It’s a fact that people love to buy, but they hate being sold to. It’s why nobody likes watching commercials and it’s also why most people ignore online ads. Banners, pop-ups, buttons and links lose their effectiveness each day because the average consumer gets increasingly more savvy in his online browsing habits.
When people go online with an intention to buy, they spend most of their time looking for content that will help them make better purchasing decisions. They hate being interrupted with direct sales pitches and they have more control than ever to make marketing messages go away. This is bad news for traditional online advertisers but smart marketers see a great opportunity in the status quo.
Enter content marketing, a technique that’s helping businesses around the world attract, influence and convert leads into paying customers. Through the strategic creation and sharing of valuable content, companies can build an audience that trusts them enough to buy from them later on.
How Content Marketing Works
Content marketing isn’t a new concept. As a matter of fact, it traces its roots to 1891 when German entrepreneur August Oetker sent samples of his baking powder along with printed recipes to homes in hopes of encouraging more sales. His approach was a hit as homemakers used his recipes and drove up the demand for his product. More than a hundred years later, content marketing still follows the same principles that Oetker laid down. At its core are two basic truths:
- Consumers are more likely to buy when they’re well-informed
- Consumers like buying from people and businesses that they trust
Fast forward to today and we’ve experienced radio, TV and the Internet as a race. Despite the emergence of mass media, consumer behavior has remained virtually the same. We still feel better about buying from entities we have a connection with.
This is particularly true about the Internet where anonymity, scams and malware are very real deterrents to prospects who are considering a purchase. Content marketing aims to take all of that away by drawing people in with content that they can use, then forming relationships through opt-ins, sustained content delivery and relevant offers.
Content marketing follows the classic Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) marketing funnel, but it relies less on regular advertising and focuses more on thought leadership and the formation of relationships with the members of a targeted audience. Traffic is converted into leads and offers are strategically pitched to later on. The process doesn’t stop with a sale as a careful analysis of the audience is performed at the end of a campaign. The data from the analysis should yield actionable insights and the process is repeated with expectations of improved performance from tweaks based on data.
In the Internet, content is defined as any asset that’s made as part of a planned user experience. It can come in textual, graphical, video or audio formats. In marketing, content plays a central role in how your audience perceives your brand. Content represents who you are as a business and it makes the business case on whether or not they should buy from you.
Content development is the phase of content marketing where content is researched, created, organized and published for the consumption of an intended audience. The foundation of this process is the development of a strategic theme where all the assets that a site develops are based on. Whatever the format of the content is, it has to be topically aligned and relevant to the theme for the entire strategy to pay off.
The best kind of content for marketing is the type that’s uniquely useful. What you publish has to be distinct from everything else that your competitors put out and it has to serve your audience’s best interest. High-quality content builds a loyal following, helps you gain better search engine visibility, powers your SEM campaigns and serves as the backbone for your social media marketing efforts. It’s the basis of online thought leadership and it’s a major factor in how a brand is perceived.
Depending on a website’s industry, needs, the nature of its audience and the resources at its disposal, the content development process can vary. Generally, sites follow a cyclical process that involves the following steps:
- Research – The stage when content creators gather information that will serve as the basis for their content’s direction. This includes finding out what topics the intended audience is interested in, what’s already been written a lot about and which areas need more discussion. The core part of research is the acquisition and verification of data that will make the content as uniquely useful as possible.
- Production – The phase where content is written, designed, shot or recorded as the case may be.
- Editing – The stage when content is cut, cleaned up and (if necessary), censored to come out in the most consumable shape that it possibly could.
- Publishing – The stage when content is organized and released through the most appropriate channels. This can be within your own site, on social media, in news wires, YouTube, iTunes, etc.
- Evaluation – With the right tools, web content is completely trackable, allowing content marketers to gauge how much traction their programs are generating. Stats like visits, page views, bounce rates, downloads, usage data and sharing signals are all foundational data that can help marketers identify parts of the strategy that you can build on and parts that need a little more fine-tuning.
You may have the ability to create great content but if nobody gets to see it, it can’t help you fulfil any business goals. For that reason, promotion is an integral part of content marketing. It’s the process of strategically using free and paid promotional channels to extend your content’s reach.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to promote content online in this day and age. Social media, SEO, press releases, collaborations, SEM and content syndication are all powerful means to drive targeted traffic to your content pages. To get the most out of a content marketing program, a website has to have a holistic content promotion strategy that takes advantage of all relevant channels.
