We’re bombarded with so many marketing messages that most of them blur by us, having made no impact—and having provided no return for the marketers who invested in those messages. Direct mail is circular filed, unread. The rise of the DVR means most 30-second TV spots go unseen. As a marketer, you can’t change the reality of advertising overload, but you can still connect with your audience. How? By pulling your audience in with information that interests them.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing fills in the communications channels you’re already using—Facebook, LinkedIn, your website, your email marketing newsletter—with content that provides a real benefit to your target clients.
Content marketing works on two levels:
- Grabbing and holding your audience’s attention by providing them with high-value content.
- Building trust by highlighting your strengths and key differentiators in the process.
Content marketing is effective because it’s not about you and your solutions. It’s about the clients and their challenges. When you provide high-value content, you gain their attention and an opportunity to present the value of your products or services. And what better way to gain their trust than by allowing them to experience your approach and expertise?
Some great examples of content marketing include:
- The Chicago Bulls use Twitter to keep fans informed. Recent posts have included game analysis as well as links to Bulls-themed Valentine’s Day gift ideas.
- Seth Godin’s blog gives away the same kind of insight he’s paid to write and speak about.
- Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” series and YouTube channel, where a lab-coat clad Blendtec employee blends everything from brand new iPhones (ouch) to Justin Bieber CDs to demonstrate the product’s capabilities.
If you’re not familiar with any of these, check out at least one of them. You’ll find that each uses a different channel to give the clients something useful—that’s what makes content marketing work in terms of gaining your audience’s attention. But what does each of these marketers get in return?
That’s an important question to ask yourself, because content marketing without marketing is just publishing. (Revenue-free publishing, at that.)
Beyond providing useful information to your audience, you have to tie that information to your product or service. It’s not just about tweeting, “Tickets on sale now!” though the Bulls do that from time to time. For them, it’s about creating a connection with their fan base, providing information to their fans more immediately and more intimately than they could through traditional media. Their blog, for example, offers a different take on wins and losses than traditional media, and provides an opportunity (through commenting) for the team to engage fans in conversation. The goal isn’t to sell tickets or merchandise right here, right now; the goal is to create connections deep enough that your fans are so eager to buy that you don’t need to sell. You want to maximize the lifetime value of your client relationships.
For Seth Godin, his insights are what he sells, so why would he give them away on his blog? Because doing so sells books. Lots and lots of books. You’re more likely to buy his book if you’re familiar with him and comfortable with his style. Instead of reading the dust cover blurbs and thinking, “This sounds like it might be good,” you already know whether his writing will help you. His content marketing removes risk for his audience and writing a couple of blog posts a week keeps him top-of-mind.
Blendtec also demonstrates its product. If you’re tired of your blender straining and failing to crush the ice for your margaritas, Blendtec has let you know its product works on just about anything. And they’ve done it humorously, reaching the holy grail of content marketing with videos that “go viral.”
So how can you get the same results? It’s not complicated, but it requires some effort. Here are the key steps:
1. Define goals
2. Identify audience
3. Find appropriate channels
4. Generate content
6. Measure results
1. Define Goals
You can’t win the race if you don’t know where the finish line is, so defining what you hope to achieve with a content marketing campaign is a vital part of succeeding. Be sure to think both in terms of individual content marketing initiatives (having 20 of your email newsletter subscribers sign up for your next webinar), as well as overall content marketing goals (increasing referral-generated sales by 20 percent this year).
2. Identify Your Audience
I’m sure you’re thinking, “I know my audience,” but it pays to reexamine and more narrowly segment your audience. Since content marketing gives you the ability to focus tightly on specific topics, it makes sense to segment your audience to take advantage. You can segment your audience based on what attracted them to sign up for your email list, for example. Let’s assume you sell windows and doors, and you know that one segment of your audience is primarily interested in safety (homeowners with small children, perhaps) while another is primarily interested in value (say, developers who are buying many thousands of windows at a time).
Andrew Schulkind, founder of Andigo New Media, is a 16-year veteran of the interactive media industry, specializing in online communication strategy. He can be reached through Andigo’s website at www.andigo.com.