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by Stephen Logan on 21st February 2013
Today, online marketing is all about getting more from less. Why write 100 articles and publish them on 100 different sites if one post on a specially selected blog can provide more benefit? The notion of spreading resources so thinly and sacrificing quality over quantity is fading like a bad memory.
Now it’s all about one great idea. Building campaigns around a single concept to provide optimal coverage and give it the best chance to succeed. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of content marketing.
A Change of Focus
In the sepia-tinged days of old (pre-2011), article sites, content spinning and all kinds of link building tomfoolery were still very much a part of online marketing strategy. While these techniques haven’t been entirely abandoned in all quarters, their effectiveness has been critically damaged. This is mostly as a result of wave after wave of search engine updates, as well as a greater understanding among the wider public.
People don’t want to read half-baked articles about not a lot. Consequently, search engines don’t want to deliver them as part of their results. The outcome: a new way.
Back then, you could have a dozen ideas in a day, produce the content the next and then finally fire it out to a receptive audience of article dumps on day 3. It was uncomplicated, but it was also untargeted. Would anyone ever read the content? Would they follow the links? Would those same links actually carry any value? There were always more questions than answers.
Fast forward a few years and those same three days could be spent actually improving your brand’s visibility and creating something that will add real value to your marketing campaigns.
At the heart of any successful campaign is a good idea. At some point, somewhere in the world, somebody noticed the similarity between the word meerkat and market. That one brainwave, regardless of personal opinions, has given rise to an entire advertising empire. While this kind of gimmicky campaign isn’t for everyone, it’s a principle that you can follow.
One idea can open up dozens of avenues. It doesn’t need to be a massive concept, just enough to give you a platform on which to build. Where you start and where you end up is entirely up to you. There are very few restrictions and as long as you’re prepared to employ a little lateral thinking as well as a fair few hours, then the sky really is the limit.
Developing a Concept
Let’s start with a concept then. This will depend on your industry and also what you’re looking to achieve. For the sake of this post, I’m going to use a straightforward example – make-up. Okay, so it’s not something I have a great deal of personal experience with, but it is an area that offers a wealth of opportunities for marketers.
Inspiration can come from a number of sources, including customer enquiries, current affairs or even a momentary spark. Whatever it is, make sure you get it down on paper and begin fleshing it out. Again, for this post I’ll keep it simple and look at ‘favourite shades of lipstick’.
As a concept, it’s unlikely to set the world on fire, but even this basic premise has legs. So to start with, if you’re a beauty blogger or an ecommerce site selling make-up, then it may be a good idea to do a little outreach. Create a questionnaire or even just a simple form on the site to allow your customers to provide their own opinions.
Creating and Promoting Your Survey
Statistical data is a great way of developing and almost legitimising your content ideas. But as with any facts and figures, the more responses you receive, the more weight the survey will have. So why not go to town with it?
Rather than just attaching a form to a blog post or emailing it out to a few customers, get people talking about it. Maybe you could create a competition to win some products or a voucher. If you keep the questions simple and avoid too many unnecessary steps, then your chances of success will increase greatly.
For maximum exposure you may look to use a professional survey site, such as YouGov or Survey Monkey. These results could then be used in conjunction with your own, or form the basis for your research. While there are free options, most offer a premium service, so you can expect to pay a few pounds to get your hands on that all-important data.
With a competition you can also promote this on your own social profiles, share with other bloggers within the industry and even upload to various competition sites. This can broaden your reach and really get the number of respondents to rise. Of course, it also creates interest and many of those who complete the questionnaire are likely to want to find out the results. Equally it can be a great source of links, so there’s an SEO benefit too. For more information on getting more from competitions, check out this guest post from Gaz Copeland.
The creation, design and distribution of your survey shouldn’t take more than a day. But for that, you could reasonably expect a major uptick in traffic, a few extra emails to add to your mailing list and even some new followers on social sites. Remember, that’s even before you’ve actually produced any real content.
The results are in and cherry red is the winner – great news. Now it’s time to announce it. This can be done on your blog, through a specially targeted press release and throughout your social empire. Remember, this is your chance to really show off something that has real merit and isn’t available anywhere else. You are the sole owner of all that juicy data and now it’s time to make it get to work.
