Tracy Island Blindfold – Finding Your Place on the Content Marketing Maturity Model.

I never played Pin The Tail On The Donkey at birthday parties when I was a kid. But there’s no need to feel sorry for me, because we played a much better version of the game – we played Tracy Island.  TracyIsland

Tracy Island, of course, being the secret island headquarters of International Rescue, the team at the center of the classic Thunderbirds TV show. It was Thunderbirds, and its companion shows, that sparked my interest in machines – in fact seeing some of the amazing machines we produce at Caterpillar makes me sometimes feel like I’m walking into the Thunderbirds set. So back to Tracy Island and boyhood birthday parties; instead of the paper drawing of a donkey we would paste up a map of Tracy Island and the goal for the blindfolded child was to see if they could find the secret launch pad of one of the International Rescue vehicles. This meant that instead of one place to aim for there were three.

The more I thought about how would you position yourself on the Content Marketing Maturity Map I presented in my last post, the more I realized that there was no single point on the map that would adequately convey a company’s place on the Content Marketing journey.

The truth is that you probably span a range of points across the model. If you take the manufacturing industry as a whole, which is where I spend my time these days, it is an industry that is traditionally focused on the features and functions of a product – and I’m sure every company would think of themselves as a thought leader, yet most of the product content online is SEO driven rather than value message driven. What value messaging there is tends to be at the Brand level rather than at the customer evangelist.

So the map for a traditional manufacturing company may look something like this:


On the other hand, the software industry, where I spent half my career to date, is less about the brand (Apple being the obvious exception) and more about the value of the solution to the customer than the product features. Therefore the map for a software company may look something like this:


There is no one size fits all methodology for finding your place on your journey, you have to take an honest look at different aspects of your business and how you use content in the related marketing efforts.

But even if you find yourself all over the island, then like the craft of International Rescue on their way to an incident, you should all be pointed in the same direction and getting there as fast as you can.

“Are We There Yet?” – Developing a Content Marketing Maturity Model

“It’s just around the corner.” – When I was a youngster travelling the highways and byways of the British road system in the back of my parents’ car that was my father’s stock answer to the toddler’s favorite lament of “Are we there yet?” – The thing was he never specified exactly which corner he was talking about. It kept me quiet for a while until I realized that we had been around several more corners since I last asked and we still hadn’t arrived at our destination. It didn’t take me long to learn that as much as I loved travelling as a kid, and still do, that not having context for where we were on those journeys drove me crazy. I still eschew the inflight movie choices on the seat back screens when flying long distances in favor of the moving map display. I like to know where I am.

The same could be said of developing a Content Marketing Strategy, I like to know where I am on the journey.

The obvious answer for knowing where you are is to have a map; something that helps you connect the start and end points.

When you are working on the tactical implementations of content creation, management, and distribution those maps are your editorial calendars, and project plans – But what about at a higher level? How do you know where you are in the development and execution of your overall strategy? Do you have something that will guide you and your team to stay on the right path?

The best answer is to measure yourself against your goals and the steps it takes to get there. Just how mature is your current process when measured against your overall vision? For this you need to develop a maturity model.

The best way to start is to seek out some existing maturity models and see if they align with your journey. A quick Google search brings back over a million hits on the term “content marketing maturity model,” that’s a lot to choose from.

One of my personal models is the one developed by Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute and referenced in Joe Pulizzi’s excellent book “Epic Content Marketing.” It’s an excellent starting point, but I found it missing something when aligning it to business goals.

On the other hand the model developed by Top Rank OnLine Marketing , which I also like, is maybe a bit too linear and business focused to the detriment of the broader vision.

So in the best traditions of hip-hop artists everywhere (of which I am most certainly not one), I created a mash-up of the two models; making a few changes here and there, putting a slightly different spin on some items.

Below is my version of a Content Marketing Maturity Model that I believe covers most needs and will help you map out your content marketing journey.

Content Marketing Maturity Model

In the next post I’ll dig deeper into how you decide where you are on that journey, and figure out where to place the “You Are Here” pin on the model.

A Single Word Can Say So Much

This video has been around for a while now, I think it was first posted early in 2013, and I’ve watched it several times, enjoying it as a nice piece of humorous advertising that plays to our obsession with technology and gadgets. – In short it’s a fun piece.

But today a friend of mine referenced it from another perspective, one that made me look at it with new eyes.

It’s not only a witty piece of advertising, it’s a great piece of content marketing that works for a global audience.

It’s message is universal, it works across many cultural boundaries by playing on shared human experiences (and needs!), and by only using a single word, a name, it also crosses language barriers.

Why over-complicate your message, when with a bit of thought and ingenuity, so much can be said to so many with but a single word and some well thought out images telling a basic human story.



A Rockin’ Quote to Kick Off 2014

It’s a year ago today that I officially started my current role as the Content Marketing Manager for Caterpillar. And what a year it’s been: I have learned so much in the last twelve months, both about myself, and about the challenges of introducing the idea of Content as an asset into a large global enterprise.

A lot of my time during 2013 was spent in what I guess could be termed “education mode.” Working with various business units and other groups around the company discussing how we can leverage the content they have, or are creating, to tell better stories about how we help make our customer’s around the world succesful.

