Have you ever attended a webinar, shared a graphic on Facebook, or downloaded an eBook or whitepaper? There are many other instances that you could have participated in content marketing without even knowing it.
While the term is rather general and ambiguous, content marketing is one of the most common and effective marketing tools in the modern, cluttered world. It refers to the art of communicating with your target audience without selling anything directly. Experts refer to content marketing as non-interruption marketing because it is not intended to interrupt the path of your audience.
Unlike advertisements and cold calls, it relies more on content that you have created, curated and then shared with your audience.
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines Content Marketing as a marketing technique that involves creating and distributing “relevant” and “valuable” content to draw, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with intent to drive profitable customer action.”
How is content marketing different from traditional marketing?
Content marketing is a response to this marketing burnout, offering something meaningful to cut through the clutter.
The primary objective of content marketing is not to sell (in the short-term), but to communicate with customers and prospects with the view to inspiring business and loyalty from buyers by offering consistent, meaningful information.
A well orchestrated content marketing strategy will give you:
- Website traffic
- Increasing brand awareness
- Lead generation
- Converting leads into customers
- Establishing yourself as the industry leader
- Customer engagement
- Customer retention
Depending on the approach taken by marketers, the goals of content marketing can be broken down into three categories:
- Brand recognition
- Higher sales
- Customer loyalty
Here are some interesting statistics from Mashable.com:
44 percent of direct mail is never opened
84 percent of 25 to 34 year olds clicked off of a website because of “intrusive or irrelevant” ads
86 percent of people use DVR or some other means to skip through TV commercials
91 percent of email users have unsubscribed from a company email they had previously opted into Social media, blogs, and SEO have a below average cost per lead than traditional channels
From the numerous billboards on major roadways to targeted ads on every website to the sponsorships at different events, modern society is saturated with marketing messages. Consumers have become so used to advertisements that they have become immune to the conventional sales-oriented methods.
Content marketing is a response to this marketing burnout, offering something meaningful to cut through the clutter.
But consumers are not just overwhelmed with marketing messages. They are also more informed, which has made them more skeptical and savvy. They are more willing to listen to word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and colleagues than a claim from an advert.
Rather than telling the audience that you are the best, content marketing requires you to provide resources that show why you are the best. It requires that you position yourself as an industry expert so you can build trust and credibility over time.
But content marketing is not new!
Although content marketing seems like a new trend in the industry, the concept of using non-marketing-focused content to establish relationships with your audience is not new. Consider that corporate magazines have been creating magazines filled with stories, interviews, and resources related to a brand for many years.
Content marketing is highly effective for discovery, lead generation, and reputation building.
The difference today is that advances in media and technology continue to create new ways to share content, giving it a viral quality and making it a medium for lead generation and discovery, as opposed to simply creating a connection with existing audiences. Content marketing is highly effective for discovery, lead generation, and reputation building.
It is highly shareable, which makes it easier to initiate a connection with audiences, regardless of whether or not they know your brand.
There are countless examples of content marketing, and the most successful ones are those that delivered useful and nearly selfless information to its audience. The public will be attracted to your organization because of the content you provide, as well as the story behind it.
To address your audience personally, to make him/her matter
To share truly exciting information with the public
The information you share must matter to your audience
People are more likely to share enjoyable content. It creates entertains and facilitates engagement
You need consistency in your tone, language, and publication frequency, while anticipating in order to evade hasty publication
It is important to be truthful about you and your organization. Be polite, concise, and don’t talk about anything that will cause you to lie
Tools of Content Marketing
Content marketing tools are at the core of this marketing technique. Below is a look at some of the common ones used today:
They have a subjective character, which means that they show the point of view of the author, focusing on his/her opinions, recommendations, or remarks. They provide a low cost option for building brand awareness while informing about company activities. They require frequent updating and long-term investment. The impact of a blog can be measured through pagerank, page shares, number of visitors, and number of comments, among others.
Branch guides / folders
These are specially prepared instructions posted on a company website to instruct or address a concern. They are usually used for e-commerce activities or when consumers have problems with using a product, such as DIY stores or online pharmacies. Unlike blogs, folders are objective, and the frequency of updating is not important. What matters is the quality of information provided. Their impact can be measured through number of views, inbound links, click-throughs, and time spent on the website.
