We already know that consistently creating great content is one of the best forms of marketing, and we also know about all the claims on how content marketing is increasingly getting more and more difficult as time goes on.
I often hear, “If everyone’s doing content marketing, how can we standout?” or “now that everyone focuses on content marketing, should we focus elsewhere?”.
Well, it’s true that a lot of companies claim to focus on content, but what’s missing is that content marketing requires a lot more than just posting a few blog posts and simply doing the bare minimum. Content marketing requires a large investment of time and resources, and most importantly, it must provide the right kind of value that your audience is looking for.
As Moz claims (and practices), it’s better to invest in big content rather than a lot of smaller pieces that simply sink to the bottom. Big content that’s helpful is what generates interest, shares, links and builds readership overtime. It has a larger upfront cost and is more difficult to execute, which is exactly why companies and individuals shy away from creating big content.
To help you internalize how great content can build brands and do so in interesting ways, we highlighted a few companies that are producing all types of content to generate results below.
Treehouse is an affordable online technology education platform that allows students to learn technical and business skills at their own pace and on their own time.
In addition to providing video-based educational content in which people can subscribe to on a monthly basis, they make a tremendous effort to educate their audience through free content on how to get the most out of Treehouse via their blog and members-only Q&A forum, where members are incentivized to help each other work through problems.
These efforts really allow students to maximize their experience at Treehouse, making for happier and more successful students, while producing content that draws in targeted organic traffic, who are looking to learn about various coding languages as well.
If that’s not enough, they have an incredibly valuable student perk section, where Treehouse members can get access to extended free trials and discounts on awesome web apps and services.
Treehouse’s core business model is built on educating people through online content, so by delivering free content in addition to their subscription-based content, it aligns their overall company and marketing initiatives very well.
This is an obvious choice, but how could we leave off HubSpot, the company that coined the term ‘inbound marketing’?
The reason I’m excited to highlight HubSpot’s content efforts is because most people just focus on their amazing blog, and for good reason, but they also have a lot of other pieces of content that have served them and their community extremely well, such as the HubSpot’s Marketing Grader.
Content isn’t just limited to blog posts, videos and visuals. It can include anything that adds value to your audience without looking for an immediate sale in return and without interrupting your audience.
HubSpot knows that to gain the trust of their audience in a competitive space, they need to provide a ton of value before a transaction ever occurs, which is exactly what they do with their free marketing grader. All you have to do is enter your site address and email, and HubSpot will send you actionable insights on where your site is lacking and how you can improve it.
It’s that simple. Expert advice, on-demand, for free.
Also, who says you have to create all of this amazing content on your own? HubSpot partnered with Moz to develop Inbound.org, which is an active community of digital marketers who share best practices and feedback with each other. There isn’t much mention of HubSpot or Moz, and it’s a free, open community built to serve marketers.
This might surprise some people that a streetwear clothing brand creates such high-quality, informative content, but The Hundreds has built one of the most engaging blogs around street subculture.
They went from a one-man blog lead by co-founder Bobby Kim to a community of creatives, artists, skaters, hip-hop heads and more that regularly contribute by way of blogging, photography, video and they even have a print magazine which they release twice a year.
They’re just as much of a streetwear media company as they are a clothing brand, and they’ve built their brand on the most authentic way possible: by letting everyone partake on their journey and see what they’re all about.
Emma is an email marketing and managed service provider, and it’d be an understatement to say that they have been delivering some of the best creative and informative content around improving email marketing campaigns, from design to deliverability, around the web.
In addition to regularly updating their blog, Emma has also been doing some other interesting things, such as:
- Giving away personalized email marketing advice, for free
- Turning their FAQ and About page into a content marketing portal, which displays their brand as a thought leader and as leading practitioners in the email marketing space
By investing in written and visual content across their blog and website in general, Emma has been pulling ahead of its competitors in a very competitive space, and they’ve been doing so not because they have the biggest ad budget, but because they leverage their team’s talent and creativity to turn their site into an educational experience, rather than a direct product sell like most other sites.
Not long ago, Panera’s CEO, Ron Shaich, decided to see what it’d be like to experience hunger in an initiative titled SNAP challenge. Ron challenged himself to live off of just $4.50 a day for a week, which is the average daily benefit per person provided the the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and he documented it through LinkedIn as an official LinkedIn publisher, generating hundreds of thousands of impressions, all of which positioned him as a sincere and caring man at the head of a company that is doing their part in helping nourish people.
While Ron’s efforts were genuinely sincere, he knew he could both promote Panera and the SNAP initiative in a positive light by driving awareness to this campaign through LinkedIn and other social media channels. He opened up the door on his personal life, shared his emotions and experience and made himself and Panera human.
General Electric has been a household name for a really, really long time.
So, how can content marketing help them and why would they even care about?
While everyone knows of General electric, we normally think of them as just an appliance brand that happens to make a lot of other advanced machinery.
By producing interesting, helpful and innovative content, GE leveraged their innovation in ways other companies simply can’t. GE understands they’re not going to wow people through advertising about appliances, so they decided apply science, something they know quite a bit about, to content marketing.
For example. GE partnered with VaynerMedia to make science cool through their milk, dish detergent and food coloring artwork.
GE didn’t intend to advertise their latest products or sell anyone anything, instead they decided to use their ingenuity to do something attention-grabbing that fits with their brand image. They also continue these efforts of using their world-class engineering capabilities by partnering with Quirky in their initiative GE + Quirky, which allows GE to leverage their patents and technology with Quirky’s network and team, giving a new life to ideas that can change the world.
Litmus is an email testing and email marketing analytics software company that allows email marketers to see what their emails will look like across all browsers and devices before it’s sent out, and they provide key analytics to show how marketers how their email campaigns performed.
Litmus has an interesting content strategy, because in addition to maintaining an excellent blog, they also throw an annual email design conference, run an email design podcast, and they leverage their design chops into much more than just email by regularly creating infographics, custom images and a well-designed website.
Essentially, Litmus does everything that consists of an all-around amazing inbound marketing strategy.
While it seems that every company is ‘doing content marketing’, it’s clear that there’s a lot more to this than just the basic content pieces so many companies are mass-producing. Creating great content means you have to go further each time, always reinventing old ways and pioneering the way for new forms of content.
It’s extremely challenging, but going beyond what everyone else is doing is exactly why you’ll have success.
What other companies are producing amazing content? Let us know who we missed, in the comments below.