The landscape has changed. Some of us remember what life was like before the internet. Whether good or ill, the way we communicate individually with each other has changed considerably. The same applies to the business world. Traditional marketing and advertising strategies have lost their effectiveness. Smart companies these days have turned to a new strategy: content marketing.
Content Marketing Defined
You may have heard the term batted around and wondered what it was all about. According to the Content Marketing Institute, “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.” Consider it a modern way for the customer to find you in the new technological landscape.
Benefits of Content Marketing
Jayson Demers lists several advantages of the new strategy. What can content marketing do for you and your business? Content marketing can:
- Attract new traffic
- Build your reputation
- Encourage trust and faith in your brand
- Influence conversions
- Create a separate stream of revenue
Of course, you are focused on your core business – and that may not be writing content. But what if your website could help establish you as an expert in your field? Matt Cutts, the former head of the web spam team at Google, said: “To rank well, build a site so fantastic that it makes you an authority in your niche.” Such authority can bring rewards in the form of new and returning customers.
The Buying Cycle
A bit of understanding about the mental processes of the buyer may be helpful. Serial entrepreneur David Skok has broken down the buying cycle for us:
- Awareness – When a customer becomes aware of your product
- Consideration – When a customer starts evaluation solutions
In the new communications landscape, your potential customers spend a lot of time on the web. What better way to make them aware of your company and your product than an informative website with relevant and valuable content? Raise awareness of your company and your product with interesting, well-written material. Draw people in while they consider the best solution to meet their needs. Complete the buying cycle with specific actions to purchase your product.
IT professionals are used to finding solutions on the fly and making things work. Navigating a maze of software or complicated working instructions is a welcome challenge for restless technical minds. But online content intended to attract customers and solicit sales decisions should have none of this complexity. The idea is to give the reader information that will form a bond between them and your products or services. The key is effective user experience (UX) design. (For more, see 10 Things Every Modern Web Developer Must Know.)
The user is not impressed with your knowledge of programming languages or how skilled you are at coding. To build your business with content marketing, present the user with information that is both interesting and inviting, with a tangential connection to the selling points that will make them your customer. The links, interfaces, and applications of the site should lead them ever closer to a potential sale, while creating a trust relationship that will bring them back for more.
Content marketing can come in many different forms. Forbes contributor Joseph Steimle suggests five types of content marketing for possible use in your website:
Whatever method is used, the technology should be transparent to the user. Keep it simple, relevant and fresh.
Content Management System (CMS)
The wheel was invented long ago, and so were content management systems. (OK, not that long ago.) Rather than reinventing the wheel or the CMS, you will find it easier to use one that can easily be adapted to your purposes. Even big companies like The New Yorker, Best Buy and Xerox are using intuitive tools like WordPress to manage their content. A skilled designer can tweak an existing WordPress theme or create his own. The technology is already there.
Which CMS is best for you? Your best bet is to do your research and try them out yourself. Once you have mastered the basics of the software and made it available to your content creators, the posting of content will be very easy. This is the point at which your website will begin to make significant advances. Content is king!
A Strategy for Success
Every goal needs a strategy. Jay Baer has provided one for content marketing that you can adapt for your own needs. A successful strategy should answer important questions about your enterprise:
- What is the purpose of your web content?
- What are the unique selling points of your business offerings?
- Who is your target audience?
- How will you measure the success of your content marketing?
- How will you create your web content?
- How will you make people aware of your web content?
Once your site is live with content, you have only just begun. In the new world of digital marketing, it's essential to aggressively get your content out into cyberspace. This may entail a fully-developed social media campaign, a focus on search engine optimization (SEO), or a partnership with public relations professionals. Making your content marketing effective requires both thorough planning and professional implementation.
Some of the biggest companies – like P&G and Cisco Systems – are now successfully using content marketing as part of their overall strategy. Good content marketing can become the core of your plan to reach your target demographic. With attention to social media integration, search engine optimization, public relations and inbound marketing, content marketing can be the cornerstone to a winning marketing strategy.