Your initial announcement should include a rundown of the top ten, maybe split these out into various demographics and even geographical variations. Again, this is where the value of an extensive pool of data really pays off. Announce the winner of the competition and share it everywhere.
This isn’t the end of the line though, indeed it’s only really the first step.
Developing your Content
Now it’s time to see what else you can do with that data and your original concept. Assuming you’ve found some interesting results, now would be a time to share them with the world. Remember, while you may attract a lot of traffic to your blog and Facebook page, this shouldn’t be seen as the limit of your potential reach.
As it is very much a visual piece of research, the data could easily be used as part of an infographic. This can be a time-consuming process, but if done properly and with statistics that are likely to be of interest to a wide range of consumers, it could also be well worth it. The final graphic can be used on your own site and may also be shared on other blogs as well as infographic sites such as visual.ly. For advice on how to create a successful infographic, take a look at this post from Tom.
It’s not rocket science of course. As long as it has an attractive design and the concept is sound, you can expect a decent amount of interest. The more times it gets shared, the more exposure your site will receive. If you play your cards right, you can also obtain a fair smattering of links too. Quality is paramount though, nobody wants to publish or share something that looks like it has been knocked together in a few minutes, so take your time.
Then of course there is the classic PR method of reaching out to news sites and blog owners. You can send a standard press release, make a pitch or even provide a guest post for them to publish. There are plenty of journalists and bloggers looking for easy content that their readers will enjoy. If you get the pitch just right, avoid all of the promotional nonsense that will get alarm bells ringing and provide something unique, you can make that original concept stretch even further.
At this stage there really are no limitations, other than your own resources. You can send emails and write posts until your keyboard is worn out. There are plenty of potential host sites and not all of them will be in the same industry. So while the most obvious places to contact for a post about lipstick colours might be a make-up blog, you could potentially widen your search. This might include blogs for mums, beauty, ecommerce, fashion and even design.
By finding a new angle on your existing research, you can adapt the content or pitch to suit the intended site. Again, the more time and effort you put in at this stage, the more likely you are to get some great results. Don’t assume that everyone will jump at the chance to give you a free slot on their site, so give it a little push – make it worth their while. However, you should think twice before handing over any cash; most quality blogs won’t ask for cash unless it is to review a product, so establish whether it will really be worth your while.
So where are we now?
All from one basic idea. But that’s it, surely?
Well, no, not necessarily. While you don’t want to flog a dead horse, if there is some more mileage to be had, why not take advantage of it? Firstly, don’t forget to promote all of your content, even if it’s hosted on another site. Not only will this keep pushing people towards your content, it will help to build relationships with those site owners for the future.
Remember, this isn’t a one-time deal. Even if this one campaign has been a roaring success, you need to start laying the foundations for the future. So if some sites contact you to become a regular contributor, you could have an open door to really build your brand identity.
Then of course there are other forms of media. You could find a way to use your research to create videos, including buyer’s guides, useful hints and tips as well as branded product reviews. This may then form the basis for future content that you can promote on-site and off.
Images are also a useful resource. With make-up you’ve pretty much got free rein to do whatever takes your fancy in terms of pictures. You can then use these as part of your Flickr or Pinterest accounts (both would be good), set up a Tumblr page and share them through Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You might do head-to-heads with different colours to get a bit of interaction going on, or even run a series of competitions.
So while that little lot might take you a full week; what you learn, the contacts you make and the ongoing benefits your brand achieves should make it all worthwhile. Forget about quick gains and start thinking about the long game. Your online marketing campaign shouldn’t be defined by a single piece of content or a standalone idea. These form part of the wider mosaic, which is constantly growing and improving.
You will make mistakes and learn lessons along the way, but that’s just a part of life. If everything worked every time, it wouldn’t be a challenge, would it? Ideas spawn new ideas and that’s how you can keep moving forward with your campaign.
So that’s how one idea can become something so much bigger. A little knowledge, imagination and time really can go a long way. The best thing is that you don’t even need deep pockets. Work with what you’ve got and keep any non-specialist elements in-house.
If you’ve got your own stories of how one idea has been successfully developed into an entire marketing campaign, please feel free to add them below. Equally, if you’d like to add anything I may have missed, be sure to let me know.
Bright Idea from BigStock Photo
Set of Doodles from BigStock Photo