Uncover how adapting the content as a product mindset boosts your content marketing department by amplifying audience engagement, building lasting connections, and driving sustainable business growth.
When was the last time you willingly engaged with lackluster content?
I doubt it was recent or memorable enough to recall.
Over the past few years, content has evolved from its once very limited purpose – an SEO-optimized sales pitch – to an opportunity to forge connections with your target audience by offering relevance, value, and engagement.
Think TED – the global platform renowned for its thought-provoking conferences and for sharing "ideas worth spreading."
TED's organizers have attracted influential speakers such as Elon Musk, Tim Ferriss, Brené Brown, and more. By focusing on content quality over quantity, TED ensures that each talk provides a clear value to its ever-growing audience.
Crucially, TED's success doesn’t hinge on traditional SEO strategies. Instead, their primary focus is finding and creating world-class content that resonates with people. Initially releasing only six talks in June 2006, TED quickly realized the value of free content. By treating content like a product, TED has become a global sensation, reaching nearly 24 million subscribers on its primary YouTube channel alone.
With content’s newfound purpose garnering some traction, we want to dive into a mindset for all content marketers looking to step up their game: treating content like a product instead of just another marketing tactic.
While some content teams tirelessly strive to convert leads, leads, and more leads, some also focus on a different trajectory.
They focus on creating compelling content that doesn't just sell but creates a community of loyal customers.
Let's face it: no one consumes irrelevant or pointless content. To frame your content like a product you need to put out content that’s actionable, informative, and entertaining.
To help content marketers truly harness the opportunity to establish trust and credibility with their audience through the content-product mindset, we put together this blog that goes over:
Above all, treating your content as a product transforms the way you strategize, create, and engage with your audience.
Unlike traditional marketing campaigns with a finite duration, content exists as an ongoing, evolving experience — much like a product. In this way, content creation, management, and impact mirror the process of developing a product rather than just executing a campaign.
When content is approached with a campaign mindset, it often feels promotional, diluting its authenticity and value. People are perceptive; they can sense when they're being pitched to, even in the disguise of content marketing. In other words, content must be genuinely useful and valuable – not a sales pitch.
Ultimately, this mindset aims to provide value to your audience and cultivate a community around your brand’s mission. This mission, expressed through both free (content) and "paid-for" products, extends beyond short-term profit, yet inherently leads to higher returns. By embracing this content-as-a-product mindset, you can secure lasting loyalty and business growth.
Now that you understand a bit more about this mindset, let’s dive into three tangible ways you can start treating your content like a product to increase engagement and ROI:
Designing your content isn't just about superficial allure—it's about making that crucial first impression count.
Much like a well-designed product on a shelf, your content's appearance, readability, and design significantly influence whether it captivates or gets cast aside.
Think about it: Glossy magazines effortlessly gain attention because of their visually enticing covers. Yet, buried beneath that allure might be a modest alt-weekly newspaper filled with exceptional content, overlooked solely due to its unassuming appearance. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but we're drawn to what stands out first.
In the whirlwind of digital content, your brand might have missed the memo on designing for the modern reader, but thankfully, by crafting and hosting content on your own platforms, you have the power to shape its appearance and align it seamlessly with your brand identity.
Let’s look at an example of content design in action. Whether you love them or hate them – BuzzFeed initially became a household name due to their innovative take on content design.
Yes, catchy blog titles work, but why stop there?
BuzzFeed moved into quizzes (we know you took Which Harry Potter Character Are You? more than once), which not only engages users but also keeps them coming back. Buzzfeed’s approach represents a shift in content creation and user experience planning, a refreshing take on the more conventional blog post format.
Yes, we also recognize that Buzzfeed is a B2C platform and for many content marketers out there writing blogs, whitepapers, reports, and more, you’re in the B2B landscape. But we argue that marketing is marketing whether it’s B2B or B2C. Why leave all of the creative fun for the B2C marketers when B2B marketers can adapt it to our daily practices too?
