Whether it’s dragon-slaying fiction or a cookbook, turning an idea into published work is a long, epic journey for aspiring and accomplished authors alike. Self-publishing platforms make it easier, but publisher roadblocks, knowledge barriers, and tough decisions are enough to stop truly inspired work from ever seeing the light of day.
Smart businesses, like Lulu Press, know how to turn challenges like these into opportunities to connect with people and build a stellar brand reputation.
This content marketing spotlight breaks down Lulu’s strengths as well as some potential opportunities for even better execution.
This self-publishing platform built a pretty incredible stack of high-value, high-quality content. Using its blog and YouTube channel as well as other resources, it tells a ripping yarn covering self publishing, eCommerce, wellness, social equality, and more. It’s a great strategy that hits on customer pain points, community building, and brand values.
There are also some areas where Lulu may be able to build even stronger inbound traffic and audience-building conversions.
All of our spotlights break down content marketing based on the same three key pillars we use to build content marketing programs for our clients. Those are:
- Content strategy
- Focus on audience
- Alignment to business goals
We’re covering it all … so let’s jump in!
Note: As a prologue to this spotlight, check out our in-depth definition of content marketing for a better understanding of our pillars.
The What is Good Content series takes a look at how brands put content marketing into motion. Sometimes we’ll look at someone’s overall content strategy. Other times we may focus on a single piece of stellar content.
It’s armchair analysis with an altruistic goal to help you learn more about tactics and strategies of good (and sometimes less-good) content marketing.
We are not intentionally disparaging or trolling any brands or the hard work of their teams or partners. It’s all in good fun! In fact, we applaud any company that makes a commitment to content marketing – no matter how “good” or “bad” it is.
+ Commitment to consistent, high-quality content
+ Smart selection of primary content channels
+ Content that truly benefits the audience
+ Thought leadership in spades
+ Content supports brand promise and values
+ Connection between content and (some) business goals
+ “Cross-pollinating” content across publishing channels
– Untapped conversion opportunities
– Additional cross-linking could drive more content ROI
– Potentially diluted social media presence
There’s so much to content strategy, but for the purposes of this spotlight, we’re looking at:
- Publishing platforms/channels
- Publishing frequency
- Production quality
- Optimizing for opportunity
- Pick your content channels wisely and focus on maximizing those experiences
- Invest in high-quality content. Rushed or inauthentic work won’t bring results
- Link to your own related content shamelessly
- Have a conversion path for every piece of content – be it a link, a form, etc.
Lulu uses YouTube and its blog as primary channels to push fresh content. Social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest serve as channels for Lulu to share new content to expand the reach of its brand and content.
Selecting two primary channels to produce content works really well, allowing Lulu to focus and provide great content. Sharing these materials on social networks works, but we’re wondering if Lulu could make a deeper impact if they were more selective.
It’s a tough call because there are lots of competing self-publishing platforms spread across social media. But, part of being strategic is knowing that you can’t win every battle.
We like to see brands leverage the strengths of a few channels rather than spreading thin over too many social networks. You don’t want to fall into the “click our stuff” self promotion you see so many brands pushing to their followers. Don’t get us wrong, it’s okay to do this. But, you want to balance these posts with other stuff. Posting comments on Twitter threads, Facebook Groups, or other networks humanizes your brand, establishes your knowledge, and shows you care about more than a click.
In short, it’s good to put the “social” in social networks.
We love Lulu’s commitment to content. Publishing fresh content a few times per month on its blog and YouTube channel helps keep the brand top-of-mind in the community, and it’s great for search engine optimization (SEO).
We like the way Lulu sometimes coordinates complementary content on YouTube and its blog. A good example is its cookbook materials. On YouTube, Lulu posted a webinar where they interviewed self publishing influencers within a month of posting a cookbook blog.
The cherry on top is how Lulu embeds an older “how-to” video in the new blog. It’s a great strategy to keep older content fresh and relevant.
In fact, we’d love to see Lulu doing more of this. There’s likely infinite possibilities for cross-linking to increase user page views. Seems like low-hanging fruit with lots of upside for Lulu and its audience based on their crazy-deep volume of content.
