As the old adage goes, content has been, and always will be, king. To be successful, you must focus on both content and distribution (or marketing). Content marketing can be a vague term and is used in many different ways. But for purposes of this discussion, I will define it like this:
For associations, content marketing is the creation and distribution of customized informational or educational information in multiple formats to attract and/or retain members.
Most successful organizations use content marketing in one way or another. In fact, a recent survey by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found that nine out of 10 organizations market themselves with content. The survey states that organizations dedicate approximately 26 percent of their total budgets to content marketing initiatives. Interestingly, smaller organizations allocate a larger share of their budget to content marketing than do larger companies.
This year, the majority of marketers report they plan to spend more money on content marketing in 2012. And 62 percent of B2B marketers turn to outsourcing for content marketing, a substantial increase from 55 percent last year, according to CMI/MarketingProfs data.
Content creation can come from many sources, both internal and external. A traditional article created about a topic, product or service is still the No. 1 format for getting the message out. The article can be in a print magazine and repurposed in any number of ways. However, online media has rapidly closed the gap with social media and blogs taking on huge roles in both the creation and distribution of content.
The clear difference is that social media and blogs allow, and even encourage, reader engagement with the content. Although there is some risk of losing control of the message with these media, an engaged user is more likely to value your offering and become a loyal customer. An additional benefit of this type of content marketing is that it is typically very cost-effective.
Many successful associations are already using content as a key driver in their member acquisition and retention programs.
The key to being successful in this new world is creating quality content that can easily be leveraged across multiple distribution channels. Whenever possible, you should be looking for ways to repurpose your content into as many channels as possible in order to reach the broadest number of members. Some associations have excellent content, but only post it on their websites and wait for people to find it. That’s a waste of the time spent creating the content. Think of all the communication channels you have at your fingertips. Many of them are only used for “news” or “updates.”
Consider using these channels for promoting more “engaging” content. For instance; you may have an industry expert speaking at a local or regional event. Capture that speech on video (virtually free in today’s world) and then post it on your association’s website, Twitter feed, Facebook, e-newsletter and YouTube channel. Go to independent industry blogs and share a link to the speech and write a small blurb about it for your magazine. All of these items are free or incredibly cheap, and the likelihood that your audience will see it and engage with it is extremely high. This same concept can be used with articles, white papers or any other branded content.
The world is becoming bigger and smaller at the same time. Technology has allowed instant access to a huge market or a tiny niche. As an association, your goal should be to provide the information to your members whenever and wherever they are. If you don’t, someone else will fill that void. Make the investment in content, as it is crucial, but push your association to find as many ways as possible to leverage each piece of content you produce. The payoff can be huge.
Marcus Underwood is vice president and general manager of NaylorNet, the online media solutions division of Naylor, LLC.