This is not a tool of content marketing; rather, it is a part of the strategy that seeks to establish social interaction and involve people in informal communication. Social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are low cost, easy to use, plus they give you direct contact with your audience. It takes a bit of time and effort to promote and build a large community over social media. The impact of a social media campaign can be measured by the number of followers, posts, shares, comments, or page views.
In this case, they refer to discussions of actual examples of effective business implementations of products/services. Case studies generally can be of successful or failed projects, but they can only be prepared after the company agrees to participate as an example. They provide credible testimony from business practice that helps build a company’s reputation and illustrate the effectiveness of its solutions, though it takes a bit of time. The impact of a case study can be measured through ROI, click-throughs, sales increase, or subscription increase.
These interactive forms of live broadcast over the internet help to engage audiences into more direct interaction with an industry expert, such that you can speak or share your video, ask questions, or interact in any other way without a time or place limitation. The impact of a webinar can be measured by the number of participants, time spent on the webinar, and sales increase.
These are usually videos created by the company or consumers looking to share their opinions or reviews. They can be posted on YouTube or embedded on other platforms that allow video posting for consumption by people who prefer to watch multimedia than read written content. They are great for repeatability and sharing on different social media platforms.
While it is not an intrusive form of advertising, a sponsored article is an advertisement that seeks to attract readers to a certain product or service that is being promoted indirectly. It may contain multimedia material, infographics, ebook, online presentation, whitepaper, etc. and is usually closely integrated with other content on the website or newspaper to make it appealing to readers.
Sponsored articles must be paid for, and allow you to reach consumers in high-traffic sites or newspapers without using banner ads or other forms of advertisement that are often ignored. You can add links directing viewers to your website, product, or service, though it is still hard to measure the impact.
This is a subscription-based form of advertising sent periodically to a specific group of people to communicate a singular topic that is relevant to the target group. A popular form is that devoted to the latest promotions or events, where readers can take advantage of the newest developments. They are low cost, plus they allow you to build relationships with your customers, but they must provide you with an email address first to be added to the subscriber’s list. Their impact can be measured through the number of newsletters sent, number of opening, subscription increase, and click-throughs.
Apps are intended to help acquire as many users as possible and then deliver quality engagement within the target groups. They are easy to find and install, and are particularly useful for people who prefer to conduct company/product/service searches on their mobile devices. However, they take a lot of time and money to build and market. You can measure their impact through the number of downloads, comments, update rates, and time spent on the app.
Events such as workshops, trade shows, and conferences are indicated as the most effective content marketing tactics by marketers. These events provide a great opportunity to inform prospective clients about products/services so they are better informed. The result is higher brand awareness, the opportunity to establish yourself as a market leader, and increased sales. However, a lot of planning and money is needed depending on the venue, the number of people, speakers, catering, etc.
Think like an editor – Pay attention to what is newsworthy or relevant to your audience, and when and what tool is best to put the content across.
Streamline your strategy – Although content creation takes a lot of time, usually requiring a team devoted entirely to creating content, you can reduce your workload by finding ways to streamline and repurpose content. For instance, you can find information that it important to your audience, and then break it down into multiple topics. You can then tackle different topics using different tools as you see fit.
Curate the content – True marketing starts with content distribution. Promote the content directly through your channels to achieve a viral and wider reach. Reach out to bloggers, use PPC ads, promote on social media, send emails, etc.
Close the deal – The ultimate objective of content marketing is to conversion. So, your content should be branded to allow you to collect contact information where possible, or direct them where they can learn more about you or your business.
Not everything you create is content
Content is anything that conveys a message to an audience with the view to influence a change in behavior or mindset. It could be in the form of tweets, a blog, case study, or even an app, if that app is filled with valuable content as opposed to being just a platform.
Good content has a purpose
The content you create should have a measurable goal attached to it. This goal will help you to better organize and focus your content, so you can deliver the right content at the tight time. A measurable goal will also help you to make the necessary adjustments to fulfill your targets.
Quality vs. Quantity
One of the goals of any marketing strategy is to be everywhere that matters to your audience so you can offer them credible and relevant content. However, simply creating lots of content for volume can prove to be costly and time-consuming with limited return.
Besides planning the content to create, you should also determine how to yield the most impact with what you have, and develop slowly. There are many ways to distribute content. So, if you are better at blogging and Twitter, you can start with those as you develop skills in other channels.
Distribution is key
Even when using the channels that you are familiar with, you should identify those that your audience is more likely to engage with and focus on them.