Content Marketing Strategies
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is creating, sharing, selling or curating information resources to help market a business. Content can include:
- Books and Ebooks
- Reports and White Papers
- Audio Recordings, Music and Podcasts
- Live Events or Conferences
- Online Events such as Webinars
- Social Media Posts and Community Activity
- Content Curation and Sharing (i.e. Pinterest)
The content resources are usually not the primary product or service of the company, although there are companies for whom content is their main offering.
Benefits of Content Marketing
If creating and offering content is not the primary objective of a business, why would they do it? Content marketing is a "soft sell" technique which attracts people to the business, as opposed to the business pursuing prospects. Therefore, it is an inbound marketing strategy.
Here are ways that a business can benefit from content marketing strategies:
- Build an Email List. Content can be offered as an incentive to join a company's email marketing list. Free ebooks, reports, white papers, checklists and articles can be used. Click here to learn more about email marketing.
- Greater Engagement. Live or interactive content such as webinars, conferences and events can help get prospects and customers more engaged and committed to the company in a lower pressure setting than a traditional sales call.
- Become an Expert. Offering valuable content can help build a person's or company's reputation as an expert. Also being a curator of content can demonstrate expertise. This can build trust and encourage sales. Click here to learn more about content curation.
- Lower Marketing Costs. Though it is not the case for all types of content and circumstances, content creation can often be done for a lower cost than traditional broadcast advertising. And the expertise is usually already in-house! The major cost is in the preparation and packaging of information. As well, developing content that is "evergreen" or easily repurposed can reduce the cost and effort of always creating new material. Click here to learn more about evergreen content.
Challenges of Content Marketing
The very simplified sales funnel for content marketing would look something like this:
Sales Prospect Consumes Content > Prospect Becomes Customer
However, there can be a significant lag between the time when a prospect first engages with a company's content and then becomes a customer. Sometimes it may never happen!
So content marketing is not without challenges such as the following:
- Free Never Gets to Fee. Some fans and prospects love a company's content, but they never advance to a sale for a variety of reasons including having an interest but no real need or budget. While they may represent a viable sales opportunity at some point in the future, they're stuck at "Interest" in the AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) sales model. Click here to learn more about "Ready, Willing and Able" customers.
- Content Costs Drain Resources and Bandwidth. While, as noted earlier, content can be a low cost and cost-effective marketing effort, there are times where it can present such an investment in the company's personnel and resources that it drains profits. This is especially the case when, as just discussed, free content consumers never graduate to fee paying customers. Click here to learn more about dealing with bandwidth limitations in a small business.
- Difficulty in Measuring ROI. Content can create a groundswell of conversation and connection, much of it not directly dealing with the sales process. So how should the value of that be measured? Website and offline traffic need to be connected to sales results in some way and monitored regularly. This is especially the case for social media activity.
- Keeping Up With the Bloggers. Just because everyone seems to have a blog doesn't me that everyone NEEDS to have a blog. Have a good why for starting a blog or any other content strategy.
Developing a Content Marketing Strategy
Developing a content marketing strategy can be a daunting experience! Where does one start?
Here are several questions to help evaluate content marketing options:
- Need for Information. Is there an information gap or other need in the industry that the company could fill with a content marketing program? Researching related keyword search terms can help home in on areas that might have a void... and an opportunity. Filling an information gap can help build the business' reputation as an expert and resource. Click here to learn more about finding relevant keywords for SEO.
- Time and Talent Pool. Does the company have experts on staff that have the time or talent to develop content such as blog posts, reports or events? If no, what would it cost to outsource? If the cost for existing or outsourced personnel to do this is too high, are there other types of lower investment content or resources that could be developed? Or could the frequency of creating content be reduced to a manageable level? Avoid "spurts and sputters" (see discussion below).
- Customer Behavior. Are customers readers? Or do they prefer watching videos or listening to audio information? Are they mobile? Or at they home or office bound? Do they read their email regularly? Questions like these can help determine the content format and delivery possibilities for blogs, marketing videos, audio downloads, etc.
- Desired Results. What results are desired from developing and offering content? Just saying "sales" is NOT enough since, as noted earlier, that may be difficult to quantify. Select metrics that are relevant, achievable and quantifiable such as website traffic or email subscriber and open rates. Then monitor religiously!
How "Spurts and Sputters" Can Kill a Content Marketing Blog
Starting a new blog is exciting! Usually everyone is on board for the first few months. Those responsible for creating the content are bubbling over with creativity. They're posting weekly, even daily, and getting a lot of positive recognition and feedback. Owners or managers are thrilled with the content and the traffic to the blog (not the organization's main site), making it look like this will be a success.
Then here's what often happens about six months in (sometimes even sooner)...
- Management is looking for "results" (translation: sales) and are no longer satisfied with irrelevant blog traffic stats.
- Bloggers run out of ideas and posting becomes rare or low quality.
- In other cases, bloggers, who are existing employees with added blogging duties, may be spending more time on the blog than management thinks they should. This frustrates everyone. Management is looking for ROI while blogging employees start looking for new jobs (maybe even as bloggers elsewhere). And the company blog eventually dies.
At the root of these situations is the fact that the company did not accurately assess their bandwidth to handle the rigors of regular blogging or content development. Additionally, they do not have an inkling of how to measure the results of their activities.
The end result of these "spurts and sputters" is usually an abandoned blog which makes the company look unprofessional, uncaring and unworthy of customer dollars.
Lesson: Calculate before you create.
Learn More about Internet Marketing, including Content Marketing
Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.
© 2014 Heidi Thorne