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Why Content Marketing is the future. And the present

03/04/2012 | Matthew Robins

What is Content Marketing?

Content Marketing is an umbrella term which encompasses all marketing activities that involve creating and sharing “content” (which might be text, data, pictures, video, or any other proprietary material) to appeal to existing and potential customers.

Why is Content Marketing important?

Traditional marketing methods are becoming less relevant to customers and businesses. Consumers - especially millennials - are savvy to old school “broadcast” marketing; they’re looking for something more engaging and authentic.

This can be achieved by Content Marketing.

Delivering high quality, relevant and valuable information to consumers is more likely to result in profitable responses from them than the traditional method of just shouting as loudly as you can afford to about how good/cheap/new/big you are.

What are the goals?

Content Marketing can achieve a variety of business goals, including:

  • thought leadership, and improving customer engagement and retention

    and, more measurably:
  • lead generation and increasing direct sales.

How do we do it?

“Content” is an unfortunately generic term. In practice, you might be looking to:

  • Educate
  • Inform
  • Alert
  • Entertain
  • Amuse.

The right kind of content will depend on your business.

But providing content that is of interest to your audience, relevant to them, and delivered in a way that is timely and sensitive to the way they consume information, will result in your brand’s profile being improved in the eyes of the customer.

And here’s the top tip: you don’t have to be an originator of content to have a great content strategy. We’re all publishers in the digital age! If you don’t have the skills or time to create great content from scratch, maybe your role is to “curate” and share the great content of others.

In the terms used to define online media content generally, we’re talking about both “owned” assets (ie those you create) and “earned” assets (ie online PR, social mentions, likes and shares, and word of mouth coverage). 

Why is online Content Marketing vital to your business?

Simply put, when implemented correctly the return of investment (ROI) from online marketing can far exceed that of traditional marketing strategies.

Whether you’re a ‘hands-on’ real world business, or operating exclusively or partly online, online content marketing is an opportunity that cannot be ignored. 

Using online content marketing effectively can be a means to reach as many people as your target audience allows and is at the forefront of redefining how businesses interact with their customers.

Are you ready to redefine the way you do business?

Here are ten steps you can take to improve your Content Marketing and drive customer awareness.

1. Determine your goals

Ask yourself: “What is my goal and how is my content marketing plan going to help me accomplish it?”  This needs to be decided before determining your content strategy.

2. Identify your target audience

Do research to decide exactly whom you are targeting. The better you know your audience, the better you can customise your content to their interests, and the more likely it will be that your target audience will be receptive.

3. Develop your messages

Whatever the nature of your content, you need to know what you’re trying to communicate about your brand. It’s the strategic bit, and it’s all about brand positioning.

How do you differentiate? For example, the message might be, “XYZ & Partners are the most authoritative law firm for employment law,” or, “ABC Windows offer the best value uPVC double glazing,” or, “Acme Shoes specialise exclusively in orthopaedic shoes.” All of these messages will help define the content that supports your brand.

4. Choose your tactics

If your content is going to text-based, you can use long-form (eg blog posts, articles), short-form (eg Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn updates) or conversations (eg blog commenting and relevant forums). Or even more powerful, use all three!  They all help drive communication, interaction and engagement.

If your content is video-based, you need to decide where and how to publish. Will you publish to YouTube, and share links to your clips through your social media accounts, or do you need to embed your YouTube clips in your website or blog? Or, if you’re more serious, do you need “clean” video hosting without YouTube’s advertising, and maybe even your own videosite?

And for picture-based content, are you happy to post your pictures in your Facebook galleries, or do you need a more image-specific platform such as Flickr or Pinterest?

5. Draft an editorial calendar

This is a great tip. If you’re serious about your content, and you know your audience(s) and message(s), you should be able to plan the main elements of your content output weeks or even months in advance. Concentrating the planning effort like this means that your day to day input is much less time-consuming. Your plan should be flexible enough to accommodate ad hoc items that emerge from the day’s news or other very current topics.

6. Develop your content

Here’s the big one. First decide whether you will focus on “owned” content (ie creating your own), or on curating and sharing content originated by others, or a mix of the two. If you are world-renowned thought leader, like Seth Godin or Brian Solis, you are likely to need to originate only. And you don’t need any help! 

If you are a very small and busy local business, in, say, retail, then a sharing only strategy might work. You are unlikely to have the time or skills in-house to generate your own original content, and sharing great third party information about produccts you stock might be enough. But there are exceptions to this rule, such as really personal video product demos, or blog-based product reviews.

For most businesses, a mix of the owned and shared works best.

7. Establish relationships

Start building a relationship with your target audience.  Tap into existing communities by sharing and commenting on their content, as well as establishing your own communities across your chosen social networking sites.

8. Spread the word

Your ultimate aim is to develop a community of online followers, subscribers and fans who will promote your content for you through their shares, likes, comments and retweets.

To get to that point, you need to build your following (see 7 above) and put the early effort into pushing links to your own content out to your growing network. If your content is good, relevant and timely, it will get attention and it will get shared.

You might also want to consider driving traffic to your blog or website using pay per click advertising and, over the longer term, search engine optimisation techniques.

9. Measure effectiveness

Firstly, go back to 1 - your goals will determine what “effectiveness” means to you. 

Content marketing online has the virtue of being very measurable, and many sites and platforms you use will come with some form of measurement built in, such as Facebook’s excellent admin panel for a business page.

But the two top tools that you absolutely must embrace are:

  • Google Analytics, the free package that is the global standard for analysing all aspects of your web traffic. Your website and your blog should have GA integrated.
  • A good URL shortener with monitoring. This enables you to create unique short URLs for pages that you share (whether your own content or third party) for use in tweets, Facebook or LinkedIn status updates, or anywhere else where you need to refer people to the content you’re sharing and be able to monitor the volume of clicks. The ones we recommend are bitly.com and ow.ly.  

10. Change the plan as required

If something’s not working, change it! That’s the beauty of online content marketing - failure has little risk and cost attached to it, because changing tactics can be done quickly and cheaply. Pay attention to your data, and use it to your advantage.

What next?

Make a start today! And if you need any help, get in touch. We want you to succeed.