Businesses, non-profits and media outlets ignore content marketing at their own peril. A recent experience I had working for a small non-profit client illustrates the point.
For 15 years, their success in attracting new donors and sustaining current subscribers came from the wealth of information on their website that educated and informed constituents about the pressing issues of the day and how those issues impact society. In other words: content.
What not to do…
Recently, they brought in a new Operations Manager who admittedly knew little about content marketing and production and who – as a result – drastically slashed the research and writing staff.
In addition, he cut the budget to the point that subscribers began leaving after bombarding the organization with questions about the sudden lack of substance.
Today, their website offers almost no new content and the organization continues to lose members. In addition, they have also lost most of their writers, a key graphic artist and their managing editor. All as a result of their ignorance or apathy about the importance of content marketing.
While this example is specifically about a non-profit organization, the parallels to business are obvious: without helpful, trusted and credible online content and information, the potential buyer or subscriber will go elsewhere to select a product or service.
Killer content rules
Dan Steiner, CEO of Elite Legal Marketing, puts it quite succinctly: “There’s simply nothing more important than killer content in the digital marketing space.”
While there’s certainly nothing new about the concept of content marketing, it remains a vital element that can reap big rewards if done properly.
Conversely, a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t work for savvy consumers who have the Internet world at their fingertips.
Instead, businesses must create unique, high-quality and authentic content that informs, is useful, captures the interest of their audience and is entertaining. That content can take the form of text, video, images, surveys, graphics, webinars or podcasts but must capture the viewers’ attention and – most importantly – lead them to take action.
Great content marketing focuses on the customer
“Content is the backbone of any drive to interact with your readers or customers,” says Shai Aharony, CEO of Reboot Online. “It is the most important opportunity you have to impress the reader with your knowledge, expertise or ethos.”
The reason content has dominated the marketing industry in recent years is quite simple: it is still the best way to connect with your customers or potential customers, especially online, where they increasingly spend most of their time.
Great content marketing also “Centers around the customers rather than itself,” writes Steve Olenski in Forbes Magazine. “It attracts people rather than interrupts them, and it’s more about them than it is about you.”
Marketing Coordinator Rose Burberry-Martin contrasts content marketing with traditional advertising, saying: “Content marketing informs, entertains, educates, and offers utility. It’s also there when people decide they want it, rather than trying to thrust itself upon them.”
“Traditional marketing,” Olenski continues, “becomes a commodity and is lost in a sea of media buy options following the rise of mobile, digital, and social technologies. There was a time advertising was the king of marketing tactics and channels due to it costing the most. These days, brands are responding to new expectations from customers by providing relevant content through the entire buying decision process.”
7 keys to help your business succeed in content marketing
As you think about and plan your online marketing strategy, Steiner suggests making content the central core of that strategy, because it reaches customers in at least seven key ways:
1. Answer Questions – Consumers often go online searching for answers to questions in areas as mundane as fixing a bicycle tire to as exciting as planning a vacation. So, when your content answers their questions, your website may land at the top of their search results, putting you at the forefront of the very people you’re trying to reach. Along with answering their questions, you can also give them information about your business and the products or services you offer.
2. Establishing Yourself as the Expert (Thought Leadership) – Think about the companies whose products you use and trust. Why do they come to the forefront of your mind? Perhaps it is because you perceive them as leaders in their particular fields.
For example, although Google isn’t the only search engine available to Internet users, we often tell people “I’ll Google it” when they ask us for an answer to a question. Google has morphed from a company name to a verb in our culture simply because they are considered a “thought leader” in their industry.
Although such industry leaders often have a distinct advantage in that they have an easier time getting the word out about their brand, they are not infallible. Remember “New” Coke? A marketing disaster for a company that is an established leader in their industry.
As you become a thought leader in your respective industry through solid content marketing, your content will begin showing up more frequently in search results because of the subject matter expertise you’ve exhibited online.
Your high-quality content has a significant impact on SEO and search engine ranking for a couple of reasons. First, unique content published on a regular basis, containing internal links to other relevant content and strategically placed keywords helps a website rank organically for relevant search terms and keywords. Naturally, that higher ranking ultimately exposes your content to more consumers searching for content on that topic.
3. Speaking Directly to Customers – As you create content your customers find helpful, you establish a connection with them and they feel as though they are having or can have a dialog with you. Blog posts, videos, webinars or personalized responses that directly answer their questions demonstrate that you care about them.
For example, if you own a flooring company you could put together a series of videos demonstrating how to replace a hardwood floor. By doing so, you build expertise and your potential customers will feel confident in contacting you to handle the job.
In a similar fashion, a financial planner can attract new clients who need help with managing their business finances by answering questions about thorny financial issues small business owners face.
4. Encourage Loyalty – Not only does content have the power to engage your customers, it can also instill trust as they consider whether to buy a product from or hire you for the services you provide.
As potential customers regularly read, hear or watch the content you provide, they will more likely begin feeling a personal connection to your brand which over time builds loyalty. Your regular blog posts or podcast gives you the opportunity to connect with customers while building that loyalty as you engage them about business challenges, community involvement and even social issues.
5. Open a Dialogue – Dovetailing off the previous point, your content can and should give you the opportunity to begin a conversation with your customers or potential clients as they comment on your blog or social media posts. You can gain valuable insight from their interaction as well as answer their questions and even complaints. As they see you taking their comments and feedback seriously, that builds loyalty and keeps the dialogue – and the business – flowing your way.
6. Keep Content Flowing and Accessible – Research shows that nearly three out of four customers prefer getting information from articles or blogs rather than ads. As you regularly update your blog and other pertinent information, you are putting content online where customers can find it and you can share a greater amount of content than you could in an ad. Because customers are more likely to research online when they’re looking for a particular product or service they will also be more likely to buy from you rather than one of your competitors if you have great content along with a sound content marketing strategy.
7. Selling Through Content – Content can serve as your most effective sales tool, especially if you incorporate photos or short videos into your online posts.
For example, if yours is a product-related business, you can utilize content marketing by posting a “how-do” video or a five-step way to utilize the product. For businesses specializing in services, photos of your staff busy helping others, or – for a financial planner – a blog detailing a step-by-step plan to get out of debt can help customers see the value of what you bring to the table. The goal is to paint a picture of your business that compels clients or customers to learn more about you so you become their “go-to” person.
Content is King!
Content continues to reign as king when it comes to being an effective marketing tool in your business toolkit. That is true for your website, Facebook and even LinkedIn, which is primarily geared toward business-to-business interaction.
As a different form of content marketing, by building an effective LinkedIn profile highlighting the services you offer, you can attract other business professionals looking for that service. A compelling and client focused profile shines above the competition when users are looking for the services you offer. From there, as they visit your website, they’ll learn more about you and how your services can solve their particular problems.
As you utilize content marketing to communicate information that your ideal customers are interested in reading about, you’ll see better results in potential leads. Then, as you continue to monitor your efforts and tweak your content strategy, you’ll see more sales and higher profits.
Dave Ficere is the owner of Ficere Writing Solutions, a writing and editing service based in Phoenix, AZ.