“We’ve never had a lead gen problem,” said Kathleen Booth, head of IMPACT’s marketing team. That was enough to make everyone’s ears perk up as Booth presented IMPACT’s content marketing strategy at a Parse.ly lunch & learn in June. Her solution? Act like a publisher.
IMPACT, an agency that specializes in inbound lead generation, content marketing, web design, and video production, may have one of the hardest audiences to market to—fellow marketers. Part of its business strategy was to build a media company that would support and connect the innovators that comprise IMPACT’s reader base. The approach transformed its business; traffic to the website has skyrocketed, and 90% of IMPACT’s 7,000 monthly leads are organically driven through its content. It’s no wonder HubSpot named IMPACT Partner of the Year in 2017 and 2018.
And Booth said she expects IMPACT’s audience to hit 1 million readers a month by year-end.
But she doesn’t just want content marketing to fuel business growth; in thinking like a publisher, she believes it can turn a profit. That’s what Booth has her eyes set on now. “This [content] all creates a halo effect,” she said. “If we do our job well as a publisher, we shouldn’t need to do a lot of marketing for it.”
What does it mean to think like a publisher? Here are five things that make IMPACT’s content successful:
1) Back up your content with data
Accessible, data-backed insights help make your message clear. Build trust and showcase the success of your content with user-friendly dashboards.
- Make the connection: who in your organization benefits from having content?
- Celebrate success widely and regularly
- Encourage teams to keep up the good work with personalized dashboards
Most marketers are incredibly data-driven. But if content isn’t your first priority, it can be more challenging to see how it connects to specific business objectives. At IMPACT, Booth hones in on how effectively content drives organic leads.
To make it clear what kind of content is most useful, IMPACT turns to Parse.ly to showcase top-performing authors, and dissect exactly which articles led directly to a sales opportunity. Having personalized dashboards reinforces the idea that anyone who creates content can measure their own success.
2) Get creative with who creates content
You have subject matter experts sitting right next to you. Use them! Turn to external resources for everything else.
- Tap the expertise of your colleagues across teams
- Use freelancers strategically
- Contributors & sponsors should uplift your brand
Content for marketing doesn’t need to be created by people who are natural-born writers. Each team at IMPACT generates at least one article a month.
Booth found that leaning on the expertise of other team members generated lots of organic growth. She turns to freelancers strategically as they don’t have the day-to-day distractions of a full-time company role. Outside voices, too, play a key role in the IMPACT community. Contributors submit their expertise through forms on-site, and strategic sponsorships support mutual clientele.
3) Make your content accessible: Wikipedia-like entry points and (gasp!) ungate more content
If you want your readers to view you as the authority in your domain, make your knowledge as accessible as possible.
- Pay attention to what growing audience stats imply
- Create pages that are loaded with links and other resources
- Ungate more of your content
IMPACT’s traffic grew the most from 2015 to 2017. International growth was one of many signals that marketers everywhere were taking notice of IMPACT’s expertise. To establish that kind of domain authority, Booth said you need to “become the Wikipedia of your industry.”
IMPACT creates what Booth referred to as “pillar content” or in-depth guides with links to everything readers might need. This content is a resource readers can return to repeatedly. And, it’s good for SEO.
To make their expertise as accessible as possible, IMPACT ungates everything but its membership content. Two common issues marketers face are the ability to capture email addresses, or capturing too many fake email addresses (email@example.com, have you heard of him?). But Booth said that only happens when you give readers no choice. And it turns out, she was right. IMPACT’s conversion rates didn’t suffer when the agency openly shared its expertise. When readers enter their email address requesting a full report, they know exactly what they’re getting.
4) Personalize your newsletter
Giving your newsletter a special touch helps you stand out in a crowded inbox, and helps readers feel connected.
- Give your brand a voice that stands out
- Personalize suggestions and requests
- Invite readers to participate
The inbox is a crowded space. But receiving a suggestion from someone you know and trust is more likely to elicit a response, which is why IMPACT’s newsletter comes from individuals. IMPACT’s newsletter editors introduce an email personably and share suggestions in a section titled “What I’m reading.” These personal touches help them start conversations with their readers.
The editors have even found creative ways to turn those conversations into content. For example, IMPACT asked readers to share books that inspired them; the list was later published as a resource. And, after a joke about marketers’ desks being perpetually messy, IMPACT asked readers to share photos of their workspaces.
5) Rally in support of a common cause
Readers would rather support what you stand for, not what you sell.
- Mitigate churn with membership models
- Build your community around values, not products
- Connect your readers with one another
“Membership programs are more churn-proof than subscription models,” said Booth. Being a member offers a stronger sense of belonging than simply being a customer. Being part of a community that is helping shape the marketing world is how IMPACT positions its premium offerings.
As such, its membership and subscription models are based on connecting audience members with one another. From a HubSpot Slack group for knowledge sharing, to an Ambassador Program showcasing influential marketers, IMPACT makes readers the hero of the story.
Content marketer or publisher?
There is a lot of low-hanging fruit for brands to borrow from publishing, and these five strategies are only a start. Perhaps the biggest difference between content marketing and publishing, according to Booth, is vision.
What if content marketing evolved to be totally independent from your brand? In that vein, Booth suggested asking, ‘what am I doing that could one day be its own business?’
These questions help drive Booth to make content marketing for IMPACT as, well, impactful as it can be. Content marketing has transformed the way it communicates success, establishes and disseminates domain expertise, and connects with its growing audience.
Thinking like a publisher means thinking big. So how has content transformed your business?
We want to hear your success stories: firstname.lastname@example.org.