Tag Archives | content strategy

Book Review: Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman

Content Rules Book Review

This is not a sponsored review.

Each month, I read a book on content marketing in order to learn more about the industry and grow as a professional. Occasionally I will post book reviews to help you decide if you would like to read the book, or if you don’t have the time, you’ll be able to glean some key points.

Today’s book is Content Rules. This book comes as close to a ‘classic’ as you can in an industry as young as content marketing. The book is focused on B2C, but since marketing firms (you) are in the business of helping other companies reach their clients, this worked out well. Most of your clients are likely B2C companies, and for those that aren’t, there is a reasonably good chapter on B2B content also.

The book is divided into three parts – “The Content Rules”, which describes theory and tips on content marketing, “The How To Section” which describes how to handle specific content challenges, and “Success Stories” which discusses other companies’ success with content marketing and ideas you can use in your own business.

Section 1: The Content Rules

This section had a lot of pros and cons. Personally, I found it very disjointed, because I was trying to mind-map the content to create a cohesive understanding. In reality, each short chapter stands alone very well – largely because there isn’t a cohesive story connecting each chapter. This is great if you want to take a nibble here and there, and read chapters as you can. This isn’t so great if you are looking for an overall approach to content strategy.

The Content Rules section contained chapters that had a lot of bulleted lists. I enjoyed this because it made the content very accessible. For instance, Chapter 3 focuses on who you want to attract. It uses seven lists in 10 pages, covering topics like content objectives, customer desires, and possible metrics for different types of content.

Although most of this book is aimed at B2C companies, there is one chapter focused on B2B content marketing. This is a good section about how B2B content is different, although it doesn’t focus as much as I wish it did on how complex the B2B buying decision is. B2B has to focus on multiple decision makers and decision teams, rather than a single customer, which make a lot of difference in all marketing strategies.

Section 2: The How To Section

            This was my favorite section. Each chapter was an in-depth dive into one type of content and how to do it well. Once again the author’s made each topic quick and easy to understand using lists with descriptions under each point. My favorite was Chapter 15, on how to make an FAQ functional, sharp, and interesting. Other chapters covered blogging, webinars, ebooks/whitepapers, case studies, video, podcasting, and photographs. There was a lot of amazing information in each chapter, well worth a long look as you help your clients understand their content elements.

Section 3: Success Stories

            These short chapters each profile a single company that had success using content marketing. Each chapter starts with an overview of the company, then moves to the content they used and the results they achieved. The end of each chapter is a list of ‘Ideas You can Steal’, which lists tips gleaned from each company’s experience. The ideas are often very general, such as ‘spark conversation’, ‘feed your blog’, and ‘create momentum’. To me, the ideas weren’t that novel or particularly unique to the company stories. However, the stories themselves and the success achieved may help you convince nervous clients to make a go of a content marketing strategy.

Overall, I felt that this book was very helpful, despite being presented in disjointed chapters. I was able to get concrete strategies for particular content types that will better help me assist you with your client content needs. I was able to get a bit of a framework for content strategy. And I got a lot of actionable lists. However, with all the hype surrounding this book in the industry, I was expecting something that held together better as a unit.

Overall Grade: B+

Have you read Content Rules? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Let me know in the comments! 

Continue Reading · 3

Finding Your Voice Series: Connecting Your Message with Your Customers

Connect with Customers

Welcome to the final installment of the Finding Your Voice Series! I hope it’s been informative and helpful for you.

So far we’ve talked about helping your clients know who they are, identify their unique offering and perspective, and target their voice toward their customers. Today, we’ll finish up with the last step – using content to connect your client’s message with their customers.

Creating targeted online content can be a daunting process for any client who hasn’t previously had a content strategy. However, you can help them stay calm by reminding them that they’ve been creating content for as long as they’ve been a company. Television advertising, brochures, customer service manuals, and newspaper advertising inserts are several examples of targeted content that may already exist. The key is to understand how to use existing material, how to get new material, where to publish it, and how to keep content production consistent.

Re-purpose Existing Content

This is the first step in any content creation strategy. The client has already spent hours and dollars creating content – why not take advantage? However, it’s important not to simply publish what exists without changes. Each piece needs to be refined based on the topics already covered. Does it match the client’s current voice? Does it showcase their unique perspective? Does it resonate with the right audience?

Once a piece has been refined, think about how it can be stretched into other content that can be published on multiple platforms. Take a look at this post on how to make content go further for ideas.

Create New Content

Your client will likely fall into one of two camps – either they will be scared to death of the time and cost of creating content, or they will optimistically think they can run four social media platforms with one person. Both of these are dangerous attitudes that will bring content creation to a standstill. Be sure your client has a realistic understanding of what content creation requires. Encourage them to outsource the creation to quality writers if needed. And again, there are a lot of ways to stretch a single piece of content into a variety of forms that can be spread across platforms.

