Success in content marketing – lessons from the office party

There is always that one guest at the office party that virtually everyone tries to avoid.

They talk about themselves…

Or, their dog…

Or, their super awesome vacation…

You get the picture – every conversation is self-referencing. And, after a few minutes of polite listening, we tune out, check our phones, or turn to other guests.

It’s not that they’re bad people – they just want to be seen, heard and understood as much as you or I – a lot like your brand.
The challenge for these individuals and brands alike, is an inability to connect.

But, there is hope. By taking a few simple queues from office party etiquette, brands can experience meaningful, sustained engagement with their customers.


Lesson 1: Put others first

Content marketing is most effective when there is an alignment between the audience, the content and the platform as seen in the Venn diagram below.
Audience platform content venn diagram
Marketers will often use research to help discover the right audiences for their campaign using demographic and psychographic data; the right platforms for audience selection based on insights gathered from past campaigns or leveraging research offered by the various platform vendors; but somehow default to product- or service-centric content and wonder why campaigns don’t perform as hoped.

It is important to consider that while the audience may share your platform or even your approach to delivery (i.e. text, video, images), they don’t necessarily share your zeal for the brand. As such, leveraging your audience data can help to make informed choices about the subject matter that you publish.

When developing a content marketing strategy, I walk clients through a variation of the commonly used 70/20/10 ratio for content marketing:

  • 70% about YOUR AUDIENCE – what are the things that interest them enough to share with their friends and co-workers? What can you share that is particular interest to your audience, but that also ties back to your brand? For example, if you sold pet food, your content could include ideas like:
    • How to care for your pet’s dental health
    • Best place in the city to take your pet for a walk
    • Top 5 pet videos on YouTube
  • 20% about YOUR BRAND – you’ve paid attention to your audience’s needs, now take the opportunity to talk about yourself. Using the pet food company as an example:
    • Nutrition facts about our pet food
    • Why dogs vote to make us their number 1 brand
    • Our fundraiser for the local SPCA
    • PRO TIP: Seeing what content resonates in your 70% can help you tailor how you speak about yourself.
  • 10% EXPERIMENTAL – Try something new. This might be the introduction of an infographic, a quiz or a cat video. This provides brands with a low-risk opportunity to understand your audience better, or even reveal new audiences.

Lesson 2: Take an interest in their interests

American Express is in the finance business with a particular focus on supporting the needs of small businesses with managed credit solutions.

American Express could have simply set up a website that promotes their products and services. However, once an individual becomes a card member, there is little opportunity or need for that member to re-engage – representing a lost opportunity for American Express to connect.

In order to solve this communications gap, American Express took note of the challenges being faced by their core audience and developed the American Express OPEN Forum. The campaign helps small businesses address challenges across an array of business-ownership topics such as operations, financial management, human resources and client management. And as a result, helps American Express foster value-based connections with their members.

Using this client-first approach has set the American Express OPEN Forums as the gold-standard in content marketing.

As a large, multi-national organization, American Express has a diverse audience base and has the ability to address the content needs of members across multiple platforms. And, as a result owns a variety of publishing platforms to support their content strategy including their website, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Lesson 3: Create an environment for conversation

Getting there takes extensive planning. Following some simple steps can help to create the right environment for your content to thrive and increase levels of engagement with your audience.

Step 1 – Select relevant content marketing platforms

Assuming that you have enough data understand your customers, find the best platforms for you to connect. For example, if the bulk of your audience is made up middle-aged professionals in B2B sales, Snapchat may not be the ideal platform for your content strategy. However, LinkedIn is likely to help you share relevant insights with your industry colleagues.

Finding the right platforms does not need to be difficult. Most platforms have research that will tell you who predominantly uses their respective services – just try Googling [platform name]+business. Or, if you’re strapped for time, have a look at Social Media Demographics to Inform a Better Segmentation Strategy produced by Sprout Social to get started.

Step 2 – Create relevant content

Effective content – that is content that receives stronger engagement –  occurs when brands satisfy the interest of its audiences. Like the American Express example, find topics that are going to interest your audience – information that helps them be better at their job; more knowledgeable about an upcoming innovation; or, that content that simply inspires them.

Econsultancy has developed a Periodic Table of Content Marketing which is great resources as you consider your options for content development.

Period Table of Content Marketing

Step 3 – Engage

Authenticity and active participation plays a role in establishing your credibility and commitment to the relationship. Imagine putting all that effort into getting to know your colleagues at the party, only to neglect the relationship the next day.

In the same way, effective content marketing strategies require you to maintain the relationship and to engage with your audiences. Tools like Hootsuite or Agorapulse can help brands gain visibility into the conversations being generated by content and provide content managers with the valuable insights such as sentiment and engagement to identify brand advocates and support future content development.

This is my new style

This is my new text block.

This is a fancy new paragraph

King of the CASL

Less than a week after CASL went into effect last July, the CRTC received more than 1,000 complaints. Judging by the sharp decline in unsolicited business emails found in my inbox, the legislation seems to be working. Unfortunately for many businesses, CASL negatively impacts the ability for marketers to use legitimately developed double opt-in email lists to build ongoing connections to their customers. In some cases, years of work are rendered useless.

In a time where the increased use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn are being used to establish connections with customers, marketers and communicators may be asking themselves if going through the effort of rebuilding their email lists is even worth it.

A bit of Googling reveals some compelling statistics:

    Audience platform content venn diagram

  • As of 2013, there are 3.6 billion email accounts (Source)
  • 77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email (Source)
  • 91% of consumers check their email daily (Source)
  • Companies attribute 23% of their total sales to the email marketing channel [in 2014], compared to 18% in 2013 (Source)
  • 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message. (Source)
  • Email Is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter. (Source)

Suffice to say, email remains a powerful way to connect to customers, drive sales or create engagement. And, reintroducing email as a part of your social media strategy does not need to come at the expense of other platforms. In fact, there are a number of practical and easily implementable ways to have them play together. Here are a few simple ideas to reignite your email marketing program.

Facebook tabs

There is a good chance that Facebook is your company’s primary social media destination. If you are planning on running a promotion using a Facebook tab, this is a great opportunity to ask fans for a valid email address and to ask permission for ongoing communication through email (usually found in that little check box under the email entry field). Or, if you don’t regularly run promotions, consider building a tab for the sole purpose of collecting emails.


If Tweeting is second nature to your company, use promoted Tweets to drive an email acquisition program. You can chose to provide a simple incentive to get your followers to provide you with an email – a white paper, sample product, or other value add that is hosted on your website.


LinkedIn is a great destination property. And, with their focus on promoting brand content to followers through updates, a similar opportunity to drive followers to a signup page is a simple way to increase your reach to potential email program participants.

Your website

Take advantage of a captive audience and develop the ability to subscribe to your email list directly from the homepage of your website. Many Content Management Systems have the native ability to perform this task.

Your email signature

CASL does not prohibit you from following up with a post phone call email, or emailing your existing customers. Add a link in your signature to the email sign up page on your website.

And finally, follow a few simple rules:

  1. Always provide the opportunity to opt-out of your email list
  2. Ensure that there are alternative means to contact you within your email campaigns (i.e. physical address and/or phone number)
  3. Implement a double-opt in system to validate email addresses
  4. Make sure that your email campaigns are mobile friendly.