By Victor Cho
Chief Executive Officer
From Evite's Ice Cream Sundae Bar guide, sponsored by Reddi-wip
Help users solve problems, deliver real value and make them smile, and they'll reward you with positive word of mouth and remember you when they're ready to buy: This is the promise, at least, of content marketing. But could it work for your company? Here's how Evite tackled that question for itself.
Long known as the leader in online invitations, Evite set out in 2013 to expand on its mission with sponsored content about how to host a party. The hypothesis: This content would be compelling for both our users and our advertisers -- and could, in turn, deliver a significant additional revenue stream.
In the beginning, we experimented with content marketing with a team of just two employees who were originally hired to create content for SEO. We put together packages and pricing based on early competitive research and our sales team began pitching it along with more traditional forms of digital advertising. And within only a couple of months of launching content on Evite, we brought in our first content marketing deal.
Watch & Learn
We quickly developed internal guidelines for how we would showcase brands, both in text and images, which were challenged by a few sponsors eager to push a harder sell. And we learned some great lessons in those early stages. For one content deal, for example, we used promotional photos from the advertiser rather than shooting new images ourselves. Did it save us money and make the client happy? Sure. But users didn't like it. It felt too much like an advertisement, so our audience didn't share it, and meeting impression goals was tough. Based on that experience, we now shoot all original photos so the content feels like an organic, natural fit with our site as a whole; ultimately, that's best for the user -- and in turn, for the client.
Scaling the Mountain
Next, we developed a network of blogger experts to distribute our sponsored content, offering tremendous (and scalable) reach. For example, a Coke content marketing campaign that ran for two weeks in January racked up 12 million page views from blogger content distribution on top of the 200,000 from Evite alone. At the same time, we also encouraged these bloggers to contribute content of their own, allowing us to scale up to approximately a thousand articles and videos in 18 months. Translation? More page views, more profits.
Recently we've begun exploring how to weave content more deeply into our product so the content becomes part of the user journey rather than a side trip; for example, we might promote tropical drink recipes brought to you by Dole Pineapple Juice right on a pool party invitation. In addition, we've expanded the model from sponsored advice for hosts to sponsored guest-focused content to take advantage of the dozens of guests we have for every one host.
Evite has gained a significant new revenue stream and very rapid growth in our content scale via content marketing. For us, as for any company, the success of new consumer or advertising-facing products alike is built on testing and iteration.