Content marketing has become a buzzword in online marketing. But what is it actually all about? And how do you use content marketing effectively? This post will explain this tool, show why content marketing is not only part of every other online marketing measure but also basically required for them to be successful in the first place. Furthermore, we present a sample of an effective content marketing strategy.
What is Content Marketing and What is it Good For?
If you talk about content marketing you talk about generating and distributing relevant content in order to convince a target group of specific products, services, brands, or companies and aquire new customers along the way.
To better understand this description and how content marketing works, let’s get into more detail:
Content is nearly everything: texts, images, illustrations, audio files, video. This sums up pretty much all of the internet, actually.
For content to be relevant, these texts, images, video or audio files need to have informing, instructing, advising, explanatory, and/or entertaining value. In other words: the content has to satisfy someone’s need and be useful for this person.
This “someone” is a specific target group. The products/services/brand/company are aimed at this target audience, thereby providing a solution for a certain need.
The content explains how this need is satisfied, how the problem is solved. Unlike in classic advertising, the idea here is not to focus on the advertiser/the sender of the content marketing message themselves or their products. Rather, it’s on explaining the provided solution and to help the target group.
So this is what content marketing should achieve at first: the advertiser will not be perceived by the audience as doing advertising, but as an expert for a specific area. By offering help, trust will be built, because the target group will get a really benefit. This could lead to increased loyalty and eventually will gain new customers.
Content Marketing as Important Part of the Online Marketing Mix
When we talked about a definition of content marketing, some might have noticed the terms “online” or “on the internet” being missing. We have done so deliberately because content marketing also works offline. The idea behind content marketing, its mechanisms, and its potential marketing effect – are out there for much longer than since the WWW rose to ubiquity, and content marketing became the flavor of the month.
However, it’s also true that content marketing has grown more important with the internet, especially since Web 2.0 came along. The options of having one’s content distributed have been multiplied many times over, and way beyond classic media. At the same time, one had to rely on classic publishers less and less. Nowadays, it’s easy to create your own media outlet (like a website, blog, on social media), giving you the option to define the content and use your media for distributing this content.
Thanks to content marketing being in the headlines so often, one quality benchmark is stressed now more than ever: the better the content, the more successful the marketing strategies. Sure enough, this has always been true, but tools like SEO or AdWords have often claimed all the attention of marketers in the recent past.
This means, every online marketing campaign should be based on a content marketing strategy to increase its effectivity:
- Website: The better a website’s content (i.e. the more relevant for your target group), the better it will serve its purpose.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): 1. Google et al are getting better every day in telling relevant content from useless stuff. 2. Only good content will help with organic link building. 3. Artificial link building also gets a boost by high quality content. Reliable publishers get scared off by junk content.
- Search Engine Advertising (SEA): In order to get top positions for your ads (and to not waste money on useless clicks), these ads should be backed by useful content.
- Social media marketing: Relevant content makes for better conversations on social media. To get readers to your blog you can tease your content on Facebook et al. And to state the obvious – only interesting stuff will go viral. Hence any social media marketing success will be based on a content marketing strategy.
- Email marketing: The same applies as in social media marketing. For newsletters to be opened and leading to conversions you will have to come up with intriguing openings, and useful links directing to high quality content.
- Video marketing: Videos without additional value will not be viewed. To get viral, they need to score high on the information and/or entertainment side.
- All banner ads (including affiliate marketing and couponing): No one clicks the ad if it looks boring (= content), and therefore, no user gets directed to your site. If somone clicks the ad, but the landing page doesn’t offer captivating content, the user gets annoyed and bounces off the page faster than you can say content marketing.
- Public Relations: Of course, also PR strategies work only if they catch the interest of your target group. Editors or blog writers have to take care of their audience. If you deliver content that’s interesting to their readers – bingo! You might get free coverage. If the content is not appropriate, you will not hear back from your media contact. Or they will kindly direct you to their marketing department.
Content Marketing Strategy: How to Do It
There’s no one right way to make marketing campaigns a success. Often you just have to try-and-error in order to find out which tool works best for a specific audience. Nevertheless, there are proven and established methods. They work even without following them strictly step-by-step.
For example. you can’t just say “We need to use Facebook, because every possible target group is there”. The latter is possibly true, but using this channel might still be the wrong approach. For example, a psychotherapist would have to come up with a very specific strategy to get people to “like”, share or recommend her Facebook company page. Because not many people would like to talk openly about their fears or weaknesses.
But with offering anti-stress or relaxation programmes to solve minor everyday problems like procrastination or nicotine withdrawal, this psychotherapist could successfully promote her books, videos, or therapies via Facebook, reaping “Likes” along the way.
To sum it up: You can use established methods if you modify them according to your goals, target groups, your industry etc. Following is a proven example to set up your content marketing.
Step 1: Define goals and target groups
You will get nowhere in marketing if you don’t set clear goals and you don’t know whom you want to reach. In content marketing, these two parameters will define the design, the tonality, and the technology of your content.
