Brooke Howell is the newest member of the Rep Capital team! Today, she officially joins us as director of client services. She previously served as the small-business and entrepreneurship editor at SmartBrief, where she served as lead editor for newsletters on women’s business leadership, franchising, insurance, wholesale distribution, the automotive aftermarket and the law. Before joining SmartBrief, Brooke worked for UCG as an editor on its Home Health Line newsletter, as an assistant research editor at AARP The Magazine and as a freelance reporter for publications including The Washington Post. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Find out what Brooke’s all about in this interview.

Raven: What are some of the most successful content marketing strategies that you’ve seen?

Brooke: One excellent example is the strategy employed by the team at Sales Benchmark Index. As the founding editor of SmartBrief on Sales and its lead editor for the past year and a half, I’ve gotten into the habit of reading their Sales & Marketing Effectiveness Blog and those of many of their sales-consulting competitors several times a week — and found SBI’s to be far superior to the rest. It looks great next to companies from other industries as well.

Here’s why:

  • Their blog is front and center on their website. When you navigate there, you see a snippet latest post and can scroll down to see a few more. You don’t have to locate and click on a button or link to get to the blog.
  • They update the blog on a regular schedule, putting up at least one new post each day.
  • Everyone on their team — from the most junior consultant up to the CEO contributes to the blog. This is a smart strategy because it shows that everyone there is an expert and has something valuable to contribute to their clients. It also spreads out the workload so one or two people aren’t overwhelmed by having to supply all of the content.
  • They have an editor. Actually, I don’t know this for sure, but the level of polish their posts all have and the consistency that you see between different posters strongly suggests that they do. Even great writers have a hard time effectively editing themselves and most people whose professional expertise is not in journalism or another writing field tend to struggle to produce professional-quality content.
  • They tell stories. A lot of the SBI team’s blog posts include stories of their clients as illustrations of what to do and not do. This makes the posts more interesting to read and their lessons easier to remember.

SBI’s content marketing efforts don’t end with their excellent blog, though. Here’s what else they’re doing well:

  • They present free webinars on a regular basis and post them in an easy-to-find spot on their website for people to play back at their leisure.
  • They are active on Twitter — not just as a company, but also as individual team members. From the CEO down, everyone on the team has a Twitter account and is active in using it to promote the business and its brand as well as their own personal brand and expertise.
  • The company is also active on LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook.
  • They also have books, case studies and white papers available to provide more in-depth information that you can put in a blog post.

In short, they have a comprehensive content marketing strategy that they’ve committed to for the long-haul, not just a short stint.

How do you see content marketing evolving in 2013?

Overall, I see more companies of all sizes gaining an understanding of what content marketing is, realizing it’s not a passing trend and dedicating resources to do incorporate it into their marketing strategy. That means every business that’s doing content marketing will have to double down on quality control to ensure their content is rising to the top of the pile and capturing as many customers’ attention as possible.

Another reason content marketers will need to focus even more on quality this year is because of the changes Google made to its search algorithm in 2012. The changes were an effort to punish websites that were pushing poor-quality content by pushing them down in search results. At the same time, websites with quality content got a boost and that boost is amplified for those who post their content to Google+. Of course that also means content marketers will be getting more active on Google+ whether their customers do or not.

One thing their customers will be doing for sure this year, though, is consuming more content on their mobile devices, so smart content marketers will make sure whatever they put out can be read, watched or listened to on smartphones and tablets — not just desktop computers.

The use of images in content marketing  skyrocketed in 2012. Do you think that trend will continue in 2013?

Yes! People love visuals and as all of our attention spans get shorter, they are a great way to convey key information fast.

The continuing and increasing popularity of Pinterest will further fuel the trend toward using images in content marketing. Pinterest’s primary audience is women, and more and more B2B brands are finding ways to use the site to market their goods and services, which requires including images in their content marketing. Also, there are a number of startups — Dudepins, Manteresting, PunchPin, Gentlemint and Dartitup, to name a few — trying to become the “Pinterest for men,” which will only increase the desire for pin-worthy content i.e. that which includes images.

I know there are plenty of naysayers out there who say Pinterest has no value for B2B marketers, but history has shown that trends start with consumers and bleed into B2B. As soon as consumers start to like and integrate a technology into their lives, they start to want to bring it into their business life as well.A prime example of this is the concept of the social network itself. Facebook, MySpace and other early competitors started out as a way to connect with your friends.

Mobile web browsing is expected to pass up desktop web browsing in 2013. What can content marketers do to make their content fit the mobile lifestyle?

Content marketers can start by not using Flash in their websites. It’s unnecessary and doesn’t work on mobile devices. Another thing they need to do is consult with a professional website designer to make sure their website is either mobile-friendly or has a mobile version that allows people to access all of their content on the go.

Since capturing prospects’ contact information is key, you want to have your Web designer make sure all of your Web forms easy to complete on a mobile device. When I get frustrated with these on my smartphone, I tend to just skip them, which means a company has missed an opportunity to capture my information.

What are some content marketing strategies that don’t work for you?

I don’t like content marketing that is too formal and serious. While this is certainly appropriate for some industries, most don’t require it. I also don’t like when content marketing is too corporate. It’s much better if it has more personality and individuality. Marketers need to remember that even in B2B, you’re never making a sale to a company, you’re making a sale to an individual and individuals connect better with other people who present themselves in a comfortable and genuine manner.

My biggest pet peeves, though, are content marketers that write their content using marketing-speak, such as jargon and buzzwords, and style and punctuation — all caps, italics, bold, etc. — that scream “This is an advertisement” at readers. It’s annoying and ineffective because smart customers won’t fall for content that’s nothing more than an ad in disguise.

Quality content marketing starts with a commitment to sharing credible information with prospects and customers. That information should be presented through content that is interesting and engaging to readers, relevant to the industry, and reflective of the company’s knowledge and expertise. When content fits this criteria, it will be seen, read and passed around the Internet just as marketers want it to be.

Reputation Capital Media Services is a Baton Rouge marketing agency that helps B2B companies and their marketing agencies produce high-quality digital content, including blog posts, e-mail newsletters, white papers and multimedia. Our editors and writers are experts in their fields, which include HR technology, employee benefits, and financial services and accounting. Contact us for a free 30-minute consultation to find out how great content can help you attract and retain your customers.

Psst: Have you signed up for our webinar? Reputation Capital presents How to Write a White Paper Like a Journalist – Thursday Feb. 7 @ 2pm EST. Sign up now!

One thought on “Reputation Capital’s Brooke Howell Talks Content Marketing for Small Business

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *