The Real Purpose of Your Content Marketing Strategy

Sep 26, 2021

In Conversation with Daniel Hochuli, Head of Content Solutions, APAC and China at LinkedIn

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When content marketing is done right, not only will it drive revenue to your existing products or solutions, but it can also help you unlock new product ideas or revenue streams. With the likes of Lego creating movies and cartoons to Salesforce charging money for their big conferences, these are already examples that you can see. 

But how do you do that? I was able to invite Daniel Hochuli, Head of Content Solutions for APAC and China at LinkedIn to share more with us his unique definition of content marketing. And how content marketing and brand actually contribute to the growth of companies.

Let’s see what I have learnt! 


Can you give us more context about what the content solutions team at LinkedIn do? 

It's a cross-functional team that's designed to really come in and support LinkedIn’s top clients on their content strategy. We advise them on content, measurement, strategic campaign management and optimization.

I think if somebody worked in content strategy agencies before, that's essentially what we do, but we do it at a very accelerated pace.

Agencies might work for three months on a single client around their brands, doing audience research and social listening kinds of things. Whereas, we will try and turn out one of those things every week. 

We obviously would go back to check and see the implementation status and how our clients are rolling out some of the advice that we gave them. But the best way to describe what we do is sort of like an agency content strategy team but LinkedIn clients. 

While LinkedIn is a super important component of the strategy, we also help clients with their entire media stack instead. We would show them how LinkedIn performs in partnership with other campaigns they have such as outdoor, events, or even SEO.


Can you share a little bit with us about your marketer background and journey so far? 

I did art at university but actually I was an archeologist by training. So I had a degree in ancient history and archeology. And I think other than being a lecturer, there wasn’t a demand for archeologists, so it was more of a degree of passion instead of a career one. 

But I always had a super massive interest in writing even before the social media platform took off. So my first gig was as a finance journalist. I started writing about financial content, press release. And I learnt a lot in terms of ways of writing good journalism and good quality content in that space and how to do research effectively. 

Then I moved to a more creative writing space and jumped into the agency world to become a SEO copywriter for a lot of brands. Back then, it was still a very grey hat and spammy way to do SEO. And I first there when brands realised maybe we should be writing something value-based and could actually help our customers instead of stuffing spammy keywords into the content. So I started working on SEO content that can provide values instead of just ranking. 

I joined a boutique agency called King Content just when the content marketing phase was taking off. Brands were thinking more about how to become a content publisher so I got involved a lot in setting up micro blogs, publishers kind of things. I then moved into a lot of the strategy side of that. Really thinking about what that term content marketing really meant and how a brand should be winning with content. 

Eventually, that business was acquired and I made the move to LinkedIn and started the content solution team in Asia. Built a very solid and robust team with some very amazing people. 


What’s your definition of content marketing? 

With content marketing, the way people tend to approach it nowadays in a marketing team or performance marketing team is they tend to think of it as marketing content. They create content around their products that’s designed to sell. But 90% of the audience would not have an immediate transactional intent even after they engage with your content. You can’t hang your entire strategy based on the idea that someone will come to your blog and then go to your company page and buy from you. 

That is not the purpose of a blog in general. The purpose of a blog really is to help increase traffic to come in. And it's a conduit to conversions.

So my definition of content marketing is if you were going to start a blog, it really should be to attract an audience. And then you need to think about what you're going to do with that audience. Now one thing that you would like that audience to do obviously is to buy your products. But it's the core behavior of the audience. 

The other benefit of it is that you now have this database of 10,000, 15,000 or 50,000 people who are regularly consuming a blog who are fans of that content product that you're producing. That’s what they are buying. Their clicks are actually an endorsement of the content you are producing. 

They don’t necessarily want to buy your product but it is your knowledge and content that they love and want to buy. So one of the things you should really think about is how do you monetize that. How do you then create a content product that people will pay for? 

Most brands and marketers think that we are in here to support the sales team and sell the existing products. But if you have a database of 50,000 followers or subscribers sitting there consuming your content everyday, that is a goldmine for research. 

