3 Brands Using Long-Form Content for Crazy Results and What You Can Learn From Them

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

The content marketing industry is hot, and brands everywhere are wondering what they can do to stand out in an ever-more-saturated and competitive market. There are a few basic answers that require changing your strategy, such as defining the right new niche or differentiating yourself further from the competition, but there’s one answer that allows you to maintain your current tactics, but in a fresher, more valuable way — utilizing more long-form content.

As you’ll see from the examples I’ve listed below, long-form content can be an incredibly powerful tool to earn a better reputation, increase brand awareness, increase conversion rates, and ultimately see better results from your content marketing campaign.

What Is “Long-Form” Content?

First, let’s define exactly what “long-form” content is. There’s not a strict definition here, and some people may define long-form content differently than others. Generally speaking, long-form content is (as you probably guessed) longer, more detailed, and more thorough than its short-form counterparts. For written content, this usually means several thousand words’ worth of content, with accompanying media such as images and videos. For videos, this generally means more than 10 minutes in length. Again, there’s no strict definition here, but common forms of long-form content include whitepapers, eBooks, in-depth guides and resources, industry reports, and extended original research topics.

Best Brand Examples

To see how these forms of content can be so powerful, let’s take a look at how three major marketing brands are using them:

1. Hubspot. Hubspot has an extensive library of content related to online marketing, having become one of the foremost authorities in the marketing world in a relatively short period of time. Though it features short blog posts (like most brands these days), its major contribution to the content world is giant eBooks, covering pretty much any marketing topic you can think of, from practical guides to in-depth studies. It offers these eBooks for free, in exchange for a bit of personal information, which Hubspot then uses as part of its ongoing email marketing campaigns.

2. Quicksprout. Quicksprout takes a slightly different approach to long-form content. Every one of its blog posts functions like a miniature eBook, complete with multiple subsections, detailed examples, links to resources, images, and sometimes videos. In addition, it has an extensive all-in-one guide to online marketing with multiple chapters relating to individual components of the marketing process. If that weren’t enough, there’s a University section with in-depth video tutorials covering everything you ever wanted to know about online marketing.

3. Content Marketing Institute. The Content Marketing Institute, much like Hubspot and Quicksprout, has its own blog, and produces occasional eBooks and similar-length works. But where the CMI differentiates itself is with its industry reports; CMI dives deep with surveys, market research, and analysis about the marketing industry that helps other marketers gauge, anticipate, and adopt new industry trends. These reports become incredibly popular, because they contain information you can’t really get anywhere else.

Tips for Success

By looking at these fine examples of long-form content marketing, we can gather a handful of strategies you’ll need to be successful:

· Do something nobody else is doing. These brands didn’t find success by copying someone else’s strategy, so don’t think you’ll stand to gain anything by copying their approach. Every brand and every target market is different, so find an original angle. Instead of looking at what other brands in your industry are doing, look at what they’re not doing, and don’t be afraid to ask your target audience directly what they might like to see.

· Try to get something in exchange. Hubspot does this especially well. If your content is valuable enough, people will be willing to give something up in order to access it. As a quick and unobtrusive measure, you could request some personal information for your other marketing campaigns. If you truly go above and beyond with your content, you could sell your material directly. If you do it consistently enough, you could charge a subscription rate for full access. Or, you could take the QuickSprout route and use pop-ups and pop-ins to collect email addresses from visitors for use in email marketing campaigns. HelloBar and OptinMonster are great options for doing this.

· Don’t offer long-form content alone. Long-form content has a ton of advantages, but it isn’t the only form of content that’s effective. Short-form content can also be beneficial, as can other mediums. The best thing you can do is diversify your approach by including many different types of content in different forms throughout your site (and off-site as well).

· Be consistent. The brand examples I listed above have developed a reputation for being content experts because of their level of consistency; it wasn’t one or two eBooks that landed them this reputation. If you want to make your long-form content work for you, you need to produce it consistently over time.

Why Aren’t More Brands Doing This?

Knowing the types of results you can get from the adoption of long-form content, you might be asking yourself why more brands aren’t using this strategy actively. The answer’s pretty simple: quality long-form content is difficult to produce one time, let alone consistently. It’s a challenge to come up with a unique idea, it takes time and effort to gather the resources and information necessary to produce a top-quality piece, and of course, it takes even more time and effort to put the piece together and promote it.

Everyone else’s loss is your gain. Be part of the small percent of brands who take the effort to produce this tier of content, and you’ll reap the rewards that only a small percent of brands can claim.

CEO of EmailAnalytics (emailanalytics.com), a productivity tool that visualizes team email activity, and measures email response time. Check out the free trial!