Many content marketing efforts peter out. Blog posts scheduled for weekly publication become sporadic over time. Monthly newsletters get sent once a quarter. Social media updates happen on a whim. Sound familiar?
When posting falls to the bottom of the to-do list, it can create a self-reinforcing cycle. Without a steady flow of quality content, your target audience will disappear. With fewer customers engaging with your content, it becomes hard to justify the time and cost to produce it, leading to diminished investment, even fewer readers, and a marketing effort that becomes deprioritized before it has a chance to work.
Effective content marketing is a long game to build awareness and the customer trust that leads to conversion over time. It requires a different content strategy plan from the collateral you produce for other demand generation campaigns. So, how do you sustain a cost-effective content marketing effort across quarters or even years?
For some perspective, let’s take a step back – way back – and study two legends of content marketing that began more than a century ago and are still effective to this day.
The (Old) New Age of Technology
In 2019, it’s hard to fully appreciate the technological and social upheaval of the Victorian era. But give the Victorians their due: They revolutionized transportation (railroads, automobiles, early flight), energy (dynamos, alternating current), communications (telephone, telegraph, radio), medicine (epidemiology, anesthesia, antiseptic surgery), retail (department stores, catalog sales), and more.
Victorian marketers would not grasp today’s tech, but they would feel our pain. We’re in another age of upheaval spinning out new technologies, companies, and fortunes. Then, as now, a solid content marketing strategy can be instrumental in introducing new products and their value to audiences looking for reliable information.
In fact, two remarkable content marketing campaigns that sprang up around Victorian technologies are still successfully promoting their brands today.
John Deere’s Content Strategy Plan: Know-How for Farmers
John Deere first disrupted agriculture in 1837 by inventing a self-cleaning plow blade made from steel. Existing plow blades were made of iron or, worse, wood. They clogged frequently and wore out quickly. In an era where the majority of workers toiled in agriculture, a better blade on every farm was like a computer on every desk.
John Deere started printing its own magazine, The Furrow, in 1895. The magazine originally came in 17 different versions to provide region-specific articles and tips. The publication also helped position the company and ultimately prepared its customers for the coming disruption of motorized tractors in 1912.
The Furrow is still going strong today, 124 years later, reaching more than 500,000 subscribers in North America and more than 2 million globally.
Michelin’s Content Strategy Plan: Reviews for Road Trippers
In 1900 – three years before Henry Ford started mass-producing Model Ts – there were fewer than 3,000 cars on the roads in France. Early on, the Michelin brothers saw the opportunity in supplying tires to cars. (After all, people would need several tires over the lifetime of a single vehicle.) In today’s terms, it might be compared to selling apps for a brand new consumer platform.
The brothers were arguably a little ahead of the market and needed a way to increase their sales. They decided they should stimulate interest in travel, which would in turn, increase tire sales.
They launched their Michelin Guides in 1900. In the process, they developed their famous star ratings for restaurants. One star meant “a very good restaurant in its category.” Two stars meant “excellent cooking, worth a detour.” Three stars said “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”
They distributed nearly 35,000 copies of their first edition – about 12 copies for every car on the road in France. That might have seemed overkill at the time, but the investment in content marketing positioned the company as a household name in tires shortly before demand for automobiles would increase exponentially.
Today, 119 years later, Michelin still publishes its guides, and the star system has become the pinnacle of restaurant ratings.
Content Marketing Lessons From John Deere and Michelin
What lessons can you apply from these enduring content marketing strategies?
- Serve your market. Michelin and Deere didn’t start ad campaigns. They didn’t pump out promotional brochures. They published information that was useful to the markets they served. In these examples, valuable business insight for farmers and useful tips for travelers would ultimately drive demand for these companies’ products.
- Commit to publishing. Both companies made publishing a priority, not an activity to fill downtime. They didn’t even cut publication during two world wars and the Great Depression – something to bear in mind the next time you’re tempted to put your business’ content marketing on the back burner when things get busy.
- Adapt over time. Today, Michelin Guides are a revered source of information on restaurants, not just in France, but worldwide. These days The Furrow focuses on photojournalism and publishes rural lifestyle features. It no longer competes with Internet resources where technical content is easier to find. Accordingly, content marketing plans must evolve as markets change. The key to success is adapting and pursuing new ideas for the benefit of your readers.
Think Past Publication
The value of relevant, engaging content can extend well beyond a given campaign. A continually growing content library also enhances a range of other marketing efforts:
- Links to niche content can enhance targeted social media and email campaigns while generating valuable insight into the topics that drive conversions.
- High-value content can be repurposed to enhance other marketing tactics. For example, if you’re creating a digital campaign for lead generation, then statistics, quotes, graphics, and links to your content marketing can make ads more compelling.
- Your organization can incorporate the best material from your content marketing into annual reports, landing pages, or investor documents to help tell the full story of your business and why it matters.
- The same goes for in-person presentations. Industry research and thought leadership from content you created earlier provide extra value for your audience and helps keep people engaged.
At PMG, exceptional content forms the foundation for the digital strategy, demand generation, and account-based marketing work that helps our clients grow. Want to build an enduring content strategy plan to make your brand stand out and sell? Contact PMG to learn more.