The number of content options available for marketing can feel totally overwhelming. We could create more blogs, try vlogs, start a podcast, host webinars, create a guide, a powerful infographic maybe? How about we write a book!
And people now consume content in so many different ways – through search, email campaigns, their social feeds, through direct recommendation, real-life events, via influencers, PR – I could go on. You could quite easily drive yourself bonkers (and quickly use up all your precious time and marketing budget) trying to create content in every possible format for every possible channel with little meaningful return.
So what’s the right approach to the increasing diversity of content options out there? Is there a workable content creation plan to get your business known, trusted and loved?
There’s no magic bullet but I’m a sucker for a simple framework. Here’s one of the most helpful I’ve found to date when it comes to formulating a working content plan to achieve your business goals.
How? Now. Wow! Monster’s clever content framework
This brilliantly simple ‘content framework was devised by Margaret Magnarelli – VP of marketing at leading jobsite and search firm Monster. Her formula breaks content down into three distinct categories:
- How content = helpful
- Now content = current
- Wow content = highly shareable and/or entertaining
Margaret’s clever approach to content helped to catapult Monster’s viewership to 43 million unique visitors and 96 million page views in 2016 – an 18 percent increase over the previous year – whilst increasing job searches and boosting a flood of new accounts.
I think this is a genius approach to content planning, providing the spread and reach you need to drive results, in a neat and achievable way.
Here’s my interpretation of how Margaret’s How, Now, Wow content formula can work for a B2B firm, with a range of examples to help you apply it to your marketing.
1. HOW? Helpful content
This is your bread and butter content – the helpful information you create to answer common questions in the minds of your audience, so building the trust and awareness you need to drive sales. “They ask, you answer”, as Marcus Sheridan would say.
- Formats: Blog posts, FAQs, video tips, answers to common questions on social posts.
- Distribution channels: Good for social, email newsletters and great for search.
- Tip for B2B companies: Send the ‘How’ content you create directly to those with the problem. Write content for them. This will help you close sales with prospects and build loyalty with your current clients.
HOW? Example 1: Henneke Duistermaat’s valuable tips and blog articles
There are many examples of ‘How’ blog posts but Henneke’s always stand out in their usefulness for me. I also love the way she collates the best of her posts for the reader: www.enchantingmarketing.com/tips-beginning-business-writers
HOW? Example 2: River Pools Learning Hub
River Pools tackles every potential client question head-on. B2B firms can take inspiration from this approach.
Read founder Marcus Sheridan’s Big 5 post on the 5 blog article topics that drive the most traffic, leads, and sales for those smart enough to write about them.
2. NOW. Current content
“That’s interesting and timely”
This is your news and comment on recent events – talking about what’s happening right now.
Your viewpoints on current news, wrap-ups of events you’ve been to – good for driving shares and awareness (see David Meerman Scott’s take on Newjacking).
“This type of content builds authority and make your brand seem current. Intercept the stories of the day, layer in your own expertise and data, and look like you have your fingers on the pulse of your industry.” Margaret Magnarelli
In my view, this category also encompasses stories of what’s happening in your business, for your people. This is great for building loyalty and a sense of community – it injects a good dose of life and humanity into your marketing to build the love.
- Formats: social posts, blog posts, guest posts.
- Distribution channels: social media, email, PR, employee shares.
- Tip for B2B companies: recruit your experts to provide comment on recent events, and share the joy of what’s happening in your firm – good for attracting clients and staff too.
NOW content example 1: John Espirian’s fulsome and speedy conference write-ups
Read the full post: espirian.co.uk/you-are-the-media-2018
NOW content example 2: Raise Architect’s very human blog
Other Now content examples:
- Prophecy Agency’s Instagram feed – each week one person from the business shares their life in pictures
- Sharon’s post ‘50 surprising things I’ve learned about running a business by 50’
3. WOW! Knock out content
There’s the content you create every day, and there’s the stuff that really hits it out of the park, attracting attention and motivating new sales leads. You want your Wow! content to elicit exactly that emotional response. Done well this is the heavyweight, kick-ass content that will really get people to sit up and take notice.
I blogged about the need for a mix of Stock and Flow content back in 2011. In Margaret’s framework, HOW and NOW are Flow, but WOW is durable stock content. This is the super valuable content that your type of client or customer totally appreciates – either highly entertaining or seriously useful.
- Formats: Beautifully presented guides, fun quizzes, seriously helpful checklists, fascinating research reports, thought-provoking papers, a treasured business book, even a map.
- Distribution channels: Share via all channels, including social, direct, events, PR and referral.
- Tip for B2B companies: You can’t create this super valuable stuff every day, but it’s definitely worth adding some WOW! into your annual content plan if you want to fast track sales results.
WOW content example: Gill Andrews’ brilliant website content checklist
Get the checklist: gillandrews.com/website-content-checklist-small-business
More sales-winning WOW content to inspire you:
- Velocity Partners’ stand out resources for content marketers: velocitypartners.com/resources
- Monster’s ‘How awkward are you in conference calls’ quiz
- This client-winning research report by brand & tech agency Great State (previously e3) on the expectation gap for fans and players in the football industry
- HSBC Expat’s crowdsourced tips, tools and research insights for those looking to live and work abroad: www.expatexplorer.hsbc.com
- Andrea Howe’s resource library for the Get Real Project, to help people get client relationships just right
- The Fintech Matrix from cxpartners tracks innovation in the money management app space:
Putting this framework into action in your content plan
When I assess a company’s content to see how valuable it is I notice that those continually creating a mix of hybrid content across each of Margaret’s three categories get the best results.
Content superstars like John Espirian mentioned above are masters at balancing their content efforts so they win the work they want.
As well as brilliant NOW content such as his event write-ups, John creates a stream of useful HOW blogs (he’s known as the relentlessly helpful copywriter for good reason!), plus heavyweight WOW content such as his Definitive Guide to Business Blogging. John gets the spread and balance of his content just right.
What balance are you striking with your content now? Does any of your content fit into the WOW category? Can you mix it up and experiment with other forms of content in the next few months to see if you get better results?
Other content you might like:
- More thoughts on the How? Now. Wow! content framework from Margaret
- Mark Masters’ interview with Margaret is interesting too, part of his excellent Talking Content series: theidgroup.co.uk/2016/07/28/talking-content-marketing-margaret-magnarelli
- Stock and Flow – the master metaphor for your content
- My post on how to run a good content planning meeting (and have some fun)
Many thanks to Margaret Magnarelli for the content framework and inspiration. A Valuable Content Award badge is on its way!