Strategize for Success: An Exclusive Interview with Theresa Cramer of EContent Magazine

by Jenna Sindle

TCWith all of the content mediums and distribution channels out there it can be easy for marketers to fall into the trap of simply churning out content without a well-defined strategy in place. Below, Theresa Cramer of EContent Magazine, a supporting organization of this year’s Future of Marketing Summit, discusses the importance of strategy and shares her tips for crafting stand-out content.

Tell me a little about your background and your role as editor of EContent Magazine.

I started off in publishing at a newspaper in 2003, and moved on to book publishing before finally coming to magazines. As the editor of EContent I see my role, largely, as curator. Not only is it my job to find the news and issues that are important to our audience of digital publishers and marketers, but I have to find the people who can help me present those issues. We have a great team of columnists and freelancers who help me put out a trove of helpful, informative, in-depth content every month.

What is the biggest challenge facing the B2B content marketer today?

Strategy. Study after study has said that strategy–specifically a documented strategy–is key to success. It’s not just about figuring out how you’re going to make content, but why you’re making content, and how you’re going to measure its success. Once you’ve gotten it written down, it’s easier to keep your team on board and working toward the agreed upon goals.

According to Forrester Research, 83% of marketers are unable to measure business value from their content marketing efforts. How do you tie your content efforts back to sales outcomes and determine the ROI of your content programs?

It comes back to strategy. How is your content helping move people along the sales funnel? Are you helping people progress from reading a blog post to signing up for a newsletter to eventually making a purchase? It’s important that, if your goal is more sales and leads, that your content is designed to facilitate that. But there are also companies that understand that content marketing efforts may not be as directly linked to sales as many companies hope to see–and they are OK with that. For instance, Red Bull is legendary in the content marketing world, but its content has to have its own revenue proposition. Whether it’s a movie that is released in theaters or a magazine that has paid ads, the content has to support itself.

With the enormous amount of online content today, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. What are the three essential components of great, stand-out content?

This is a tough question to answer, because the content each company creates is so specific to the particular industry. What works for Coca-Cola isn’t going to work for an insurance company. But there are some basic rules of good content that anyone can employ. One of my favorite pieces of recent content marketing (or, perhaps, sponsored content is the more accurate description) is the Denali video. It had me crying hysterically…more than once. Most importantly, it had me vowing to support the companies that made it possible–like Patagonia and RuffWear. Why was it so great?

  • It appealed to my emotions and entertained me. I immediately shared it with my Facebook friends, and I came back to it over and over again.
  • It didn’t push a product. I noticed a few Patagonia jackets or RuffWear harnesses popping up in the video, but it was unobtrusive and organic.
  • A marketer didn’t make it. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Denali was made by a photographer who was coping with losing the dog who had been by his side for years. As a result, I didn’t even know this was sponsored content until the very end, but I appreciated Patagonia and the other sponsors for making the project possible.

Of course, Denali wouldn’t work for every company, but if a company really understands who it is trying to reach and lets great content creators–photographers, journalists, film-makers, whatever–get creative, any company can create its industry’s version of this video.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book on content marketing?

There are a few problems that seem to plague content marketers year after year — Strategy, measurement, and creating enough content. My book addresses all of those issues by speaking directly to the marketers, journalists, and publishers who make up the content marketing ecosystem. Everyone has an important role to play in addressing those issues, and understanding how to overcome them…but first they all need to get on the same page. The book is titled “Inside Content Marketing: EContent Magazine’s Guide to Roles, Tools, and Strategies for Thriving in the Age of Brand Journalism” and will be available in early 2016.