Content Marketing

[Content Marketing Case Study] A 3 Step Formula for Using Content to Drive Traffic, Links, and Customers

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Mashable recently published an infographic about how employers are using and managing social media for their employees.

The information was interesting. And like most successful inforgraphics, beautifully designed. To date, the article has received:

  • 2,900 Tweets
  • 1,700 LinkedIn shares
  • And 901 Pins

Not to mention, tons of high-quality links and traffic.

But this article isn’t about the data on the infographic, or Mashable’s article.

It’s about the “behind the scenes”. The process behind using content to drive business.

The company who researched and analyzed the data, PayScale, also had the infographic created and distributed for marketing purposes.

In today’s article, we’re going to look at the typical decisions that lead up to a successful campaign like this, and how you can do the same.

(Note: I have no relationship with PayScale and have no “insider” knowledge. But I have created campaigns like this in the past, and saw this article as a great example of what the typical marketing process would look like)

Step #1: Understand Your Audience for Content Ideas

PayScale is a site that allows job candidates, employees, job seekers, and employers (HR) to compare their salaries across job titles, industries and locations.

A very important and beneficial service. But you could also argue that it’s not the sexiest, or easiest to create content for.

PayScale’s target customer seems like business professionals evaluating their jobs, and the Human Resources or Hiring Managers at companies.

Now let’s think about what motivates these people. Obviously they’re are interested in salary information. But that’s not the only factor.

You also want to look at what your product or service does for other people, and what interesting stories people pick up on. You can broaden the scope and think about what other benefits your audience would receive, that you can tie back to your product or service.

There are generally two ways to find this information:

  1. Qualitiative: You can ask them! Use easy tools like SurveyMonkey or KISSinsights to gather feedback from customers or your website traffic. They have professionally designed questions – so you can just load one of their surveys in seconds.
  2. Quantitative: Let data guide you. Look at the most popular posts on your blog. What topics do you see? Which content do you find “stickiest”? What are people reading or sharing the most?

Why do you have to go through all this? Because the best, most successful content ideas come out of understanding your target customer’s interests and motivations.

Your goal in this step is to learn (continuously) more and more about what your target audience wants, and then figure out interesting ways to deliver it to them.

Step #2: Develop an Interesting Story with a Unique Angle

Your content needs a unique angle to stand out today.

There’s simply too much content being created. So you need something fresh to grab the attention of you target customers.

Start by listing your strengths, or core competencies, that make you better than others.

PayScale works with data. According to their own website they have, “Collected salary and career data from more than 35 million people, covering 12,000 job titles and 1,100 distinct industries in 150 countries”.

So they had a vast database of information that was easy to tap, but hard for competitors to imitate.

The actual content form will come out of your story and angle. For example, PayScale is good with data and can manage designers, so they chose an infographic. (Simply putting up a blog post with a list of statistics would have been boring. And doing a podcast where you read off stats would also be ineffective).

But it doesn’t always have to be an infographic. Some people are better at certain things than others.

If you’re charismatic and good at connecting with people, then do video. If you’re analytical and shy, then stick to writing.

Content marketing is an art. You have to learn how your target market will want to view or interpret your information. And then you have to consistently work on generating new topics, with interesting angles, and delivering it in unique ways.

But the payoff is worth it in the long run.

Step #3: Use “Top-Down” Social Media Promotion

PayScale could have simply tweeted or shared their infographic to their own audience. That’s what most companies do. But this approach limits your results.

Using a “top-down” approach, where you partner with others to spread your message, will get you 10x the traffic.

So PayScale went out looking for other media partners who would be interested in their story. They syndicated their content to allow other people to help spread the message.

When I talk to companies about this strategy, one of the most common objections is that they’re too new or too small. Here are my usual responses.

1. Media outlets and journalists are always looking for an interesting story.

It doesn’t always matter how big or successful you are.

When journalists have to create content on a daily basis, they’re constantly on the lookout for a good story. That means something relevant to their audience, that has a unique angle and compelling information.

PayScale highlighted their unique data set, and packaged it in an easy-to-digest-and-spread format (an infographic).

So the article is specifically about their content, while their company gets the credit.

2. Always involve bloggers.

Although individual bloggers might not have the reach of a huge audience like Mashable, they typically have more passionate communities.

The audience of a popular single-author blog is much more committed, which means you’ll see higher conversion rates that make up for the loss in reach.

Also, like journalists, they’re always looking for a story. But before you approach bloggers, you need to understand what they want.

  1. Money: Most bloggers don’t make much money from blogging (depending on who they are and the size of the blog obviously). So figure out ways to sponsor them, or compensate them for their time. Or maybe you can hire them to create content for you on a consistent basis (and of course, promote it once in awhile).
  2. Exposure: Most bloggers want more traffic (just like journalists). So if you have a big website, customer database or social media fan base, offer to feature their work and recommend them to your audience.
  3. Access: Bloggers want things that money can’t necessarily buy. That could mean back-stage access to a sold-out event, an autograph from their favorite NFL player you happen to have connections with, etc. etc. Think about how you can use your product, service or network to provide something exclusive and unique.

3. Partner with your peers.

A-list bloggers or media sites are out of reach for most people.

It might be true that you’re too small, too new, or too inexperienced. That’s OK.

Then you should still use the same tactics above, but target the up-and-comers. These people are looking for a break, and will be more than eager to entertain your offers.


Online marketing can’t exist without content.

No SEO. No social media. No email.

Learning how to brainstorm, create, optimize and promote content can be a huge competitive advantage for your company.

When you spend money on advertising, it’s an expense. But when you spend money on content that lives forever, it’s an investment.

Because you can use it to drive traffic, attract natural links, get people to talk excitedly about your brand, create valuable partnerships, and of course, land you more customers.

And these compounding results will be pay dividends for years to come.

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