Over the past year, I have reviewed hundreds of successful audience building organizations. Good news? There is a template for content marketing success. It can be recorded.
Bad news? Need time.
And… it all depends on your definition of content marketing . If you think content marketing is about creating ebooks to generate leads or hoping to get engagement on your YouTube videos, then this article is not for you.
On the other hand, if you want to build a loyal and trusted audience consistently over time and believe that by doing so, you can accomplish your marketing goals, hello. This is all for you.
Table of Contents
I founded the Content Marketing Institute in 2010 using a variation of the Content Inc model. detailed below. In 2015, we identified dozens of businesses (like CMI) that had successfully built a large and/or loyal audience and subsequently drove significant revenue or achieved impossible marketing goals. believable.
I left CMI in 2018 to write mystery novels. The main character is a marketer. But I digress. Then the pandemic happened. And many of my friends lost their jobs. Some go looking for a new content marketing future. Others seek to become content entrepreneurs. Regardless, the impact of COVID-19 has brought me back to cosmic content marketing.
Now I have a new book ( Content Inc. ) and a new model of content marketing success.
Seven distinct steps make up Content Inc.’s model of content marketing success.
1. Hot spot
You need to discover the content area on which the content marketing model will be based. You need to identify an attraction that will engage your audience over time. This attraction is the intersection of knowledge or skills (something an entrepreneur or business is capable of) and the interests of a particular audience.
For example, global producer John Deere founded Content Inc. Journeys in 1895 with The Furrow magazine. Furrow’s appeal is the intersection of John Deere’s knowledge of agricultural technology and the needs of farmers (Deere’s audience) for information on how to operate more profitably. By the way, The Furrow, which still exists today, is delivered to more than a million farmers every month.
2. Content Tilt
Once you’ve identified the point of attraction, you need to determine the inclination or difference. Find an area with little or no competition.
Kristen Bor’s Bearfoot theory started a blog and wrote consistently about hiking and backpacking. A 2015 trip that changed everything:
I drove back from a backpacking trip in Southern Utah… over the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and I’ve never been there. I was really intrigued… but I was alone, and the weather wasn’t good. So I ignored it and thought, ‘Oh, I’ll come back another time.’
And that’s when I started hearing more about van life. If I had had a van, I would have stopped (in the Grand Canyon) and explored the next day. That sparked my original idea.
At that time, there were many media sites , blogs and podcasts about travel and backpacking, but not so much about traveling while living in a van. From that situation, Kristen found the content skew that had separated her from all the other backpacking sites: van life. Today, Kristen attracts more than half a million views a month and is one of the world’s leading experts on van life.
Once you find the hot spot and discover the incline, you choose the platform and build the content foundation. This is like building a house. Before diving into paint, furniture and flooring options, you need a plan and foundation installation. You do this by continuously creating Valuable content through an important channel (blog, podcast, YouTube, etc.)
Ann Reardon, now known as the baking queen of Sydney, Australia, has started YouTube channel in 2011. Every week, she delivers eye-opening dessert recipe videos to her international audience (currently over 4 million subscribers) via her video platform.
Ann succeeds because she focuses on being great on one platform,
Warning: Most businesses diversify too quickly. They define their content inclination and create blogs, newsletters, a YouTube page a Twitch stream, TikTok , Clubhouse This is probably the biggest mistake in content marketing today and it rarely works.
Define your audience, find your content slant, choose your platform, and choose your main content type (audio, video, or text and images).
4. Build an audience
After choosing your platform and building your content base, you can grow your audience and convert one-time readers or ongoing viewers subscribers . Here, you go from attracting attention to maintaining attention.
This is where you leverage social media as a primary distribution tool and use search engine optimization serious. At this point, your job is not only to increase web traffic. By itself, web traffic is a meaningless metric. Your goal is to generate traffic to increase your chances of engaging an audience.
Here’s how Michael Stelzner, CEO of Social Media Examiner, explains this step in the process:
I know email conversions are an important metric, and I’ve decided that we won’t be promoting (i.e. ‘selling’) anything until we have at least 10,000 email subscribers. And we got to that number so quickly that I knew we were actually learning something.
Today, 2.4 million unique people visit SME monthly. We have 416,000 people to whom we email three times per week. We are currently publishing four articles, two podcasts, and three videos per week.
The key recognition to the audience building step is that despite the many metrics successful content analysis , subscribers are number one. It’s virtually impossible to monetize and grow your audience without engaging readers or viewers first opt-in and subscribe to your content.
No problem with building your base on leased land (i.e. social networks), but at this point you need to plan on moving them to a more controlled media source (e.g. email).
This visual subscriber hierarchy is a good example of where you want to increase hierarchy over data over which you have more control.
It’s time. You have identified your sweet spot. You “tilt” to find an area of non-competitiveness of content . You have chosen the platform and built the base. You’ve started building subscribers. Now comes the platform-based monetization model.
You’re armed with enough information about your subscribers (both qualitative and quantitative) to see a multitude of revenue-generating opportunities. It could be consulting, software, events or something else.
For the Content Marketing Institute revenue model, we initially sold sponsorships to cover costs and keep the company running. Over the next two years, we added webinar live events and print advertising for our sales model.
Once you’ve built a loyal audience, you have 10 ways to generate revenue, including six direct revenue streams (like media company ) and four indirect sources (content marketing):
Once the model built a strong, loyal, and growing audience, it was time for me to diversify my main content stream and create brand extensions. Think of the pattern like an octopus, with each content channel like an arm. How many of those arms can wrap around your audience to keep them close to you and come back for more?
ESPN, which started out as a sports-only cable station in 1979, started with a $9,000 investment by Bill and Scott Rasmussen. Now, more than 40 years later, ESPN is one of the most profitable media brands in the world, with more than $11 billion in revenue, according to Disney Financial Reports. (ESPN is now a division of Disney.)
For 13 years, ESPN turned its attention to just one cable channel for its 100% focus on audience building. In 1992, the flood opened on the basis of diversification, first with the launch of ESPN Radio. In 1995, ESPN.com (originally known as ESPN SportsZone) launched, three years later as ESPN Magazine.
Today, ESPN has assets in almost every available channel on the planet, from Twitter to podcasts to documentary . Although channels were limited in the 1980s and 1990s (compared to today), ESPN did not diversify until its core platform (cable TV) was successful.
7. Sell or grow big
For content marketers, this is where you want to hit the big time organic growth and/or redemption. If you’re a content entrepreneur, you have the option to go big, create a lifestyle business, or sell properties, like The Hustle recently did when they sold to marketing automation company HubSpot .
As an organic example, Matthew Patrick, who created Game Theoists Channels on YouTube, doesn’t stop there. Instead, he launched Film theorists and Food theorists turned its small operation into a rapidly growing media, sales and service company.
As an example of an acquisition, Fortune 150 companies Arrow Electronics want to grow their startups organically by building the largest B2B electronics engineer audience in the world. To this end, they purchased more than 50 Media Brands a few years ago and now boast more than 3 million audiences. Oh, by the way, the entire content split for Arrow is independent Profit Centers .
This is an area that most content marketers shouldn’t want to admit. Model Content Inc. need time. In our research, it took about five years from start to finish to go from nothing to something like the completed Arrow Electronics. Sure, more budget can speed up the process, but it still takes time to build a loyal and relationship believable to an audience.
Remember, Red Bull Media House started as a magazine in 2007. They didn’t become the Red Bull Media House we know until about five years later.
If you need short-term results, do not follow this pattern. Want to build a content asset that will transform your organization and deliver revenue opportunities you never dreamed of? Then Content Inc. is for you.
Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski / Content Marketing Institute