It's a goldmine for you to sit down, survey that audience, discover what they like, what they're interested in. And you can create new products that this audience would buy and help the brand innovate. 

So the purpose of content marketing for me is to attract an audience for the purpose of research to enhance your product strategy. It's not about immediate sales. It’s about your R&D, influencing how to improve your product, make it more interesting. And I don’t see too many people doing this. 


Can you give us some examples? 

Let's take HubSpot as an example. They have a very popular blog and use it to drive leads to their existing SaaS product. But they also can sell tickets to their HubSpot event. And Moz does the same thing. That is itself a content product that would not exist without the audience they already had attracted. 

So suddenly your content marketing is not just to assist the sales of existing products. It's creating brand new revenue streams through the marketing department which is normally considered a cost function. 

For Lego, they have their advertising department that advertises Lego. And also now they have a content department that people will then pay money to go and see the movies. They will go and buy the video games. Netflix will license out Lego TV shows. So there's a content licensing business. 

These are all the different areas where content itself can become revenue streams and diversify your business itself. But it's hard work. You need a publisher’s mindset instead of a regular business or a product mindset.

The ROI of content marketing is you’ve got a big enough audience and actually monetize that content itself through the people paying tickets to go or see the speakers on stage. Or it into something that people would pay a subscription for. 

So there are so many different revenue opportunities and business opportunities with content marketing beyond just advertising that could really benefit the companies. But it all comes down to your ability to attract an audience, and then to leverage that audience in terms of research, rather than considering them all just leads.

And that's my definition of content marketing.  


How can companies implement this new way of content marketing in their businesses to develop new revenue streams? 

I think it helps if you separate the teams. That's the first part. The content team isn’t designed to generate revenue straight away and it won’t. The marketing team do advertising to try to create immediate sales and grow the brand. 

While, the content team should be designed or thought of like a R&D department. You're investing in a publishing business model. It's a separate model from what your marketing team operates in because the objectives are so different. 

And you need to spend that early part of the time figuring out what the content product is going to be. Is it an event, movie or something like a magazine that people will pay you for? The good strategy is to understand the audience first. Understand that there is a media property that is missing and people are willing to pay for it. Secondly, is there an opportunity for you to be the market leader or be the destination of the conversion?  

The Content Marketing Institute which is the number one website generally for the conversation about content marketing. They are a website but most of their revenue comes from events. It is an event business. They built this audience through their blog through great content and where they make their money is through events. 

So I would start off by separating the two departments. They have very separate teams and strategies. And one will end up one will always be a cost center, which would be your marketing team doing advertising. And the other one will eventually end up being a profit center.


How should companies think about branding? 

I think brand is super important. There's a lot of studies that have really shown you that the idea of doubling down on things like loyalty, being very bottom funnel focused in terms of your marketing is very short term thinking. And actually doesn't do anything to grow your business. 

The one thing that does grow your business to win more market share is first for you to win more extra share of voice. That's the only metric that we've seen that's been scientifically proven to help you win more market share through your marketing

The only way you win more share of voice is if you reach more people with your advertising. These ideas of like big brands will always remain big, small brands will really struggle and remain small. It's not the stuff we want to hear, but it's the reality. And the simple reality is because buyers are not loyal. 

I was talking to a client last Monday in the travel sector. Back when we could travel, I would stay on an island just off the coast of Singapore but every time I went, I would stay at a different hotel. It’s not like I didn’t like the service of the previous hotels but I had a different mindset. I wanted to try something new when I was travelling. 

So your loyalty program will not influence me to stay with you. And if you put all your efforts into loyalty, you won't grow your business. Every buyer, even the most loyal ones will eventually churn over time. This happens to your competitors to your mobile phone, laptop you are using to even the type of clothes you buy. Given a long enough timeframe, every buyer will leave you. And so the idea of you thinking that you could keep them and keep nurturing them is not how your brand will grow.

How your brand will grow is if you keep bringing in new buyers. Keep investing in new audiences and keep bringing in new less loyal buyers is what I think is how brands can grow. Now you can't do that with bottom funnel demand generation content. 

