Content Marketing And Other Things The Bike Business Could Use A Whole Lot More Of

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One of the current crop of hot-off-the-presses buzzwords just starting to make its way into the collective ears of us two-wheeled folks is Content Marketing. The other, for the record, is Gamification, but we’ll leave that one for another time.
Content Marketing is one of those things that can be as complicated as you want to make it, but basically just means producing and delivering your own content…as opposed to, say, having an agency cook it up for you as an ad, or sending a press release to a magazine and hoping they print it themselves. Which is not to say that ads and press releases aren’t good, but that there’s even more juice to be squeezed when you squeeze it yourself.


Three Simple Rules

The Wikipedia entry on the topic is pretty good. Content Marketing, it says, is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to engage current and potential consumer bases. Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty. (Emphasis mine.)

For the bike business, content marketing should be as easy as that other textbook-simple process we keep hearing about. You know, the one involving a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun. But somehow we end up making it a whole lot harder—and far less effective—than it needs to be.

Rule #1: You Have Something To Say, And An Audience Who Wants To Listen. So Say It, Already.

That’s because for companies in other industries, the hardest part about content marketing is coming up with content in the first place. Say your business makes industrial roofing supplies or garden hose or cheese-flavored dog treats. That’s hard to say something interesting about. But here in the bike business we not only do we have stuff lots of people want to hear about, we have a huge, near-insatiable audience hanging on our every word.

Here’s an example. I just pulled this article from my friends at BikeRumor.com and put it into my word processor to run a copy count. It’s just over a thousand words long, and it’s about Crank Brothers’ new adjustable seat post.

Now some product manager down in Laguna Beach probably invested fourteen months of his life to make this the best darned adjustable seatpost it could possibly be, but still. It’s a piece of collapsible tubing with a mount on one end, fer cryin’ out loud.  But my point isn’t about the product, and I mean it no disrespect. The great thing here is that tens of thousands of people can’t wait to read a thousand-word article about this particular piece of tubing. And that’s a very, very Good Thing…almost as good as the fact that cyclists are going to contribute another thousand words talking about that post in Bike Rumor‘s content section, and whether it’s likely to be as good as forthcoming products from SRAM or Fox. ..products that don’t even exist yet.

And that, my friends, is the power of Content Marketing.

Rule #2: Repurpose, Repurpose, Repurpose. Because Your Content Is Good…But Someone Else’s Content About Your Content Is Even Better. 

One reason I picked the kronolog seatpost is because the folks at Crank Brothers did such a good job of creating awesome content around it. Their website has some great illustrations of the product, and technical spec, and a cool video of Hans Rey in his garage talking about it and some other really good bits. And that’s all well and good.

But here’s the crazy part.

A blog entry or Twitter post about Bike Rumor‘s review of the product will garner more hits than one that basically says, Hey, we have a cool new product—why don’t you come take a look at it? And even crazier, a link to to someone else’s review of your product that links back to your presentation of it will earn more traffic than a direct link to the same presentation.

Welcome to the crazy world of Content Marketing. The Marketspeak term for this particular technique is Repurposing, and it’s worth its weight in gold.

Of course your content doesn’t have to be as smooth and polished as the Crank Brothers example. The whole point, after all, isn’t the quality of the production, or even the quality of the content itself, but the fact that you’re using that content to engage your customers in a conversation.

Rule #3: Yes, It’s All About You. But It’s Not All About You. 

As cleverly foreshadowed in the last paragraph, a big part of Content Marketing is using it to involve your customers and propects in a conversation.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on that point:

The purpose of this information is not to spout the virtues of the marketer’s own products or services, but to inform target customers and prospects about key industry issues, sometimes involving the marketer’s products. The motivation behind content marketing is the belief that educating the customer results in the brand’s recognition as a thought leader and industry expert. (Emphasis mine again.)

So what’s all this got to do with Crank Brothers’ content? Well, the whole point is that content is just part of a larger conversation, and when it’s relevant, it’s welcome. Take a look at Crank Brothers’ Twitter feed and you’ll see what I mean. They’re very good at talking about things that are partly about themselves, but not all about themselves…and there’s a huge difference.

You know that one guy at the party, the one who can’t talk about anything but himself?  No names now, but you can easily think of a few bike industry brands who are already playing at being That Guy. You know, the ones who treat their blog and Twitter feed and Facebook page like they’re those big cars the Nazis used to drive around through the streets of occupied cities, blaring the same propaganda over and over. Well, here’s some free advice: don’t be That Guy.  Because your customers won’t like you any better than they do him. Or them.

The Last Word(s)

So there you have it, a basic guide to content marketing in three easy steps. If you’d like to know more about this discipline—which seems almost tailor-made for cycling and cyclists—permit me to recommend the excellent book, Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand, by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi.

I like this book because it does a lot more than just talk about the stuff I hashed through above. It’s also a fun, erudite no-baloney step-by-step guide to creating your own Content Marketing initiative and selling it in to a company that may not completely comfortable with the concept.

And finally, at least some of you reading this are saying to yourselves, Hey, you cynical old reprobate, this blog post about Content Marketing—and even this entire damn blog—is nothing but a shameless exercise in content marketing itself. In fact, by writing this, you’re just trying to pull us into a conversation on topics of mutual interest, but framing them all in a context that advances your own personal brand and objectives as some sort of Outdoors Industry marketing guru.  

And you know what? You’d be exactly right.

About Rick V.

Rick’s quarter-century of experience includes executive stints building brands as Director of Global Marketing for Specialized Bicycles, VP of Marketing & Product for Veltec Sports, and Director of Airborne Bicycles. Outside the corporate world, he's worked as an award-winning copywriter and creative director for advertising, collateral, web, and multimedia agencies in the Hi-Tech, Sporting, and Consumer Products industries.

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2 Responses to Content Marketing And Other Things The Bike Business Could Use A Whole Lot More Of

  1. Blayne Puklich March 6, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    We’ve been experimenting with creating content like this in-house for some time now. Basically, we un-market – we try to stick ourselves in customer’s shoes and solve their problems instead of try to sell stuff. It’s quite a shift from constantly shoving sell/sale/buy me down their throats with every piece we put out. And we know this kind of content is consumed by customers much more because we have analytics that show this.

    I’ll have to check out the book you mentioned. A lot of what you’re talking about, and more, can also be found in the book “Launch” by Michael A. Stelzner.

  2. Kurt Wallace April 6, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    Great thinking, and a quick dive into useful tools. Thanks!

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