How a Professional #ContentMarketingStrategy can Propel your Business to Success
There is a buzz phrase taking over online marketing circles: content marketing strategy. These three words can mean something different to each person, but it generally means a method of creating content to share with the world to build the reputation of a brand.
Most marketers would understand and agree that this simple definition isn’t the full scope of a complete content marketing strategy and there are various components to developing a more cohesive strategy. This would include things like defining content types, obtaining links from other sources to increase brand visibility, among others.
Does content marketing really work how it’s supposed to?
There are some absolutes with any good content marketing strategy. Things like gaining additional cooperative brand exposure through links is important as a content marketing campaign evolves. To simply focus on one aspect of a strategy and ignoring other important components would doom the overall success of the campaign. An holistic approach to a content marketing strategy will produce spin-off benefits and the amplification of the brand. SEO (search engine optimization) will naturally be a benefit as more content will produce more exposure which will in turn increase higher SERP rankings (search engine results page).
A content marketing strategy is ultimately responsible for increasing sales for the brand, but shouldn’t be the only focus. If hours of work go into making cool videos, great blog posts and social media campaigns with no consideration given to the success of the sale, the entire strategy would be flawed. Yes, the initial strategy is to create relationship with potential customers, but it’s very possible that those connections may possibly fail to yield the expected results. The beauty of content marketing is that even if those people never become a client, the brand equity spread through your efforts of content marketing will pay off later. We will discuss this more later.
You can think of content marketing as the creation of relationships through the visible representation of your brand – video, content and articles, brand, design and graphics. It’s this visibility that starts the relationship with the brand. So, what do you do once people have connected with your brand? What should the process be once they’ve engaged with you? Those questions are answered further down in a sales funnel process.
Here are the 5 components that you will need to create a successful content marketing strategy for your brand.
We’ve already talked about relationship and its importance of building the brand. With social media changing the landscape of the ‘traditional’ sales and marketing funnel, developing relationship with clients has become that much more important.
The initial objective of the brand should not be to target sales but rather develop relationship through their content strategy. It’s about adding value to the long-term relationships you expect to have with current and new clients. If the content strategy is solid and planned well, sales will come once the relationship has formed.
What is your favourite coffee shop and why? If you spend a moment to think, it will probably be the one where you feel most comfortable. It will be the one where the barista has a friendly smile, says good morning and knows your order when you get there. You feel trust, valued and not on guard that the barista is simply trying to sell the latest flavor of coffee. You have a relationship with the brand and now have an emotional investment in the coffee shop. This approach should be the same thinking that a business should have when developing their content and marketing strategy.
What are a few ways you can create brand equity with potential clients?
- Treat each new relationship as you would in normal life, with a friendly greeting and questions.
- Personalize your service to each client
- Don’t over-hype, oversell or try to promote a product or service all of the time. People will run away as fast as they can.
- Be relational and respond to all feedback in your social channels. Don’t automate your relationship because people will know they don’t feel valued.
- If you’re asked something you don’t have the answer to, find out. Even if you don’t make the sale initially, people remember that you helped and it will pay off. It’s called building your brand and creating trust with potential customers.
Push and Pull
As mentioned earlier, social media has changed how brands communicate. There have been many examples of both positive and negative ways companies have responded to social events and campaigns. It only takes a second to remember the uproar over the way HMV handled company layoffs in 2013. (http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/jan/31/hmv-workers-twitter-feed-sacking). We look back in horror at the lasting personal and brand harm done through social media.
Just as much as companies have been used to ‘pushing’ their message to the people, the new ‘pull marketing’ has changed the landscape. Customers are now able to voice their comments, whether good or bad, and actually have the ability to grow brand equity or bring a company to its knees in full damage control based on a single tweet that can go viral, around the world, in minutes.
For those of us that remember, a business used to have limited options for getting their brand noticed. The traditional marketing methods of newspaper, television or radio were pretty much all that was available. If a business was especially energetic, they may employ a poor soul to wear a sandwich board or gorilla costume to roam the city streets to attempt to get the upper hand over their rivals.
