TopRank’s Lee Odden recently wrote an article discussing and developing the maturity model of content marketing. The model is very relevant in relation to Matt Cutts’ recent announcement regarding guest posting; while SERP manipulation will almost always eventually lead to trouble, many marketers still have trouble understanding that good, useful content is at the core of all effective marketing campaigns.
Just because they are investing in content marketing does not mean they understand how to develop a mature content marketing campaign. But this model will help companies better understand where they are with their own content marketing services and will be most important to understanding that pushing content is turning off buyers. Buyer persona expert Tony Zambito puts it this way:
“Some have done buyer personas yes – but in review, they are laden with buying criteria-centric and supplier-centric language. Lacking in the true buyer insights research to guide content marketing efforts. Instead serving as a guide for marketing content.”
Content marketing that’s developed for specific customer needs throughout the buying journey will win. For B2C customers, the captured audience must be offered deals that will actually bring them through the sales cycle.
Don’t get stuck
The first two stages of the five-stage content marketing maturity model are stasis and production. Stasis produces content that is very brand-centric, while content within the production stage is predominantly seen as more concentrated on creating specific, keyword-focused content. The primary goal of this strategy is to use keywords to determine the topics for the content.
But both of these stages ignore the emphasis on the customer’s sales cycle journey and focus too much on search visibility and organic referrals. Brands that are stuck in the first two stages are still getting attention and are likely succeeding but it will be critical for these brands to use this as a guide if they want to compete in this marketplace.
It might be difficult to cast a brand in one of the first two phases while still keeping it positive.
The utility level of maturity
Content marketing can eventually reach a higher level of maturity in which keywords and brand messages aren’t the focus of content planning. Content marketing strategies within the third stage of the model — utility — start to invest in content that contributes to useful experiences for the customer. Content marketing that offers a utility is more focused on customer information needs and exhibits great usefulness. A brand that is a great example of a B2C utility is Just Add Ice Orchids. The company is very active on social media and attracts social communities, authentic engagement and demand emotional connection with the brand’s identity.
Optimize for buying cycle
As a brand’s content marketing matures, its brand narrative will mature into storytelling. But before entering the fourth maturity level — storytelling — a brand needs to be optimized for the buying cycle. Many brands seem to get stuck between the maturity of being a utility and storytelling.
Zappos is a great example of a brand that remains between these two stages. Zappos definitely demonstrates brand leadership, but it doesn’t optimize its buying cycle, despite effective mobile and multichannel strategies. An eCommerce company that decides to capture email addresses to use for future marketing strategies may have an opportunity to outperform its competitors. Tactics like blog subscriptions and quid-pro-quo transactions like offering TOFU content (whitepapers, guides) can help gather the desired customer information for targeted marketing.
Storytelling and “monetization 360”
The storytelling stage introduces the importance of the buyer’s intellectual needs as well as his emotional needs. This is where brand stories create shared experiences and communities and encourage influencers to contribute. Woot, acquired by eCommerce giant Amazon, is an excellent example of a brand in the storytelling stage.
Research and analysis company Forrester is another example of a brand that’s managed to enter monetization levels of maturity. Forrester sticks to the channels it knows best, which means it doesn’t enter omnichannels. Other brands that have entered the monetization maturity level are PRDaily, Content Marketing Institute, TopRank, Moz, and HubSpot. Huffington Post is a great example of a B2C brand publisher that’s also approached this content marketing maturity level.
Lee points out that an organization’s entire content marketing campaign can’t be completed within just one of these stages. Applying this five-step maturity model to a brand’s content marketing strategy can be effective for gaining perspective and turning a brand around, but success requires commitment and determination.