5 Lessons Content Marketers Can Learn From Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2013: conversation-heartsVenture into any drugstore or supermarket this week and you’ll find yourself swimming in a sea of pink and red cards, candy, and flowers.

That’s right, folks, today is Valentine’s Day, a time of year when we send our blood sugar levels through the roof, make reservations at restaurants we’d never be able to afford otherwise, and read into the hidden meaning of conversation hearts (okay, maybe that’s just me).

I happen to love Valentine’s Day—for no reason other than I love candy.  Yes, I adore those weird gummy hearts with red dots on them.  Yes, I give my six year-old a Valentine’s baggie full of pink swirl pops and big, chocolate-covered lips and stretchable heart-shaped candy necklaces because I know I’ll raid it when he goes to bed.

But maybe Valentine’s Day is more than a manufactured holiday to get shoppers to overspend on their loved ones.  Maybe, instead of hating ourselves after devouring a King Size Reese’s Peanut Butter Heart (again, maybe that’s just me?), we can learn a thing or two from America’s most beloved commercial holiday.

So, without further ado, here are 5 content marketing lessons to be gleaned from Valentine’s Day.

  1. Timing Is Everything

    If you’re like me, you’re delighted when you walk into a Walgreens post-Christmas and find it already stocked with Valentine’s candy.  Big candy companies like Hershey’s and Mars, Inc. aren’t stupid—they know the end of one holiday signals the beginning of another.  So, by the time you’re sick of those peppermint nougats with the little Christmas trees on them, you’re ready for the heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.

    Lesson for content marketers

    Stay one step ahead of your clients.  At KoMarketing Associates, the content marketing team creates an editorial calendar a month in advance for each client, making sure we communicate with our clients—and ourselves—when each deliverable is due and how all assets delivered contribute to our monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. Then, each week, we meet as a team to discuss the specific topics that will be written about that week, the keyword focus for each topic, and how each team member will contribute to the weekly goals.

    Keeping ourselves organized and on-schedule allows us maintain communication as a team and keep our clients up-to-date on all of our content initiatives.

  2. Focus on Your Audience

    According to the Greeting Card Association, of the 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards sent each year, approximately 85% are purchased by women.  Seventy-three percent of flowers are purchased by men. Surprising statistics?  Probably not.

    Lesson for content marketers

    If there’s one thing the above stats can teach us, it’s that it pays to know your audience.  Just as card and candy companies understand that Valentine’s Day appeals to women, content marketers should have a working knowledge of what appeals to their target audience.

    In order to do so, Copyblogger recommends gathering market data by joining the community you’re trying to serve, whether that means fostering dialogue through Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, blogs, forums, or other online groups.  “When you know even simple details like gender about your audience, you can tailor messages accordingly. Filter those details by things like age, and you can hone your message even further,” according to the Raven blog.

  3. Have Consistent Themes

    We’re all familiar with the tried and true Valentine’s Day themes: love, affection, and desire.  In fact, Valentine’s Day has flower-heartsbecome so firmly entrenched in this “I love you” messaging that it’s almost impossible to find a card not bearing some sort of heart or winged, iconic Cupid drawing his bow.

    Lesson for content marketers

    Develop distinctive themes for your content and deliver on those themes consistently. “Once is not enough,” claims B2B Insights. “Repeating core messages ensures a clear brand identity.”

    For one of our larger clients for whom we write regular content, we’re developing weekly themes for our blog posts (i.e., list-type posts, photo collections, historical timelines, etc.) and targeting a specific day of the week to publish each type of content.  With our audience expecting a certain type of content on a certain day of the week, we can ensure not only that we’re publishing and promoting on a regular basis, but also that our readers are seeking out our content.

    This is where the editorial calendar we’ve established comes into play, helping us space out content and plan ahead to the coming weeks and months.

  4. Operate as a Holistic, Collective Unit

    Shocking as it may seem, Static Brain statistics indicate 53% of women would end their relationship if they didn’t get something for Valentine’s Day.  Yikes!  For these women, a nice card or an “I love you” lollipop might not do the trick; better to play it safe with a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, and an evening out on the town.  But how did America’s favorite commercial holiday become such a complicated (and expensive) affair? Who knows?  What’s clear is that you won’t get off as easy as a box of Russell Stovers.

    Lesson for content marketers

    When it comes to content marketing, you can’t expect rockstar results without all the components of your marketing strategy (SEO, content, social media, etc.) being in sync.  Content Marketing Institute maintains the only way you will “rock the house” is “by breaking down silos so that all touch points with product and customers are tightly integrated, each contributing in its own way to create a unified whole.”

    In our office, our content team works hand-in-hand with our SEO and social media teams to determine proper messaging through a highly targeted content and keyword strategy meant to generate significant results in social media and search visibility.  In addition to our weekly content meetings, we meet regularly as an organization to discuss ongoing initiatives specific to each client; doing so allows us to understand our individual and collective responsibilities and clearly define our goals.

  5. Avoid Jargon

    Shopping for Valentine’s Day cards can be downright overwhelming, particularly if you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for when you begin the search for the perfect card.  With hundreds of thousands of different greeting card messages, how can you know what would suit your loved one best?

    For me, the most well-received Valentine’s card would come with the least amount of messaging from the card company.  After all, the purpose of a card is to show someone you care, right?  What better way to do so than to hear from your loved one, in his or her own words.

    Lesson for content marketers

    When it comes to establishing effective content messaging, keep it simple.  “Avoid jargon,” recommends B2BInsights, “use plain language to convey complex ideas about products and services.”

    As a writer with years of professional experience and two degrees in writing and literature under my belt, I still go back to what I learned from Strunk and White’s Elements of Style years ago: don’t overstate.  “When you overstate,” Strunk and White claim, “readers will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in their minds because they have lost confidence in your judgment.”

So, for content marketers, there’s something to be said for delivering content in a way that’s digestible and accessible to your audience.  The end goal, after all, is to keep their attention long enough to engage them and to keep them coming back for more.

This Valentine’s Day, as you indulge your sweet tooth and find the appropriate spot on your mantel to display your bouquet of roses, give some thought to the larger implications of the holiday.  What content marketing lessons has your company learned from Valentine’s Day?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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