This is easy – production quality is top notch. There’s a layer of polish on the blog and YouTube showing that Lulu goes beyond hitting checkboxes in its marketing to-do list. There’s care in the work. This helps Lulu connect with its audience, as content is often the first impression people have with a brand.
Our only other suggestion to Lulu would be to consider more paths to build its subscribership. We know that people are bombarded with sign-up forms these days. But in Lulu’s case, we think there’s real value and benefits for both the brand and its audience.
We only see a sign-up form in the footer of its main website (not the blog, which is a sub-domain). There aren’t any real calls to action to subscribe, which seems like a missed opportunity. Writing and publishing is a long journey that takes months or years. This makes a beefy email automation program a high-upside opportunity for Lulu to keep creators informed and engaged as they ready their work for the masses.
- Think about your customers needs and challenges for topics
- Consider the different levels of knowledge your customers bring with them
- Don’t come off as serving your own interest, but …
- Don’t forget a call-to-action conversion. It’s not “salesy” if you’re being helpful
Do you know anybody with a great idea for a story?
Do you know anybody that actually turned the story into a novel?
Do you know anybody that published their novel?
On top of writing being difficult and time consuming (and editing being just as taxing), the publishing process is anything but friendly. Sure, if you’re sitting on the next Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone you may have a shot with a big-time publisher. Otherwise, your passion project could end up being a 100,000 word paperweight.
These barriers left the door open for self publishing to really take off. There’s no shortage of self-publishing platforms helping people bring their books to life. But, because there’s a little more to it than copy/pasting, writers still need to figure out how to turn their thoughts into published work.
This is where Lulu truly shines. Blog topics all seem to address blindspots creators need – be it “publishing 101” materials and genre-specific breakdowns. Lulu offers other handy tools like an A-Z terminology glossary that busts through crazy industry jargon. And if someone wants deeper details, Lulu’s guides and templates help people learn to their heart’s content.
These materials combine for an impressive pyramid of information that showcases Lulu’s thought leadership in spades whether you’re publishing your first or fifth work. More importantly, Lulu does it open-handed and with a smile (especially on YouTube).
Lulu also gets brownie points for covering resources and tools that have nothing to do with their own offerings – this a cool customer focus even when Lulu itself doesn’t have a solution. It comes off as a friendly, helpful brand (in our opinion), which is beneficial for creators that can be lost, confused, and even guarded.
What’s wonderful about Lulu is that these materials are all free. There’s no need to break out your wallet, or even submit an email address for access. It’s fantastic value for creators. Still, we’d love to see a little more asking for people to sign up for an email or even a follow on YouTube to build an audience they can use in other marketing efforts.
Content marketing ties to business goals
- Think about the full value of your content, not just leads or revenue
- Content marketing is an awesome way to express brand values
- Every click is a potential new customer, even if it’s not an immediate conversion
This one is a bit tricky as we don’t have behind-the-scenes access to Lulu’s strategy. But, we offer our observations of potential tie-backs to business goals – because having goals for content marketing is absolutely critical.
Lulu’s story as a self-publishing platform starts with the founder struggling to publish his book in the early 2000s. That drives the company’s mission to help creators bring their work to life.
Call it a mission, company values or anything else. What matters is that Lulu makes good on this promise through its content marketing. That is a strong foundation to build trust and a loyal audience. Lulu also posts on equality, inclusiveness, and wellness. The thought leadership pieces we mentioned earlier combined with these commentary posts make a great one-two punch that strengthens the brand.
On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be any direct lead or revenue goals tied to Lulu’s content. It all seems very much for the people. That’s great for brands like Lulu already generating gobs of website traffic through their digital bookstore. But, for other folks that need marketing materials to have tangible results, we’d recommend a more direct conversion path (which we’ve mentioned throughout this piece).
It could very well be that Lulu just doesn’t need its content to bring revenue-generating results, and that’s fine. Content can serve any number of purposes, not just revenue.
What the content marketing does accomplish in a big way is brand awareness and brand values. The blogs and videos allow Lulu to draw in new creators every day, and with helpful, friendly materials it’s easier for Lulu to differentiate from competitors.