This is where content marketing truly shines. Because content marketers develop assets that are informational and not straight-up commercial, the assets are easier to promote and the audience gravitates to the messaging more readily. Great content is always a synergy to the following channels which smart online marketers focus most of their efforts on:
- SEO – Search engine optimization is the best driver of quality traffic on the Internet bar none. However, your site has to rank high in the results to really drive the kind of traffic that’s easy to engage with. Content marketing is a synergy to SEO because search engines are designed to reward sites that produce quality content. With a robust content library, SEO gets easier and becomes a free source of traffic in the long haul.
- Social Media – Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, SlideShare and more are excellent venues for engaging with your audience. Think of them as extensions of your site beyond your domain that allows you to reach your audience even when they’re not viewing your pages. Savvy content marketers use social media to bolster relationships with their audience and to let people know about the latest content offerings within their sites. The more followers you gain and the more shares your social media content gets, the wider the each of your messages are.
- Collaborations – Engaging friends, peers and industry influencers in collaborative efforts can give your content more mileage. Collaborations spawn valuable links and mentions that will introduce more people to your brand and the content that you creates.
- Newswires – Getting stories about your business published on news sites is a great way to raise awareness about your content. Press releases and the use of services such as Help a Reporter Out (HARO) are great ways to leverage this channel.
Measuring Content Marketing’s Success
Like any other form of online marketing, content marketing’s performance can be tracked using a set of KPIs. These stats can be used to draw valuable insights that can steer a campaign to the right direction.
Some of the most commonly used KPIs in contetarketing include:
- Sessions –The number of people who accessed a site in a given time period.
- Page views – The total number of pages accessed by visitors during a given period of time.
- Bounce rate – The percentage of users who leave a website after accessing a page without continuing to other pages.
- Leads (opt-ins) – The number of people who sign up to a mailing list or inquire about products/services.
- Acquisitions – the number of new customers that can be attributed to content marketing efforts.
- Revenue – The amount of money that the site earns in a given period of time.
- ROI – the ratio between the dollar amount of what was invested on a content marketing program and what was made back by the business in return.
When introducing content marketing into your online business strategy, make sure that these KPIs are tracked. After all, what isn’t measured cannot be improved. KPIs not only gauge performance, they also help you identify weak areas in your campaign that can either be fixed or discontinued entirely.
Content Marketing Services
Businesses who are interested in content marketing but do not have the internal capabilities to implement it usually go to third-party agencies who have the experience, manpower and technology to get the job done. Depending on the agency’s reputation, location and the scope of work necessary, service prices will vary. When looking for a content marketing service provider, businesses would be best served if they base their hiring decisions on the following criteria:
- Experience – The amount of time an agency has been in the game speaks a lot about its performance and staying power. Experience correlates to better processes, better problem-solving capabilities and better crisis management capabilities. Don’t limit your profiling activities to the agency alone. Check the LinkedIn profiles of the account manager/project manager and the subordinates who’ll be working on your site.
- Track record – Experience is one thing, experiencing success is quite another. The amount of time an agency has been in the business is important, but you’ll also want to know if they’ve made a positive impact in their clients’ businesses or not. When entering exploratory talks, ask for former and current clients’ contact information so you can get some honest feedback on how the agency does business. Get at least three references and see if the agency’s promises are consistent with what the clients got from them.
- Portfolio – One of the advantages of going to real-world stores over shopping online is that you get to see and feel the products first hand. Sampling the merchandise is a great way to get a good idea of what exactly you’re buying. You can do the same when you’re in the market for content marketing services. Get samples of the whitepapers, articles, videos and podcasts that they do. Get links that show you how they promote content online. Better yet, ask if you can see a client’s website and explore it to see the body of work that the agency has rendered.
- Potential business impact – Your content marketing agency must have enough analytics and business acumen to give you projections on what kind of traffic and conversions you can expect in six months to one year. While it’s unreasonable to ask for direct guarantees, it’s within your rights to ask what success would look like.
Content Marketing Services from GDI
My company, Glen Dimaandal, Inc. is a full service digital marketing agency in the Philippines that provides cost-effective, enterprise-level content marketing solutions to businesses of all sizes. My staff has a combined experience of 30 years in the online marketing industry, putting us in a good position to help you grow your online reach. If you’re thinking about trying content marketing for your business, drop me a line on the Contact page and I’ll answer any questions you might have.