With this method, there was generally very little or no interaction with the customer. They saw, read or heard the advertisement and made their choice of whether or not to engage with the brand based on marketing and the perceived strengths or weaknesses of engaging with that brand based on basic exposure. The potential customer was exposed to the marketing of the brand without a choice.
Business on the internet has changed that dynamic dramatically. Customers now have a choice on whether or not they wanted interaction from a brand and can customize the message from the brand based on personal preference. Instead of being forced to listen to an advertisement on their favourite radio or TV station, the customer can simply choose to visit to another website to not be exposed to the message.
So, instead of the traditional brand versus the consumer content marketing, it has flipped to a consumer -based versus brand model. The customer is now in greater control over the message a brand puts out based on immediate feedback from potential customers. The consumer now holds the power to help a business grow, sometimes exponentially and literally over night, simply based on end-user feedback. Corporate content is now being tailored by companies to entertain the wary and educated consumer based on feedback through online channels.
Go to Where The Grass is Growing
The choices available to consume marketing content has grown along with the internet. Businesses now have many options to push their marketing content out to customers and there are a plethora of opportunities to engage with a brand through websites, social media and third-party content publishing options.
Part of the challenge with so many options, from social media sites to other websites, is that it’s almost impossible for a business to successfully represent their brand. A decision needs to be made on which channels are the most successful based on numerous factors (KPI, ROI, customer engagement, sales and marketing goals) in order to choose the best avenues for content marketing.
Many business owners feel and are told that they need to be on the next greatest social platform in order for their business to be successful. This simply isn’t true. There are so many social media and marketing options that it’s unreal to think that your potential customers are also spread as thin. Don’t follow the latest shiny object because you’re told that your business needs to be a part of it in order to be successful. Do your due diligence and homework first. There may be more harm than good done to your brand if you don’t use the tool properly and come across poorly. This doesn’t mean you can’t test new avenues for growth, just be aware and don’t make it the primary strategy to push your content.
Go to where you know your customers are. Go to where you’ve experienced success previously and grow your content marketing strategy to that audience. There simply isn’t time nor resources to reach every channel, so focus your content strategy and foster the relationship with your customers in that channel. When things become successful, the business can then decide to scale that success with other channels.
Content strategy and social media
Social media has taken over how the world communicates. Whether you’re a business on LinkedIn or someone on Facebook and Twitter, the content of the world is available to us instantly and almost in any form we want. One of the main goals of a business is to have a strong presence on social media channels. As mentioned previously, not every channel is recommended for a business, but sourcing and testing the channels that would compliment your business and content marketing strategy is recommended.
How do you test which social media properties would best suit your business marketing strategy and success? Basic marketing principles like KPI (key performance indicators) and ROI (return on investment) are simple but absolutely necessary components to discern which social avenue is performing best for your business. If your company is putting resources and man hours into Instagram and getting no engagement or leads, for example, either the strategy is flawed on how to connect with your community or your community isn’t on Instagram. Just because someone says you should have a presence on the latest social platform doesn’t mean it will be suitable for you and your business.
Social media, using it as a paid advertisement avenue to increase brand exposure, is also a valuable tool for branding. Developing strong content and sharing it on social media platforms also has proven to be an effective branding practise to increase exposure and brand equity. Content promotion, through additional strategies like link exchanges and email list development, will ensure traffic to your brand. Because of this, it’s important that the content and marketing teams connect to ensure viability of the strategy and that nothing falls between the cracks or is missed when trying to reach and maintain customer relationships.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Social Media Basket
Although social media is a relatively cost-effective method to increase brand exposure, if the entire strategy isn’t clear and diversified, it won’t be as successful as expected. One fatal mistake a business can make is to put all of their marketing eggs in one basket, so to speak. It may be tempting to leave the marketing of the company to the kid in the back office who knows how to use Facebook, but that doesn’t make him or her qualified to develop and run a complex marketing strategy. There needs to be collaboration and intentional strategy to ensure marketing initiatives and goals are successful.
