From Analytics to Content

I started my career with spreadsheets, charts, and SQL queries. My job was to manage KPI’s, analyze trends, and “provide insight.” I found problems and proposed solutions. However, I always felt removed from the action, so when I joined a small startup with the opportunity to join the front lines of content marketing, I couldn’t resist the challenge.

I spent months teaching myself content marketing. This is a snapshot of what I’ve learned so far through podcasts, blogs, Twitter threads, and some good old fashion trial and error.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing creates and distributes valuable, and relevant content to a clearly defined audience in order to move them closer to an end goal.

Now that we have a definition let’s break down those three concepts.

Value Creation

The more time I spend with marketers, the more I feel this needs to be said. Nobody cares about your company. How many companies do you personally care about? Do you read their blog posts, watch their YouTube videos, and read their case studies?

Your customer is the hero not your brand.

Donald Miller

People interact with your company only when they are getting something out of it. They are the hero, you are the guide. If you are not helping them towards a goal that they have deemed worthwhile, they will not listen to you. This is true of products, and this is true of content.

A helpful way to think of content marketing is as a free product that you give away in order to eventually sell a paid product.

Content Relevance

Creating value on its own is not sufficient. You must create the right type of value. The content must attract a specific audience.

A great example is YNAB. They have a fantastic YouTube channel with endless videos on the finer points of budgeting. Why? Because they are a budgeting software. They could probably attract more views by recording their employees boxing each other, but they wouldn’t be the right views. Someone who watches a “How to Save for a Home Renovation” is a lot more likely to be the type of person who will purchase budgeting software.

The lesson here is to create with a specific audience in mind. Relevant content brings with it, potential customers. Irrelevant content = wasted resources.

Goal Orientation

Now that we have the right type of people engaging with our content, what do we want them to do? People won’t take action unless you give them a reason and a way to take a specific action.

Begin with the end in mind

Dr. Stephen Covey

The content needs to help the audience realize a need for your product. A great example is Ahrefs. Their blogs often tackle highly technical SEO topics like “How to Complete a Technical SEO Audit.” This blog teaches the reader exactly what it promises, but it does it using the Ahrefs platform, demonstrating how easy this could be if you become a member.

This part of content marketing is all about bridging the gap from content to product and then giving a clear path towards purchasing your product.

How to Create a Content Strategy

Now you know what content marketing is. But, where do you start? How do you prioritize all the content you want to make? This is where a content strategy comes into play. This is a framework you can use to help think through the higher-level decisions.

A good content strategy comes down to goals, capacity, and demand. The extent to which you can satisfy all 3 will inform you how solid of a strategy it is.

These 3 pillars can serve as a framework to evaluate the quality of a given strategy. Here are some key questions that can help work through these categories:

What are our goals?

  • What is the desired outcome/action?
  • How will we measure that?

What can we do?

  • What do we have the internal capacity for?
  • Is this sustainable for our current team?
  • Do we have the budget for contractors or an agency?

What Our Audience Wants/Needs

  • Who is our audience?
  • Do we need different user personas?
  • How can we uncover their wants and needs?

4 Types of Content Marketing

These are just a few examples of different types of content marketing. There are plenty more not included here like ebooks, whitepapers, and case studies.

Educational Guides

Mode Analytics is a company that helps companies query, analyze, and visualize their data. One of their content marketing strategies is to build free introductory courses to SQL and Python.

Relevant

Picking these topics self-selects for an audience that is interested in learning more about analytics, and would thus be a great fit for their product.

Valuable

The lessons are extremely well organized and approachable for someone just getting started with SQL. There is tremendous value in teaching a marketable skill in an easy-to-understand way.

Goal-Oriented

The tutorials have a clear end goal of prompting the user to connect their data to the platform. This is by far the biggest hurdle to getting started with the platform justifying the need for such a high-quality piece of content.

Free Tools

Clearbit provides company and employee-level data enrichment to reduce the amount of information you need to collect from prospects. One of their content marketing activities that I see as highly effective is the creation of free-to-use tools that give a sample of the value of their platform.

Relevant

Clearbit’s target audience is fairly broad, but one key demographic is business leaders. This tool directly targets those thinking about the business as a whole.

Valuable

The value of this tool is incredible for someone trying to understand the viability of their business.

Goal-Oriented

The email-gating of the report makes the goal incredibly clear, they are pushing the user into an email flow that will hopefully result in a signup.

Podcasts

Hubspot is a customer relationship management platform (CRM). They are an all-in-one solution to many needs that businesses have as they scale. I have been extremely interested in their heavy investment in podcasting as their predominant content marketing strategy.

Relevant

The audience for HubSpot is simple, all businesses. Their math is equally as simple: more successful businesses = more potential customers. This strategy of using their content to both attract an audience and increase their total addressable market is fascinating.

Valuable

The value Hubspot brings here varies by podcast, but typically strikes some sort of balance between entertainment and education. With such a heavy investment in this medium, they have been able to diversify and bring different types of value to different segments of their audience.

Goal-Oriented

Hubspot is playing the long game here. Podcasts are notoriously difficult to track and include in any sort of attribution modal. They are making a multi-year investment here, which for a publicly traded company is remarkable. The message they want to send to their listeners is “Hubspot gives me everything I need to be successful in my business.” From podcast education to CRM and marketing tools, they want to associate their brand with business success.

Video Content Marketing

One interesting company that popped onto my radar a few years back was AlgoExpert.io. They are a software engineer prep company that heavily markets to those applying to Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (FAANG). Clement started this YouTube channel and heavily invested in building a YouTube audience in order to drive traffic to his company’s website.

Relevant

As you can see above, the content is quite clearly targeting those interested in large tech firms like Google. The only people that would watch a video like “Google Systems Design Interview with Ex-Googler” are people interested in applying to Google.

Valuable

Clement does an excellent job providing an inside scoop on what are often black boxes. His history of rising through the ranks at Google gives him unique insights that he is able to share in a compelling way. He also does an excellent job collaborating with other people whose backgrounds give them unique insights. The evidence of the value is made clear by

Goal-Oriented

The goal is made clear through his almost obligatory mention of AlgoExpert at the beginning of every video. With such focused niche content, his goal of new users for his platform seems to be the next logical step for viewers wanting to apply for a software engineering position.