Inside The Obsession
How to Build Brand Authority, Awareness, and the Bottom Line with Content Marketing
An analysis and reflection on four-years of content marketing that has built our brand and drove our business.
Over the last four years, Cramer has invested in and obsessed over content marketing, and while connecting with and creating helpful content for you, our community of Catalyst subscribers, readers, and website visitors, we have contributed to meaningful business growth and brand growth.
In this time we’re proud to have established partnerships with new-to-Cramer brands like Honeywell, Siemens Healthineers, Caterpillar, Metlife, Procter & Gamble, and more, but the heart of this story isn’t about the work we’ve done with these brands.
It’s about why we set out on the path of brand journalism, the purpose behind the podcast, the stories, newsletters, weekly trends, and white papers, and it’s about why building a relationship with you, is first and foremost, why we’ve been able to build a relationship with them.
New Business Is Built On Three Pillars
There are three pillars on which professional services firms and agencies build their business. The first is on referrals and relationships. Somebody knows about you or has worked with you themselves and recommends you to somebody else.
The second is destination creative. This is when you do one or two flagships projects that are so amazing, or so crazy, or so successful that everybody knows about it, knows you did it, and wants to work with you because of it.
It’s the way major brands ran to Wieden+Kennedy after their game-changing work with Old Spice and Nike. Or to Agency 360i after Oreo’s “Dunk In The Dark” Superbowl tweet. Make the news, go viral, win some awards, get work.
The third way to build new business today is to provide value to the market place. In the latter half of this decade, that’s become known as content marketing, but Mckinsey Quarterly has been around doing this for 30 years, and it goes back further than that.
Large-scale professional services firms have long invested in their own content that provided insight and value to any audience whether they worked with them or not, it’s just been deemed buzzword, content marketing, in more recent years with all shapes and sizes of businesses jumping on board.
Lets take a look at what happened when we started investing in content that provided value.
Now, going back to 2014, we’ll pull the curtain back on how we even starting tackling this initiative.
Effective Content Marketing Requires The Right Team
If your company is not currently producing content but you want to start, you have to mindful about who you pull from the bench. You don’t want all of your best minds pulled out of client meetings that could lead to that aspirational destination creative, but you also need the right mix of talent, passion, and experience, to make things happen. And here’s the reality, you don’t need a ton of people to get a ton done.
When you look at everything Cramer has published in the last four years — the hundreds of stories and industry reports, video campaigns, podcasts, white papers and more — the majority of the efforts came from just three people on our team of more than 150.
Of course, we’d tap the design team, like our Design Director, Brad Harris who produced our illustrated icons and even the infographic above. And we’d interview event producers and creative directors about what trends or cool experiential technologies they saw while on the road at industry shows. But to keep the content moving on a consistent basis and generate the awareness it did, just a small motivated crew.
Our SVP of Strategy and Technology, Brent Turner, came to Cramer with a background in media and a passion for editorial storytelling and marketing hackathons. Marketing Director, Kate Romano, had been with Cramer for over a decade as an account and project manager and had a serious knack for assembling and executing on a strategic vision. And Jonathan Ronzio raised his hand to drive the narrative, with a background in live event production, award-winning adventure travel stories, and an insatiable desire to chase and share meaningful moments.
The takeaway here is that you shouldn’t overthink getting started. That’s the beauty of digital marketing, isn’t it? You only need a little to do a whole lot. But beyond the right team, there is something you definitely do need.
You Need An Editorial Mission & Vision
What will your voice in the marketplace sound like and why?
Early on, we crafted probably a hundred variations of an editorial mission statement that would guide our brand voice and publications. But where we netted out and what became the driving force behind our editorial strategy and all the content we would create, was this philosophy around delivering a scoop of perception.
We knew that if you were really paying attention to the brand experience industry, we weren’t going to tell you about any new event technology that fifty other blogs wouldn’t also be reporting on. And so we didn’t set out to be a reporter, or break news.
A catalyst by definition is a spark that creates or increases the rate of a reaction. We named our brand publication Catalyst to do just that. We set out to create a catalyst for your conversations by unpacking industry content and frameworks, in an educational and playful way, with a voice that was approachable, human, and trustworthy.
This evolved and became more effective along the way as we figured out our voice and our beat, what the audience wanted, and then delivered more of that.
How Your Content Can Guide Your Service and Hiring Strategies
More than creating content for the purposes of search engine optimization (SEO), inbound marketing, or sales enablement, we found that the topics we were exploring and writing about in the marketplace would also influence our business services direction and the people we would bring on to support it.
For example, brand activations. Now a pretty standard Cramer client service, but not when we published a story about why brand activations work and within that article, defined what a brand activation was.
We were early to the market in talking about brand activations and as a result, for a few years if you Googled the term, it was our words in the definition box. To date we still have top search results for that, AR, VR, and more.
But it was our exploratory content that broke up the ice of seldom traveled waters for our business to steer into and have conversational fuel around new experiential services.
After seeing how clients and prospects responded to our thought leadership around topics like brand activations, we brought on Tim Owens to head up a new activations unit within Cramer.
Deciding What To Write About To Fuel Your Business Conversations
The cycle, as it often worked here, was that our teams would be exploring an idea internally because they were pitching or strategizing for something. After getting smart on a topic within our walls, we realized that information would be more valuable to more people than just us, so we’d write about it.
If a certain piece did really well and we noticed people really loved learning about it, then we’d go speak about it at industry events. And because we’re speaking about it, we have to keep our perspective fresh — we’d ask: what’s next, where’s it going? Which turns into our teams internally jamming on the what’s next, which turns into more content.
It’s essentially a cycle of curiosity.
The emerging technology road shows are a perfect example of that, and it goes back to why we called it Catalyst. To create a reaction, and spark external and internal conversations that inform and influence industry thinking.
Our content marketing initiatives with Catalyst just happened to wrap up our own internal culture of curiosity and fortunately the wider industry audience responded well.
We’re invested in this because it’s moving the needle for our industry. Our trends and stories have defined experiential technologies and strategies on Google. They have our teams in demand doing industry keynotes around the world. They’ve impacted our business in multiple ways including attracting major new global B2B brands and has allowed us to continually expand our business’ service offerings as the industry evolves.
Your content marketing initiatives can do the same for you. In the end, staying up-to-date and in-the-know for your audience has the obvious benefit of keeping you up-to-date and in-the-know, which gives you more to talk to prospects and clients about, where you’ll likely close more business.
Again, today, you can’t not do content.
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Inside Our Obsession With Content Marketing is part of our obsession with:
Creating unique, relevant messaging that your audience values.