Not all companies are large enough to have teams for each marketing discipline, but content marketing and building the brand are obviously very important factors in developing a business. Many companies will outsource PR firms for press releases and contract marketing professionals to take care of the holistic strategy, for example. It is important that the parties not only connect with each other ensure that the goals and strategy are moving in the same direction, but that the principles have relationships in industry that will enhance the collaboration and propel the eventual success of the marketing strategy.
It’s important to maintain the integrity of your business marketing campaigns, so be mindful of the teams’ efforts along with your own if you’re a hands-on person who would also like to promote the company content. You don’t want to interfere and potentially harm efforts from the collaboration and keep things on brand and looking professional to your potential customers. There is nothing worse than a disjointed campaign where one arm doesn’t know what the other arm is doing in terms of content development and promotion. A fractured brand has the potential to ultimately harm the brand.
We mentioned earlier that the collaboration efforts with professionals like a PR team and marketing strategist are important assets to a successful business. If you’ve hired this sort of team, use them. They are being paid to do a job and interference may potentially degrade the effectiveness of their campaigns.
Other types of relationships to engage for your marketing team would be bloggers, mass media and media personalities and other social influencers to help increase your brand awareness. There are many options to get them engaged with your brand, from contests to guest content development, and it’s suggested that your marketing team take the lead to ensure follow through with these relationships. The benefit of having these types of connections is that you will have content developed about your brand for you and usually at no expense to your company. Additionally, having media outlets share your already existing content is a great step in increasing brand awareness for your business.
It’s All About Who You Know
The bottom line in developing a successful content marketing strategy is relationship. Who are you networked with and how can you leverage that relationship to benefit both parties? The natural tendency when trying to increase exposure for your business is to try and ‘sell’ your product or service every chance you get.
Think about this: if you only talk about yourself and the things you can do when you hang out socially with your friends, how long do you think those friends would remain friends? It’s not about selling at every moment. It’s about give and take, learning about the other party to determine if there’s a fit relationally and how there is a mutual benefit to each party. If all a business did was simply try to sell a product of service rather than foster a relationship to increase trust and brand equity with current and potential clients, that business will notice a decline in sales because of a lack of relationship. Today’s consumers are aware of a myopic business marketing model and will stay away.
The objective of content marketing isn’t to sell. The primary objective should be about building a relationship with your customers and increasing the brand equity of your business. The sales funnel has become increasingly longer as customers become more educated and more wary. You need to further educate and add value to your service in order to build trust in your business with the eventual goal of gaining a new long-term customer.
So, Now What?
We’ve talked a lot about building equity in the brand, how that increases trust in your business and how that will eventually lead to a stronger brand followed by loyal customers. Here is a summary of what you can do to to start the process of developing a successful content marketing strategy.
- Don’t focus on sales. Focus on building relationships.
- Develop unique content (blog, video, articles, design) that will add value to your brand.
- Be approachable and social. Don’t hide behind a website. Respond and add dialogue with your customers. Ask questions to increase trust in your brand.
- If you don’t know the answer, find out. This shows you care about your customers and they won’t forget. It builds trust.
- Don’t be afraid to step out of the traditional marketing box. Explore where your customers may be. It may surprise you.
- Focus on the 'influencers' and media as they will give you exposure for relatively low cost.
As you can see, this list has a main theme: relationships. It’s not about building website links, increasing the spend of your PPC campaign and increasing the SEO on your website (although it’s an important part of the equation). Take some risks like creating content that’s not sales-centric to add value to your brand or have a webinar that encourages the public to ask questions about your brand.
The days of push marketing, although still relevant, are dying. That void is being filled by content aware and wary consumers that will either engage or leave your company based on a customer-centric content marketing strategy.
Do you have more questions about how we can help your business develop a cohesive content marketing strategy? Please feel free to connect with me and I’d love to chat about how BUGG Marketing Inc. can help your business grow. Drop me an email directly or call 604.339.8127 and I'd love to chat and see if we're a fit.