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Eight Great Content Marketing Takeaways from 2009 Custom Content Conference

Marketing experts shared invaluable insights about how to market in turbulent times through the effective use of content online,

Marketing experts shared invaluable insights about how to market in turbulent times through the effective use of content online, in print, and in person.

Custom publishing has gone from being an ancillary, add on component of marketing strategies to becoming a vital ingredient.  Why?  Because content marketing is so important to an increasing number of marketers and companies of all sizes. Therefore, creating custom content is no longer a nice to-do, if you have the money.  Rather, it has become an absolute must-do as part of an integrated content marketing strategy.

The strategic importance of content marketing, and of its first cousin, social media, was front and center at this year's Custom Content Conference.

Here are 8 great takeaways that I brought home with me from the conference:

1) Savvy small businesses can replace much, if not all of their traditional marketing with content marketing strategies.  This was clear from David Meerrman Scott's discussion of content marketing and social media. He gave the example of Dr. Helene Smith, a Boston dentist who replaced her traditional marketing spend--such as $2000 per month in Yellow Pages advertising--with online content marketing that included an edgy e-book, a blog, and a website.  She went from a low six-figure practice to a multimillion dollar practice in less than two years.

2) Use the buyer personas to target your marketing precisely. David gave the anti-example of hotel websites, which are essentially all the same and appear to be marketing to some sort of generic traveler.  Instead, he suggested that every hotel should identify the personas of their ideal guest and develop focused content marketing for each of those personas.

3) Partner with media companies to create intrinsically valuable content that has much greater impact than any banner ad campaign.  Katie Thorpe of Real Girls Media discussed how her site Divine Caroline, leverages user generated content to build a strong sense of community.  Into this environment, her company helps marketers from organizations such as Moen, Biori, and ConAgra to develop meaningful content that resonates with their 3 million monthly unique visitors. Importantly, this is a real content, not a bunch of glorified infomercials.

4) Permission-based marketing is thriving as never before in our tough economic environment.  If you're still skeptical about that, consider the example of LEGO Systems whose revenues are up when almost all of their peers' are down. They are one of the last bastions of analog creativity for children--and for adults, for that matter. LEGO delivers a rich array of content in print, online, and in person.  Their enthusiastic users devour the content with 1.6 million print subscribers in the US and 12.2 million visitors per month on their website.  LEGO executive, Heidi Bailey, shared their in-person efforts as well. The company does a wonderful job of encouraging community through their retail stores where kids co-create while getting to know one another.  At the same time, their parents also get to know one another.  Community can be hard to come by these days. But, LEGO is helping.

5) You must be honest on the web, because if you fake it your customers and prospects will find you out.  John Moore, of Brand Autopsy, noted that Belkin got into big trouble  because it wrote fabricated reviews that purported to come from actual customers.  As a result, they had a lot of splainin' to do.  So, be very careful to be absolutely authentic on the web. Nothing less will do.

6) Mobile media--and texting in particular--is an unbelievably powerful phenomenon among young people.  In fact, according to Nic Covey of Nielsen Mobile, the average American teenager is sending 2200 text messages per month versus 100 phone calls. In a broader context, he also noted that mobile social networking will play an increasingly important role in our lives--and therefore, in your marketing efforts.

7) Content and software are inextricably intertwined in the newest generation of branded content that brings genuine benefits to customers. Hillel Cooperman of Jackson Fish Market focused on the ability of software to drive creative and compelling content.  An excellent example is Nike+, the shoe-based sensor and software that was created for runners so they could easily track their performance in progress. As Hillel pointed out, this kind of application is evergreen because it keeps benefiting both runners and Nike for years. This is unlike the tens of millions of dollars invested in one shot promotions like Bud.TV which cost upwards of $60 million, provided little intrinsic benefit to customers, and disappeared in short order.

8) Traditional media may be on the ropes but it is still an important source driving online search. Sam Sebastian of Google offered the somewhat surprising statistic that 67% of searchers go online from an off-line channel.  Of these, 37% come from TV, 30% from print publications, 20% from in-store, and 17% from radio. Therefore, integrated campaigns are much more important than ever.

More Stories By Newt Barrett

Newt is a leading thinker on the new discipline of content marketing. He urges marketers to think like publishers by delivering essential, relevant, and timely information that makes customers smarter and wiser–and much more likely to become buyers. Newt is a successful publishing executive with more than 25 years of experience as both a manager and business owner. He has launched profitable publications in the high tech arena for both CMP and Ziff-Davis. He was an early player on the web in 1996 as Publishing Director of an early Yahoo competitor, NetGuideLive. As an entrepreneur, he launched Southwest Florida Business and BusinessNewsNow.com in the late nineties, later selling them to Gulfshore Media. His publication still thrives under its new name, Gulfshore Business. In addition to his sales and marketing skills, Newt is a published writer for Business Currents and Gulfshore Business magazines. He writes on topics as diverse as healthcare, education, public policy, growth, business best practices, and technology. He knows how to build great brands that serve client marketing needs. He is comfortable driving dramatic market-driven changes. Newt is recognized as a leader with the ability to move teams in new, unexplored directions. He is effective in high level sales and marketing conversations with senior executives in client organizations of all sizes. He delivers successful consulting engagements to improve products, people, and processes.

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