For this online marketing series, we defined increasing the traffic on our website as the goal of our online marketing strategy. As a next step, the landing page should be designed in a way to trigger a desired action by the user (purchasing something, subscribing to a newsletter etc.). This is called a conversion. So we could make increasing the traffic by our target group in order to better sell our offerings to them as our goals of our content marketing strategy.
To define our target group we will choose some specific demographic data (gender, age, location etc.), and some specific topics (issues, fears, need, dreams) of the desired audience. Some recommend combining both sets of data, adding a special focus on the target group’s characteristics.
Attributes like age, gender, education level etc. will partly decide about tonality and how to address your audience (using lingo or not, being formal/informal). Just imagine how your favorite customers would look like and apply some demographic data to them.
Thinking about your targeting group’s characteristics will make your content more convincing. Do they have some issues you could address with your solution – voilà, just make sure to give your content proper informational value.
Step 2: How to Research the Needs of my Target Group
A lot of companies think they know their customers by heart. On the other hand, many marketing campaigns seem to prove just the opposite. Often it looks more like guessing what the target group is looking for or what their needs are. Consequentially, many campaigns focus on the features of the product/the service – instead of on how prospective customers could benefit from it. The latter is without a doubt more interesting to the target group.
Example: A prospective buyer of computers who often edits and produces some short videos for his band, would certainly get annoyed by slow editing and rendering processes due to a lack of CPU power. Obviously, this makes him a part of the target group interested in high performance computers.
So there’s a definite need for a machine capable of rendering those videos rather fast. But to address this need we shouldn’t declare: „Super-Computer 2000’s processor core works with unbelievable XX Mhz.“ A hardware afficionado might go into raptures about it. But that information is of no use for our film guy. Better say: „Super-Computer 2000 will need only XX minutes to render a 20 minutes video in HD quality.“
But how do I know the needs of my target group? There are different sources:
- AdWords Keyword Tool: People use Google to search for their needs/issues. This tool gives you the search terms.
- Social networks: Your competition’s fan pages let you know about the questions your target group has, and what kind of posts go viral with them. The same applies to issue-related groups in social networks.
- Forums: The same applies as above. Topic-related forums show you issues and questions your audience has.
- Your inbox: You get emails by your customers on a daily basis? And you wonder why the same question is asked over and over again? Well, this looks like the perfect topic for your next blog post because it deals with a real issue of your target group.
- Phone calls/talks with clients: Whatever you’re asked, the question could be interesting for many other clients, too.
With producing content dealing with those issues you could make a name for yourself and your audience will consider you an expert.
Step 3: How to Produce Content with an Impact
As said above, first you need to know your target audience and their needs. The headline should already talk about this need and tout a possible solution. Because what you need are users who click the link (in the newsletter, on your social media page etc.) to actually access your content.
Stay away from cliches or empty phrases. Focus on valuable information and the benefits of your solution. Keep your sentences short and simple.
And, by all means, make sure to really deliver the solution you announced in the beginning. Look like a trustworthy expert.
Step 4: Where and How to Seed the Content?
„Where“ and „How“ get defined by the target audience you want to reach. For example, because Facebook is used for private reasons, it’s much easier to promote B2C lifestyle products there than, say, capital goods. Or it might not be the best place to sell your perfect investment strategy. Even if the strategy works, people might not take you seriously on such a platform, although they might actually be interested in your product.
So ask yourself the following questions: 1. Where does my target group hang out (which social network, forums, magazines, websites etc.)? 2. Which platforms are appropriate for my offerings (which ones are trustworthy for this topic)? And 3. What kind of messaging works best at these platforms? You will want to seed your content exactly there, where your target audience lingers and where it is receptive to your message. Learn from other successful campaigns.
Step 5: How to Measure Being Successful?
In order to know how successful your content marketing efforts has been you need to measure some key metrics. The algorithms some agencies come up with, though, feel a bit like voodoo mathematics – but maybe it’s necessary to justify the sometimes exorbitant bills those agencies charge.
Most entrepeneurs, though, are just interested to know if the campaigns have an impact on their bottom line. Long-term branding campaigns are useful, too, but their real value is harder to figure. Still, they should add some revenue at the end of the day. All this is hard to calculate with rather challenging formulas like „Target group management = [comments+likes+shares]: views“ – and maybe it’s even an impossible task. Comprehensibly proving those kind of numbers is certainly not that easy for those mentioned agencies. It’s always easier to measure the impact of a pure sales campaign. Like, how many users visited the landing page and how many were turned into customers (conversion rate).
Conclusion of Our Online Marketing Series
That was the last post of our online marketing series. The overall concept has been to talk about the basics of online marketing in an easily understandable way. Applying those basics you should be able now to plan and execute online marketing strategies on your own, or to evaluate appropriate offerings.
There’s hope I’ve been successful with delivering on that promise. Everybody is invited to give feedback in the comments below. Appropriate questions, suggestions, or complaints will certainly find their way into future posts.