Cultivating A Content Marketing Strategy (A Lesson From John Deere)”

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You might be thinking, “Marketers as farmers? What is this girl talking about?” But hear me out. As a born-and-raised farm girl who’s found herself immersed in the world of content marketing, there are parallels between the two that I haven’t been able to ignore. From building a healthy soil (your content), nurturing healthy leads, choosing the right tools, and cleaning up the BS, content marketers and strategists can take a few lessons from the field, if you will.

John Deere: The Original Content Marketer

While content marketing has gained incredible traction and recognition in the past few years, John Deere knew its value far ahead of the buzz. As founder of his agricultural and construction company, he created and distributed a printed magazine for farmers in 1865 called The Furrow. As Joe Pulizzi explains,

“Deere leveraged The Furrow, not to sell John Deere equipment directly (like a catalog would do) but, instead, to educate farmers on new technology and how they use it to become more successful business owners and farmers. Thus, content marketing was born.”

Today, the publication is still in circulation and has adapted to become optimized for viewing on smartphones and tablets.

Building Your Soil: Creating A Healthy Foundation For Your Content Strategy

Farmers and gardeners know the importance of a healthy soil structure, and marketers should follow suit in developing a strategy for rich content that nurtures sprouting leads and potential customers into deeply rooted, flourishing  brand loyalists.

First, you’ll want to consider your climate. What’s your industry? Who is the audience you want your brand messaging to engage?

In a B2B climate, your content is likely to be more professional and focused on industry thought leadership. You’ll want to consider your audience and how you can reach them to solve their pain points. Begin with what kind of content will nourish and delight them, and keep them reaching out for more. You need to be trustworthy and house the most valuable information and resources for your prospects.

In a B2C climate, you’ll want your content strategy to connect with consumers by being entertaining and relatable, fitting the product or service into the consumer’s lifestyle (while being human). This isn’t to say that customers don’t care about intelligent, resourceful information. They do, maybe even more than we realize. Give them the information they need to make an informed decision about your product or service and if it will help them succeed, but do it in a way that will hold their attention and keep them engaging with your brand.

While some of these values are true for both B2B and B2C – much like most plants require some amount of water and sunlight to thrive – consumers and businesses have the same needs, on different levels.  The type of strategy you create should reflect these needs and preferences.

Just like avocados don’t grow well in upstate NY, technical, impersonal jargon won’t grow into brand loyalty for customers. Take time to create a well-constructed strategy that has high potential for success.

Planting Seeds: Sprouting Leads Through Your Content Marketing

As a farmer plants seeds each season hoping for a bountiful crop, marketers plant content or advertising efforts with the hope of generating fruitful leads and, ultimately, customers. Depending on what we plan on growing, we might plant paid search, ramp up our SEO strategies, or sprinkle bits of content in our strategic rows. But a farmer doesn’t hop on a tractor, wave goodbye, and never visit the field again. What would be the point? Likewise, marketers need to check up on their content and its performance. What do the analytics say? Does it need more water? Maybe competitive weeds are crowding in, and you need to find a way to make your content stand out.

Bring In The Tools

A farmer typically makes an investment into having the right tools on hand. Your marketing effort should be no different. You pick and harvest content for dispersion by the appropriate social channels by which your customers will find and consume your information.

If you don’t do anything with your crop, it’ll eventually die. You may have killer e-books and videos that offer valuable information for your customers, but if you aren’t harvesting them through the right channels for consumption, you’re just leaving them to rot. A (simple but) good example: When you post a new blog entry, make sure to share it on your social media accounts. Allowing your post to sit where it has been published and only be picked up by those who are subscribed to your feed or searching the relevant terms is a big mistake. You don’t need every tool or social media account on the market — just like a farmer doesn’t need a barn filled with shiny, useless equipment taking up resources – rather, you need to pinpoint the tools that would be useful to you, and employ them often.

Compost What’s Leftover: Employ Feedback For The Future

Once you produce your content and it gets distributed and consumed by customers, collect the results, successes, critiques and data to feed back into your content strategy. What did well? What needs more work? Like a smart farmer takes note of the season’s triumphs and pitfalls, take stock of your content growth. Did unpredictable disasters interfere, a hurricane-equivalent of a PR crisis that affected your company? Did you harvest your leads before they were ready, or not enrich them with adequate content? Maybe one of your resources was a major hit – and maybe you should create a follow-up piece. Use this information to supplement and improve your future content. Take the results of this season’s work to inform and nurture your next strategy.

It takes a lot of work to cultivate a successful content strategy (or a field) from the ground-up. It’s a time-intensive commitment, but experience and acquisition of the proper tools and resources can ease the process and foster continual improvement and growth, season after season, year after year. The value you gain from nourishing customers with high quality content results in a better environment for consumers, and a healthier soil for future marketing efforts.