“Content Marketing” has been a buzz word in the internet marketing arena for quite some time now, but if you ask multiple people to define it, you will likely get a variety of responses. The concept of content marketing is not actually that clear.
We first saw the term content marketing doing the rounds on various online discussions between curious webmasters. This was after the Google Panda and Penguin updates surfaced, and many sites took a hit due to poor content or linking to sites with poor content. Content marketing suddenly became the key magical concept to improve any given website’s marketing strategy. So, what does that mean? Does it mean having high-quality content on your site or the sites linking to yours? Does it mean having a blog page on your site where you offer information to your users? The truth is that content marketing must reach well beyond the content on your website or blog.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing refers to any content that is relevant to your target audience that indirectly markets your products and/or services. Content marketing is nothing new. It is a fancy name given to a concept that has been around for decades. Here is an example to illustrate this more clearly.
Say you buy something at the grocery store with a recipe on the packaging that calls for the product. Is the recipe there just because the company wants to help you out? Yes partly, but it is also there to play with your psychology. Given the choice between two identical products at equal price points, wouldn’t you choose the one with handy information? If you try out the recipe and like it, you will probably be inclined to continue buying that product to make sure the recipe tastes the same, even if you do not need another copy of the recipe. It is clear that when something is offered for free with a product or service it makes a good impression on the customer’s mind and also helps them to remember your brand more easily than other brands. By offering useful information for free you are able to strike the right chord with the customer’s purchasing psychology and have established what is now known as content marketing. It does not end there; the customer who bought your product with the recipe on the packet becomes your evangelist, so to speak. Say they cook the free recipe for guests. If the guests inquire about the dish, they will likely recommend the product and recipe, turning that customer into a brand advocate. Here is this concept represented in a simple diagram:
Of course, the cycle of making a potential customer into an actual customer, and a customer into a brand advocate for your content is not quite as simple as what is represented above. There are many loops and spirals that need to be assessed by you as a business in order to strategize the spread of your content wisely, to reach your marketing goals. It differs from business to business depending on the customer demographics, purchasing behavior and other expectations of your industry.
How Do You Know What Information Your Customers Need?
It is important to make a plan before implementing a content marketing strategy. Knowing what your customers are looking for is a first essential step in understanding what kind of content you should market. The following are some things that will help you understand your customer’s needs and concerns regarding your products and services:
- Frequently asked questions on customer support.
- Online and offline customer complaints.
- Online or offline surveys
- Discussions and questions posted on Q&A sites and forums in your niche.
- Discussions in other online or offline industry-related community events.
- Customer questions and comments on various social media publishing platforms e.g., your Facebook page.
What Kind of Content Should be Used in Content Marketing?
There are a plethora of ways in which you can communicate with your customers and build lasting relationships. Good content is a major way to achieve a rapport with targeted potential customers in your niche.
Some entrepreneurs think that sharing their business smarts will cause them to lose customers. If customers start doing your job with the tips you share will they need to depend on you? We would like to argue that helping your customers out will only create greater brand loyalty. Say your company posts content with tips on how to fix a broken tap. There is a chance that your customers will successfully fix their tap and not need to call you, but say the customer fails in their DIY efforts, who will they go to? You, because you have demonstrated your expertise on the subject. On the other hand, if they manage to fix the tap on their own, when they have bigger plumbing problems that they cannot fix, who do you think they will go to? You, of course, because, you were the Good Samaritan that taught them how to fix a tap.
There are businesses, especially affiliate marketers, that create one-page websites that scroll for miles with extended discussions on how to solve a certain problem. They say something like, Find a real solution for your XYZ problem in only 5 minutes, but when you finally reach the end of the page they ask you to pay to sign up for an e-book or an e-course. For instance, have a look at this link on seven odd foods that kill your abdominal fat. Warning: there is nothing useful revealed in this video. It is made well and it appears that the narrator will reveal the secret about the seven belly-fat reducing foods at any moment, but at the end of the long video he only asks you to sign up for an e-book on the subject. An audience looking for useful information feels cheated by this and they will never look back to this publisher for more information. This is certainly NOT the idea behind content marketing. This is traditional marketing, like ads and promotional videos that ask the user to pay for more information. Direct marketing under the guise of content marketing.
Unlike this company, a wise company is transparent with their content. Of course you should not give away intimate company secrets but you must be and present yourself as a company that is genuinely interested in making people’s lives easier. In the end it is not important if you miss a few leads to DIY people, at least they will come back to you for more information and other services, or recommend you to their friends who might not be interested in DIY projects. The bottom line is, by generously sharing content consisting of high quality information you can get your users to connect with you via social media platforms, RSS feeds or email newsletters which inevitably builds your customer base and brand popularity.
The following are various types of content that you can apply this concept to. Most of these (online) content marketing methods can be interlinked with each other and promoted more than once with different titles (see examples of interlinking in the next section).
- Press releases.
- PowerPoint presentations.
- How-to videos or articles.
- Social media articles/posts/updates.
- Social network content.
- Online tools.
- Browser add-ons (We have one of our own for Chrome and FireFox).
- Online training programs (We have one of our own on Digital Marketing).
- Apps (We have one of our own – WooRank app for iPad).
- Guest blogs.
- Case studies.
- Expert interviews.
- Expert Q&As.
- Forum posts.
- Blog comments.
- Online events.
- Online workshops.
When you use these venues to reach your audience in a non-promotional way it is considered content marketing. Respect your user’s time and give them exactly what you promised. Try to create the image of an expert, but not an uptight one. What we mean to say is, admitting that you have tried something and it failed and then explaining how you found the solution is a much better tactic than arguing your point like a know-it-all. That might not go down well with all your readers. If you show them that you have worked hard to get them the right information, your readers will feel more connected to you and will trust you more. They may even start contributing their experiences or opinion on the topic and eventually this engagement will make an effective mark in your niche.
Interlinking Your Content Marketing Strategies
By interlinking, we mean to say that you can use the same content on different platforms. For instance, use the content you share in your webinar in a PowerPoint presentation for your online subscribers. Arrange some of your blogs into an e-book and give this away for free as an email subscription. Gather case studies on your industry, make an infographic with the collected data and share it on your blog and social media.
There is a lot to plan before you start your content marketing process. This is called the content strategy. You need to decide on measurement criteria to help measure the success of your content marketing, such as the volume of your web traffic, direct sales achieved, inbound links earned, number of social shares achieved and so on. Check out our next blog to help you build a blueprint for content marketing success.
Let us know in the comments what kinds of content marketing works for you. Have you gained loyal visitors? Has any of your content converted readers into customers? We are looking forward to your feedback.