If you’re looking for ways to enhance the design of your content, here are some best practices we recommend:
Content isn't just about imparting information; it's about functionality. Every word and every visual element should serve a purpose. Whether it's the headline on your homepage or the instructions on a form, try to avoid using “filler” or “fluff” in your content. I’m sure you like it when content gets right into it and I’m confident your audience does too.
On top of that, you should aim to make accessing and engaging with your content as easy as possible. Talking about a podcast you love? Don’t just link out to an episode on a listening app. Embed the podcast episode into your blog so your audience can start listening right away.
For example, the homepage of Expedia’s Powering Travel podcast allows visitors to listen to the podcast directly in the window. Alternatively, the site links out to popular listening platforms so you can listen wherever you feel most comfortable – in just one click.
Let's talk calls-to-action—the backbone of interactive content. "Click here" feels tired and uninspired. Instead, try action-oriented words that stand out.
Words like "Level up your marketing strategy" or "go to step 4" don't just command attention; they guide users seamlessly through processes or present the value the audience will receive by “clicking here.”
Here’s a CTA we love from Headspace, the meditation and sleep app. Instead of the conventional "Get the app" or "Get the offer" format, Headspace concludes its message with "Get some Headspace."
By encouraging users to "Get some Headspace," the call-to-action cleverly alludes to the mental clarity and peace that users can attain through the app's meditation and sleep features. This subtle play on words not only makes the call-to-action memorable but also reinforces the app's core value proposition.
Content design extends beyond buttons and links. All effective content comes with a purpose and value to your audience.
Challenge your content team to think beyond well-structured or SEO-optimized paragraphs. Pose questions that prod at the core of functionality: "What action should this content inspire?" or “What do people get from this content?”
A popular example of highly-valued content is Spotify Wrapped. The real genius of Spotify Wrapped lies in its ability to not only generate a buzz but also engage users on a deeply personal level. By crafting a personalized playlist featuring the user's most listened-to songs, Spotify creates a nostalgic and reflective journey through music.
Moreover, the shareability factor has been a game-changer for the campaign, igniting a viral trend on social media each year (sorry Apple Music users) that serves as an organic and effective marketing tool, driving user engagement and attracting new subscribers.
It’s no surprise that successful brands are masters at showcasing and selling their products across platforms and channels.
Whether it's through self-developed online marketplaces or trusted e-commerce giants like Amazon or Etsy, these brands understand the art of effective product distribution and sales.
However, when it comes to your content—your other vital product—finding the right distribution channels might seem like navigating uncharted territory.
For example, nearly all brands will have a website that features their content. Anything from blogs and whitepapers to reports and videos. On top of that, many brands will venture into targeted ads to expand their reach on top of organic SEO tactics.
Have you ever wondered why you’ll see so many ads speaking to the benefits of juice cleanses right after you are your friend were just messaging about starting a detox? That’s the reason why – brands are focused on strategically distributing their content to ensure it reaches the right audience at the right time.
Just as your products should be available on both owned and earned channels, your content needs to be showcased and made available across a spectrum of platforms. Imagine your website as the flagship store for your content, complemented by other platforms such as LinkedIn, YouTube, Medium, and more.
"Selling" your content across these channels is a crucial aspect of the content marketing experience. It's not just about creation; it's about strategically distributing your content to ensure it gets in front of your intended audience.
Here are some things to consider when deciding on what channels and platforms to use to “sell” your content:
Identifying your intended audience is a key step to finding out where they live online and their behaviors.
When it comes to defining your ideal audience, the more specific the better. Here are some criteria to keep in mind when you’re creating your ideal audience profile:
If your brand already has a customer base, use their data. Analyze purchase histories, feedback, and interactions to gain insights into their preferences and behaviors.
Finding your ideal audience is an ongoing process. As your brand and content evolve, so will your audience. We suggest regularly revisiting and refining your audience personas to stay aligned with changing trends and preferences.
Creating a quality product or content doesn’t mean much unless it reaches and resonates with the right audience.
There are some general rules of thumb when it comes to finding out where your ideal audience lives online. For instance, business professionals are most active on LinkedIn, Boomers are avid Facebook users, Gen Z mostly hangs out on Instagram and TikTok, and the list goes on.
However, these are ultimately very general insights when you compare them to the types of data and analytics available to content marketers today.
Here are some channel-specific ways to better understand your target audience:
Without the data to guide you, you won’t be able to make informed decisions on how to best market, advertise, and grow your content – just like you would a product.
Measuring the success of content isn't just about tallying website visits or clicks. It requires looking into supply, demand, and user engagement.
In the digital realm, the concept of supply seems boundless; after all, content can be replicated endlessly. However, the true cost of content is the time and effort you and your team spend crafting it. To make your investment worthwhile, you need to make sure the content you put out is meeting your goals – whether that’s conversions, brand awareness, and so on.
Analytics applications offer insights into consumption patterns, shedding light on what content resonates most with your audience. By leveraging these tools, you gain the power to gauge the effectiveness of your content investments. (We dive into this more below).
For example, the Brookings Institute decided to venture into long-form content — a venture inspired by the success of The New York Times' "Snow Fall" multimedia essay. Despite not replicating the advanced features of the NYT piece, they uncovered a compelling revelation: users spent a staggering 325% more time consuming their long-form content than other published materials. This measured success propelled them to allocate more resources towards creating similar content, backed by analytics validating its value to users.
But remember, measuring content consumption isn't just about quantifying numbers; it's about telling the story behind the data. It's about deciphering what resonates, what captivates, and what compels your audience to keep reading, watching, or listening.
Say your company has a branded podcast and you notice that a large number of listeners drop off during the same segment across numerous episodes. With this information, you can refine the segment or even swap it out for one that better caters to your audience’s interests. In this way, it is not just about tracking the data, but leveraging the data to tell stories that inform your overall content strategy.
Below we dive into a few different channels to discuss the most important metrics to track and which tools we suggest for the most accurate, up-to-date information.
It used to be quite difficult to measure the performance and ROI of branded podcasts, but thankfully more and more cutting-edge tools have become available to bridge the gap.
Some important metrics we suggest tracking include:
While listening apps do have limited analytics available, we highly suggest using a third-party podcast analytics and audience insights platform to monitor the performance of your podcast. For example, with CoHost, users get access to numerous cutting-edge features including:
For a full list of the seven top podcast metrics, brands should be tracking, check out CoHost’s complete guide.
The main social media platforms (YouTube, X, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok) all have built-in analytics tools that you can use to track your in-app performance.
Because some platforms' analytics are more comprehensive than others, it’s never a bad idea to invest in third-party platforms like Buffer and Sprout Social to receive full monthly reports will more in-depth analytics information.
Here are the social media-specific metrics we suggest focusing on:
Email is a great way to engage your audience and amplify your brand’s voice – when done effectively.
Fine-tune your email marketing strategy to your subscribers’ preferences. Look into what subject lines garner the most interest, what sort of content generates the most clicks, and what CTAs are the most effective. All of this information will help you create a newsletter people look forward to reading.
Now for (most likely) the bulk of your content.
Website content spans everything from blog posts and reports to whitepapers and studies. Essentially any content that lives on your website should be monitored regularly using tools like Google Analytics to see what types of content resonate most and what promotional channels are the most effective.
Understanding how users interact with your content aids in optimizing their experience. Metrics like bounce rates, time on page, and click-through rates offer clues about user satisfaction and engagement. By deciphering these indicators, you can tailor content to better align with audience preferences and needs.
In particular, we suggest keeping an eye on:
Brands that relegate content to an afterthought miss the opportunity to convert passive readers into engaged customers, elevate brand recognition, and genuinely add value to their audience's experience.
Because of this, content should not be perceived as a mere marketing ploy or a burden to bear; instead, it's a valuable asset deserving of the same strategic focus and attention as any physical product.
For content marketing to deliver on its promises and generate a significant return on investment (ROI) for brands, content must be regarded and treated as another valuable product in your brand's repertoire.
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