What I’m about to tell you is nothing new.
But that’s why I had to say it.
Content marketing 2017 and beyond has to be useful, and then it has to shut the hell up.
Content marketing will take over as the most important online marketing tool. If it’s done right.
Content Marketing done right: the pocket door saga
Do you know what a pocket door is?
It’s a door that slides in and out of a the door frame, rather than swinging on hinges. Something they always talk about in those ‘house hunting’ shows on HGTV.
Pocket doors are perfect. It’s there when you need it, but totally, 100% out of the way when you don’t. I have one in my house and I love it.
But it broke the other day.
It fell off the track it hung from and now it grinds across the floor when I move it.
So I had to spend a few hours on YouTube watching “how to fix a pocket door” videos and stumbling through the repair.
Why am I telling you this?
Because good online marketing is like a pocket door: perfect when you need it, invisible when you don’t.
This is really the essence of inbound marketing: provide value to users in their time of need (curiosity, motivation, opportunity, etc.) and don’t worry about the rest.
But there’s the problem.
Too many marketing campaigns—especially email marketing—ignores the second half of the inbound mantra:
Don’t bother people. Let them come to you when they’re ready.
Inbound marketing is based on User Experience
The entire notion of “provide value and get found” is built on the idea that only the people who are looking for your product are worth your time.
If they’re not googling “how to fix a pocket door,” they probably don’t need to fix a pocket door right now. No sense in marketing how-to videos to them.
To the wrong market, your high-quality content looks like spam.To the wrong market, your high-quality content looks like spam.Click To Tweet
And that’s a principle of UX: a user’s experience is entirely dependent on their needs.
All marketing needs better UX
User experience is not reserved for digital interfaces. It applies to everything a business creates.
That’s why the early 2010’s saw an explosion of Chief Experience Officer positions.
Companies have finally realized that UX matters and that it’s everywhere.
How does this apply to Content Marketing 2017 and beyond?
The right side of the inbound marketing equation says “don’t bother people if they’re not interested.”
Content marketing—and all online marketing—needs to respect users enough to leave them alone.
(For my money, that’s why inbound is the best form of marketing: save money by skipping the wasteful outbound initiatives that only annoy most people anyway.)
In 2017, Content Marketing needs to focus on audience.
I recently read a great (long!) piece by Movoto—we do specialize in real estate marketing and law firm marketing after all—that explained how they took their blog from 2,000 views per month to over 18,000,000 in 2 years.
Here’s the home run that ties together content marketing and UX (emphasis mine):
Our first thought isn’t, “Oh, this will be cool” or “This would fit perfectly on The Atlantic” or “This will soooo go viral.” No, our first thought is, “Is there an audience out there that will link back to us?”
Wait, that’s a good one. Let me repeat it real quick:Your audience comes first in marketing. Everything else is secondary.Click To Tweet
There we go. Now then…
Find the group of people that are guaranteed to enjoy your content and write it with them in mind.
It took years for the web design world to adopt the “mobile first” mantra, but now all us smartphone browsers are glad they did.
Same thing is true with online marketing. It took us years, but now it’s time we operate audience first.
Network TV has done this for decades.
They find the audience that sponsors want to reach, and write tv shows that the audience will consume. Ever wonder why programming on every major network is almost exactly the same?
Last point: even Google themselves in on board
Google confirmed that “interstitials,” those infuriating full-screen popups on mobile devices will become a negative ranking signal starting this January [there are a few exceptions].
Granted, these interstitials aren’t a perfect analog to inbound-vs.-outbound marketing, but they do make a relatable point: they’re trying to steal your attention from whatever it’s currently on, and they’re extremely annoying.
Sounds like outbound marketing in a nutshell to me.
Why Content Marketing will take over in 2017
Someone remind me to revisit this post next December to see if I’m eating claim chowder.
Here’s why I say CM is taking over:
- Social media is well-established. Everyone’s doing it already.
- SEO is talking more and more about publishing and promoting quality.
- Even some major PPC metrics have gone down in recent years, according to WordStream.
I’m not omniscient so let’s see whether I’m right or wrong, but from where I’m sitting, the obvious next major player is content marketing.
But content marketing isn’t new!
I can hear you saying.
I know! That’s how I started this post!
What’s new about it will be its adoption into the mainstream of online marketing.
Remember when every company on the web reluctantly agreed to start a blog, and then filled it with crappy 200-word posts of nothing?
