What is content marketing and why your business needs it?
Content marketing is the strategic planning, creation, distribution and measurement of sharing media (images, video, infographics etc) and published content to generate and engage customers.
This is very much a dictionary definition of the term. Content marketing is in fact so much more than this. At its heart, content marketing is about businesses engaging with their audiences in a way that engages and inspires.
At AMBITIOUS, we work with your business objectives, combine them with an effective PR strategic marketing approach, and create content and a content marketing strategy that delivers impact.
We’re going to briefly explore exactly what content marketing is, why it’s important for your business and how a successful content marketing strategy can bring you success beyond the bottom line
Insight into content marketing strategy
Any content marketing strategy starts with industry trends and insights.
You can only create meaningful and successful content if you understand the industry, audience and market which will be consuming that content.
It’s also important that content marketing efforts aren’t stand-alone.
By this, we mean that your content marketing efforts should be very much interlinked with your wider communications and PR strategy.
Content marketing examples
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating compelling and engaging content that can be created and presented in a multitude of formats and channels.
This includes booklets, videos, webinars, podcasts, social posts, research, presentations, infographics, white papers, industry reports, how-to-guides, web pages, images, Q&As, downloads, customer case studies, user stories, user thoughts and experiences, blogs and articles.
Anything that offers value, help and entertainment to the reader or consumer, and that has the potential to be shared.
What makes content marketing different from ‘just marketing’
You would often associate marketing efforts with a sales funnel or some kind of conversion pipeline.
The core purpose of marketing is to drive profitable customer action. To a certain extent, this is the same with content marketing strategy. But, content marketing isn’t solely about conversions, it’s about engagement.
Where content marketing differs is that in the majority of cases, the call to action or purpose of a piece of content has nothing to do with driving sales. If your marketing strategy is all about towing a hard sales line, sooner or later your audience is going to switch off to this.
This is the same whether the customer purchase journey is a quick hit or a slow burn.
Great content marketing strategy and execution are about pulling back on the hard sales line, for the greater good.
But what can content marketing actually do for your business?
We’ve established that content marketing shouldn’t be all about closing and selling, but if you’re not selling, how can that help your business?
It benefits both your audience and your funnel to switch off the sales pattern.
By interspersing your sales marketing efforts, with an interesting and entertaining content marketing strategy, you’re remaining engaged and interacting with an audience. But you’re not trying to force an interaction or a purchase.
This is a truly invaluable strategic marketing approach, and it doesn’t matter if you’re marketing flip-flops or industrial laser-cutting machinery. You have to be involved with your audience in a manner that doesn’t encourage a sales process or transaction.
Regardless of your product or your target audience, if you create content that attracts them on an emotional, educational and inspirational level, you’ll garner greater brand loyalty and brand awareness.
This, over the course of time, increases brand loyal customers. Who, when it comes to actually making a purchase, will have your brand at front-of-mind, because you’ve been conversing and enthralling them through appropriate, and relevant content.
This is where the real value of content marketing strategy lies.
Content marketing for SMEs
For SME businesses, a content marketing strategy can be particularly useful, because when used effectively it can multitask.
Because many small businesses simply don’t have weighty marketing budgets at their disposal. Marketing strategy and content marketing that builds awareness and drives levels of engagement can offer real value for money and a true return on investment.
Developing a content marketing strategy
- Hone in on your audience: you can’t create content if you don’t know who will be consuming it. You need to be attracting and retaining a clearly defined audience.If you’re serving a niche audience you need to make sure that your content and its targeting have the appropriate cut-through. There’s no use in spending time, money and resource in creating high-quality content, to then have it go out to no audience or the wrong audience.Take the time to build your audience, don’t rush it.
- Solve problems, answer questions: if you have a product, a solution or a service that can solve a problem or answer a question you know your audience has. Then make it known by producing helpful content.This could be anything from media training, translation services, an ergonomic keyboard and mouse or even an eco-friendly travel cup. The product or service itself is secondary to the way you convey the message to your audience.The best content marketing strategies approach this from two angles. Existing customers who are already using your products and services and those who are perhaps still on the fence and are in the decision-making process.
