Where do you get the content for your content marketing efforts? You may create your own, either in-house or with hired help. Or perhaps you curate content from other sources. But don’t overlook a third content strategy: content cultivation.
With content cultivation, you plant the seeds by inviting current and potential customers to contribute fresh content for use in your campaigns. To make it work and work well, you should incentivize your contributors to not only participate, but to participate with their best foot forward. So, whether you launch a contest with an enticing prize or provide people a platform to get their name out, the goal is to make the process fun, engaging, and beneficial for everyone.
The content cultivation strategy serves several marketing objectives. In addition to generating more content (which, of course, is always welcome), content cultivation can extend the reach of your marketing programs and strengthen relationships with prospects, customers, and other stakeholders. Think of it as engagement marketing in action.
Extending marketing reach through cultivation
One of my favorite examples of content cultivation comes from Babson College. Like most colleges, Babson has a finite budget for marketing and needs to use creative methods to get its message out. Based in the Boston area, Babson offers undergraduate, graduate, and executive business programs on both coasts. The school defines itself as the educator for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds™.
Since 2012, Babson has invited the public as well as its own students, faculty, and alumni to contribute definitions of the word entrepreneurship on a dedicated website (http://define.babson.edu). The landing page for the Define Entrepreneurship campaign serves as a virtual community for those interested in entrepreneurship. It continues to draw visitors and new submissions three years into the campaign! Nearly 200,000 people have visited the site and contributed, generating a rich assortment of definitions.
Babson then uses the submitted definitions to create various advertisements, everything from airport signage to videos. But the most significant benefit has been the extended reach of the Babson message. According to Sarah Sykora, Chief Marketing Officer at Babson, “We have been using our limited marketing dollars to engage our community and the market to share our message for us. Their reach is greater than our spending would allow, and third party sharing is much more powerful than us talking about ourselves.” Beyond the growth in online visitors, the campaign has driven a measurable increase in inquiries about the school’s programs. This is the power of content cultivation.
Crowd-sourcing Super Bowl Ads
For a highly visible example of content cultivation, what better than a Super Bowl ad.
Prior to each Super Bowl, Doritos invites independent filmmakers to submit 30-second commercials as part of its “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. This year the company received more than 4,900 submissions. What a high number of people spending time and effort thinking about how to sell Doritos! (That, in itself, is marketing genius). After selecting the top ten entries, the company determines which ads to air based on voting from two key communities:
- The public (Doritos customers and potential customers)
- Doritos employees (important brand advocates and representatives)
By opening up the contest to voting, Doritos increases the number of people who have an interest in the results, which contributes to a higher level of brand visibility. Each year, the resulting ads are pretty amazing, with this year’s winners being “The Middle Seat” and “When Pigs Fly”. Beyond generating unique, outstanding content, this campaign as a whole undoubtedly strengthens relationships and customer engagement around the Doritos brand. Content cultivation works.
Cultivating Endless Possibilities
You may not have the budget to sponsor a Super Bowl ad, but you can certainly use this strategy to start flexing your engagement marketing skills and have a real-time conversation with your customers. Try asking others for their best ideas for your campaigns. Invite people to contribute photos, six-second videos, or Twitter updates. Create a contest and open the voting to key communities.
Just think—beyond gathering creative content to fuel your content pipeline, you will also increase awareness, customer loyalty, and employee engagement. That’s a pretty good harvest for your marketing investment!
What are some other examples of content cultivation you’ve seen? Have you used this strategy in your organization? Share your responses in the comments below.