arienne holland

On this blog, we talk a lot about optimizing your content to your audience and understanding what kind of content they want to consume, but that’s always a tricky proposition.


It’s easy to get off-target and create content that is focused on what your peers want instead of what your true audience wants. Plus, with so many content possibilities, the challenge is to choose just the content your audience needs without distracting yourself with content that is little more than extra work. Arienne Holland, from Raven Tools, reveals how they stay on track with their content marketing.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Arienne Holland, director of marketing and customer experience for Raven. Our software helps busy online marketers manage and report on their campaigns efficiently. Teams of search, social and content marketers can use a single, affordable tool to collaborate on and automate as much of their work as possible.

Sometimes I joke that I market marketing software to marketers. But it’s true.

How big is your content marketing team?

One senior digital marketing strategist, Nicolette Beard — SEO, blogging, online advertising, email marketing and outreach are her specialties.

One social media marketing strategist, Nate Baker — organic and paid social campaigns are his primary responsibilities, along with affiliate management and blogging.

One marketing UX designer — Sarah Musselman. 90% web design; some print campaigns.

Then there are the six others who communicate more directly with customers. Those folks create our Help Desk content, answer questions, conduct live training, coordinate software testing and lead our new referral program.

They’re all dedicated, intelligent and friendly people. It’s a great time.

What is the biggest challenge you have when it comes to your team’s workflow, communication and content creation?

So many ideas for so many channels, not enough time!

We are a private company with a huge customer base worldwide. We want to be a brand that our customers can trust, so we’re careful to make good decisions. Sometimes that means we don’t publish things we don’t have time to “do right.” Other times it means that we have to choose our marketing channels extremely carefully. Sure, it would be fantastic to have a “Behind-the-Scenes at Raven” Instagram account — this company has some great visual moments. But that’s secondary to providing content that our customers need, not just content they might enjoy.

Sure, it would be fantastic to have a “Behind-the-Scenes at Raven” Instagram account — this company has some great visual moments. But that’s secondary to providing content that our customers need, not just content they might enjoy. @RavenArienne Click To Tweet

Prioritizing is hard. No ever said important things were easy, though.

What changes have you noticed in content marketing over the past year or so? What changes and trends do you think will occur in content marketing in the upcoming year?

Video content has improved in quality, relevance to customers and importance in marketing. It’s one of those places I’m dying to focus — just read the past few months of articles on Think with Google and you’ll see why.

Also, at Digital East this week in Washington D.C., I spoke about mobile marketing. It’s not a buzzword. Mobile technology (from phones to tablets to eBooks to whatever wearable comes next) is a way of life. Here’s one example: 90% of Americans own cell phones — and 75% of them admit to taking them to the bathroom! Compare that to the 78% who own a desktop or laptop computer. I can’t say I recall dragging my MacBook Pro into the bathroom lately to get some work done. Have you?

So mobile is life changing technology, and I can see why brands see potential here for marketing. But is it worth the $7 billion that American marketers spent on mobile in 2013, without any clear way to measure success? Some of it, sure. Other things were likely a total waste of money.

Before anyone jumps into mobile marketing opportunities, it’s important to prioritize on based on your audience — existing and potential — and every scrap of data you already have about what marketing tactics work for you.

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What are the most common mistakes you see people making when it comes to content marketing?

1. Not knowing the existing audience and the target audience, something you have to uncover using analytics or other data. Those without a love for data can see this kind of information as a threat. It hurts to know that someone you wrote that took you three days was viewed by fewer than 20 people. But don’t you want to know why, so you can do a better job next time?

Often I find that people haven’t matched their content to their audience. Data can help you analyze what to improve.

2. Focusing on social channels to the neglect of the only channel any brand truly owns: its website. Social media marketers tend to emphasize metrics that help them improve individual network engagement or specific content on those networks. What matters to me is, how many of those people ended up back at my website? That’s where I sell to them. That’s where they need to be. Social is just one path to get people to the most important destination: your website.

3. Smaller brands or SMBs that start with social marketing before email marketing.

4. No unique voice or ideas to contribute to the conversation.

5. Creating content for peers, not for audiences. This happens a lot with search marketers. They write and write and write in obvious bids to get the attention of industry influencers. I never can figure out why, because surely if they spent all that time writing content to help their clients understand search marketing, they would end up with more business.

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What were you hoping would happen once you began content marketing?

I was hoping that I would get faster at writing. Less wordy. No such luck. Nate Baker of Raven has a strategy — see his excellent 5 Personal Writing Metrics Every Content Marketer Should Track — but that’s too much work for me.

What has been the most noticeable effect from content marketing?

Hands down: organic traffic. Without links and shares and positive recommendations based on your content, it’s pretty hard to get attention in search engine results. Plus, links and shares and positive recommendations lead to great referral traffic, too.

What tools and platforms do you use to help you with your content marketing and social media?

  • Raven’s internal, proprietary customer data management system (nothing like your very own data to inform your marketing!)
  • Raven, particularly Site Auditor and Research Central
  • WordPress
  • Google Analytics
  • Campaign Monitor
  • Slack
  • Wunderlist
  • Google Apps (all of them)
  • Microsoft Office (all of them, especially Excel)
  • OmmWriter
  • Zendesk
  • iDoneThis
  • Feedly
  • Zapier
  • CoSchedule
  • Pocket
  • Buffer (until Raven rolls out social scheduling!)
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • TrueSocialMetrics (until Raven provides more proprietary metrics!)
  • Cloud
  • InVision
  • Vimeo
  • Wistia
  • Screenflow
  • Jing
  • Keynote
  • PhotoShop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Rapportive
  • iMovie
  • GoToWebinar and GoToMeeting
  • PRNewswire (specifically, Agility)
  • Scribe
  • GAConfig
  • BrowserStack

Raven Tools + CoSchedule

Kind of sort of in that order. I’m something of a tool junkie. There are more that I won’t share for privacy reasons.

I don’t know anything about Google AdWords. Nothing. Nada.

What three things would you tell someone who was thinking about using content marketing for their brand or website?

  1. Determine your current audience based on data.
  2. Define your target audience based on business goals and data. Align (or realign) your content marketing accordingly.
  3. Before you publish (heck, before you start a project), ask: Is this relevant to my audience? Is it timely for my audience? Is it interesting to my audience? Will this help me achieve business goals? If you can’t check off at least one of the first three questions AND the last one, work on something else.