“So, when is this content marketing thing supposed to kick in, exactly?”

As a marketer, you’ve likely heard about how great blogging and content marketing is for driving leads and results. So you dive right in: you work hard, brainstorming and writing article after article, hoping that it has some effect, that it’ll move some needle somewhere.

Content marketing can be hard. It takes time and you might make a lot of mistakes along the way.

The good news: You get to learn from those mistakes and improve your content and your strategies.

One of the key lessons I learned early on was the benefit of using frameworks to guide your content marketing strategy. I’d love to share my experience and strategies with you to give you a leg up in the content marketing game.

content frameworks

The 2,000% bump in traffic from using frameworks

At ReferralCandy, we’ve been running our blog for almost two years and have made plenty of content marketing mistakes.

We started off with no idea what we were doing, then we luckily stumbled onto a bunch of frameworks that changed everything. Our traffic grew 2,000% in that time, with our content getting featured in places like Forbes, The New York Times, and Business Insider.

google-analytics-blog-traffic

The only way we got this chart to go up and to the right is because there are so many smart, generous folks on the internet sharing what they know.

I wanted to pay it forward by showing you four content marketing frameworks that helped put us on the path to growth.

1. The Spaghetti Blogging Framework

spaghetti-framework

When you’re starting out, you might find yourself stuck on a number of blogging questions.

And the list goes on!

And so, we came up with The Spaghetti Blogging Framework, which gets rid of all these questions and just makes it very simple:

Just throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks.

Get to work, get to writing, and improve as you go.

With a new blog, the most critical thing you can do is get into the habit of clicking “publish” and gaining visibility. Produce the best content you can at the time, and repeat. Don’t overthink it.

This idea of just shipping content is especially liberating for new startups and companies. When you blog liberally in the early stages, you release yourself from the burden of having to stay “on message” all the time, freeing yourself to get used to—and to fall in love with—the process of writing and sharing your content.

So how do you implement this? There’re two broad approaches you can take.

1. The first is to create content about anything and everything.

This was our approach. Our earlier content includes a post about SOPA, some random comics by our designers and a piece pondering whether Google had turned evil. As of writing, we’re a page 1 result for the query “why do white girls like starbucks.” It was a free for all.

This is like trying to find the perfect spaghetti recipe by adding anything into the mix: jelly beans, bananas, chocolate. You’re trading focus for speed: you will get lucky and add a smart ingredient like meatballs every now and then, but know that it’s mostly random.

2. The second is the approach we’d take if we could have a do-over.

It uses themes to guide your spaghetti throwing. Rather than just adding random ingredients every time, we might have tried out out candy-flavored spaghetti for a month, then if it wasn’t making any sense, try fruit-flavored spaghetti the next time.

So instead of just one isolated post about white girls and Starbucks, we could have written a few more pieces on other cultural stereotypes, then see how those performed.

2. The Skyscraper Technique

skyscraper-technique

The Spaghetti Blogging Framework puts you in the right mindset to create an active, living blog. Once you get into the habit of writing, publishing and connecting with other content creators, you’ll eventually want to step up your game, building better content, and getting more traffic.

Enter The Skyscraper Technique.

Here’s how it works:

  • Look for a piece of content in your niche that’s doing well.
  • Add value to it in some way, whether that’s adding graphical treatment, adding new layers of information or writing a companion piece. Make sure to credit the original author.
  • Reach out to everyone who shared the original and let them know about your spinoff.

Finding stellar content is easy. You can have this within a few minutes using Buzzsumo or simply by running a few web searches.

The second step is the crux of the technique: make something that really adds value to the original piece.

Think about the skyscraper analogy it’s named after: this will only work if the new content goes “higher” than the original. Creating a derivative work that doesn’t meet the bar of the original will likely fail to succeed the way you want.

See it in action: we saw this great post from Unbounce then put our designers to work in making it into a fun infographic on the ReferralCandy blog. (Interestingly, our version got twice the amount of tweets as the original.)

All credit for the Skyscraper Technique goes to Brian Dean, who explains it in greater depth here.

3. The Hedgehog Concept

If you’re already in the habit of publishing and have a smart process for producing share-worthy content, the Hedgehog Concept will help you get to the next level: becoming an authority in your niche.

The Hedgehog Concept is a framework from Jim Collins’ book, Good To Great. It’s a way for companies to zero in on what makes them unique in their marketplace and untouchable to competitors:

hedgehog concept

Content marketers can easily adapt this to figure out what makes their blog special. Here’s how we adapted the diagram:

hedgehog concept 2

This helped us enjoy what we were writing about while leveraging our strengths. It led to better team morale, which meant higher quality and quantity of output.

The Hedgehog Concept also ensures that you’re writing content that drives the business, as opposed to churning out high-traffic content that attracts the wrong audience.

Once you apply the concept, your content strategy instantly gets a lot smarter.

