Conversations of value

Tuesday 30th, October 2012 ,

For a while now there have been plenty of debates about the latest buzzword in digital marketing – content marketing – and how it’s what every marketer worth his money is focusing on now. But what a lot of us aren’t really able to grasp is how crucial yet simple it is in practice.

Let’s assume that you meet your spouse-to-be for the first time at a party. After a quick chat with a friend, you realize that you two could probably be perfect for each other. You then wonder how to approach her. Walking up to her and boring her about yourself in a verbal diarrhea format will definitely make her run in the opposite direction. On the other hand, constantly bombarding her with questions about her can creep her out as well. So what do you do? You walk over, all suave and charming, and engage her in a light conversation that she actually enjoys. At the end of the party, you take her number and then proceed to take her out on dates where the two of you get to know each other. You let her know about the deal-clinchers – that you’re educated, employed, capable of supporting a family and that you’re a wonderful person overall. Assuming all other factors remain constant, the two of you will probably be walking down the aisle together a short while later.

Apart from having taken the romance out of the entire practice of courtship, what we’ve done here is shown you how content marketing works. Your lady love is the target audience and you, the marketer who succeeded at influencing her decision-making. Wondering how it worked? You told her what she wanted to know – easy as pie.

Content marketing is essentially any digital marketing or offline marketing activity that involves creating and sharing content to engage target audiences, influence purchase decisions and improve brand loyalty. This could include blogs, videos, e-mails, webinars, websites, podcasts and so on. In today’s global markets, content marketing can mean the difference between survival and bankruptcy. This might be shocking, but the reality is that paid search alone just doesn’t cut it anymore. You can make all the noise you want but if what you have to say isn’t of much consequence, your target audience is going block you out. In fact, even if you decide just to focus on quality blogging, it can generate more traffic and leads (when done right, according to research).

Here’s a quick list of things you need to consider when going about the content marketing process:

  • Establish the location where you will publish and how audiences will get to it
  • Find out what interests your target audience
  • Ensure that your content is not frilly and empty but has information that your audiences would like to read
  • At the right point, make your sales pitch subtly (when you feel you have captured the interest and trust of the reader)
  • Encourage readers to subscribe by e-mail to improve impact
  • Once established, consider guest posting to improve visibility
  • Integrate social media along with traditional content efforts for added leverage

What happens when you’ve already taken the content marketing plunge and it isn’t exactly working out like was supposed to. In that case it might be time to re-evaluate your strategy and see if you’ve fallen prey to some common mistakes like:

  • Your collection of content might be a tad too random and not contribute to a bigger story
  • Your content doesn’t follow a well-thought out schedule
  • Your sales pitch is too loud and drowns out the informational part
  • Your content doesn’t serve the purpose of being a communication channel
  • Your content is not tailored to the target audience’s preferences
  • Your content doesn’t build a relationship with the reader

Ideally, you want your content to educate your audience, to subtly include information about what you’re offering and engage the audience in a conversation of that they will consider valuable. Sporadically, you can also include content which can generate debates just to get the attention of your readers (for instance, opinions on a heated public issue and so on). However, it is extremely crucial that you get the information-promotion balance right in the content. It’s best if you could restrict promotional content to approximately 20 per cent.

There are multiple reasons why you should invest time, energy and patience in content marketing. A successful content marketing strategy will help build brand loyalty, develop thought leadership, generate better leads, improve sales and so on. Even if the results aren’t seen as quickly as with paid search, the effort is worth the lasting difference it will make to your business.

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