By now you’ve probably all heard the term “content marketing” but do you really understand what it’s all about, why it’s so important and why your business needs content marketers? And where does this technique fit in or compare with traditional marketing activities? To help clarify these questions I’ve put a quick summary together to try to explain the importance of content marketing and why businesses continue to migrate towards this approach.
The problems with traditional marketing
You will be familiar with general marketing activities such as Tradeshows and Events, Print Ads, TV ads, Direct Mail and even Cold Calling. This traditional form of marketing has also been called Outbound Marketing or been described as interruptive marketing as from a targeting perspective these techniques tend to take a shotgun approach and play the numbers game in order to bring in business.
There is still a place for traditional marketing as audiences tend to flick between the offline and online world, researching what’s out there before they make a purchasing decision or at least decide to engage with a possible supplier. But the problem today is that many of these traditional marketing methods are having less of an impact as more people turn to the internet to find solutions to their problems, a route made easier with the rise of smartphone use and 3G/4G mobile networks. In addition, the Return you get On the Investment you’ve made (ROI) can be difficult to measure and too many businesses expect instant success from one particular channel or from one particular placement or campaign with research showing that it takes anything between 7 and 21 “marketing” touch points before a prospect converts. Some of the issues facing traditional marketers include:
Tradeshows and events – These can be very expensive and when you take account of the overall costs, they can consume a large part of a marketer’s budget. It’s not just the cost of floor space; associated costs include booth electrics, cleaning and the design and build of the tradeshow stand. Then factor in hotel costs for sales staff or delegates and the opportunity costs of taking sales staff off the road.
It’s also becoming increasingly difficult for your target audience to justify leaving their offices and many tradeshows are registering a year-on-year visitor decline. To top it off, many companies have a pretty loose process for following up on leads.
Advertising – The circulation of print magazines is generally in decline, TV and radio ads offer a fragmented medium and viewing and listening numbers for many stations are also in decline. Advertising can work but you need to be everywhere your audience are and you need to be in for the long game and not many marketers have the budget for this.
Direct Mail – There is too much spam around and people are ignoring it. Even if you have a very good, segmented database, the chances of getting your message in front of your audience at a time when they’re ready to buy is pretty slim.
Cold calling – More and more people are registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
Online banner ads – Web banner ads hosted on 3rd part sites typically have an extremely small click-through-rate as most people are adept at just ignoring them.
There will be some companies and markets where traditional marketing techniques are still successful but we are migrating towards a digital marketplace and this evolution requires a balanced and integrated approach between traditional but declining marketing methods and the rise of digital channels to ensure current success continues.
What’s the alternative?
With the spotlight on marketing budgets and a focus on the measurement and analysis of marketing spend, smart marketers are turning to a Content Marketing approach. This puts the creation, publishing and promotion of interesting, relevant and educational content at its core with the intention of changing or enhancing customer behaviour. It’s about engaging and communicating with your audience without overtly selling to them.
If you can provide help and support to your audience even if they are not your customers there is more likelihood that they’ll come back to you when they have a problem. This approach can also help retain current customers and improve cross-selling opportunities.
Major advantages of content marketing are that it’s non-interruptive, it’s applicable to offline and online marketing and it can create a level playing field allowing smaller, agile companies to compete with much larger rivals without breaking the bank.
The Content Marketing Institute, an online resource for information on all things content marketing related, defines content marketing as follows:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Content marketing – Here’s how it works
Searchers have a problem to solve and like most of us they turn to the search engines and tap in their key phrases to try to find a solution.
You as a company have solutions to offer.
The content you have published on your website and elsewhere online have been indexed by Google and other search engines and acts as a magnet, attracting people searching for solutions to their search query.
And voila, the searcher gets matched up with the solution provider.
Sounds simple right? But of course, there is more to it than that. Content marketers understand that this is not a short-term fix or a silver bullet. It has to be a strategic part of your overall business objectives and takes time and effort to create a successful offering.