The Content Marketing role is a new one to the organization, therefore it’s not surprising that one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked is “What exactly is Content Marketing?” – Over the year I’ve worked on and refined my answer, and have various responses in differing levels of detail depending on who is asking the question, and the context in which it was asked.

But what I’d never managed to do was come up with a simple one-liner.

A Twitter entry posted by Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute on December 26th solved my problem. Robert wrote:

“Marketing is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content Marketing is showing the world you are one.” — Robert Rose

Perfect. In fact I liked this quote so much that one of the first things I did on returning to the office today to start the new year, was print it out and pin it up on my office wall where I can see it every time I look up from my desk.

Thanks, Robert – and here’s to a rocking 2014.

Content Delivery – Porsche Style

What’s the quickest way to deliver your content to a multinational audience? – This maybe one of the most efficient ways I’ve seen.

While monitoring the Twitter stream this morning from various motor-sports journalists covering the build up to this weekend’s Formula One Spanish Grand Prix there were several enthusiastic posts about a little piece of plastic.

This piece of plastic, distributed by Porsche.

Porsche QR Press KitJournalist Jon Noble immediately tweeted,

“I remember the era of 100-page media guides. Look at this slick modern version from Porsche.”

While NBC Sports’s Will Buxton added a few more details.

“Very cool media kit from Porsche Supercup. A simple plastic card featuring a BeeTag. Open the document in 5 languages on phone/tablet. Ace.”

Globalized, smart, slick, and in keeping with the brand. Delivering content to a well-defined community in the way that works best for them. – Brilliant piece of content marketing.

From a marketing perspective it’s also interesting to note that Porsche aren’t even competing in the main GP event. They don’t have an F1 team, nor do they supply engines anymore. They do however have supply all the cars for one of the, normally ignored, supporting events – yet they got a sizable share of the journalists’ attention and social media buzz this morning.



And I found out that the British refer to QR Codes as BeeTags – apparently named after a popular QR Code generation software.  – This plays to a conversation I had at the STC Conference in Atlanta last week discussing the fact that just because something is written in English, it doesn’t mean it is equally understood in all English speaking markets. – Maybe that’s a subject for another blog post.


Your Content Should Do An About Turn

Yesterday, while working on my notes for an upcoming webinar on content strategy, I kept using the phrase that the content we wanted to produce was “customer facing.”

That seems fair enough, right? We produce content that we want our customers to find, so it should be facing them.

Later in the evening the phrase “customer facing” kept running around my mind. There was something wrong with it.

Then I realized that referring to our content as “customer facing” is just another way of reinforcing the traditional inside-out broadcast model.

Here’s some content we think you need, but now we’re being clever and modern by putting it somewhere you can find it by using social media, SEO, and good stuff like that.

The “customer facing” channels may be new, but the thought behind the content is the same. This is us telling you something.

So what to do about it?

We need to turn things around.

Instead of being “customer facing,” our content should be CUSTOMER DRIVEN.

Content needs should come from the outside in.

For instance as a car buyer, I’d like to be delivered content that seamlessly, through my ownership, helps me configure, purchase, operate, maintain, and then sell the car. Perhaps along the way helping me socialize (on line, or face-to-face) with other owners of the same model.

Are you listening to what your customers need across every stage of their ownership of your product?

Which way is your content facing?

Sheldon Cooper and Brand Deflection

A couple of days ago we were having new carpet laid throughout the house, and at one point during the day I was walking out to my car for a coffee run when the head of the carpet crew looked up and asked me if I liked the TV show “The Big Bang Theory.

The question threw me for a second, not because I don’t like the show – I do. It’s a must watch for my family – but as to why he’d asked in the first place. I must have looked puzzled, because by way of explanation he pointed in my direction and said “Your shirt.”

At the office I may be all dressed up, but the days I’m working from home you are more likely to find me in jeans, sneakers and a superhero logo t-shirt. The thing is I don’t own any Big Bang Theory shirts. Not a single “Bazinga !” adorns my closet space.

I looked down and realized I was wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt. Just like this one.

sheldonshirtThe one that Sheldon Cooper often wears on The Big Bang Theory. – Mystery solved.

On my drive to grab my drink I started to think about what had just happened. In my Content Marketing role at Caterpillar a major consideration is how we build and develop messaging and content that supports the brand message and the brand story. Ideally every interaction with the brand (and that includes the logo – perhaps the most frequent brand encounter) should reinforce the brand’s promise.

Yet my carpet guy had seen the Green Lantern logo, a brand owned by DC Comics and by association, its parent company, Warner Bros., but associated it with a completely different property and message. In this case one owned by CBS.

The more I thought about DC Comics brand placement on The Big Bang Theory the more I realized that as much as it’s cool for me as a comics geek to play spot the reference, I’m not sure Warner Bros. is getting the business value it wants from that relationship.

comic_book_storeThe comic book store featured in the show seems to stock only DC Comics related titles and merchandise (Click on picture above to get a good look at the stock); but whenever comics, or comics characters are mentioned on the show in dialog it is usually a conversation about Marvel characters. Characters and brands owned by the directly competitive comics publisher, who are now owned by Disney.

