Fundamentally content marketing is the process of creating and distributing content, in any one of a whole range of formats, that is valuable to your customers and potential customers with a goal of new driving leads/sales, increasing customer retention rates or uplifting lifetime value.
However, content marketing is not about writing ads – content marketing sells your brand or service more subtly by creating relationships and trust, and whilst your own goal is ultimately to sell, the customer should see value in that content without purchasing from you – in fact, by delivering them content without selling, you will be creating a very strong brand loyalty.
This type of content should engage your readers to look forward to your next publication, and to share it among their peers.
What is the goal of content marketing?
Awareness, engagement and trust. Simply put that’s it. Content marketing is about focusing on the complete customer life cycle, and building a relationship from the outset, you may be producing content for customers you don’t know yet, but for them you are already holding their hand, guiding them through their journey, offering support, and more subtly – delivering solutions. By the time them come to engage with you, they already know you, see your expertise and have confidence in your ability to help them – and that’s before your sales team have even lifted a finger. Of course, all of this comes back to the customer buying cycle, which you and your team are no doubt familiar with, but let’s recap:
- Awareness – the (potential) customer has a need or problem – and now knows there is a solution to that problem
- Research – the customer is now analysing the different solutions available to ascertain what criteria they are looking for in their particular case
- Consideration – the process of shortlisting solutions and start of the ROI comparisons
- Buy – the customer is now ready to engage with you and buy your product or service.
Your traditional advertising and sales team are likely to address the two latter parts of this cycle, but content marketing will also address the early stages. The beauty of content marketing is in fact that you can address all four through different types of content on different channels. And because of the nature of content marketing, you can focus your efforts directly for your chosen audience.
What else can you achieve with content marketing?
Whilst the primary objective is to attract and engage new customers by creating a strong relationship with your brand, I have worked with clients who have a range of objectives:
- Additional revenue streams through monetised content – for example if your content is genuinely valuable you can ask for something in return – whether that’s their email address or credit card number there are a range of ways to monetise content from pay to view, third party ads on your content or a subscriber model to view your entire library.
- Reduce marketing costs – many firms are paying huge fees for advertising in traditional fashions. Content marketing encourages natural (free) sharing and distribution amongst your potential customers
- Establishing relationships with other organisations and peers – by working with experts in your field, or those offering complementary (but not competitive) products and services you can quickly increase your reach, exposure and authority.
- Increase lifetime value of your customer base – by creating content for an audience that you have already engaged with you can up sell, cross sell and resell.
Why is content marketing so important?
Content marketing engages your potential customers and generates brand loyalty, but it also supports the rest of your marketing efforts. Because of the overlap between content marketing and other marketing activities the ROI can be phenomenal. Here’s how:
Search engine optimisation and content marketing
Modern SEO thrives on unique, authoritative content and by production of great articles and collateral you’ll be fulfilling this requirement, attracting search term visibility that is 100% relevant to your target audience. By creating regular, unique content that encourages interaction with your site you’ll be fueling your SEO efforts.
“Link Building” and content (and more SEO)
I’m not a fan of “link building” (the process of getting more sites to link to yours thus increasing your domain’s perceived authority, thus facilitating your SEO efforts) in the forced, artificial sense. But there is huge value in accumulating these links in a natural way. If you are creating genuinely valuable content then people will link to it in blogs, articles, forums and social media.
Social media marketing and content marketing
A great social media marketing campaign needs great content to push to your followers – if you are already producing it for you content marketing your social campaigns have a strong and authoritative start. And by avoid overt sales you’re much more likely to encourage your audience and share and ask questions.
PR and content marketing
PR is about engagement and awareness as much as content marketing and there is an overlap here where one can fund and fuel the other.
Paid search and content marketing
Paid search is about getting the right message to the person at exactly the right time. But once they have clicked on your ad and are on your site, what do they do next if they are not quite ready to buy? They continue their research. What if you already provide all the answers to their other questions on your site, they can continue their research without ever leaving your brand. Win.
What content should I produce?
This is, of course, the million dollar question. We always recommend that you create content for customers in all stages of the buying cycle, and for maximum exposure choose a range of formats that are suitable for distribution over a wide range of channels, for example:
- Informative articles to be published on other websites
- Infographics that can be shared on social media
- Presentations for Slide Share
- Videos for YouTube/Vimeo and integration on your site
- Podcasts for your customers on the move
- eBooks available from your website
- Whitepapers that can be referred to within your industry and amongst your peers and customers
- Webinars addressing in real time the questions your audience are asking, with on demand versions available to support your video efforts.
By supporting your products in this way you create a USP that sets you apart from everyone else selling the same or similar products.
When choosing the theme of each item of content we recommend using all the keyword tools available to look at trends and search volumes, but also ask your customers what they want to know. Ask your sales and support team what questions they are asked. When you explain your business to family and friends listen to the questions they have as they will have knowledge gaps that may not have even occurred to your or your existing customers, as they are not immersed in your industry. Once you have these questions turn them into themes and then add value by giving even more.
How do I start content marketing?
If you want to try your hand at hand at content marketing start with your blog. Write answers to the questions you are being asked every day, as you know for sure that this what your customers want to know.
Take time to learn the basics such as formatting tips to make reading easy, great headlines that will attract attention and imagery (which you can source for free on many stock image sites).
Of course, you are subject to limitations by your time and availability, and the readership of your blog. If you really want to get a good content marketing program going then we suggest you make this a part of the responsibilities of one of your team – or of course bring in an outside team to work on strategy and production, leaving you free to do what you do best – manage your business.
For help getting started in content marketing please read more about our content marketing services and feel free to contact us for no obligation advice.