The most inevitable trend in marketing?
As you know, advertising has pretty much worn out its effectiveness. In my experience it has been this way for years now, evidenced through increasing marketing cost and decreasing ROI. The key challenge therefore is figuring out what's going to replace interruptive advertising. This is where social media has gained so much attention - but in truth social media is powered by content, as Chris Brogan puts it, "€œContent is a means to deliver interest. It"€™s a gathering place for you and the people you hope to entertain / attract / educate / equip... [it"€™s] wood for the fireplace around which great stories are told"€.
So, I want to focus this post on the fuel that powers those social media conversations - because I believe it"€™s central to success in marketing, whether you"€™re already hot on social media or not. Consider this post a content marketing primer.
Content Marketing Delivers Value
If you want your audience to pay attention, you're going to have to reward them with something of value, marketing itself has to deliver value.
Seth Godin has said that teaching your customers and giving your customers the resources to believe you is new marketing, and it"€™s all that"€™s left. Site visitors and customers become a fan because you teach them something that makes them feel better about the world. You earn their trust.
What exactly is Content Marketing?
Well - it is not new, and marketers are very well placed to really nail it. I"€™m pretty sure that most of our marketing planning has seen a minimum of 25% of the budget go into a combination of commercial and editorial content creation and management anyway:- brochures, webinars, e-books, social media, email newsletters, and also our time.
Content marketing is the creation and considered distribution of valuable and relevant content. The difference now is that content has become central to marketing and not something that we just do - it"€™s purpose has changed - it cannot be all commercial, self-centred and left to go out of date:
- Information over promotion - Give customers what they need to become educated consumers, if you want customers to see your brand as the trusted information source, you must begin to think like an information provider, not just the provider of goods or services
- Any content won"€™t do. So listen first, what do your customers really want? It can feel counter-intuitive to add to what"€™s already out there, but trusted information is the most valuable tool - creating trusted information requires you to listen first. There are lots of free tools as well as several impressive paid tools. There are no excuses!
- Trust is central to our purchasing decisions and whom we recommend - now more than ever - if you want sales you need to earn buyer trust first. Of course your products and services need to be great as well, yet the pre-cursor to opening the relationship is information
My 10 how-to"€™s of building a content strategy
- Think like a (good) publisher. Marketers are publishers so think like a publisher, your website is a publication. For your site, and your strategy, to succeed, you must operate as though you are running a magazine - you need precious visitors to want to return and recommend. The basics hinge around a quality blog.
- Assign a content leader with responsibility and authority. Given that any strategy needs owning, creating quality, coherent content efficiently requires planning and management. It isn"€™t complicated - and yet it"€™s too important and can become too costly to not take seriously.
- Audit your current content. There"€™s likely a patchwork quilt of content online and offline in your business - it makes sense to get this organised first so that your visitors (and Google!) can easily access it. Organised and findable content gives you the base to build upon.
- Effective web site design underpins your content strategy. This is *really* important with point 3 above. So many web sites and so much content already on the Internet is chaotic - make your site the place that it all makes sense for you audience. Organise the unorganised! Your content strategy requires that there is an understanding of information architecture and user interface design. All of these elements must work in concert to deliver success.
- Don"€™t waste your audiences time! Time is arguably more valuable than money - even free content requires that your audience take time to read it. Know what your audience needs and what they want to hear (not what you want to say). Create a simple matrix of buyer personas and their respective motivations to visit your web site - use this to help plan content creation.
- Integrate your efforts for compounded benefits. Think about how content can be used externally to drive valuable visitors back to your web site - as well as provide valuable inbound links to support your natural search efforts. Whether it"€™s RSS feeds, press releases (good ones, not useless news that only impresses your boss), guest blogging, guest articles, joining a webinar panel or co-authoring an ebook with a strategic partner.
- Get resources aligned and in place. Who, what, how, why and when - establish a process workflow so that the team"€™s content contributions will manifest the way that you want them and exactly when you need them. At the initial planning stage include all internal and external participants in the content creation process from the out-set. This includes your key marketing people, strategists, copywriters, designers, and relevant senior management.
- Content marketing is a process, not a campaign. Without effective process management you cannot deliver quality or be coherent. Be efficient and think about creating a social content ladder. Publishers have editorial calendars - you"€™ll need this approach and will also need to think three dimensionally about how one e-book blog post could also power 5 blog posts, 10 Facebook updated and 25 tweets, for example.
- Ensure that results are easy to measure. The nature of the web makes it easy to measure almost every click or event on your website. To make that measurement actionable you need to determine what results you need from the outset and how to deliver those results. Otherwise how can you make changes when the results don"€™t match your objectives.
- Try new things - and stop what doesn"€™t work. Make the effort to try new things, consider creating webinars, video guides or formatting content into useful e-books, and ensure that you market the content (content may be king but marketing it is queen, to paraphrase Gary Vaynerchuck), if webinars registration are too low test practical things like frequency, time, message and where you"€™re trying to attract visitors. Shake it up.