How many of them are still doing that?! Like so many, you guys!
THAT is what will change.
In 2005 it was the blog. In 2007 it was the app. In 2009 it was the Facebook page. In 2016 it was Snapchat.
In 2017, it will be a sincere commitment to content marketing.
How to combine UX and Content Marketing for big wins in 2017
I’m calling for 2017 to be a banner year for content marketing. Here’s how to make the most of it.
The graphic above was inspired by this graphic from movoto.com, but I changed it to better reflect our process.
Audience UX: find the right audience and leave everyone else alone
Where most content marketing falls flat is the research, both before and during creation.
Blogging and infographic design have become so easy these days that too many brands go into it guns blazing without adequate research.
You have to find your audience and let them make all your content marketing decisions for you.
Real Estate example
You’re an agent. You’ve decided to invest in content marketing in 2017.
You see everyone else writing the same old “11 things to know before you buy your first home” posts.
How do you stand out?
Let’s say you’re in your 30s or 40s and most of your clientele are too. You operate in the suburbs, near a major city. Some commuters, some local business. A great spot to live and work.
Pick a sub-group of people who are likely to live where you do.
Here’s an easy one: sports fans.
We’re in Massachusetts, so I’ll use the Boston/New England sports franchises in my examples.
Here’s the recipe for a successful real estate-related—but not too real estate-realted—piece of content marketing:
Identify your audience, content ideas, words & phrases being searched for on the topic, tangent ideas, and outreach/publicity sources.
In our example:
- Audience: Boston-area sports fans
- Ideas: photos & descriptions of New England Patriots players’ houses
- Keywords: Tom Brady’s house, Bill Belichick net worth, highest paid NFL players, etc.
- Tangents: Where does Tom Brady live, “How to live like the Patriots do” spin-offs, etc.
- Outreach: Patch.com authors in towns where Patriots players live, Boston-area sports bloggers like Barstool Sports, Chowdaheadz, etc.
How to use the recipe
Crawl MLS data and public data for real estate records. Compile them into a post with 10-20 of the most famous Patriots players and coaches.
Then—and this is crucial—find websites that have already written about this topic.
And THEN use the standard compliment of SEO tools find websites that linked to them.
That’s where the money is.
Find out who’s linking to material like yours. Strike up a relationship with those linkers.
Easier said than done, of course. But it’s worth its weight in gold.
Law Firm Marketing example
You’re a lawyer, part of small- to medium-sized firm.
You practice one of the standard consumer-facing practice areas: GP, personal injury, family law, criminal defense, etc.
This time we’ll pick a different sub-group people: outdoors enthusiasts.
Again we identify the audience, content ideas, words & phrases being searched for on the topic, tangent ideas, and outreach/publicity sources.
In our outdoors-meets-law example:
- Audience: Boston-area outdoors types
- Ideas: 37 Running & Hiking Spots in New England with No Trespassing Restrictions
- Keywords: hiking new england, trail running routes
- Tangents: “Is trespassing legal in survival situations?,” overnight camping new england, etc.
- Outreach: survival gear review blogs, New England travel guides, outdoor/nature photography blogs
How to use the recipe
Crawl maps and public land plots with trails and off-trail areas, including land owned by conservation groups like The Trustees.
Compile them into a post with a number of maps, reviews, and photos.
And of course, to provide unique value that sets your post apart from the others, include the relevant text from local trespassing laws, with legalese translated to English below.
Final thoughts: content marketing is kinda uncomfortable
New content marketing initiatives can feel a little weird at first.
Mostly because the content is usually outside the company’s main topic. Related, but not exact.
Real estate agents writing about celebrities and lawyers writing about hiking. It can feel like a stretch.
But the entire point of this marketing push is to provide value—information, entertainment, or both—to users who are primed and receptive to your content.
And because the end users are the driving force of the whole process, the content has to be about them.
Let me repeat that:The content you market is not about you. It's about your audience.Click To Tweet
You might hate hiking. I do.
But if there’s audience out there who loves it, you should hide your hatred and tap into that market as quickly as possible.
Ok, now I gotta go fix my pocket door.
Your favorite examples? Tell us in the comments.
We’re always learning and striving to improve. If you know of any great content marketing examples—especially for real estate and law—please let us know!
There’s plenty of work to go around, so we’re not worried about competing with other marketing agencies or anything like that.
The whole team loves this stuff and we want to read as much of it as we can.
Please share your examples. Let us know in the comments below.