You’ve likely heard the phrase “Content is King,” which entered our consciousness over 20 years ago in a Bill Gates essay envisioning the Internet as a marketplace for content. Over the past 10-15 years, that vision has become a reality, as we’ve seen content marketing, and creating compelling content, become not only the latest hot marketing trend but also an integral part of businesses’ marketing strategies.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is more than just creating, publishing and distributing content — it’s creating content for a specific audience (your target customers) with the goal of educating or helping them rather than explicitly promoting your products or services. In the web-driven world we live in, with the wide range of products and services that are readily available for consumers to explore, you need to not only differentiate your business from the others in your market, you need to build credibility with your target audience.
Before your target customers will buy from you, they need to trust you and view you as an expert in your field. They want to know you are the best choice for solving their business problem. By providing them with valuable and engaging content that answers their questions and positions you as a trusted resource, you can establish that credibility — ultimately generating interest in your products or services. You want to not only turn them into buyers — you want them to become long-term fans.
The Ideal Content to Create
The valuable and engaging content you create should offer educational or helpful information on solving a problem, addressing a situation or applying best practices. You can advise and guide customers on what to look out for, provide valuable tips for achieving success and demonstrate how you’ve helped others in their position. Depending on the topics you choose to focus on in your content, you’ll want to use the best format to present them. There are numerous types of formats, such as white papers, case studies, e-Books, infographics, research reports, FAQs, How-to guides, podcasts, videos, thought-leadership articles and even press releases.
Creating That Compelling Content
Before you start creating any of this content, you need to outline a strategy or plan for your content marketing. Your content marketing plan needs to first consider your target audience — your prospective customers. You need to define or create profiles or personas of who they are. To understand how to do this, see my article “Knowing Your Target Audience.”
Second, you need to determine your customers’ needs and what problems they are trying to solve (particularly those problems your products or services address). Armed with that data, you can decide what topics will be most valuable to them and determine which formats are best for communicating those topics (e.g. video, Infographics, blogs). You need to ensure you are creating diverse pieces that can be used across different areas of your marketing. Content marketing is integrated with and supports digital, inbound, search and social media marketing.
Executing Content Marketing
Once you have created the valuable content for your content marketing campaign, it should be posted on your website, blog and social media and offered in email and direct mail campaigns. Your content marketing plan should determine the best channels to use. Your plan should also outline the development of relevant, high quality content throughout the year, as it’s important to continuously offer your customers fresh information. Your blog should, at the very least, have new posts on a monthly basis, if not weekly or bi-weekly.
As you distribute and communicate your valuable content online, your approach will need to move away from positioning yourself as the leader in your field and boasting about your greatness to establishing yourself as a problem-solver and showing how useful you are. You won’t want to use your standard sales and marketing messages that focus on conveying your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and UVP (Unique Value Proposition). Although the USP and UVP are created to address the customers’ needs, and you certainly still want them prominently conveyed on your website, your content marketing communications should focus on the purpose of the content — to educate, provide helpful info and problem-solve. That will be key to establishing your business as an indispensable resource and keeping those customers coming back for more.
By creating and offering the kind of content your target customers are really looking for, you help them find you and make it easy for them to turn to you when they are ready to buy. Content marketing becomes a win-win for your business and your customers — they get the information they need and you get to demonstrate your expertise and value. In the long run, your valuable content truly helps you sell but also build lasting customer relationships.