Yann Gourvennec heads the digital marketing agency Visionary Marketing and is the Program Director of the Advanced Masters in Digital Strategy at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France. He created visionarymarketing.com in 1996 and since then, he has practiced Web strategy, e-business and Web communications in the field. A lecturer, keynote speaker, author and blogger, he is the co-author of Mastering Digital Marketing Like A Boss.


I sat down with Yann earlier this week (via Skype) to discuss content marketing strategy, tips for video marketing and his upcoming talk at the 2016 eZ Conference

What do you see organizations do wrong when they develop and execute a content marketing strategy?

Organizations don’t always know how to develop content. Those that do it wrong don’t get the right tone of voice. They think it’s the same tone as traditional marketing (i.e. print, door-drop).  When you do content marketing it’s important to talk to your subjects and create a conversation. For example, when companies try to do content marketing for software they might get bogged down writing about features. It’s more about describing the experience for their users.

Even if companies understand the need to set things in motion, they tend to rush and subcontract things. It’s difficult to invest time and resources for their content marketing. But it’s necessary if you want to produce quality content. In addition, it’s a great way to share expertise internally. It’s important to have a few specialists in-house.

In regards to execution, companies may understand they have to produce content but they do it blindly and it doesn’t stand out from the crowd. An example is all those firms churning out big data white papers. That’s run of the mill, standard stuff. A better idea, for instance would be to produce a black paper to catch people’s attentions. Instead of producing a piece of content telling what a company to do, you can be unique and focus on what not to do. The name itself is also very catchy. In fact, over at visionary marketing, we do this for one of our clients.

There’s so much content out there for many organizations competing in the same industry. What do you feel are some of the best things a company can do to stay ahead of the competition? What are the keys to doing content marketing well today?

Companies should really emphasize the shape and form of their content. They should ask themselves the question, can they produce blog posts differently from everyone else? They need to have a style of their own. A blog post is not just text. There’s an angle, diagrams, maybe even hand drawn schematics. When you create something really beautiful or informational, it inspires people. And this is when word of mouth marketing kicks in. Your content stands out so much people share it naturally. This makes people remember your brand.

Companies also need to find who the talkers are for their particular market and get a conversation started. I hesitate to call these people influencers. If you have to pay for their promotion, it becomes just another form of advertising. Content marketing is more about providing a superior type of content that can’t be provided anywhere else. This is where the true value comes in. Talkers will naturally want to promote your content if it’s special because it draws attention to them as well.  

Which B2C and B2B companies are doing content marketing well and why?

For B2C, I really like the Blendtec campaigns where they blend an iPhone into dust. Yes, it’s video and it’s probably expensive to produce. But it demonstrates the important concept of storytelling in content marketing… show, don’t tell.

I also like the Volvo trucks commercials, with Jean Claude Van Damme where he does a split between two reversing trucks. It’s very entertaining and memorable but also gets the point across about Volvo’s precise steering.

For B2B, I like the Caterpillar campaigns that demonstrate their equipment in interesting scenarios like playing Jenga with with very heavy blocks (weighing a ton) or building enormous sand castles. These videos are engaging but at the same time are focused on demonstrating the product’s superiority.  

Both of your examples of good content marketing are video based. Do you foresee a major change in content marketing where video takes on a bigger role? What are the barriers and how can companies overcome them? What does this mean for the written word?

Video has always played a big role. But it’s a very difficult medium to master and use effectively. Nowadays, mostly all video content is on YouTube and companies are trying to put all their video content there. Unfortunately, YouTube is blocked by most businesses’ firewalls. So you have to consider if your content will even reach your target demographic. It’s also a very expensive medium to produce and promote. Brands sometimes buy placements on YouTube pages, and this is no longer content marketing but a form of paid advertising.

In addition, B2B marketing has to take a serious tone and this is not always easy. It’s not all about entertainment. You need to provide unique value. User generated content is a unique approach, where you allow your customers to post their very own reviews of your product. Another option is to let your internal subject matter experts publish content in the open (independently on any website or platform). This gives the content a sense of authenticity and is also much lower in budget. Regardless of what method is used, it’s important to remain neutral in these approaches to maintain your brand’s credibility.

Most B2B companies do not have enormous budgets for marketing and can’t do a multi-million dollar campaign like Volvo. But that doesn’t mean you can’t adopt similar techniques with much cheaper talent, methods or even resorting to user generated content. As long as you can prove you are the best, the campaign will be effective.

How does a CMS play into developing good content? What capabilities do you feel are most important?

I believe multilingual content management is crucial. If you are international company, you create content in various languages. You have to start thinking through pages and menus. A CMS with strong multilingual capabilities like eZ is able maintain a brand’s consistency and ease workflows with outside translation agencies.

Secondly, a CMS has to be 100% reliable. If you are working for a big brand, the CMS has to be stable and backed by a solid company that can support you if you encounter any issues.

Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming talk at the eZ Conference? A teaser, perhaps?

I will be focusing on overcoming content shock. My talk will convey ideas to the audience on how to make a company’s content stand up from the crowd and not spend  millions of dollars to do so.  Since the conference runs on two tracks (business and technical), I will provide both groups an interactive survey. We will have a real time conversation going on the screen and I will provide the best approach to achieve content marketing goals from both perspectives.

Want to learn more about Yann’s upcoming talk at eZ Conference 2016? Watch this video.

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