Content marketing is fast becoming a crucial and central technique for many companies, with 38.5% of marketers making content their main focus in 2013 (more than twice as many as in 2012).
What is content marketing?
Content marketing, or ‘inbound marketing’, is a strategic approach where the focus is on creating interesting, useful and fun content that your customers will enjoy and engage with, rather than just pushing out conventional sales messages and promotions.
The idea is that by placing your target audiences’ needs and wants (instead of your own products and services) at the centre of your marketing efforts, providing them with content they will enjoy and find interesting, you will foster greater brand loyalty and attract more ‘hot leads’, which in turn will generate better return on investment for you.
As the Content Marketing Institute puts it: ‘Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.’
Make your content work for you, not against you.
As much as good content can reward your business with loyal customers and increased sales, creating bad or irrelevant content for the sake of ticking the ‘content marketing box’ will most likely prove a waste of time…or worse; put your customers off and possibly drive them into the open arms of your competition!
I stumbled upon a great article on The Wall’s blog by Julia Hutchison, head of content marketing at Group FMG, called ‘Where content marketers go wrong – 5 rules for brands‘ (although there are actually six ‘rules’ in the article).
I have listed a brief summary of Julia’s rules below – or you can read the whole article here.
1. Hit the right note with your customers
Make sure your content is relevant to your target audience. In order to ensure you place your customers at the heart of your content, you need to understand who they are and what they are interested in. You also need to understand which digital platforms that they like to use. Researching your customers and getting to know their preferences and online behaviours is essential. In addition, you need to understand which marketing channels are suitable for different types of content.
2. It’s no longer all about you
This links to the above ‘rule’, in that you should focus on your customers’ needs and interests – not your brand, products and services – when you communicate with them. More traditional marketing tactics tend to place the brand at the centre of all marketing communications, pushing out sales messages to consumers. Content marketing, on the other hand, aims to attract customers by giving them what they want and positioning yourself as an expert in your field.
In Julia’s words: ‘Creating content for your various online channels is about sparking people’s interest, and giving them something that not only helps them, or gives them some direct benefits, but also gives you a chance to demonstrate your knowledge and experience. For example, for a B2B audience, “how to” style articles work well and for a B2C audience it is more about creating magazine/lifestyle type content.’
3. Content rules, but only if it’s good
Make sure that your content is of a good quality: ‘Anyone can produce “stuff”, but there is a world of difference between well thought-out, strategically developed content that absolutely tells stories about brands, as opposed to material – written, video or audio – that is produced without a thought for quality, understanding or strategy. To achieve this, marketers need to place much greater value on the role of content to give their brands personality and substance.’
If you do not have the in-house resources and skills to create good quality, relevant content, you should consider partnering with a good content marketing specialist.
4. Lack of planning and strategic thought
Following on from the above, make sure that you plan ahead, putting some thought into what you want to achieve with your content and how you can best make this happen: ‘Having a strategic plan for how often and when you send your content out, and ensuring you have the resources to do this effectively is crucial. You also need to ensure that your content strategy is closely aligned to your business objectives, to ensure that you are sending our consistent messaging.’
5. Set objectives and measure what you are going
Basically, this means that you should set some specific, measurable targets for your content strategy – such as a defined increase in web traffic – so that you can tell if your content is working for you. Don’t just stick to the basic, sales-focused web metrics (such as click-through rate, time spent on site, bounce rate and unique visitors). Also look at the type of media customers are engaging with, as well as where and how content is shared. Make sure you measure if and how your content actually converts to sales, as ultimately, if it’s not translating to paying customers, you are wasting your time. Google Analytics and social media statistics can help with all the above, and there are lots of other online tools available that can be used to measure digital activity and engagement.
6. Multi-channel needs a strategy first approach
With rapidly growing customer expectations, and a huge range of digital devices, tools and platforms available, managing online content effectively can be tricky. A lot of planning and a solid, strategic base is required to ensure consistency in messaging and tone across all your marketing channels: ‘The most important thing to remember here is that only once an overall content strategy has been created – which will be very much determined by your business objectives – can you focus on individual platforms and look at distributing your content across all channels.’
Read the full article on The Wall blog: ‘Where content marketers go wrong – 5 rules for brands‘