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The Case for Content Marketing

By Jon Gelberg
Let's say you're an expert at what you do. How much good does that expertise do you if only a handful of people are aware you exist?

That's where content marketing can do you and your business a world of good. You can't manufacture "expertise," but, if you have it, original content is a great way of broadcasting your expertise to your target audience.

While there are many ways of skinning this proverbial cat, I'm going to tell you what has worked for me at Blue Fountain Media. Here's how we planned and executed, and continue to pursue our content marketing campaign.

Stage I: Get yourself some content
Blue Fountain Media is a web design, development, online marketing and business strategy firm based in Manhattan. The company has great expertise in all of these areas, but about two years ago we realized that we needed to get the word out to a broader audience. We were doing excellent work for our clients, but were definitely flying under the radar. It was difficult to successfully pitch the press because they hadn't really heard of us.

If the media wasn't going to tell our story, then we'd need to tell the story ourselves.

We decided to use original content as a way to generate some buzz. The idea was to create a "Business Learning Center" -- basically an online resource of information to de-mystify the entire process of building, maintaining, and marketing a business website. The how-to articles covered a wide range of topics from how to select a web development team and best work with that team, to principles of online design and messaging and even the basics of managing your online reputation.

Our CEO Gabriel Shaoolian wrote most of the articles, but many other members of the team contributed. And I'm not going to lie: It was as time-consuming project, but because we made it a high priority, we set tight deadlines and carved out time each week (on top of our other responsibilities) to plan, write, and edit the articles.

We waited until we had a small trove of content (approximately 15 articles) before officially going live with the Business Learning Center.

Stage II: Pitch it
Armed with these articles, we were finally in a position to attempt to get some press coverage for the company. We sent direct pitches along with appropriate links to our content to a wide variety of media outlets (large and small). This strategy began to pay off almost immediately.

Within two months, this turned into this Q&A with our founder.

And this, turned into this interview with Inc. magazine.

Why did this strategy work? Basically, when you create your own (meaningful) content, you are handing a reporter/blogger a story on a silver platter. You are providing context and telling the reporter exactly what you know on the subject, which makes her job easier.

The more content we produce -- our Business Learning Center now has over 60 articles - the more press attention we get. And the more attention we get, the easier it is to pitch ourselves to other publications.

Less than two years after launching our content marketing/public relations efforts, we have been quoted in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Crain's New York Business, Inc., Bloomberg BusinessWeek and others.

Stage III: Distribute your content -- and your expertise
The other part of pitching yourself as an expert is to go beyond offering yourself as a source to the media; offer to write the story. There are lots of small business outlets and many are hungry for content.

Now, this should be obvious, but it bears reminding: High-quality sites don't want mediocre content. So don't pitch them unless you really have something to contribute that's new/different.

Find the blogs or outlets that cater to your potential clients or customers and go after them. This has been a very effective tool for us. Both our CMO, Alhan Keser, and I are privileged to write BNET's Web Master blog (and no, they didn't make me say that). Our CEO, Gabriel Shaoolian, has a regular column in The New York Times' "You're the Boss" blog, while other team members contribute to other online publications.

Plus, a few sites, like Yahoo's Advertising Blog, reprint our articles verbatim from the Business Learning Center and include us in their blogrolls.

The bottom line
Creating original content designed to drive business takes talent, time, and a well thought-out strategy.

But for us, the payoff has been four-fold: It helps establish us as experts in our field, it gets the attention of potential clients, it feeds our search engine optimization efforts and, most importantly, it directly leads to new business. While we continue to use other marketing platforms, our original content has become a huge component of our overall marketing strategy.

I'd love to hear about other people's experiences with content marketing. What have you tried, and what has worked well for you?

Jon Gelberg is Chief Content Officer at Blue Fountain Media.