Pre-Hedgehog Concept, we would publish articles on topics with very weak links to our business, like why there should be more women in venture capital — popular and shared widely, but barely generates any leads. Post-Hedgehog, we now publish things like how a Kickstarter project secured 6-figure sales in less than a month. Still popular, but more relevant and much better at driving leads.

Figuring out your Hedgehog Concept isn’t easy and likely will require some debates and several arm wrestling matches within your team. But if your content strategy is stuck, it’s absolutely worth taking the time to step back and reassess your blog’s place in the market.

4. Tofu-Mofu-Bofu

tofu-mofu-bofu

Tofu-Mofu-Bofu is a simple but powerful framework that will help you drive conversions with your content.

It does so by making sure that you’ve got content that addresses every part of your marketing funnel, from the Top to the Middle to The Bottom.

Here’s how that plays out:

  • Top of the Funnel = building awareness about you / the problem you address
  • Middle of the Funnel = teaching people how to choose a solution
  • Bottom of the Funnel = explaining why your product is the best solution

If you do a content audit of your blog, you may find that you’re completely ignoring at least one part of the funnel. That means you’re only speaking to certain segments and potentially missing out on huge swaths of potential customers.

  • If your content is all Tofu, you’re doing a great service to people by educating and entertaining them, but it’s likely that you’re losing out on a lot of conversions downstream.
  • If you’re all Mofu, then you’ve restricted yourself only to people who are aware of the problem you’re solving. Many blogs for tech startups are stuck here.
  • If you’re all Bofu, be aware that your blog is essentially a digital brochure — great if your customers are all in the “selection” phase of their buying journey. If that’s not the case, it may be wise to diversify your content.

A critical step of putting Tofu-Mofu-Bofu to work is by having very well-developed customer personas. That way, you know where your most of your readers are in the funnel and can plan out your content calendar accordingly.

We learned this framework from the HubSpot blog, which happens to be an excellent example of a blog that has content for every step of the funnel.

You’ll also see the Tofu-Mofu-Bofu framework at play in our guide to referral marketing, which is one of the ways we’re making sure we’re hitting every part of the funnel.

Conclusion

Content marketing is largely a solved problem — it all comes down to execution and persistence.

Don’t get discouraged, don’t stress out, and keep at it. It’s a channel that rewards people who play the long game.

Have you found any other useful content marketing frameworks?

Let’s chat in the comments!

Image sources: ReferralCandy, The Noun Project, Blurgrounds, Get Refe

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Written by David Fallarme

David leads marketing at ReferralCandy, where they help ecommerce stores increase sales through the real ultimate power of sharing and referrals. David also studies the best marketers in the world over at The Marketing Student.

  • Thanks for giving names to what I’ve been doing. I didn’t realize it at the time but I started with the Spaghetti Framework, which looking back was not the best use of my time. Now I’m using the Hedgehog but I can see the value in the Skyscrape technique, too. I’ll be adding these phrases to my business lexicon.

    • Don’t beat yourself up too much for starting out with Spaghetti- I think it’s always obvious how to do better later on, but it’s never so clear when you’re starting out! I think that it’s almost necessary to bungle around a little before you start to get your footing.

  • So THIS is what you’ve been secretly working on, Dave! Wow. It’s so amazing to see our past 2 years of work laid out so neatly. Many feels.

    For other content writers reading this, I think it’s hard for us to understate how messy the process has been, despite all the tidy frameworks. The frameworks helped A TON, and I would’ve loved to have had them right at the start– but it was still tough when things weren’t going the way we hoped. There were so many times where we felt that something was bound to be a hit, and we saw it fizzle out. Many failed experiments.

    The one thing I’d say to everyone is- Persist! It’s worth making lots of mistakes and failures because you can look back and analyze them and learn from them. On hindsight, I actually wish I had written more posts with less overthinking, because then I’d have even more data points to learn from.

    To more great content from everyone this 2015!

  • Dustin Steller

    This was insightful and entirely relevant! Thank you for the excellent article, Dave.

  • All good tips David, but i’m partial to your Tofu-Mofu-Bofu model

  • Love the Tofu-Mofu-Bofu model – I’m all Tofu, going to have a go at integrating some more MoBofu into the mix!

  • I have always liked HubSpot’s content strategy, but never thought of it in Tofu-Mofu-Bofu model, this model makes a lot of sense..

  • We are trying the 2nd framework on http://www.codeinwp.com/blog and is working quite well, however slower that I would like to 🙂

    • It definitely takes way longer than people expect it to. When we look back, it looks like this nice, sure thing– but as we were going through it, it didn’t feel like it at all. Keep pressing on! 🙂

  • Robert Cairns

    Dave,

    Excellent read from top to bottom – appeals to a wide audience and gives value to everyone seeking an answer to their content-marketing problems. I have gone over systems somewhat similar to those you have listed here with my team for a number of blogs and now I have a resource I can direct them to in order to better explain what I was trying to get across. Thank you for putting into words what I failed at.

