Although the term is fairly new, content marketing practices have been around since service stations and insurance salesmen began giving their clients calendars at Christmastime.
Consumers were enthusiastic about these branded calendars (and some still are) because they were highly useful and free. For a small investment, a business could ensure its name and number hung right in front of its customers’ faces all year long.
Only recently, however, has content marketing become the dominant strategy of promotion, replacing the previously favored method of interruption marketing – also known as advertising.
Content vs. Interruption Marketing
When your favorite TV show takes a commercial break, you’re subjected to interruption marketing. The same holds true when you turn the pages of a magazine and find ads interspersed with articles. Online pop-up ads, flashing buttons and banners are designed to achieve the same goal.
Unfortunately, most of today’s consumers really, really dislike interruption marketing.
They record TV shows on a DVR so they can fast-forward through commercials. They install pop-up blockers on their internet browsers. They turn the volume off until the video’s introductory ad is over.
Today’s overwhelming volume of interruption advertising has caused consumers to tune out – or find ways to avoid – this intrusive form of advertising.
In response, content marketing has become the dominant approach to promoting businesses today. It’s neither intrusive nor disruptive, and it places consumers in control of whether they want to engage with the content.
What Content Marketing Can Do For You
Content marketing essentially consists of the creation and distribution of valuable, useful and engaging information, or content, to your customers and prospects.
Rather than advertising your business products and services, you are sponsoring and providing content that your audience cares about. You can teach them something (a how-to blog, for example), you can give them something (such as a recipe), you can give them an artifact to share and talk about (a witty meme) or you can make them more knowledgeable.
If you can provide a steady stream of valuable and engaging content, your prospects will appreciate the value you provide and – ideally – reward you with their business. They also will aggregate your content by sharing it online or with friends, placing your brand in front of more prospects that you may not otherwise reach organically.
Now, how do you go about cooking up some valuable content?
Start the Recipe with Valuable, Useful Information
Do you currently use brochures or one-sheets in your business, or send out company newsletters?
If so, grab one right now and take a look at it from your customer’s or prospect’s viewpoint. Is it useful? Does it provide value? Would your prospects and customers find it so valuable that they would pay for it?
If not, your brochure or newsletter is a form of advertisement, rather than content marketing. Of course, few companies can create a constant stream of content so valuable that customers would be willing to pay for it, but this is a great test of your content’s quality.
The secret is to develop a highly detailed profile of your target prospect, then determine what that demographic finds the most valuable. This is where a serious level of creativity – or a professional content marketing service – comes into play.
Next, Add a Healthy Pinch of Engagement
As valuable as your content may be, it won’t get traction with your audience if it isn’t engaging. Fortunately, by revisiting your target demographic profile, you can better figure out what engages them.
Prospects are prospects because they have a need for what you do or sell. So leverage your expertise and share it with them. Don’t be afraid of giving away company secrets or, as we call it, “sharing your secret sauce recipe.”
If a prospect is interested in knowing your secrets so they can reproduce your products at home, they aren’t truly a lucrative prospect.
Even if your business is highly technical or provides a fairly routine service, you can create engaging content that supports your marketing strategy. In fact, simply adding catchy titles, images, graphics or multimedia can increase the engagement level of your content.
How to Use Content Marketing In Your Business
The beauty of content marketing is that it’s highly effective (and cost-effective) as well as versatile. One piece of outstanding content can be leveraged across multiple platforms. And, as everything on the internet lives forever, it will remain out there, working on your behalf every time someone searches on that topic.
Consider adding some creative content strategies to your marketing program. For example, add a list of tips and tricks to your product packaging. Chipotle solicited famous writers to pen stories specifically for their product packaging.
Finish the Recipe Off By Highlighting Your Expertise
When you tie your content marketing back to your business or service model, your audience will come to view you as the expert in your field. This will, in turn, lead to conversion and brand loyalty.
And thus we have arrived at the true purpose of content marketing.
When you advertise, you do nothing more than tell your audience how great you are and that they should be your customer. With effective content marketing, you prove to them that you are not only an expert in your field, but you care enough about them to share your valuable knowledge and information with them.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Be Locally SEO’s “secret sauce.”
Contact us today to learn more about how we help companies establish themselves with powerful, cost-effective online marketing strategies. We look forward to helping you make the most of your own content marketing activities.