Decide Where to Publish

Fortunately for you and your client, a huge amount of research already exists regarding the clientele of various social media platforms. A website as a ‘home base’ is a requirement for any company, but beyond that, it’s all about where their ideal customer congregates.

Be sure to work with your client to understand their resources. This will be a key factor in deciding how many platforms can be maintained. If a client can’t consistently engage with potential customers on a given site, they shouldn’t use it until their resources increase. An inconsistent, sloppy looking presence is far worse than no presence at all. If the client is still trying to prove the business case for a defined content strategy, then start small with one highly-relevant platform. Great work on one platform will gain a much higher return than a scattershot attempt on several.

Keep Content Production Consistent

I’m a huge advocate of process, because at the end of the day, it’s our habits that run our lives. If a client is proving their case to the C-Suite, start with one small content process away from the core marketing activities. If a client is ready for a larger content strategy, help them create a timeline where certain content is created, posted, re-purposed, and posted elsewhere. I discuss this in my post on top-down and bottom-up content creation.

The key is to create a repeatable process that, over time, will become second nature to your client. When a company is creating unique, targeted content on appropriate platforms on a consistent basis, they are well positioned for success.

Which part of this series was the most important for your clients? Please share in the comments!

(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Continue Reading · 0

Finding Your Voice Series: Be Your Customers’ Dream Come True

Customers Dream Come True


I apologize for posting late in the day – the long weekend made today tough!

So far in this series I’ve talked about making sure your clients know who they are as a company and a brand. As a company, it’s important to know who you are, what your history is, and what your uniqueness is. Today, I’ll be talking about how to make sure your client’s content strategy will connect with their customer.

The number one rule of both sales and customer service is to find out what your customer wants, and be that 100%. It’s one thing to know your perspective – but does the perspective your client has chosen resonate with their ideal customer? If your client wants an edgy brand, are they marketing to folks who appreciate that?

This isn’t to say that your client can’t think outside the box when it comes to approaching their ideal customer. However, if what they are doing, saying, and presenting doesn’t appeal to the right people, their marketing effort will be a flop. (J.C. Penney, anyone?) In addition, if the marketing effort fails, your firm will be out a client as they search for a ‘new direction.

You want your clients to be successful, because their success makes you successful. Fortunately, you have a great tool – your client should already have metrics describing their ideal client. Use these metrics and match them up with the approach and perspective that your client is planning to use in their content strategy. If you find any glaring mismatches, you’ll be able to correct them before the client has spent time and money on Twitter, Facebook, or a blog. In addition, catching mismatches early avoids having to change voice mid-stream as they connect with their customers.

It’s important that your client know who they are. It’s important that they know their unique positioning and perspective. And especially, it’s vital that your client make sure their identity and perspective are poised to connect with their ideal customer.

Thursday, we’ll end this series by discussing how to use content and content platforms to bring together the sides – your client’s unique voice, and their ideal customers’ ears and eyes. Stay tuned!

Which of the three points so far – company identity, unique positioning, and connecting with ideal customers – are the most important for your clients? Share in the comments! 

(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)


Continue Reading · 1

Finding Your Voice Series: What is Your Uniqueness?


Welcome back to the Finding Your Voice Series! In today’s installment, we’ll be looking at helping your clients understand their unique offer and personality.

Every marketing firm worth their salt knows that the first step to helping any client is identifying a USP (Unique Selling Proposition). Your clients may sell widgets, but so do a dozen other companies. The question is how do they sell widgets differently? Luckily, finding the USP is also a great start to finding the uniqueness of your client for their content strategy. And you’re already great at it!

When it comes to content, the USP is not the only element of a client’s uniqueness. Not every page or piece of content will be sales oriented. Other things to look at include:

  • The company’s history – do they have a unique start, or is their founder interesting? The can be a great part of their story.
  • The company’s awards – what have they won that set them apart in the industry? Can this be part of their branding? A company that has won ‘best place to work’ can offer some behind-the-scenes content, for instance.
  • The company’s perspective – how do they see the world? This can be a rich source of uniqueness. A client can focus on whimsy, an anti-establishment stance, or a buttoned-up business feel. The only caveat is to be sure the client is connecting with their audience through this perspective.

Every human being is different. In the same way, every client is different. Finding the USP is a great start to understanding their uniqueness. As you dig in to their backstory and perspective, you’ll find even more great ideas.

Bringing these ideas together in a way that connects with your client’s ideal customer is the next step, and we’ll discuss that next Tuesday. The final step, on Thursday, will be about bringing all the elements of voice together into a cohesive content strategy. Stay tuned!

What is the most unique USP or perspective you’ve ever found for a client? Share in the comments!

(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Continue Reading · 2

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes