Content creation has been cited as one of the most relevant digital marketing trends for 2015 with one-third of marketers citing this strategy as a key focus in the year ahead. Widely known as the foundation of a strong inbound marketing campaign, it’s not surprising that even B2B companies are producing more content today than they were a year ago. Strong content producers understand the value this tactic brings to improving customer relationships and loyalty, boosting engagement and raising brand awareness.
As an extension to many marketers’ strategies, collaborative content has been an area of consideration as a tool that reinforces inbound marketing campaigns. Like most areas of business, partnerships are key to gaining recognition, advancement, and influencing growth. The same can be said for working with influential partners to produce collaborative content. Partnerships aid the visibility and growth of a particular site, page, product or campaign.
There are many benefits to using collaborative content for the launch of a campaign including expanded reach and relationship development. However, there are a few considerations to review before choosing a partner:
- Work with partners that understand your brand, product or service and are familiar with your key message points.
- Remember that when you are working with someone who is passionate about what they do, it will show in the content they produce. Is their passion strong enough to yield the level of quality you desire?
- Is your partner both an expert and entertaining? If so, the resulting content is practically guaranteed to be valuable.
- Don’t try to give too much direction to your partner. Point them in the right direction, but don’t pigeon hole them into your own creative thoughts and ideas.
- Thoroughly communicate the intended channel for distribution to your partner to ensure they understand who the audience is and how they will receive the content.
Does it scare you to think about tapping into your network, identifying influential prospects and taking a risk by asking them to either contribute or allow you to contribute? If it does, keep reading.
Leveraging relationships to create strong marketing partnerships can be beneficial for both parties and should be embraced in a positive way. Here are five tips to help you take the first step in identifying content collaboration opportunities to launch a successful campaign:
Identify Your 800-Pound Gorillas
Look through your LinkedIn connections, address book, Twitter followers, and Rolodex (I know, old school) to make a list of the top 10 – 15 most connected, influential and dynamic individuals with strong reach among their networks.
Next, branch out a bit and do some research on who is writing about a particular theme or topic by using advanced searches on Twitter, BuzzSumo, and other resources. Dig a little deeper to check out the number of followers or level of engagement for each of these writers.
Your list of 800-pound gorillas can be more than just individual people – business or trade organizations, clubs, publications, media reps, podcasters, and bloggers are all perfect candidates for this list. Most people recognize these people and organizations as “influencers” among their respective network, area of expertise, or industry. This is a resource that you should hold near and dear; these are your 800-pound gorillas.
The most important consideration after building the list is doing the necessary homework to learn more about their expertise and interests. Use this information to construct a personalized message requesting a content collaboration partnership.
Be clear about what you want from your 800-pound gorillas and think about what that might look like in practice. Do you want them to be contributors, promoters or both? By being a contributor, they will likely also be a promoter. In the case of a trade organization or publication, the partnership will likely be based on the value that is provided to their members and readers.
Develop strong workflows
A workflow is a sequence of automated actions that are triggered into place depending on the visitor’s reader’s behaviors or contact information. The concept of workflows was designed to allow marketers to keep their goals at the forefront of the campaign process while showing a definitive return on investment.
Once your content creation and collaboration plans are in place with your partner, consider putting solid workflows in place to take advantage of every opportunity to capture reader’s email addresses and, ultimately, get them into your sales funnel. This is especially important when implementing a collaborative content campaign because of the increased opportunity to reach prospects that are just being introduced to your brand.
When mapping out your process, first decide your overall workflow goal. Is it to further engage current leads? Are you trying to re-engage past customers? Are you working toward acquiring new leads? After your goals are established, you’ll have a better understanding of the process needed to convert more leads into customers because workflows give you the powerful ability to segment.
Do you send mass emails without personalized content to an entire, un-segmented database? If so, you may find that your success rates are not what they could be. The benefit of workflows is that you can chuck the old philosophy of sending mass emails out the window and begin providing more relevant information to your prospects based on their wants and needs. Here are a few workflow and marketing automation stats that are hard to ignore:
- Triggered email messages get 119 percent higher click-through rates than “business as usual” messages. (Source: Epsilon )
- Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. (DemandGen Report)
- A quarter of all B2B Fortune 500 companies are already using marketing automation, along with 76 percent of the world’s largest SaaS companies. (Pardot)
- Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451 percent increase in qualified leads. (The Annuitas Group)
Use tracking and retargeting
A customer’s path to purchase is not always as direct as we expect. Your intention may be to create a campaign with collaborative content and persuade a prospect to fill out a form, download a valuable offer like an ebook or tip sheet, and become interested in purchasing all in their first visit to your site. While possible, this scenario is not likely.
Marketers should be ready to help their prospective buyers along a path that may have a few more twists and turns. This is where the use of retargeting comes in. There are a few common ways to employ this strategy, depending on the goals of your campaign.
Campaign tracking is a tactic that allows you to add a tracking code to your content’s URL so that visits to the link can be tracked. The tracking URL allows you to see referrals from a web source, an email campaign, online ad or more – thus measuring the success of each channel.
One easy tool for creating tracking URLs is the Google URL builder. It’s as simple as adding the link you want to track, adding parameters for tracking, and then using the URL that Google supplies in your campaign.
Pixel-based retargeting is an incredible way to share your information again with any of your site visitors. While this strategy has been questioned in the past in regard to privacy, today it is one of the most common types of retargeting.
There are a number of options available when considering retargeting as an element of your campaign (including third-party platforms that provide web and social retargeting) such as PerfectAudience, AdRoll, Retargeter,and many more. You can also incorporate retargeting through specific social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Sponsored content and native advertising
Sponsored content and native advertising have been a hot topic among marketers and online publishers over the past few years. Companies and publishers alike have expanded their teams and divisions to broaden the production of ads that impersonate editorial content.
Whether you are on the side that views this concept as deceitful to consumers, or the side that views it as an effective way of getting the attention of prospects – the reality is that it’s not likely to go away soon.
As discussed earlier, certain types of advertising should supplement your inbound content efforts. This can be done through retargeting, promoted posts, PPC and even sponsored content. It should be done in an effort to promote your content, not your product.
When incorporated into a campaign and collaborative content strategy, sponsored content and native advertising will cast a wider net to strengthen your efforts. Inbound marketing will take a campaign a long way, but if you have the minimal funds needed to broaden your reach, then sponsored and native content methods are worth considering.
Common collaboration mistakes
Brandscaping is a concept coined by Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships. Andrew explains Brandscaping as a way of leveraging the audiences of others for the benefit of both partners. In his book, he shares some valuable insight in regard to common collaboration mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t think short term. Embark on your partnerships with the mindset that you’re in for the long haul and not just short-term campaign launch. Communicate your commitment to the partnership and its long-term benefit.
- Don’t think about sponsorships. Rather than focusing on buying access to a particular audience, think about collaboration. This is an extension of the previous point regarding focusing on the long-term rather than short-term.
- Collaboration should be about more than an individual agreeing to partner on a particular content piece. There should be a mutual understanding of the other’s level of passion and commitment to promoting, sharing and engaging with their network.
- Avoid poor communication between both parties by setting up clear expectations, due dates, responsibilities and more – right from the beginning.
- Avoid weak calls-to-action and offerings. Even with a solid campaign, a weak offering will result in failure to convert leads to customers.
The incorporation of collaborative content has been a hot topic for those who have fully adopted various online and social channels as a means to share information about their expertise and brand. Not unlike the partnerships in our personal lives, collaborating with someone on something – an influential product, service or brand – can help you reach a new audience and level of success.