If you’re a marketer or serve any function of marketing, the term content marketing has most probably passed your desk within the past year. It’s not a new item, but one that’s steadily grown over the past few years thanks to the quick, easy, and powerful tool that is social media.

Typically a marketing push successfully used by B2C campaigns, B2B marketers are taking note and pouncing on the lead generating capabilities that content marketing offers. According to a recent survey (pdf) published by the Content Marketing Institute:

• 60% report that they plan to increase their spend on content marketing over the next 12 months.

The survey goes on to reveal a plethora of other interesting statistics including the fact that B2B marketers are dedicating more than a quarter of their total budgets (26%) towards content marketing initiatives.

So with all of this content marketing flying around, and both B2C and B2B marketers recognizing the power of the draw and the market positioning that content marketing supplies, what’s the magic formula for success? I’d be lying if I said there’s a tried and true method that will resound with your target audience each and every time, but there are 5 practical and easy points to keep in mind each time you set out on a content marketing piece.

Transparency

transparent The 5 Golden Rules of Content Marketing

As we’ve seen time and time again, even some of the best Internet hoaxes are viewed under a microscope and exposed for what they are. The same holds true for your content marketing piece. Remember, you’re putting content out there with the goal of drawing in readers, viewers, etc. that are genuinely interested in not only what you’ve got to say, but the fact that it’s coming from your organization.

One of the key factors in producing great content marketing is to provide value and knowledge to would be customers. That’s not to say that you’ve got to give the secret formula away, but tease your audience with ingredients 1 and 5. If they want the whole kit and caboodle, Sales now has a nurtured (if not qualified) lead ready for a conversation.

To this end, I always like to think of myself as a teacher rather than an advertiser or marketer when crafting a great piece. Consumers are there to learn, evaluate, and make informed decisions. There’s no need to shout an advertisement at them (that’s what television and radio are for). If the words ring true and nail the customer’s pain on the head, you’ll never need a “Buy Now” button, but over time, your sales team will begin to see the results with increased site visits, longer time on page views, and increased conversations.

Go the distance

longroad The 5 Golden Rules of Content Marketing

Marketers are curious people. We’re always chasing another angle, seeking to address the next target audience, or looking for new ways to address the same audience, but in a slightly different way to achieve better results. To this end, it’s a common pitfall to want to serve all audiences, all at once, all the time.

When mapping out your content marketing strategy, take a look at the calendar first. We have 12 months in a year, and other departments around the office all have their own individual goals. Obviously a major support to sales, your content marketing rollout should line up with, or prepare the way for Sales’ targets.

If there’s a big push in Q3 coming up, make sure you’ve got a few targeted pieces lined up at the end of Q2 that can directly tie into what Sales has on tap with the ultimate goal of warming up the RFP plate a month of two in advance. In addition to succeeding on your own deliverables, pacing and prolonging your content release schedule allows you time to measure and refine (or redefine if need be) your overall message.

A two-way street

2way The 5 Golden Rules of Content Marketing

We’ve all heard this time and time again regarding the conversation that is social media, so don’t drop the ball when it comes to your content marketing. It could be as simple as flipping the “comments on” switch on your blog or really digging into those Facebook comments or reactions and exchanges on Twitter. Whether your readers know it or not, each and every comment they make is yet another opportunity for you to further push the underlying message within your piece. Got a reader who wants to know more about XYZ? Surely you’ve got a supporting piece or documentation on the subject and can reference them back to your site.

With that said, it’s crucial that you do in fact make the time on a daily basis to thoughtfully respond to comments, reactions, etc. If you’re out there creating interesting, thought-provoking content, wouldn’t it be a shame to let the conversation stop at the front door? Instead, invite your new guests inside for a drink or two, get to know them, and then, and only then, can you comfortably move into a sales cycle.

It’s not all about you

books The 5 Golden Rules of Content Marketing

Tied to transparency above, remember that your content marketing shouldn’t be just about you and your organization. Creating original content takes time, money, and a lot of effort. If your organization doesn’t have a person devoted solely to content creation, there’s another way to offer great content that doesn’t require an original piece each and every time: Content Curation.

As a marketer, your reading, reading, and reading all day long. It’s your job to know what customers what, what they’re interested in, and where they are. If you’ve come across a great article that’s particularly relevant to your industry or organization, don’t hold back when it comes to sharing. Do not, however, just blindly share the words, but add your own take to it. Meaning, before clicking that Share button, or republishing a paragraph and linking to the original article, inform your audience precisely why you’re sharing this piece. Does it directly relate to, or support another piece that you’ve recently published? Does it provide a different take on one of your positions? Good or bad, let your audience know.

Curating content is a relatively quick and easy thing to do, and provides a number of upsides with few downsides. Your audience will get a better view into the way you and your organization think, they’ll appreciate that you’ve exposed them to another voice (and subconsciously praise you for offering another point of view that’s not directly your own), and you’ve given credit where credit is due to this outside author, a door opener that might lead to future collaboration or partnering with individual or organization.

Always Be Measuring

measure The 5 Golden Rules of Content Marketing

David Mamet thinks that sales professionals should ABC (Always Be Closing), but I offer up that marketing professionals should ABM (Always Be Measuring). To be frank, if you’re not measuring your efforts, you’re not marketing.

With this in mind, it’s vital that you measure the success or failure of your content marketing strategy. Starting with the very basic page views, time on page, and bounce rate web metrics, make sure that every single link that goes into your content marketing piece is trackable. If you’re using Google Analytics to measure your success, are you using their URL Builder tool? Have you dug into bit.ly’s free, simple, and highly effective link tracking analytics?

You’ll want to drill as far down in the metrics as possible to truly analyze your content marketing efforts, as well as have some numbers to show the boss at years’ end. As it’s already a part of your established sales funnel, be sure not to miss the count on which qualified leads arrived via a content marketing piece. Likewise, how many of these qualified leads then converted to paying customers? Lead forms, promotions, contests, etc. are all viable methods of tracking these prospects/leads/customers.

Again, there’s no one golden formula for content marketing success. Some audiences will eat white papers for breakfast but have no interest in your videos. Conversely, your RSS subscriber count might be through the roof, but your email newsletter has been falling flat. This is precisely what your measurements are for, allowing you to put your best efforts into the most successful channels. By following and applying the above steps you’re well on your way to creating engaging, successful content marketing pieces that are sure to resonate with your audience.