By Edric Ho, Director, Monokrome Consulting
“Content marketing is the only kind of marketing that provides ongoing value, whether you purchase the product or not.”
Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute
Content Marketing Is About Creating Value
From prehistoric man’s story-telling cave doodles, John Deere’s The Furrow in 1895 (created for the discerning agricultural professional and hailed as one of the oldest forms of content marketing), to modern day digital media, mankind has constantly been fascinated with the creation and consumption of content.
By some accounts, the phrase “content marketing” was thought to have been introduced to the marketing lexicon in 1996. The term may seem foreign, but the use of relevant, useful content to interest, inspire and intrigue has been around for a long time. Benjamin Franklin’s first publication of the Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1732 was likely an even earlier attempt at content marketing. Packed with weather forecasts, household hints and puzzles, it was a source of considerable enjoyment and entertainment in its day. It also served another purpose – as a means to advertise Franklin’s printing business.
In its modern-day definition, content marketing is “…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Whilst that may seem like a lot to handle, content is, in fact, everywhere. Much of advertising is based on content. Billboards, magazines, newspapers, collaterals you print and give away and in the digital age, the images and text on your website, social media advertisements contain content. Every single communication touchpoint where there is something to read, see, listen or interact with, contains content, and thus the opportunity to excite and entertain.
Coupled with the idea of marketing, we are using content as a means to build an emotional connection with a target audience. A deeper intention is that when we are giving away something of value, potential customers are willing to provide some information, such as their contact details, for a chance to receive more valuable content from us. With this connection, therein lies the potential to convert the relationship into a profitable engagement.
Content Marketing Increases Engagement (and Drives Action)
What is that we are frantically looking for? Articles, How-tos, news, answers, reviews, videos, images, ebooks, opinion pieces, the latest gossip, etc. Basically, anything that can inform & entertain us. In other words, content.
Here are some top statistics on content marketing:
- About 49% of marketers are learning to drive content to align with the buyer's journey
- 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep
- Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got about 4.5X more leads than companies that published 0-4 monthly posts
- Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads
What does this mean for the business owner and/or the marketer?
Consumers crave content. And there are many benefits of engaging in content marketing. Despite the risk of content overload, consumers want to engage with content from a brand. In fact, 78% of consumers believe that organisations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships.
Content Marketing – The How-To
Given that backdrop, the next question is – and being able to pre-empt questions is a key trait of a content marketer – how do we go about executing content marketing? A Content Marketing Planner (see end of this article) will help, but here are 3 steps to help out:
1) Be (Brand) Authentic
Perhaps the most fundamental step of any marketing or communication effort is to be authentic to your brand. Branding is more than just your logo, colours or name; rather, it is the communication of your own unique set of beliefs and values about your product and business delivery that makes you different from your competitors.
It is key to first understand what your brand stands for, as well as the characteristics of your brand – is your brand humorous (Dollar Shave Club), daring (Virgin) or family-oriented (Disney)? The content that you produce and the tone of voice that it is communicated in, needs to be in line with your brand identity to ensure consistency and recognisability of your brand.
2) Understand the customer journey for your product or service
There are a few variations of the customer journey but they are centred on the same central principles – Awareness, Consideration and Decision.
· Awareness – The potential buyer realizes they have a problem
· Consideration – The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it
· Decision – The buyer evaluates from a few vendors and chooses a solution
Here’s an example of a buyer going through the customer journey:
1. The owner of a fashion retail business store finds that sales have been decreasing over the recent few months. After some research, the owner finds that their target audience are increasingly going online to do their purchases, and also spending a lot of time on social media channels such as Instagram, reading reviews.
2. The owner realises the problem lies in their lack of presence in the digital space. The solutions include enhancing their website with ecommerce functions, engaging in digital marketing, and reaching out to influencers on Instagram to help market their products
3. After some research, the owner shortlists a few vendors who can offer the entire suite of services and evaluates them before making a decision
At each stage, your customers have questions, and you have the answers. This is where content comes in. If you can craft content that answers the questions for them (and place it where they are at), you have greatly accelerated their decision-making process to become your customer.
Each industry is nuanced in its own unique way, and customers will have their own set of questions. Put yourself in the position of a potential client and ask questions that will eventually lead them to engage you. You can use tools like the Google Keyword Planner or AnswerThePublic for some ideas on the questions that people are asking.
3) Pick the forms of content that suits your budget and time
Instead of spreading yourself too thin, pick the types of content that you can produce. There are two large categories of content – curated and created. Curation refers to posting content created by other brands or publishers. Whilst that might seem to direct consumers away from you, a variety of content could be useful to your audience. Use tools such as BuzzSumo and Google Trends to find popular, trending content to share. Keep an eye on social media channels popular with your target audience, and check out your competitor’s activity too.
For content creation, here’s a list of content types and some useful, free tools
Visual content performs better, because they are inherently better at capturing attention. In fact, Facebook posts with images see 2.3X more engagement than those without images. Some of the top Image types include image quotes, infographics (demand for infographics has increased by 800% over the past 2 years), top tips, memes, behind-the-scenes coverage, employee features, etc.
· Blog Articles
Besides being highly useful for SEO purposes, blogs are an essential way to communicate thought leadership and knowledge in a particular domain. Identify questions that potential customers may have at each stage of the customer journey and craft articles that addresses those concerns. The ideal length of a headline is 6 words, and titles such as Lists, How To, Top Tips, containing numbers and percentages and that are benefit or pain-point driven perform better.
Top tool for titles: Portent’s Topic Generator
Everyone loves a good eBook, because it contains both visual and written content. Because the perceived value of an eBook is much higher than other forms of content, it is more likely that a potential customer will provide his or her contact information in return for it. It needs a bit more effort and thought to plan its contents, but luckily, there are many templates to refer to.
Top tool for eBook creation: Microsoft Powerpoint
Video marketing has been on the rise, and is set to become more important than ever. It is predicted that video marketing will account for 80% of global internet traffic by the year 2021. Video-making will require even more time and skill to produce – it will require story-boarding, proper equipment, soundtracks and cooperative actors. Smart phones and platforms such as Facebook Live has made it easy to produce videos that convey spontaneous, immersive experiences. For everything else, a lot more planning is needed.
Content marketing hinges around the central idea of value - creating and sharing content of value to your target audience so that it will interest, engage, and establish connections that will eventually drive profitable action for you. If you are not engaging in content marketing yet, it is time to consider it. As surmised by Seth Godin, “Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.”
For more resources, please contact Edric at firstname.lastname@example.org