What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is certainly not advertising … but it is an extremely effective form of marketing. And those who can understand this important distinction will soon be well on their way to grasping the essence and value of content marketing.
Thinking about value
Creating value is what lies at the heart of all good content marketing. But it should always be the consumer who is the initial recipient of that benefit. Any advantage for the marketer lies much further downstream once a relationship of trust has been built with a particular target audience. This concept can be summarized as ‘giving away something the consumer values to gain something valuable to the marketer in return’.
Consider this key example: In 1895, John Deere, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery and heavy equipment, launched a magazine called The Furrow. This publication aims to provide farmers with useful impartial information on how to become more profitable within their business. The intention is not to promote or sell John Deere products, but instead to offer their consumers beneficial information as a gesture of good will to continue building a positive rapport them. By focusing on providing an advantageous resource to their subscribers in a non-promotional fashion, John Deere hopes a positive association will be made with the brand when the customer receives the magazine in the mail, enjoys reading the content and leads to potential future sales. This is the fundamental and crucial value of good content marketing.
The focus and aims of content marketing
While advertising generally expects a direct sales outcome – and is often deemed a failure if it does not deliver – deploying text and other forms of content lends itself to much broader marketing activities and goals such as engaging a target audience, raising brand awareness, cultivating a brand profile, generating leads, building up a customer base and increasing sales.
The preceding list also reflects content marketing priorities: It is first of all necessary to identify your target customer audience, then gain their attention and start building up trust and awareness of your brand. Later, you may then be able to convert your targeted prospects into leads, then customers – and perhaps, even further down the line, into loyal customers who will sing your praises to all their friends and thus become brand ambassadors!
This whole process does not focus on direct sales but is instead driven by content marketing, which provides a regular stream of free content which is both relevant for and beneficial to your consumer audience. Alongside the long-term aim of providing valuable free content to your audience sits the commercial aim of establishing your company’s market credibility. This will in turn foster a encouraging predisposition towards your brand and create a willingness and preference to purchase your goods in the future.
Developing and operating a content marketing strategy
If you sell fashion goods, then engaging your customers in a dialogue about swimwear will naturally work best in summer, and talking about the latest boots, scarves and coats is best left to the cooler winter months. In other words, your content marketing should always aim to anticipate and mirror the likely concerns of your target audience. And this intelligent application of content marketing is what lies at the core of an efficient content marketing strategy.
Marketing experts from the Content Strategy Alliance have defined a content marketing strategy as the process of ‘getting the right content to the right user at the right time through strategic planning of content creation, delivery, and governance.’ This definition implies that, to make the most of the inherent value of your content, you should use it logically and creatively to build an enduring relationship with your target group.
Good content planning involves deciding on the most appropriate kinds of content, and then gathering and/or creating the volume of articles, blogs, interviews, reviews etc. your content marketing project will need. You must also decide how regularly you wish to publish content, and across which channels. This will of course depend on your conducting careful research to discover which media channels your prospective audience most frequently use – for instance, while some groups will favor social media, others may prefer to visit your company website, receive regular newsletters or communicate via e-mail.
And finally, using a range of different channels to distribute your content usually means that you will need to tailor your text style according to the formats commonly utilized in each environment. For example, though your content topic and message may be the same, communicating with users via a blog is – or should be – conducted in a very different style and manner to the way you approach your target audience on Facebook or Twitter.
Finding success with content marketing
Implementing a content marketing strategy takes hard work, tenacity and patience and is not necessarily for everyone. However, if you are interested in how your business could improve its customer experience whilst positively influencing audience perceptions and improving future sales, content marketing is for you.
If you are considering content marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute the main reasons for engaging in this type of strategy include:
Being Found by the Right People (Potential Customers) – People take to search engines to look for information and ask questions. If you want your business to rank well in these results, answering those questions through blog posts, videos, and other related content is a step in the right direction to get your business noticed.
Building an Interested and Engaged Audience – The content you produce must not only attract an audience, but urge them to actively engage with your business continuously. This will hopefully lead them to become subscribers, consumers and brand advocates allowing you to help increase sales, gather customer insights and develop loyal brand patrons.
Acquiring New Customers – Converting your content marketing strategy into revenue generation will obviously be a key goal for you and your business. Keep in mind, by building a relationship of trust and good will with your customers they will enjoy your communications and be more likely to purchase your products.
Building Increased Revenue with Existing Customers – Using content marketing can foster more loyal customers for your business thus creating the potential to increase your sales through cross-selling, upselling or even monetizing the content itself.
Relocating or Reducing Marketing Costs – Another major reason to consider employing content marketing for your business is taking into account that it can produce similar or even better results than traditional marketing strategies…and potentially at lower cost.
All in all, content marketing is educational and not promotional thereby offering such useful information that consumers become loyal to the brand. It differentiates your business from others and forms stronger relationships with current and potential consumers. By using an effective content marketing strategy, you can grow trust in your offering, encourage brand loyalty and increase company profits.