Book Review: Valuable Content Marketing

Although Twitter’s a goldmine for discovering information nuggets, it does take time to digitally pan for the real gems.

Fortunately, Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton’s book, “Valuable Content Marketing“, landed in my in-box after a twitter request by Sonja for early reviewers (it’s scheduled to be published in early 2013).

Today’s post is my review of their book, and loosely follows this mind map I made (in FreeMind) while reading it.


1) Who is this Book for?

Let’s start with a quote from page two:

Don’t ever try to sell me on anything. Give me ALL the information and I’ll make my own decision.

Marketers, especially those in professional services and IT, who recognise that selling and marketing has tilted irrevocably in favour of buyers, will find this book of value. Why? Because the Kanye West quote (a ‘rapper’ btw) highlights what more and more people expect from businesses when they are looking for a possible solution to a problem.

UK-based readers will find it of particular interest because Sonja’s company is based in Bristol and many of the examples mentioned are from the British Isles.

Even so, marketers worldwide, looking to see where and how value is added to the “content marketing” buzz meme, will also benefit from at least checking out the case studies. I visited at least 10 of the sites discussed in the book and all were functioning well and ‘content rich’.

2) How is the Book Structured?

There are three parts to this book:

a) Why ‘valuable’ content?

b) Tools

c) The process of ‘valuable’ content marketing

Why valuable content? – The first 39 pages cover how buyer behaviour has changed with the rise of the Internet and the concurrent increase in customer choice and influence.

Once this case has been made, it’s natural to describe the tools and processes that marketers can use to differentiate themselves from the competition and become that “trusted advisor” and “authority site”.

By the way, the reference to UK comedian  (Bob Monkhouse) in my mindmap is very apt to the ‘adding value’ proposition. (Google for “Bob Monkhouse Joke Book Stolen”, and you should be able to work out why he’s mentioned in this section of the book.)

Tools – the content marketer’s portfolio, everything from blogs to video, is described here. Experienced marketers will probably have read most of this before but the book’s target market is mostly small/medium-sized businesses. Many of them may be very hazy on how these content elements fit together.

To their credit, the authors seem to have thought long and hard about positioning their book as a good introduction to the tools and processes of creating valuable content, all the while recognizing that it is not possible to cover everything in sufficient detail in one piece of content (i.e. the book.)

This thinking has resulted in the book being a funnel (for those interested in more detail) to the valuable content website, the online hub of their own marketing business. It’s reassuring to see marketers ‘walking their talk’ – this is something they are ‘teaching’ by example in almost every online interaction I have had with them.

Two topics in this section caught my eye.

a) Reference to Google’s Panda 2.0 and beyond… things change quickly here (‘blame’ Google!), but I didn’t see any reference to the pros and cons of overdoing specific anchor text from inbound links: just a reference to the importance of anchor text for inbound linking and offsite SEO.

That advice stills seem to be correct but the balance between the equilibrium point for a mixture of random anchor text (e.g. ‘click here’, ‘link’ etc) and specific link text (e.g. ‘valuable content book’) is likely to be a topic of importance for some businesses. Probably a good topic for some future blog posts on their site!

b) Content Before Designers – this refers to the unfortunate situation of a website project being run by the designer, but with the writing tagged on almost as an afterthought. The message is: DON’T!

As a b2b freelance writer, I have felt the pain of this approach directly.
The preferred way is to involve designer and writer at the earliest stages. (From experience, it’s even better if writer and designer are working together as a partnership, usually with the designer as the main project manager. Such combinations are worth the extra premium because of the value, service and efficiency applied to a client’s requirements.)

Process – the final two chapters describe the authors’ recommendations on a seven-step process for designing and creating ‘valuable content’ and these tie together the main elements introduced throughout the book.

Chapter 13 details their 7-step process while chapter 14 gives advice and tips on how to write this valuable content. Together with the resources section at the end of the book, these pages are among the most useful for readers wanting to put their advice into action.

3) Conclusion

I particularly liked this book because of its UK-focussed approach. There are, of course, many great content marketing books from US-based authors and I’ve learned a lot from them too.

I’m a great believer in studying success, and then applying it to my own environment and aptitudes. If a reader did nothing else but model what the authors are doing with this book and their digital business ecosystem, I think it would be well worth the investment in time and effort.


You can find out more about the book at this link.

(Dec. 2016 update: I noticed that there is now a second edition of the book. Please note that my review above refers to the 1st edition.)



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About the Author

Author: Mark McClure – A freelance b2b case study and white paper writer to the computer networking industry. Based in Tokyo, Japan. About the ‘Samurai Writer’.

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