    I see there being opportunities to mix two (or several) of these frameworks to create a truly powerful content-marketing strategy. It would depend on what resources you have available to you and the overall objective you are trying to achieve, but the potential certainly exists.

    Are there specific purposes for which you would use one (or multiple) of these frameworks? Interested in your thoughts on the matter.

    Thanks again,

    Rob

    • Thanks Rob! I’m glad you found it useful.

      As for when/why to use these frameworks – I think they’re most effective when paired up appropriately with the right phase in the ‘life cycle’ of the blog. For example, when starting out and trying to get into the habit of shipping content, use Spaghetti. Then once you’ve nailed that, level up with Skyscraper. Then after a few ‘hits’, refine the blog’s voice using Hedgehog. Then once the blog has been established as a key asset, make sure it drives business results with Tofu-Mofu-Bofu.

      They all overlap in some way, but this is how I’d think about it.

      • Robert Cairns

        That sounds great – as I was reading it occurred to me that it was basically a self-perpetuating system which could move forward from Step 1 (Spaghetti) to Step 4 (T-M-B) as a naturally evolving process. Great stuff!

  • Really diggin’ the Tofu-Mofu-Bofu model. Catchy name, applicable to a wide range of topics. Solid!

  • Hello David,

    Great post. Being a teenager entrepreneur, I’ve been trying to use a blog to generate some traffic for my new social good start-up company. It’s a lot of hit and miss with my content, but now, thanks to your insightful post, I feel more confident in how I can implement a framework to better convey my ideas and promote my company.

    Thank you so much!

  • Simply love it! Great article David. Thanks a lot for these frameworks.

  • Man – this is such an AMAZING post to help us figure out how to frame our content for the upcoming year! The analogies were so helpful in helping us figure out our current personal processes (or lack thereof!). Plus, the visuals are spot on. Thanks David! 🙂

  • Akash Dave

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  • This is very simple and useful article. Thanks a lot for sharing an informative article.

  • James Hennings

    This is great! An excellent way to evaluate what you are doing with your blog.

  • Ricky Chang

    Thanks for sharing! great article.

  • “With a new blog, the most critical thing you can do is get into the habit of clicking “publish” and gaining visibility.”

    Agreed! So many companies over think it and never get in the habit of actually writing. You need time to find your tone and style and voice and that only happens when you just keep at it.

  • Content marketing in right way gives us the success in our online business in less time. I will use the techniques for providing service to my clients.

    SEO Agra

  • Fantastic and easy to understand breakdown of these layouts David, nicely done. I would be curious to know what types of strategies/tools your team uses to create your Content Marketing Schedule/Timeline.

  • These are great blogging ‘models’. Learn a lot from you guys!

  • Ollie

    This is great, thanks David!

  • Before you build any blog content we recommend the following:
    Understanding your products and your customers

    Creating a framework of on topic content to become you industry authority

    Building out a series of top of funnel content to bring in simple queries. Chances are high the competition for this is high and conversion will be low, but…

    Create indepth MOFU content to help educate and guide your readers and help them understand problems and guide to decisions

    Create advanced BOFU content on how your solutions/products work in areas that the customer would be interested in. Dont be worried about being more direct here

    Silo links from content to other areas in your funnel, to help build traffic and direct readers. You may not get a lead or rank for a TOFU topic immediately, but your MOFU content may bring them in and having top of funnel content available can help educate further.

    Hope this helps, its quite late here!

    Daniel

    • An example of MOFU content is our article here http://www.twotreesmarketing.com/facebook-fishing-formula
      in it we call back to previous content with regards to how most websites convert less than 2% traffic on first interaction
      (Most usually they dont have 3 tier content to help convert)

      We set up simple system that saw a 7,245% roi in just 48 hours, on a low traffic page, and teach how to do the same yourself.

      The follow up case study we ran with an ecommerce business and saw $18,750 in sales for as low as $114 marketing spend.

      So now with have an entry level idea, a mofu case study, and then an advanced case (BOFU) study that leads into a paid offer for our services!

  • The Skyscraper is for me the best option because it outsmart everyone out there (at least for a while) making you a rock star for a few hours 🙂

    By the way, love your app guys
    And great article
    Best regards

  • Elizabeth Olsen

    This is something amazing for young content writers because they face my difficulties in selecting the topics and also fail to describe it.

  • Hieronymus Franck

    First of all I just want to say thank you so much for this post and yeah of course for these new techniques. I really didn’t know much about these techniques in nut shell but after reading this post I think I have got enough knowledge.
    http://www.cheapseocompanyindia.com/

  • SERP WIZARD

    Yes, we are also trying some content framework on our many blogging websites. And surely, it is working quite well.

    SERP WIZARD

  • Anoop Nair

    As entrepreneurs we would first look at the cost when thinking about the ways to boost traffic to website. We look out for an affordable seo expert or introduce techniques that focus on only generating traffic. But it is very much important to ensure you deliver quality content which is relevant and help you to improve your business eventually. Thanks Dave for this valuable information.