Can’t outspend competitors? Outsmart them
Out of necessity, I learned to effectively get eyeballs on content with tiny budgets. How? At Tellabs, we were up against competitors like Cisco, a company 40 times bigger.
We couldn’t outspend them, so we had to outsmart them. That takes a David vs. Goliath approach to content marketing.
To get eyeballs on content, always put owned and earned media before paid media. Maximize the content in earned and owned media through guest posts, public relations, customer stories and employee ambassadors.
1. Guest posts get eyeballs on content
To secure more guest posts, use my free Guest Blogging Checklist. Just as pilots and surgeons work through checklists to ensure they take every crucial step, so do marketers who seek to guest blog effectively.
This checklist helps you identify the most relevant sites for your guest posts, develop win-win content that’s good for you and the host site, and get eyeballs on content without spending a fortune.
Guest Blogging Checklist
Identify target sites for guest posts
__ Use BuzzSumo to identity influencers on key topics
__ Google keyword+ “Guest post”, “Submit guest post”, “Submit article”, “Article
submission” and “We accept guest posts”
__ Identify high-authority sites and avoid spammy sites
__ Get PR input on publication websites to target
__ Reverse-engineer competitors’ backlinks
Learn about each target site
__ Read and follow guest-blogging guidelines, e.g., do they allow images or infographics?
__ Learn who’s the website’s audience and which topics are most relevant to them
__ Review posts to identify the type of content they use and avoid duplication
Write a brief email pitch
__ Say: What question you will answer in the guest blog
__ Offer multiple headline ideas
__ Include a brief description of the blog, including word count
__ Provide a short author biography (2-3 sentences) and Gravatar image
__ Mention where else the author has published
__ Follow up on each pitch one week later
Create exceptional content
__ Write specifically to meet the needs of the host’s audience
__ Create fresh unique content, not previously published
__ Offer multiple headlines
__ Observe the specified word count
__ Absolutely no self-promotion, no advertising
__ Eliminate any harmful or insensitive words
__ Link to your own website only once, in the bio
__ OK to include links to other external sites
__ Edit and proofread rigorously
__ Double-check facts and cite sources
__ Meet agreed-on deadlines
__ Submit a Word file for the blog, with separate files for images (including image permissions)
__ Revise blog as directed by the content editor
__ Promote the post on your social media and website
__ Respond to social media shares and likes
__ Reply to any comments on the post
__ Write a thank-you note to the editor, leaving the door open to future posts
__ Guest blog at a regular, set pace rather than a blizzard of blogs all at once
To get eyeballs on content, download my free Guest Blogging Checklist.
2. Utilize public relations to earn content
Another way to get eyeballs on content comes through public relations (PR). Often PR is separate from the Marketing Department.
That often means content marketing and PR aren’t on the same strategy or message. So, the potential content marketing results from PR are sub-optimal.
In a handful of companies, PR or communications is part of Marketing. For example, at Tellabs, we integrated public relations into marketing in the year 2000.
By doing so, we added experience and skills in interviewing, storytelling and working with third parties beyond our control. We needed exactly those skills to produce our e-newsletter and customer magazine.
PR skills complement marketing skills to give you the most bang for the buck in content marketing. Here’s how these skill sets complement each other:
The value of PR becomes crystal-clear in content audits
A competitive audit shows how your brand’s content stacks up against others in the marketplace.
In searches on many topics, often the only way to get your brand’s content into the top 10 Google hits is through news media and intermediaries. That’s exactly what PR excels at.
For example, in this search on what to look for in a doctor, consumers find these results:
In the example above, only 3 of the top 10 hits come from healthcare brands: Daily Health Wire, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the Cleveland Clinic.
Fully half of the top 10 Google hits come from news media and influencers. Two of the top 10 hits come from government agencies or non-healthcare providers (lawyers).
What’s on page one of a Google search is crucial, because 9 out of 10 people only look at the organic search results on page one, usability studies have found.
People ignore paid search results. Very few go on to page two in search.
If your brand is not powerful enough to turn up on page one in Google searches on its own, you must work to get your brand mentioned in other people’s content – including news media and influencer content. That’s exactly what PR can do: get eyeballs on content from other people that helps your brand.
A similar trend is visible in social media. Here are the top 8 influencers on the same topic of how to find a doctor, according to BuzzSumo:
Of the top 8:
- 3 are influencers
- 2 are news media
- 1 is a health technology company
- 2 come from one healthcare brand: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.
All other healthcare brands were shut out of the top 8 influencers.
That’s why marketing desperately needs its PR team to work with news media and influencers on placing content. Get eyeballs on content by spreading your message through other people’s content.
3. Tell customer stories
A pointed question on content marketing comes from author and speaker Andy Crestodina, who asks: Who is looking forward to your content coming out?
Make sure your customers look forward to your content by putting them into it. Make content customers want to share as you:
- Quote customers in blogs, news and articles
- Invite customers to speak at events
- Solicit customers to guest blog
- Include customer photos with your content
- Put customers on the cover of your newsletter or magazine
- Feature customer interviews and Qs & As on your website
- Create case histories and testimonials that make your customers the heroes.
4. Make employees into content ambassadors
Give employees the license to share your brand’s content through social media, blog posts and word of mouth.
Make your employees into content ambassadors. Why?
LinkedIn found that employees have 10 times greater reach than brands do on social media. Working through employees a great way to get eyeballs on content.
What’s more, employees are more credible than brands. Customers believe what they hear from employees, especially those they know personally.
How to make employees into content ambassadors
Use these 5 steps:
- Set the right example by having the executives lead the way. Start by training C-levels on social media one-on-one. Why? Executives accept social media training better when they can’t be embarrassed in front of their peers, IBM found.
- Teach employees how to build their personal brands in social media. Invest in their success by bringing in a photographer to shoot professional portraits for them to use in their social media profiles.
- Train employees on your company’s social media policy so they can adhere to it. Make clear what’s ok and what’s not ok to do.
- Share a stream of original and curated content with employees weekly or daily. Let each employee choose which content they want to share with their networks.
- Incent employees to post on social media through recognition, rewards and awards for the highest achievers.
When you need to get eyeballs on content, take a David and Goliath approach.
Outsmart competitors you can’t outspend
Maximize the earned content you generate through guest posts, public relations, customer stories and employee ambassadors.
Do everything possible with earned and owned media before you pay a penny to place content in paid social media, paid search or other advertising media.
Make sure all of your earned and paid media always point back to the media you own: your website, your email list, your blog and magazine subscribers, as Rusty Shelton recommends.
“How do you effectively (and, cost efficiently) get eyeballs on content?” is one of marketers’ Top 100 Questions on content marketing.
Here are more answers to marketers’ Top 100 Questions.
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.