Social media's growing dominance compels marketers to abandon their old hard sell in favor of a content-driven marketing conversation that can facilitate meaningful brand relationships with customers and prospects. In this challenging environment, content is a key tool to foster relationships, but publishing a blog, creating a Facebook fan page, or launching a Twitter feed is only the beginning of a strategic content marketing program.
Content marketing differs from traditional methods that employ interruption techniques in the belief that delivering helpful, relevant information drives profitable consumer action. The idea of sharing content increasingly drives marketers to make proprietary intellectual assets available to influential audiences. Savvy content marketers create fresh information to share via all available media channels, online and offline.
Content marketing frequently takes the form of custom magazines, newsletters, white papers, websites and microsites, webcasts/webinars, podcasts, video portals, vidcasts, roadshows, roundtables, interactive online, email, and events. Such content is not designed to hype a marketer’s products or services but to demonstrate one’s expertise by informing customers about industry issues. The primary motivation is the belief that an educated customer will recognize the brand as a thought leader worth listening to and doing business with.
Content drives the Internet as people (both B2C and B2B) seek information to solve problems. The credibility and authority that content marketing creates can reduce sales resistance, while providing an introduction to the benefits, especially the services offered by a particular brand. Those having the most success take an approach that involves a high ratio of valuable content that arrives without any visible sales agenda. Rather, they seek to educate, to provide industry insight and perspective, and to share best practices and potential solutions. By consistently delivering content that is vital and relevant to one’s target audience, your brand will begin to play a more important role in their lives.
How can you deliver great content that will attract and retain loyal customers? Start thinking like a publisher. The following tips should help you start your journey in the right direction.
1. Pass the “so what?” test. Churning out content for the sake of going through the motions will ensure failure. Content marketing must inspire trust, bolster one’s reputation, and influence the marketplace. Throwaway content accomplishes nothing.
2. Create valuable, utilitarian content. If you hope to make your content head, take a stance, break the mold, and become a go-to resource.
3. Understand that speed and agility are key. Be timely and topical, if you hope to touch audiences in a meaningful manner and become top-of-mind. The Web rewards the nimble, so beware complex approval processes.
4. Develop a brand personality. People connect with content that reflects a genuine personality, so avoid impersonal "corporatese." Injecting personality and emotion is a powerful way to connect with prospects.
5. Connect with content. Content marketing can build connections and relationships, which delivers social and SEO returns. Connections help you build inbound links, increase share in social channels, and gain visibility. Incorporate connections into content naturally.
6. Worry less about perfection, more about tone. Forget about perfection, and focus on being thoughtful and genuine. Minor flaws are forgivable, but the wrong tone can result in lasting reputation management issues.
7. Make content easy to scan (and attractive). Your prospects are busy. Respect their time. Use headlines and sub-heads, bold text, creative formatting, and whatever it takes to create a fast read.
8. Stick the headlines. Pen intriguing headlines to attract visitors. Without strong headlines, blog posts will be overlooked in a busy RSS reader or inbox, PDFs won’t be passed along, and social news sites will yawn.
9. Be consistent and seek quality. As we wrote earlier, every company is now a media company. The quality of your content is a direct reflection of the way prospects envision your product or service. The consistency of your content signals dedication as a professional.
10. Tend to your content. Content marketing should be an organic process. Advertising content is an admission of failure. Your content must work on its own to naturally connect. Trying to force weak content to spread virally is a waste of resources and a danger to your brand reputation.
It’s time to begin the content marketing journey. Gather the management team to brainstorm issues. Let each company representative take ownership of the issues they are most passionate about. Now, hit that keyboard.
Len Stein founded Visibility Public Relations to position the full spectrum of creative marketing services companies for industry thought-leadership.