Using the Umbrella Approach to Content Marketing

SPROUT Content Contributor

Written by SPROUT Content Contributor on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

SPROUT Content is an inbound marketing agency that specializes in performance content for businesses in "unglamorous industries."

Think content marketing, and immediately a blog springs to mind. But a company blog is only the starting point.

umbrella brandingIntelligent content marketing involves not only content production, but distribution as well. Only 36% of marketers feel that they use their content effectively. The need of the hour is a systematic approach to content marketing.

Getting Started: What are your Goals?

The most important questions are always the basic ones.

  • What are your business and marketing goals?
  • How will content marketing help you achieve those goals?

Businesses exist to make money. To do that, your website must attract the right kind of traffic and generate qualified sales leads – two of the top metrics that marketers are interested in. The content that you generate, either to publish on your own site or to distribute across various channels, must always tie back to these basic goals of attracting the right traffic and nurturing them through every step of the sales funnel.

Produce Engaging Content in Multiple Formats

An efficient content marketing engine will have content production as one of its key functions. Superior understanding of customers will help you decide what type of content to produce and how you want to communicate to your audience.

Content Formats for Success

Marketers adopt different content marketing formats ranging from social media and articles to annual reports and games. The type of content plays a significant role in audience engagement. The content marketing matrix by Smart Insights is an excellent starting point for marketers to understand the type of content that suits their buyer personas.


A blog forms the core of any content marketing strategy, fueling search engine optimization and the sales process. Develop your blog as your content hub because you own it and it is therefore immune from the caprices of third-party platforms. Hubspot’s 2013 research shows that the company blog is the second most important source of customers, topped only by Facebook. It also appears that the more regularly you blog, the better your chances of finding a customer. 82% of marketers who blog daily acquire customers through their blog as opposed to only 57% who blog monthly.  


Invest significantly in your blog – build it on a strong platform, publish great content frequently, and track your results.

Video, Audio and Images

Video content is ideal for companies that want to explain complex concepts clearly and want to connect deeply with their audience. There appears to be lots of opportunity for video. In fact, YouTube is boldly predicting that 90% of all web traffic will soon be video content.

Toyota is using audio as an innovative way to introduce their brand voice in a musical way. They are building the sound of their brand in conjunction with Pandora, which holds a ton of insightful information on the music preferences of their huge listener base. Music evokes a strong emotional response, and Toyota’s inspired audio campaign capitalizes on this.

Images can also be used to evoke an emotional response if used appropriately. Buzzfeed overtook The Huffington Post in December 2013 as the top publisher on Facebook, taking the lead with 750,000 more shares. Buzzfeed is a brilliant example of content marketing through images and lists. People love images, especially if they speak to them. Use large images with proper open graph tags in your blog. The Yoast WordPress plugin can take care of this for you.

Content Curation

Curating relevant content for your audience can establish you as a go-to resource for your target market. Some of the most leading Twitterati are excellent curators who have committed themselves to finding great content and sharing it. In fact, the only way to not come across as a self-absorbed, navel-gazing noisemaker is to share other people's content judiciously. Add your own insightful commentary to the content that you curate and share on your blog and social media channels.

If you aren’t satisfied with the usual formats, Hubspot suggests 14 new types of content for you to try.

Give your Content Legs with a Distribution Strategy

The latest Forrester report titled “Put Distribution at The Heart of Content Marketing” highlights the importance of planning for the distribution and discovery of content. 87% of B2B marketers are now using social media to distribute content.

Social Media

Facebook is the topmost source of customers for brands. And engagement comes not just through posts – companies can even sell on Facebook stores directly. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram are all platforms that you should consider to be part of your overall content strategy.

Deeply understand where your target demographic spends time online, the best way to communicate with them (content format), how frequently and at what times you must publish, and how to structure your communication for maximum effectiveness. Are you going to use social media channels only to drip feed your own content and lead the readers back to your blog, or do you want to generate paying customers right there? In addition to amplifying content, social signals will also factor into improving your search rankings, according to Moz’s 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors survey.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging was recently the topic of heated debate in the content marketing community after Matt Cutts talked about how it is being abused to build links. But the thing is, that kind of “guest blogging” was never the right thing to do. The only reason to publish a post on another blog is to build a genuine relationship with the blog owner, and to add value to their readers. Essentially, you are writing for someone else for free, the only compensation being goodwill and opportunity to build your reputation as a subject matter expert. Do it right, and you’ll create some great links while also attracting several new readers to your own blog. Pitch for a guest post the right way to maximize your chances of being asked to contribute.

Paid and Earned Content Distribution

An ecosystem of vendors is now in place to help marketers drive distribution of branded content. Companies like Taboola, aNEWSme, OneSpot, and Outbrain are all paid services that can distribute your content in either advertorial or native format. Make use of these services to get your content right where they need to be – in front of your target demographic.

Increase your outreach by integrating your content with your PR strategy. Consider reaching out with a targeted pitch to reporters and publications that discuss your subject matter. By being proactive about pitching editors, industry influencers, and journalists, you may be able to get your content featured in some highly coveted spaces. Consider this case study that illustrates how earned media coverage earned 1200 leads in just a few weeks.

To recap, content marketing is not just about publishing content to a blog. Start by figuring out your business and marketing goals, and understanding your customers. Decide on suitable content formats, formulate a content production plan, and allocate necessary resources. Integrate distribution into your content strategy to put your content in front of your target audience.

2013 was the year of content marketing. Hopefully, in 2014 marketers will also pay attention to distribution. Adopt an umbrella approach to content marketing to ensure that you consistently produce great content and also bring it to the people who care.

This is a guest blog post from Tracy Vides. Tracy is a writer, researcher and content strategist, who has something to say about everything, including business, tech and fashion! Hit her up on Google+ for a chat. She’s @TracyVides on Twitter.

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