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Do you have content marketing street cred? Have you taken risks, faced failures, or overcome obstacles in your content marketing efforts and still delivered results despite such challenges? It may fly in the face of the typical “Eight Easy Ways to Win Everything” messaging that often gets associated with content marketing, but having street cred means that your buyers, and even your peers know that you’re willing to do what’s right, instead of just what’s easy.

To help give you a better idea of content marketing street cred in action, I asked seven marketers to share their own experiences, insights, and challenges in content marketing, and how they’ve seen difficulty turn into opportunity. Through the variety of perspectives provided below, I hope you’ll not only feel validated in facing your own content marketing challenges, but also inspired to share your own story of how you earned your content marketing stripes in the comments section as well.

Radical Honesty in the World of Content Marketing:

Mark SchaeferThis is a challenging time for content marketers. How do we stand out in an increasingly dense information world? Is it through sponsored content? Native advertising? Do we cross the line between authentic and advertising to be heard?

I think this is a slippery slope – especially now. Research shows The Millennials are the least-trusting generation ever. I think radical honesty can be a point of differentiation, a source of trust and loyalty. In an era where we have been giving away our content for years, it might be tempting to cross that line into paid advertising, but I think the best decision is to look toward the long-term and maintain radical honesty with your audience.

Mark W. Schaefer, Educator, Marketing Consultant and author of Social Media Explained

Delivering Results to Remove Resistance:

Michael-Brenner-HeadshotDuring my journey into content marketing, I certainly took some punches and had to learn to get up and keep moving forward.

One area, in particular, involved working within the existing campaign structure so evident at many businesses.

When we started publishing content, one approach we used was to take existing campaign offers (like white papers) and summarize them into blog articles. We would then link to the landing page and suggest the readers register for all the details. Some folks resisted this approach thinking we were giving too much away. But once we saw the results, the resistance dissolved over time. This approach allowed us to reach new people, and gain some conversions at no additional cost.

Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy, NewsCred

Resisting the Urge to Market to Yourself:

Joe ChernovAfter marketing to marketers for many years, I needed to see if the inbound playbook would work for an entirely new audience: software developers. Developers have a reputation for being skeptical, particularly of marketers. So would they consume content in the same way that marketers did? Would content need to be presented and distributed differently to get developers to convert? Would they simply refuse to fill out a form, ever, regardless of the quality of the offer?

I spent weeks immersing myself in “developer culture” and came to a single conclusion: what developers value is, in many ways, antithetical to what marketers value. They prefer substance over style. (In fact, they distrust content that is too polished — it smacks of “marketing”). The stated credentials of the author only matter if technical acumen is established immediately in the content. And data is an invitation to discussion — they’ll never accept it at face value.

So I turned inside-out the content blueprint that worked for a marketing audience — I rebalanced budget from designers to writers; made sure long-form content contained actual code from the author — to establish credential; and made certain research methodology factored prominently into any data we published. In other words, the lesson the marketing team needed to learn and implement was to resist the urge to market to ourselves.

Joe Chernov, Vice President of Content, HubSpot

The Daily “Get it Done” Dilemma:

Amanda MaksymiwI lead up a very small content team at a B2B tech company. It’s myself and one other individual. Most of the time, our biggest content marketing challenge is simply getting what needs to be done, done. We work with a lot of external freelancers, agencies and influencers in order to make that happen. By doing so, we are able to work more efficiently in addition to getting that critical external perspective for the best ideas.

Amanda Maksymiw, Content Marketing Manager, Lattice Engines

The Predictability Pressure:

douglas-karr-sqWith 10 years and over 5,000 posts under my belt, the most significant challenge is effectively writing content that I can predict the outcome for. Many of our posts get a lot of attention, and many drive predicted activity for demos, downloads, registrations, subscriptions and other conversions. More often, the two are not related though. Our challenge is planning out content that feeds both attention ‒ important for brand recognition ‒and conversion ‒important for staying in business!

Being able to plan and organize our content, tag it appropriately, and measure it accurately with analytical tools helps us write more popular and actionable content across our blog, our podcast and our videos. Tools like Context.ly are giving us insight into our daily audience and we’ve been improving our content with another tool called Atomic Reach. Both are giving us better clarity than we’ve ever had with typical analytics.

–  Douglas Karr, Author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies, Founder of the Marketing Technology Blog, CEO of DK New Media, CMO and co-founder of CircuPress.

Customizing for Conversions:

Matt HeinzWe’ve always had registration-required offers on the sidebar of our blog.  A couple years ago, however, as our traffic was growing, our conversion rate was shrinking.  What was happening was that we were adding more and more offer tiles, which was creating decision overload for readers.  So we started customizing the offers that show up based on an affinity with the content.  So, if you are on a sales-related blog post, you’ll see offers for the book Successful Selling and our inside sales management best practices guide.  An article about marketing automation will feature our Modern Marketer’s Field Guide.

By narrowing the offer options and customizing them to the content, we got our conversion rates back up and even higher than they were before.

Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing, Author of Matt on Marketing

The Hustle to Cut the Hassle:

Megan TonziOne content marketing challenge I faced in my career was aligning all our company’s marketing strategies and presenting them in a localized and visual manner.  Many companies claim they have a “content strategy” or that everyone “uses their marketing calendars,” but in reality, that calendar becomes a hassle to update rather than a working guideline to help their team. At one point, our marketing team juggled many different projects at once, and our processes, unfortunately, did not include updating every single one of the marketing calendars before projects started; instead, we were rushing to do it in the middle or in the final stages of the project.

I put a halt to our old methodologies and created a new system for not only content purposes, but for operational purposes, how we all work as a team.  We now have a single calendar that notes all our marketing activities and helps us determine what to prioritize and what engagements we can accept.  Today, we have a single monthly marketing calendar that notes our content strategy, supported by a monthly theme, which includes:

  • One large piece of new content published based on that theme
  • Guest blog posts for that month tailored to address certain subjects within that theme
  • Syndicated content that relates to our theme, with which we can offer opinions and advice
  • CTAs that capture readers’ attention and point them towards our new big content piece

Long story short, rather than a hindrance, our marketing calendar now acts as a guide for our team – helping each of us adhere to our monthly content marketing strategy.

Megan Tonzi, Director of Marketing, AG Salesworks

Overall, content marketing street cred comes down to doing the things that matter most to your relevant stakeholders, no matter how hard or challenging those things may be. At the Aberdeen Group, we aim to make building content marketing street cred a little easier by providing trusted third party research to our readership community and clients. Of course, as we market to marketers, your insights are vital in our ability to deliver value, so please share your own story of establishing content marketing credibility in the comments below.

For added insights on these and other content marketing best practices, download our free report, 5 Habits of Highly Effective Content Marketers.

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