important concepts from my perspective is the misunderstanding of EU by the world (and Europeans themselves in many cases), and the fact that not everything is perfect in the EU’s organization and not all questions has been answered…  as the EU is the work in progress.


As the top markets of the world, EU can influence economic entities outside of its territory.



The class explains the “European myths” that are simply incorrect.

  • Over-regulation.  The example is a regulation of specific shape of bananas.  The explanation is very reasonable – EU regulates bananas to allow the product to be traded easily within EU, what was not possible before regulations.
  • EU is bureaucracy-heavy.  In reality, EU has just half of the number of people than governing organizations of Paris have.
  • EU is a very expensive organization.  In reality, EU government expenditure is 1% of EU GDP, while government expenditure of the member state is about 45% of its GDP

One of the solutions to explain EU better to everybody in the world… is to seriously consider marketing EU 🙂

A curious point – several concepts in the class designed primarily for Europeans were illustrated on the example of US.


Book – The Myths of Creativity


Quite interesting book, with a few very unexpected and counter intuitive points.

Idea generation is more than generating ideas – it includes prototyping, etc. – other activities that “prepare” for the idea and also make it more acceptable .

Creative tasks are more successful if the person has a “break” in the middle of the task.  During the break, the person’s mind need to be allowed to wonder a difficult cognitive task during the break will not increase creative performance as much as less demanding task. During the “break” we “selectively forget” the “thought pathways” on which the idea generation was “stuck” and can continue.

Brainstorming: teams who are encouraged to “debate” ideas during the period of brainstorm are more successful in idea generation (experimentation shows 25% more successful) and have more additional ideas after the session ends.

Don’t worry about possibility that your idea can be stolen.  Often entrepreneurs (and maybe everybody who has an idea) are afraid to expose their idea to others because it could be “stolen,” and somebody else might benefit from the implementing the idea.  The issue is usually different: if the idea is any good, it will take time to force people to accept the idea.  The recommendation for the entrepreneurs worried about their ideas is to try to contact potential large competitor, and try to make them to steal a less valuable idea the entrepreneur has.  It won’t be easy 😉


MIMA – Native Advertising

nativeThough there are many conversations about native advertisement, the examples of native ads are not quite easy to find.  Content and advertising is converging?

One of the explanation of the transition is commodization of the advertising inventory and publications’ desire to “add value” to the brands – provide something that is not easily available.

Two examples below show native advertisement seamlessly added to the publication, merging with the publication’s style and tone.


The BuzzFeed article is an article fitting well to general content of the publication.  There is no advertisement, just a note on the bottom where to get a dog treat.



The Onion article fits with the tone of the publication.  The link in the article leads to YouTube video, which has a call to action to the promoted product.  It would be better to host the YouTube video on the separate landing page to make the call to action more prominent 🙂

What does not work:

  • Content for the sake of the content

What works:

  • Understanding brand objectives
  • aligning with existing media habits of the target audience

Book – The Good Jobs Strategy

Good-Jobs-bookExcellent book – and an argument – that explains that long-term business objectives, which include good jobs for the employees, beneficial for the company in general.  Cutting costs by creating “bad jobs” is a business choice and it is generally harmful to the company itself in the long run, measured beyond next two quarters.

This is one more book that emphasizes that successful companies who put their customers first, employees seconds, and shareholders third.  This approach benefits everybody:  customers, employees, communities and becomes fundamental decision for the company’s long-term profitability.

Below is the chart of Costco (good jobs approach) and Walmart (infamous for minimizing personnel costs).


One of the most interesting parts is approach to operations and considering good jobs a part of operational approach – what, after reading the book, makes complete sense.  Examples used in the book concentrates primarily on retailers – companies that very often pursue “bad jobs strategy.”

Model retailers design and manage their operations in a way that makes their employees more productive, reduces the cost of doing business, and puts employees at the center of the company’s success. The way model retailers design and manage their operations turns out to be the means by which well paid, well trained employees create even more wealth than they cost.

  1. Offer less.  Offering less variety an no promotions reduces the costs and, surprisingly, improves customer satisfaction.
  2. Standardize and empower.  Model retailers standardize routine tasks, but give employees more flexibility to manage non-standard situations and help customers.
  3. Cross-train.  Model retailers manage differences in store traffic with changing what employees do, rather than the number of employees, what allows to provide stable schedules for the employees and assure more knowledgeable and satisfied work force.
  4. Operate with slack.  Model retailers prefer a degree of over-staffing to under-staffing. Over-staffing improves customer service and actually reduces costs by allowing employees to be involved into continuous improvement.

Difficult times reaction:

  • downThe company that needs to address short-term balance sheet implements layoff of the higher paid and more experienced employees, what result in the need to hire more employees when the business rebounds and incur hiring and training costs.  Short term gain – long term expense increase.
  • The long-term oriented company tries to improve operation to realize  the savings – the results are not as immediate, but the benefit of the improvement will remain with the company when the business rebounds and will contribute to the competitive advantage comparing with the companies who managed the business cycle with layoffs.