In a recent episode the girls on the show ventured into the comic book store to see what it was that was so important to their boy-friends/husband; and then spent half the show discussing the physics of Thor’s hammer. Thor being yet another Marvel character.

So what are DC Comics and Warner Bros paying for with this brand and product placement? Is it brand awareness? To me it seems more like brand deflection.

How is your brand message being used and communicated. What channels are you using to spread your brand’s story.?

Is your value message getting through, or is it being deflected?




Beer is Content … and so is Bacon.

“Beer is Content”  – I saw that quote pop up on my Twitter stream a while back (apologies that I’ve forgotten who exactly posted it), and it made me smile. While it seemed like a cute saying, I couldn’t figure out any relevant context, except maybe as a t-shirt slogan.

Until yesterday morning at Dallas Fort-Worth airport. As I was walking from the nearest Starbucks back to my gate I passed the usual line up of airport eateries including representative samples from various chains. As it was mid-morning most were quiet and the various hosts and hostesses were leaning against the doors looking suitably bored.

All except the host from the branch of TGI Friday’s. He had stepped out into the flow of passengers walking by and was politely trying to engage a few in conversation. As I got closer I saw him zero in on a group of about five guys in their mid-twenties.

Hey are you guys hungry?” he asked, “Maybe in need of a cold beer?

They stopped. He had very quickly engaged his potential customers by offering them a solution to their immediate need. Once he had their attention he started to talk to them about various items on the menu.

menuHe was multichannel publishing the content he had to hand. Content that had been originally developed for print was now being used as audio. He was supplementing it by adding a few value statements and pointing out photos of particular items – adding a little graphical content to the mix.

Once he got to the Bacon Burger, he had his new customers hooked, and happily showed them into the restaurant and to a waiting table.

Watching all this it suddenly struck me that in this instance the food and drink, how they were presented, looked, and the promise of how they could solve an immediate need, were as much a part of the content marketing mix as the words on the menu.

Maybe in this case “Beer is content” … and the bacon too.

Do you consider the products you make, or the services you offer, as part of the content mix? How is product design integrated into your Content Strategy (if at all)?

If you’ll pardon the pun – it’s all food for thought.


Capturing User Content – Inspired by a CAT moment at Harley


During the last week of 2012 I took my Harley-Davidson motorcycle into the local dealership for a regularly scheduled service. While checking the bike in I started chatting with the Service Manager, and in the course of the conversation he asks where I work.

For the first time I get to say “Caterpillar.


And I get a reaction I tend to associate more with my other life as a comic book and pop-culture writer than with a business exchange, I can only describe it as he went “all fanboy” and started waxing lyrically about Caterpillar products and his experiences using them. Turns out he used to be in the construction business and is happy to list every piece of CAT equipment he has ever operated. He even has a wish-list of the ones he still wants to try.

As I’m heading out of the service bay he says: “I’ve used all sorts of equipment (and lists a bunch of other makes), but nothing does what a CAT does.

My marketing brain kicks in and thinks, “what an awesome soundbite.” Then I start thinking we need a way of capturing that, and others like it. And that will certainly be a conversation I will have as I ramp up my new role at CAT – maybe they already have a way of doing it that I’m not currently aware of – in which case, great. But I’ll certainly be looking at how we can leverage this sort of interaction from a Content Marketing perspective.

As I’ve been looking at various content marketing examples of customer interactions, from a variety of companies in all sorts of industries, over the intervening period, that exchange keeps coming back to me. It struck me that the vast majority of the customer endorsements and sound bytes in a business-to-business environment come from the customer’s executives and buyers, but very few come from the people who actually use the product everyday to do their job.

It’s only natural for as a marketing and sales organization you probably already have contacts with your buyer and probably his boss and executive sponsor too. You can just use that relationship to ask for an endorsement, soundbite, case study, or video interview.

But does that tap in to the people who really love your product and brand, the ones who get to experience it everyday?

Is it time to dig a little further into your customer’s organizations and capture the user stories from the real operators? The user stories that will appeal to, and provide all important peer recommendations, to other potential users.

Time to put the marketing excavators in to action.


New Year – New Directions

The on-line world is full of “it’s the end of one year, and I’ll make sure next year is better and different” blog posts. And this is another one – but one that marks a real turning point for both this blog and for me professionally.

The two events being closely related.

On a professional level 2013 will see me joining Caterpillar Inc. as their Content Marketing Manager, leading the team to develop and implement an enterprise-wide Content Marketing Strategy for one of the World’s Top 100 brands. – An amazing opportunity to put into practice many of the ideas, concepts, and methodologies I’ve written and spoken about over the last few years.

The start of a new phase in my career seemed like the perfect opportunity to relaunch this website too. So its been moved over to a new platform, given a new look, and the associated Facebook and Twitter feeds rebranded to consolidate “The Content Pool” brand.

Throughout 2013 I’ll be using this blog as a place to capture notes and observations around what it takes to develop a content marketing strategy for a major corporation. So I hope you will join me on a regular basis as I continue my “adventures in content.”

Have a happy and successful New Year.