Today, when we speak of content marketing, many think of it as something new and Internet related. It’s not, and here’s what we can learn from and old and surprisingly lean star.
Say content marketing, and most thoughts go straight to company blogs or social media marketing of web content. But if we look up the term content marketing in Wikipedia it’s defined as “any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers”. Not only is that a lot more than web postings, it has existed as mass marketing since the 19th century.
The Michelin-guide showed the way
For example, have you thought about what an early and extremely successful example of content marketing the Michelin-guide is? It’s also a brilliant example of how to build content on something exciting outside the actual product to market it – completely without talking about the less exciting product. The Michelin guide was so successful that it grew from a company brochure to become a commercial success product in it’s own right, where the restaurants in today’s edition are hardly roadside fast food, and the competition to get in there is fierce. Foodies from all over the world plan entire road trips by the guide, and will probably arrive om Michelin tires since the tire manufacturer has grown to be one of the worlds top two and has become an international megabrand. Today the guide has long since gone viral with apps, interactive maps and other spin-off products. But what can the Michelin Guide in its most fundamental form teach us about digital content marketing? Here are three things:
Always start with your target group, their needs and wishes.
Cars need tires, but cars don’t buy them – people do. For the majority of people, car tires are a low interest product. Most of us don’t think about them until we need new ones, and hope it’s not soon. We don’t like to have to buy them. The car enthusiasts are the exception, but they’re a tiny group compared to the total of car owners. So what if you instead look at a target group that goes for long drives and thereby wears out tires more frequently – what do that have in common? Sooner or later they have to stop for food! This you can know without asking (which was good for Michelin, since market research was a bit more cumbersome in those days). It addresses a primary need, universal to all humans who own a car. Thereby the guide solved a real problem for the target group long before McDonalds or the GPS could help you on your way. What is it you target group really needs or wants that indirectly sells your products?
Writing about your product is not always the best way to sell it.
Users who drive a lot wear out their tires and need new ones more often. If your brand name is top-of-mind when they do, they’ll definitely consider or even chose you. Therefore the goal of the marketing was to make the target group want to drive more and longer – maybe even a detour. So why not write about restaurants so fabulous they are worth extra mileage? Not only does this give many more exciting things to write about, it is more interesting for the user on a continued basis. If you don’t care about the tires until you need new ones, how often would you want to read about them, really? I don’t know about you, but good food in great travel destinations I could read about every day, travelling or not. The competitors were probably all still only writing about the fabulous attributes of their tires while Michelin could soon laugh all the way to the restaurant.
So challenge yourself and step out of the brand you work for a moment. See if you have an equally unique perspective that is relevant to your product and marketing goals without talking about the product itself. Chances are, it will separate you from the rest – in a relevant way. And creating content will become much easier and more fun as well.
Adjust the development continually based on response/ action.
The Michelin Guide started as a simple guide for roadside food in France but has developed into an international icon of the good life – and a status symbol. A promo from a tire producer – who would have thought? Many advertisers have trouble trusting the actions and advice from target group enough to act upon it. Having the target group change on you doesn’t make it easier (from mainstream to gourmet and broader again, in this case). Many things indicate that the Michelin brothers were visionary here as well – they kept track. On the company webpage we can read how André Michelin in 1920 found the then free guide from Michelin used to prop up an unsteady workbench in an auto shop and concluded that people only respect what they pay for. From there the guide went from being financed by advertising to becoming a purchase product without ads. To be worth the money the guide needed to be upgraded, and the rest is an historic evolution of a brand. Remind you of any Internett-startups you know? This shows a bold, user-centric approach, way ahead of it’s time. It’s also remarkably lean long before lean management and much less lean marketing was even thought of. To this day many advertisers refuse to trust the customer this much in spite of the fact that good, valid data is now right at their fingertips. Both gathering the data and using them in a meaningful, analytical whole is so much easier and safer today, so use it for all its worth.
Content Marketing is just so much easier now
With today’s Internet you have easy access to greater and more secure data, better and cheaper distribution channels and simpler follow-up and development. You also have a short way to many more customers in many more channels at once. So the next time you feel content marketing is just too much work, think of the Michelin Brothers going from auto shop to auto shop to see how their brochure is doing. You don’t have to visit a single customer to find out how your marketing works – you can reach out to all of them in seconds – even the ones you don’t have yet, across the globe.
All you have to remember is that still it’s all about generating valuable content that your target group will both need and share. All to keep you top of mind the next time they need what you have to offer.
Yesterday, while I was gathering inspiration and new digital marketing trend tidbits at the Ad:Tech New York conference, a great idea was presented that triggered another idea in my head, and I want to share it with you while it’s fresh. I think this can not only make us all better mobile marketers, but leaner marketers and communicators as well.
