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9 Content Marketing Lessons I Took from Michelin Travel Guides

Content marketing is surging in popularity, but it’s no new strategy. Over the past 100+ years, perhaps Michelin Guides have done it best. I took a look at Michelin as a case study and broke it down into 9 content-marketing steps helpful for any company taking a look at this strategy:

  1. Identify Objectives
    Many companies seem to start content marketing programs with the goal of writing content. That’s not enough. You need to tie content marketing into a business objective - and that objective can’t just be to “acquire email addresses.” For Michelin, the early objective was twofold: First, reach the people who were driving the most, meaning those traveling throughout Europe. Second, get more people buying tires by giving them reason to go out driving more miles. Your objective may be to educate a market about an entirely new technology. Or to spotlight your corporate culture. Or to build a community of like-minded companies to create a moat around your business. (See the post-script about SEO as an objective.)
  2. Develop a Theme
    Once Michelin knew they wanted people driving more, they selected a theme - though it evolved a bit over time - that focused on quality. This added an extra element to their content marketing; because they wrote about quality restaurants and hotels, it was natural to assume their products were also made to the highest standards.
  3. Select a Platform
    Michelin’s primary platform is the famous Michelin Guide. Originally free, Michelin started charging for it as a way to build the guide’s credibility and reputation. While few companies will ever be able to make money from their content, understanding where and how you’re going to do content marketing is critical. And think beyond the blog alone, though that’s the fastest and easiest way to begin. Look at Slack (we love it here at Propllr). It recently launched the outstanding Slack Variety Pack podcast (theme: make work suck less).
  4. Make an Editorial Calendar
    Look three to six months out and plot out the topics and participants over time. This can help you spread out your own contributions, ensure a healthy mix of ideas and keep your team chugging forward hitting one post after another. To come up with ideas, look at what’s happening in the world to create timely hooks. Plan around calendar events, like the Fourth of July or Mother’s Day.
  5. Recruit Outside Participants
    Michelin relies on a wide network of anonymous diners - so anonymous that the CEO doesn’t even know who they are. Thankfully, you won’t need to rely on a bunch of people you don’t even know. In addition to your own team, turn to partners, customers, friends and investors to share their insights and expertise - as long as they can be tied into your central theme. Not only does this cut down the time you need to spend creating content, it brings diversity in voice and more depth of insight (and you can also count on these other participants sharing their with their networks - further expanding your reach).
  6. Repurpose Posts
    When the Michelin Guide comes out, its star ratings receive coverage from top-tier media all over the world. You can do the same, even if on a smaller scale. If you’re sharing interesting data from a recent survey, send a link to your blog post to reporters who cover your space. If your blog post outlines your thoughts on corporate culture in a startup, share it with reporters who find that topic interesting. You’d be surprised at how much of what you write or podcast can seed others’ stories.
  7. Generate Leads
    The Michelin guides may be more about awareness and branding than lead generation, but your blog shouldn’t be. Let readers sign up to have new posts automatically delivered to their inboxes. When relevant, have posts tie in to parts of your site where you can convert readers into buyers. Package posts together thematically and offer them as ebooks (in exchange for an email, of course).
  8. Promote, Promote, Promote
    Don’t just post it and forget it. You have to get your content out there. You have a network of peers and colleagues (and moms and dads). Get it in their hands and ask them to share it. And don’t just share it on Twitter and LinkedIn once - if the topic is evergreen, and you have a lively timeline, schedule it to post as often as once a week until forever (which we’ll be doing with this post, for sure).
  9. Don’t Stop, Never Stop
    Michelin guides have been going strong since 1900, if interrupted by a world war here or there. To get to 100+ years is a massive accomplishment, and one made possible only by long-term commitment of time and resources. Whether you are looking at a 100-year content marketing vision or a 1-year content marketing plan, the ability to stick to it - especially in the early days before you have traction and through inevitable stumbles and learning moments - is critically important.

There you have it. 9 simple steps learned over 100+ years of guiding the world’s trendiest gourmands and travelers - guideposts for your own content marketing strategy.

PS - And what of search engine optimization? It’s certainly a great benefit of any content marketing activity, and you should certainly be keyword-aware, but over time, great content wins out.