It’s not just about ensuring your website is optimised for the search engines, Yes, that’s important but it means your site needs to be optimised for the terms that searchers are added into Google and the phrases people are typing in will probably not be the names of your services and this is why Blogging is so important because if you don’t have something of interest to say, your bounce rate will be high and those visitors won’t be coming back in a hurry. The content marketers’ skill set needs to include an understanding of SEO, marketing planning and strategy, content creation, digital marketing and even paid advertising.
A key point to note
If you only take one thing away from this article THIS SHOULD BE IT.
Visitors to a website have no interest in internally focussed, useless information which tells them that:
- You’re at the leading edge of your industry (whoopy do)
- You offer a professional service (who doesn’t)
- You’re a blue sky thinker and a market leader (so what)
- Your MD or CEO has an OBE (good for them)
Content marketing is about them (your audience) not you.
People want answers to the issues that are hurting them so by explaining and demonstrating that you understand their problems, that you have expertise in this market and because of that you can provide the solutions they need, then you will build empathy and trust with that audience and they will choose you and will come back for more.
Become a publisher
Content marketers are publishers in their own right. New web based tools and social networks have made it easy to get your message in front of your target audience. It’s no longer necessary to rely on offline magazines or costly web portals. To keep a steady flow of inbound leads, content marketers offer free downloads of cheatsheets, ebooks and white papers that their audience will find relevant. They post educational blog articles and host training videos. Gating some of this marketing content allows them to exchange their ebook or video or recorded webinar in exchange for contact details, helping them build an opt-in marketing database.
Note: There is a glut of regurgitated content out there and it’s getting harder to cut through the noise. So be sure to create content that focuses on educating, stimulating and entertaining your target audience.
By ensuring they offer content to support each stage of the buying cycle content marketers help move their visitors along the sales funnel towards a conversion. Introducing a lead scoring and lead nurturing process helps them get more success from their lead generation activities.
It’s not just about websites. People are searching for answers on social media sites, so as a content marketer you need to be active where your audience is active. There are plenty of social networks to spend your time on but I recommend concentrating on some up front research and then decide where or whether it makes sense for your business.
Once the content is created it can be repurposed or recycled keeping costs down e.g. an article can form the basis of an ebook, several blog posts and enewsletter articles can be extracted, ppt slidedecks can be created to highlight the key points, this slidedeck can be added to Slideshare, a voiceover can be added and uploaded to YouTube as a video. All of this content can be promoted via twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn etc. allowing a smarter, flexible, smaller business to steal a march on the big boys.
Why great content is crucial for success
An important factor to consider is that the main search engines are factoring in social media activity into their algorithms. Content drives search and you can’t have a social media strategy without quality content.
Google continues to update it’s search algorithm and now punishes sites scant on content and rewards those sites that are providing relevant, entertaining, educational quality content.
But hold on, isn’t this like selling the family jewels by giving away all of your secrets?
For many people researching the pros and cons of content marketing this is the conundrum presenting the biggest challenge. Most content marketers conclude that people are just too busy trying to manage their own businesses and don’t have time to do everything themselves no matter how much information they possess.
However, the jump directly to a content marketing approach can be viewed with trepidation by many as it takes them out of their comfort zone. Content marketing is not easy, it takes time, effort and resource and for these reasons most businesses shy away from getting involved or they post the occasional blog post and send out vanilla flavoured emails and pretend they are “doing content marketing”.
Sorry to disappoint you but you’re not.
Smart marketers understand the importance of content marketing and take account of all of the tools in their arsenal, they possess a good understanding of their target market and customer pain points recognising that a mix of traditional and content marketing may be the best approach.
But note, in an ever more competitive (and digital) world who do you think searchers will migrate to when they have a problem to resolve?
The site that offers internally focussed brochureware.
Or the company that provides quality content, help and support with no strings attached wherever their audience is present.
Andrew Leon Walker
At Rame Marketing I work with clients on content driven strategies to help them to grow their business. If you’d like more information on how content marketing can help your business, read my FREE ebook: Content Marketing Fundamentals
I understand marketing strategy, content marketing and technical marketing and provide a number of content marketing services.
Contact me today to discover how an effective content marketing strategy can help your business on 01803 413481 or email firstname.lastname@example.org