- Focus on what makes you unique: make the most of your USP. If you have the most grammatically effective translation tool, then weave that into your content.If your CNC machines are the most cutting-edge, hi-tech and efficient machines that will save their users time and money, then make it known.If your content marketing strategy is relentlessly pumping our generic content, with little to no return, then it’s time to re-focus on your messaging and figure out what your USP is.
- The journey: creating content is one thing, but you need to have a firm grasp on your buyer’s journey.Many marketers will refer to this as a funnel. In truth, the funnel is an outdated term.With so many brands and businesses implementing content and digital marketing, the funnel has become more of a convoluted web, where any given touch point could be the weakest link in your chain.Overloading the journey should be avoided.
The danger of overloading is that with so many touchpoints and opportunities to reach potential customers, it’s now all too easy to overload your audience leading them to switch off from your brand.
Be aware of the frequency and volume of your online content marketing, there is such a thing as too much.
- Pick your formats: the answer to this question will be made easier if your audience research is up to scratch.If you understand your target audience, you’ll understand how and where they prefer to consume their content. Is it blog post format, video content, image-led content marketing, or white papers?You might be tempted to jump into what is trending, but that’s not always what’s best for you. For instance, launching your own podcast when your target audience is very niche, maybe a waste of time and money.Take the time to examine industry trends and explore what formats best fit your target audience.
- Pick your channels: there are now so many channels at a marketer’s disposal, but are they all worth it?Once again this comes back to your target audience. If you are a new consumer-facing fashion brand, then TikTok, podcasts and Youtube are going to be some of your core channels.But if you’re business is cable testing, then you’re going to want to take a different tact.But you shouldn’t switch yourself off to the prospect of moving into channels where markets and audiences are emerging.
Three years ago, no one within the agriculture industry would have considered TikTok to be a valid or valuable content marketing channel. Fast forward and TikTok has a huge farming presence, with the tag reaching viewing figures in the billions.
If you spot an opportunity or a chance to expand your content marketing in a meaningful way, don’t be afriad to take it.
- Be authentic: this is perhaps one of the most important and essential parts of any content marketing strategy.Content marketing that is either forced or disingenuous is potentially damaging to our brand awareness and your business success. Producing content that is an honest and true reflection of your brand is a must.
- Frequency & cadence: social media algorithms can be brutal and one of the things they punish the most is infrequent content.A key part of your content marketing strategy has to be a commitment to regular content production and publication. The best example of this is Youtube.If, as a business, you want to build a Youtube presence, then you have to understand that you need to be posting content on a weekly basis, at the minimum.Something like this comes with all kinds of other commitments beyond just posting a video once a week. There’s planning, production, shooting, editing, and even live streams. To fully commit to a strategy like the, you have to commit the resource and budget to do it right.
- Test and learn: don’t be afraid if things don’t go to plan. One of the great things about content marketing is that it’s all about the test and learn.If a particular post didn’t go down too well, then adjust and try again. Only by testing and learning can you land upon the ideal combination of copy and creativity that really hits home with your audience.With budget permitting, you can run highly cost-effective paid content to test your content. You can run side-by-side A/B tests which have different combinations of content. This will give you a clearer picture as to what content is landing better with your target audience.
Content marketing efforts and PESO
Businesses can truly unlock the power of content marketing efforts, by folding it into a PESO model.
The PESO model is a system which unifies the key paid, earned, shared and owned strands of PR and comms.
You can combine your content marketing, across all these aspects. Your own activity will fall within the ‘owned’ bracket. However, content which is shareable by nature can then fall within the ‘shared’ bracket, as it is shared within and even beyond its original source.
An example of this in action could be a social media post, originating from your own channels, or being shared by industry bodies, influencers or even media outlets.
You can also use content marketing partnerships and paid ads to combine three aspects: paid, shared and owned.
When it comes to PR, comms, content marketing and the PESO model there’s a lot of room for mutually beneficial overlap. Be wise to these opportunities when they arise.
PR and communications are all very much part of the same pie. PR strategy maps out the best channels to target audiences and establishes key messaging – what to say and how to say it as well as when. Content is the written and/or visual element of this.
Ultimately a well-thought-through content marketing strategy, targeted communications and inspiring content can help you achieve your business objectives by winning more business, recruiting staff or attracting investors.
At AMBITIOUS we understand how business objectives must align with a PR strategy for wider success.
If you would like help developing and implementing a powerful content marketing strategy or content marketing campaign, then get in touch