WHAT IS CONTENT MARKETING
“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.” – Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute
In ‘dictionary terms’, content marketing is the marketing method by which published materials/media are used to obtain customers. While content marketing is not a new form of marketing, as a digital marketing method, in recent years, it has seen rapid growth.
This has led to the rise of sites such as The Content Marketing Institute and Copyblogger; to a proliferation of companies that offer free marketing materials in the hopes of obtaining customers, and to a focus on producing great content as a core part of search engine optimisation strategies.
Since 2011, global searches for the term ‘content marketing’ have more than tripled:
The same is true of UK-based searches for the same term (and of US-based searches):
TYPES OF CONTENT MARKETING
Content marketing is a term that covers a broad range of materials, including (but not limited to):
- Website content
- News/Press Releases
- Social Media Content
- Case Studies
- Branded Content Tools
- Research Reports
- Virtual Conferences
- Comics, Cartoons and Visualizations (like memes, graphs and charts)
- And so on…
That’s by no means an exhaustive list and does not include offline materials that might also be considered content marketing (like Jello’s 1904 recipe book, distributed free to households across the US, aimed at showing just how versatile a food Jello was! In this example, Jello saw sales rise by $1 million by 2006).
If you’re interested in finding out more about the history, here’s a video that will bring you up to speed:
THE RISE OF CONTENT MARKETING
The rise of content marketing as a broadly accepted and widely encouraged ‘online marketing strategy’ might largely be attributed to updates that Google made to their search ranking algorithm beginning in 2011.
The Google Panda Update attempted to separate high quality content from poorer content in a bid to serve users with information that they would find useful. Duplicate content, weak content, thin content and template-based content were the types of things that this update was supposed to minimise. Sites that still partook in the creation of content for the simple purpose of ranking – Post-Panda, would be penalized. This did not just change how people wrote and what they wrote, but it had a very big impact on the practice of SEO. While Panda did not make SEO redundant, it did force opportunistic/short-term, result-seeking search engine optimisers to give more thought to how their websites would be used and viewed by browsers.
At the start of 2012, Econsultancy published an excellent article on how to identify a Panda penalty, as well as how to go about fixing it.
However, it’s not just down to Google. Today, information has become more accessible than ever before. Companies need to produce information in order to gain attention – in the search engine pages and worldwide, as the internet has eliminated borders in many places and made buying from other companies (those that might never before have been considered competitors), impossibly easy. In many ways, content marketing is simply a consequence of the growth of the internet.
WHO IS DOING CONTENT MARKETING?
It’s honestly very difficult to pick a company NOT doing content marketing, because in one form or another, most are. Oftentimes, it’s simply via their blog or their social media accounts, but increasingly it’s in the form of online videos, microsites, downloadable whitepapers/ebooks, and infographics. These are the most common.
Here are a few examples of companies that are doing content marketing:
L’Oreal – did you know they’ve got a website called makeup.com. It’s a clever way to plug their own brand without doing so overtly and without saying ‘buy this’. That’s often what differentiates content marketing from straightforward marketing/advertising.
Redbull – they’ve done something similar, but offline. Their magazine, Red Bulletin, is for thrill-seekers and sports fanatics and although it doesn’t just talk ‘Redbull’, it’s a constant reminder for anyone reading it, that and an excellent branding tool.
General Mills – this company does content marketing by offering advice and tips on tablespoon.com. Like Redbull, they’re reminding those that read the tablespoon website that they’re there and that they are the definitive source of all that is ‘food’.
Other brilliant content marketing examples can be seen in this slide. There’s honestly no shortage of them. If you think we’ve missed something that is really just incredible, let us know!
WHAT TYPE OF CONTENT SHOULD YOU CREATE?
Content that your customers will find useful. Content that reflects your USP. Content that helps people learn something. There really isn’t a hard and fast rule. The only thing you’ve got to remember is that content marketing is not ‘in your face’ advertising. It’s more subtle. It provides information and it ‘sells’ products, services, etc, possibly more slowly than traditional advertising, but also in such a way that people can feel they’re making the right choice. After all, they’ve read enough about you or your product!
There are three stages to answering this question as we see it.
All in all, the type of content you should create begins with one fundamental question: who are you?
What are you setting out to accomplish? What makes you different? What makes your products/services different from those of your competitors’? What are you best at?
Other things you might ask yourself to include:
- What deliverables are you aiming to achieve within a specific time frame?
- How will your content marketing strategy affect your other strategies? How will you integrate it into your overall digital marketing plan? After all, it’s a pretty joined up channel.
- What follows these questions and what also dictates the type of content marketing you do are the questions about your audience.
- How do they like to consume information? (there’s likely more than 1 channel involved!)
- Who are you targeting? (Is it everyone or just a subset of your audience?) A good idea is to full out any ‘personas’ you’ve created. This will help to keep your thinking on track.
Once you’ve got the ‘you’ part and the ‘audience’ part sussed, you’re ready to move onto the story.
Your organisation’s story is not necessarily something with a coherent beginning, middle and end, but rather something that communicates what you are about and what you believe in in a way that helps you build strong relationships with your customers. The easiest way to do this is to provide information in line with your strengths, that your audience will find useful.
Many digital agencies involved in brand storytelling and content marketing, will get you started with something called ‘The Hero’s Journey’. This framework, will help you uncover the story behind your agency and will give you a better idea of the places you need to focus on in order to create the right type of content.
CREATING A CONTENT STRATEGY
You cannot create your content strategy until you have established which channels you intend to use to disseminate the materials you create. You will also need to make sure that you have objectives for each of these channels and that you’ve got a plan and a budget before you get involved in anything! Your content plan does not have to be set in stone, but rather should adapt as you learn and as you continue to receive feedback from customers.
If you’re stuck for ideas and consider yourself a not-particularly-interesting business, I suggest taking a look at another of the content marketing institute’s posts – 5 content strategies for boring brands.
Now map it out. Use an excel spreadsheet or a word document to map out everything we’ve discussed:
- The content you are going to post (titles and short summaries)
- The channels you will use to spread the word
- The goal/objective for each item posted
- Who is in charge of each piece of content
- Targeted keywords
- Audience segment
- Publish dates
- And so on…
This will be the part that you amend as you go but that will require most of the initial work. Don’t fear changing it if your goals change.
Also, make sure you’ve got something to help those that are creating the content (just to ensure your message does not get diluted or lost).
Consider the following:
- Delegating and figuring out who is responsible for doing what
- Creating clear style and writing guidelines (kind of like a social media policy but for content)
- Including time slots for posting/sharing/disseminating content
- Figuring out who will help you achieve your goals both inside the business and outside of it
Ready to go? Contact Xanthos!
Whether you’re looking for direction or you know what you want, get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to help and to figure out the best type of content marketing to suit your business-needs. Our goal is to help you build relationships, foster relationships, grow your brand and ultimately….improve sales.