Bottom funnel demand generation content is for people who already know who you are, who are maybe already regular buyers or very familiar with your business and services. So the only way you do this is by pushing brand content out. 

The definition of brand also is corrupted in marketing. I'll give you my definition. So the academic definition of brand is really you targeting what we call out of market buyers. These are people who are not in the market to buy from you right now. These are people who you just want them to be aware of your brand. 

For example, I'm aware that Ferrari exists, but I'm not in the market to buy a Ferrari right now. So your brand content should be reaching me. You want to reach as many people as possible just to get your brand seen. Also known the Coca Coca-Cola way of being everywhere. You know, this works.

The second thing then is that we sometimes define brand as things like your corporate social responsibility or your thought leadership. That means nothing. Such as awards that you've won in the industry or the value you're giving to your target audience to help them with their business. All of that stuff is mid funnel. It’s nothing to do with brand. Leadership will not grow your brand. It will improve the sentiment. It might help you increase sales at the mid funnel to the bottom funnel, but it's not reaching new audiences. If I'm not in the industry of cloud computing, I'm not reading a white paper or your thought leadership piece on cloud computing.

But if you create a really cool creative ad, that's designed to make me understand what cloud is because I'm a secretary at a tire company. Then that's going to be good branding for you.

So that's my definition. Difference is that branding is one that targets out-market buyers. However, often times we think about it as a mid funnel tactic, such as thought leadership, which is not what brand is. That's not brand building. Brand building is really about extra share of voice. It's about increasing the reach and the visibility of your brand with as many people as possible.


What are some of the tactics for companies to develop their brand to reach the mass audience instead of just their targeted buyers? 

There are two types of tactics here. It's very simple. So the first one is you want to reach out  of market buyers with brand content. The second one is then you want to reach in-market buyers with content that’s relevant to them. And how they differentiate themselves are distinctiveness and differentiation. 

Distinctiveness is what about your brand that is distinct and stands out from its competitors. Differentiation is really about what is it you say. How are you providing values or convincing your audience to buy from you? These are your demand gen and thought leadership content which is your middle and bottom funnel content. 

The brand marketing is completely different. The brand marketing often has no brand purpose behind it. It's actually just about making people remember you. And often the weirder, the more crazy your ads are, the more memorable it becomes. If you think about some of the most famous ads in the world that would stick in your mind such as Dollar Shave Club, the Cadbury gorilla or the Jean-Claude Van Damme splits. 

When he did the splits on the Volvo trucks, that's a product demonstration content. But it was memorable because of how absurd they did with that product demonstration. That is unexpected and designed to be remembered. That stuff builds brand recognition. That stuff builds brand recognition. 

And how you see the benefit of that is let's say you turned off all your marketing today. You are still attracting organic followers, buyers and sales despite whatever hiccups you have in your bottom funnel demand gen content. The bigger, more memorable, or more recognized your brand is, the more organic followers you will get when you do no marketing at all. 

We often think it's top funnel, mid funnel, bottom funnel. Generally the top funnel is a completely different tactic. It should be brand building. That's the goal. Be as memorable as possible. Create memories.

Whereas the more bottom funnel demand generation is convince and convert. That's what you should be doing in the mid funnel and bottom funnel. 


What’s one advice you got for the up and coming B2B marketers? 

There is a divide in the marketing industry right now between those who have academic qualifications and those who come from the school of hard knocks tend to be advocates for digital marketing. And those who have an academic application tend to endorse print, TV ads that are tend to be more old school 

If I was a B2B marketer and I want to be a CMO in the future, you need to have both, you need a proper academic qualification. Will you use all the stuff you learn in your marketing MBA? No, you won't. But the general marketing principles do not change between your digital strategy and your print, outdoor and event marketing strategies. They all work the same. 

Everybody has to build a brand. Everybody has to be remembered. So invest in yourself to get a proper marketing qualification. That’s your baseline. And then add experience on top. Don’t try to draw a line between the two. Even if you got the qualification, you still need that experience. 

You won’t be able to just walk into a management CMO job just based on your qualifications. So you need both and should be learning from both sides. 


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