Four M’s to go with the Five P’s
The marketing mix is typically framed as five (or four or six or seven) Ps. The traditional marketing mix (as noted in my Complete Idiot’s Guide to MBA Basics) comprises product, pricing, packaging, promotion, and place (distribution channels).
Anything from a periodical newsletter to an occasional think piece can be thought of as content marketing. But a content marketing program takes, well…. a programmatic approach to each element in the content marketing mix.
We might say that four basic elements—Four Ms!—make up the content marketing mix: markets, messages, materials, and media.
Markets are the people you want to reach. In terms of the traditional sales process or pipeline, you want to convert “suspects” into prospects, prospects into customers, and customers into repeat customers and referral sources. To cover this element, you must identify potential buyers and buyer influencers and target content created to appeal to them.
Tip: Suspects, prospects, and customers need different types of content. For example, suspects and early stage prospects need to be made aware of a problem or opportunity and potential solutions. Later-stage prospects need to know about alternatives and implementation. Customers need to know what’s next and how to deal with it.
Messages convey what you want to be known for, as well as thoughts you want to implant in your readers’ minds, such as “This is a problem” and “I’ve got to do something.” There’s controversy around whether content marketing should include sales messages, but I believe they have their place in some content—though not in thought leadership. The messages your firm or practice chooses to deliver are the core of your content marketing program.
Tip: For each quarter, year, or multiyear timeframe, or for each campaign, develop a limited, coordinated set of core messages to convey. Then elaborate those messages in various forms. Examples of core messages might be: “You may be getting cyber risk management [or whatever] wrong. Here’s how to get it right.” Or “Compliance [or whatever] costs are killing you. A new approach will let you kill them.”
Materials are the finished forms in which you deliver content, and the raw material that feeds those forms. “Finished goods” include whitepapers, blogs, published articles, guides, books, bulletins, social media blurbs, newsletters, videos, and other deliverables. Raw materials include surveys, research, client cases, experiences, and expertise.
Tip: Delivering content in various forms enables you to reinforce your messages for repeat visitors, while exploring multiple facets of the subject. Different materials appeal to different types of readers or viewers. Also, compiling research, cases, experiences, and expertise ensures an ongoing supply of raw material to “feed the beast.”
Media are the channels in which you deliver your material in final form. Technology ensures that new delivery channels, including some we cannot currently imagine, will continue to come on-stream. Video will proliferate, but reports of the death of the written word are exaggerated.
Tip: When you think media, consider partnerships with alliance partners and noncompetitive peers. Also, when you think public media—newspapers, magazines, online news sources, and broadcast, cable, and online media—be sure to assess their needs. Generally, if it’s not truly newsworthy and valuable to their audience, they won’t care about your content even if it’s new and significant to you and your core audience.
The two keys to an effective content marketing mix are conscious planning and diligent execution.
Getting it right
Far too many firms forgo conscious planning and, as a result, have no content marketing plan, program, or—as a result—mix. You need to think through your business and marketing strategy and gain internal consensus around it. Otherwise, you’re just slinging stuff out there to see if anything sticks. Even if you’re issuing first-rate thought leadership, if it’s not part of a larger plan that serves a useful strategy it’s going to be suboptimal, on a good day.
Diligent execution means working with your messages and materials consistently, trying different approaches, and monitoring results to see what’s working and what isn’t. One of the greatest features of web-based or social-media-based content deployment is the feedback you get. Are you getting readers or not? Are you seeing engagement or not?
Of course, readers and engagement are a means to an end—closer, more profitable, more durable client relationships and more business. Which is why this is content marketing.
So, think in terms of the Four Ms—Markets, Messages, Materials, and Media—and you may well win a fifth M: Mindshare.