When embarking on a content marketing initiative, you might think you need a significant library of content to get things going or attract attention. But if you go big enough with just one epic piece of content, it can fuel your content strategy for quite a while, allow for lots of spinoff content, and drive huge ROI.
Whether it’s an e-book, a whitepaper, infographics, or a video, “big rock content” can result in major returns on your time and money investment. “Whatever it is, it has to be big,” said Jason Miller, LinkedIn’s Head of Content and Social Media Marketing at NewsCred’s ThinkContent London event. He’s one of the loudest industry cheerleaders for big rock content, and has the results to prove that it works.
Consider this: “The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide To LinkedIn,” achieved an ROI of 18,000 percent when it launched back in 2014, and is still LinkedIn’s number one asset today. It was most recently updated for 2017, and runs 48 pages.
Building buzz, awareness, and impressions
After the blood, sweat, and tears of putting together its Breaking2 campaign – Nike’s big rock content project to chronicle if it was possible to run a marathon in less than two hours – it crossed the finish line with style. Some are even comparing Nike’s success to Red Bull’s infamous Stratos stunt, which featured daredevil Felix Baumgartner successfully jumping to Earth from the stratosphere.
Nike’s Breaking2 took two years and many different collaborators to put together, and culminated in more than 13.1 million people watching the livestream of the race on Nike’s Twitter page. As a follow-up, there was an hour-long documentary special produced with National Geographic, which brought in another million and a half views. A post-race teaser video has been viewed 6.5 million times on Facebook.
Nike also had almost 600,000 mentions on social media, with the hashtag #Breaking2 being used more than 400,000 times, garnering more than 2 trillion impressions.
But there was so much more to the project than just the live event. In the leadup to the race, Nike created features on each of the three runners, and other pieces about its innovative shoe line.
Big rock tip: If you come up with a great idea, whether it’s commissioning an industry study, filming a documentary, or writing a definitive guide to help your customers, don’t fixate on the time and budget investment. Think about what such a piece of content can do to help establish your brand’s voice, position it as a thought leader, and/or showcase outstanding customer service. If you can achieve any of those high-level goals, it will pay off many times over in the long run.
Bringing in leads
When it comes to lead generation, one of the most proven ways to collect contact information is to offer audiences something of value in return for their information. Many brands have used content of the big rock variety to entice prospective customers.
In fact, Miller points out that while 73 percent of LinkedIn’s marketing qualified leads are driven by content, a third of them come from “big rock” pieces of content.
Ellevest, the online investment platform aimed at women, is a great example of how gated long-form guides can help drive leads. Although the company offers some free blog content, visitors who are most serious about getting into investing provide their email addresses to access premium, gated content, like “The Go-Getter’s Guide to Investing.”
The challenge is, your gated big rock content has to be so alluring that people will be willing to relinquish their email addresses in exchange. One way to build trust with your audience is through blog posts and shorter pieces of content, which they’ll check out before accessing a gated big rock piece.
Big rock tip: Do the research to figure out the major questions and problems your audience has, and make that the focus of your big rock projects. Then, polish your shorter, un-gated content pieces so that they are high-quality enough to inspire audiences to take the next step into your lead-driving big rock content.
Facilitating the content-sales connection
It’s not always the case when you can draw a direct line between content marketing and sales. But when you can, there’s a good chance that big rock content played a role. One of the best examples of this is still Marriott’s ambitious big rock short film, “French Kiss.” It drove more than $500,000 in Marriott bookings in less than 60 days.
Big rock tip: If your big rock content is intended for people lower in the funnel who are closer to their buying decisions, include strong calls to action and clear next steps. The LinkedIn Guide simply ends with a link to its marketing page, for example. Think about what you want your reader to do next, and make sure it’s a seamless journey.
Creating operational efficiencies for content marketing teams
While it’s true that a big rock content campaign can become all-consuming, remember that you can repurpose the heck out of it once it’s complete, thus making it the gift that keeps on giving.
Content Marketing Strategist Rebecca Lieb originated the “Thanksgiving turkey” content marketing analogy, which is perfect for big rock content: “You cook up this giant bird to serve up on one glorious occasion and then proceed to slice and dice this thing for weeks on end. If you are like most families, you are going to be repurposing this bird as leftovers for quite some time, creating everything from sandwiches, to soups, and more.”
MarketingSherpa is a brand that got lots of bang for its big rock buck after embarking on an extensive customer satisfaction research study that involved surveying 2,400 people and resulted in a 54-page report. The team was then was able to break it into chunks that focused on smaller data points and create press releases, short YouTube videos, and other social media postings.
Big rock tip: Be creative when it comes to different ways to slice and dice your big rock projects. Some ideas: Turn individual e-book chapters into shorter blog posts, create infographics from data points, put together a SlideShare presentation, create Instagram and Twitter-worthy images with pull quotes, do a “behind the scenes” podcast or video interview, and/or pull out key bullet points in your email newsletter.
Big rock content does take time, effort, and money, but it should be an integral part of your content strategy. Because you’re giving your audience something of value, it will result in a substantial return for your brand. Once it’s ready to go, launch it loudly, promote it heavily, and watch the ROI soar.
Dawn Papandrea is a NewsCred Contributor.