Beyond the White Paper: Effective Content Deployment to Maximize Your Investment

With most initiatives in marketing and public relations, each unique aspect and effort may sound great, but ultimately if it's not pushing sales or moving the business needle needle in some other measurable way, then it's not getting the job done. At the 2011 Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland, content strategists discussed how to measure and generate a positive return on content investment.

Your Content Plan: The Right Content for the Right Platform

Jay Baer, media strategist and creator of content marketing blog Convince and Convert, said he’s found that companies that haven't embraced being in the media business on top of their actual business typically fall into a trap of putting all their eggs in one content basket and make “the mother of all” white papers. The problem is, Baer said, no one wants to read a 48-page white paper—it’s an anachronism.

“Content success is not about thinking big, it’s about thinking small,” Baer said. “You want to be a digital dandelion and take your big ideas and put them in a lot of small ideas for your most important customer: Google.”

Typically, when a company decides to start producing content, it falls into a habit of producing content only for its own site, and keeping it there, which Baer calls being a "content grinch."

"You have to realize that limits the content to people who already know you," Baer said. "Comment on other people’s blogs, put it on SlideShare, do guest blogs to reach audiences who have never heard of you before. SlideShare has 47,000,000 unique visitors per month. Your Web site doesn't."

As an example, Baer mentioned e-mail marketing company ExactTarget, which took its big research project story idea and turned it into nine pieces. “At the end, there's a sale—but between where someone enters in the funnel and the sale, sales people are generally great about answering customer questions and complaints. But that’s where marketing and sales need to work together to create content that answers those questions so that the customer doesn't have anything else to ask, because you've already answered them.” That's the holy grail of content marketing, according to Baer. 

Metrics: Which Content Metrics Really Matter to Your Organization

Ideally, companies should be pulling metrics from the following four categories, according to Baer: consumption, sharing and viral metrics (how many consumed, told others), a lead-generating metric and a sales metric. Ideally, companies should be pulling metrics from those four categories.

Lynne Esparo, VP of marketing at Nuance Communications said that if an agency diverts people to another site like YouTube, it will have more trouble tracking the metrics of that asset. “We do try and bring people back to our Web site, because it’s smarter information.” Esparo said.

Real-Time Opportunities

Baer started his blog in 2008 like every other blog: with zero followers. To build an audience, he set up RSS feeds to see what was percolating on the Web each morning. “I'd write a blog post as quickly as I could, then write a comment on the site along the lines of ‘Hey, I wrote an analysis of this piece,’ and linked to it, and did that every day of the year,” Baer said.

“You have to have a lot of people in your organization with their antenna up to take advantage of real-time content,” Baer said. “Someone has to be able to be freed up in the organization to connect the dots mentally and have the freedom to execute the content—which is obviously much easier said than done in bigger companies.” 

Cam Brown, CEO of King Fish Media, said in addition to using listening tools, there’s value in having people outside your organization push topics and areas to you and telling you that you simply have to step in and react.

Rinse, Reuse, Recycle: Content Regeneration Tips

Shaku Selvakumar, worldwide strategist, Web and social, IBM Software Group, suggested taking whatever content you've already got and giving it a twist. “Take your case studies and make them podcasts. Take preexisting content, whatever it is, and give it a facelift,” Selvakumar said.

You have to think beyond the laptop and desktop computer, Baer said. “Podcasts are the most underutilized product in America," he said. "If you're not creating content that works with mobile devices, you're missing a colossal opportunity."