Tomorrow is mobile
One of the most inspiring sessions at todays ad:tech was Tomorrows Digital Landscape, an informal conversational interview between Dave Morgan of Simulmedia and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures. The latter is not only the source of great digital insight over decades, but has an extraordinary skill for drawing the big picture in such clear lines and plain language that you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it yourself. It was filmed and I highly recommend watching the full version. There were lots of tidbits throughout, but one particularly clear suggestion from Wilson caught my inspiration and triggered my imagination. One of the less surprising major trends throughout the conference is the importance of mobile, but Wilson has an interesting fresh approach to what to do: “Make a mobile app and make it the core of your web presence.” Instead of the usual gruelling stripping of the website to make it mobile friendly, this suggests starting with the simple and building on it for the web site. This boldly suggests that it’s better to scale up than down, and isn’t that so true for most situations in life really?
starting to smell like great lean
What if you combined this with lean principles? What if you started with a minimum viable truly mobile product (MVTMP?) based on a hypothesis of what it should do for your target group. The product doesn’t have to be an app – a responsive design mobile page may actually even better for our more scalable purpose. The important thing is to start as simple as possible. What can we give that our customers on the go needs? Although you start with mobile needs it’s highly unlikely that these needs are completely irrelevant to your web clients – you’ll ad more for them later.
Short and long term benefits
Based on that you test and explore as you build your site in small iterations. While the obvious bonus is the increasingly important mobile presence, there are many other benefits:
Clear and concise communication
Optimal user experience for every device
User-centric from the onset
new, controlled environment that’s testable piece by piece
a sustainable, flexible solution that can grow and change as your business goals and the market requires
and last but not least, a great way to get started with lean marketing
So how about making mobile digital presence you know you need your stepping stone to leaner marketing?
When I was starting my little agency and the name Webroi first came up, I met some skepticism. A lot of people aren’t marketing to make more money, was one of the arguments. This shocked me a bit, for to me ROI in marketing should be a no brainer. Here’s how.
What ROI should mean in marketing
ROI means return on investment. Positive ROI means getting back a value grater than what you put in. Negative ROI means the opposite – getting back less than you invested. So far so good. The misconception begins when you limit this value to money. Especially when you assume that by value in return it means a dollar amount in return. This may work for the financial industry, where this acronym apparently originated, but for marketing ROI or ROMI(Return of Marketing Investment) this definition short-changes the potential.
ROMI is more than money
Your marketing investment includes money, time (which we all know is money) and possibly some other assets (reputation etc). Your return, however, is interdependent on your goal for the marketing activity. If your goal is sales, then this can be measured in money. If, however, your goal is to raise awareness for a public cause, this can be completely different. It may be volunteers, petition signatures, followers, advocates or sponsors. It can even be press coverage or politicial awareness for lobbying, for all I know. The point is, if you get more of whatever your value is than you invested, then you have positive ROI. If not, It’s negative.
A ROI example
If you have $5 000 dollars to get you 100 new members by 2013 and your Google Analytics account pr 31.12.2012 shows 1000 new members that track to these advertising spendings, then thats a great ROI. Instead of each member costing you $50 dollars they cost you $5. Money saved may not be money earned in this case, but it’s an opportunity to get more for your money. Who doesn’t want that? Wether you’re spending tax payers money or that of your sponsors, investors or your own hard earned cash, I sure hope this is your goal.
The nature of the marketing beast
Now think about the nature of marketing in general: Hasn’t the whole point of marketing always been to get more back than you invested? Although it’s harder to measure in most traditional media than it is on the Internet, the goal has always been positive ROI. Why else bother?
3 simple steps to web marketing ROI:
Set SMART goals. Smart stands for Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Without this you can’t measure to find out the ROI. Remember, It’s better to start with a goal you have to adjust than no goal at all – intelligent “guestimation” is allowed until the numbers are in.
Get ready to measure right from the start. Make sure your website is hooked up to an Analytics tool like Google Analytics (free) and that it is set up to measure on what your goals are. It’s no point in counting visitors when what you need to know is how many signed the membership form, for example. Even if you have others doing the work for you I strongly recommend to learn to understand your own data. The ad agency and your IT department are not looking for the same things as you are in the data.
Optimize your optimizations. Do more of what works, less of what does not. If someone else is doing the marketing for you, make sure they do this. Ask questions based on the data in your analytics. Good web marketing for ROI isn’t just a campaign effort but a continuing process. That’s what gives the great opportunities for continual improvement, just getting better and better.