We’ll let you in on the worst kept secret in the industry: great content is the key to a successful marketing strategy. For years marketing professionals have been sounding the alarm about the death of the traditional sales pitch and the need to adapt marketing tactics to changing buyer behavior — it’s astonishing how many businesses continue to ignore those warnings. Put frankly: content marketing is the present and future of marketing. It’s a lofty statement, but we stand by it. Let us explain.
What is content marketing, exactly?
It’s a buzz word these days, but many don’t actually know what it is. Basically, it’s exactly what it sounds like: marketing content. That’s straightforward enough, but how is that different to any other type of marketing, since all marketing relies on content? The Content Marketing Institute explains in their definition of the concept below:
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
The phrase “valuable, relevant and consistent content” is key to understanding the difference between content marketing, and just plain old marketing. Take the direct mail campaign: you may be marketing content, but that content is about you — your business, your products, your services. Is that valuable or relevant to Consumer Joe? Maybe, maybe not. In most cases, Consumer Joe is likely to see that as spam, another useless ad, and throw it right in the trash.
Content marketing, on the other hand, focuses on providing Consumer Joe with valuable and relevant content — content that Consumer Joe actively seeks out (information he wants, needs, would make his life easier), not content that focuses on pitching your business and products.
So what’s an example of content marketing?
Blogs, for one. Since the explosion of the internet, people have been using the web more and more for varying purposes — entertainment, finding information, making purchases — and marketers have been exploring ways to insert themselves where their consumers are now spending their time. Blogging is one solution. Businesses can use blogs — editorial style content that provides valuable knowledge to readers and establishes the organization as a thought leader in the industry — to communicate and connect with readers.
What’s the ROI of this? Here’s a scenario: Consumer Joe has a problem — his aging mother is no longer able to manage activities of daily living on her own, and Joe thinks it may be time to explore long-term care options for her. But Joe doesn’t have the first clue about long-term care. So he googles “what are the types of long-term care,” and one of the first results that pops up is a blog posted by American Senior Communities.
Now Joe has found exactly what he’s looking for: answers to his questions. After reading this first blog post on American Senior Communities’ website, he might explore the rest of the organization’s site to find other helpful information, subscribe to their blog for future updates on similar topics, or he may even contact the organization to request more information about senior living communities in his area.
So by hiring a writer (or agency) to produce helpful, valuable and engaging content on a blog, American Senior Communities just turned an unknown visitor to their site into a potential lead.
That’s the beauty of content marketing: it allows businesses to address the needs and desires of consumers at the front end of the buyer’s journey (awareness and research stages), unlike traditional marketing and sales tactics that are really only effective in targeting consumers who are already considering services and products like yours.
In short: content marketing (via blogs, for example) is highly effective in generating interested leads. Instead of spending a pretty penny on ads or direct mail campaigns that target the population as a whole (content that a majority will find irrelevant), content marketing can generate highly interested leads you didn’t even know were out there — for a fraction of the cost.
Content: the present and future of a successful marketing strategy
In case you’re still not convinced that blogging or content marketing is a priority for your business’ overall marketing strategy, let’s review:
- Content marketing is a cheap form of marketing compared to traditional channels (you pay someone to create the content, but publishing it on your website is free)
- It effectively targets consumers at the beginning of their buyer’s journey, not just in later stages
- It can generate better customers who have more loyalty to your brand (remember, Consumer Joe actively sought out American Senior Communities’ website and information because of their content marketing)
Successful marketing depends on great content. Not only should great content be part of your organization’s overall marketing strategy, it should be at the heart of it. Because every other marketing effort depends on delivering great content:
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising: for PPC ads to generate leads for your organization, you need great content behind your ads. Otherwise, why would anyone be enticed to click?
- SEO ranking: Google and other search engines reward websites that consistently deliver great content by moving them up on their search results list (increasing an organization’s visibility).
- Social media marketing: if you don’t focus on creating great content, what do you plan to promote on your social media pages to gain a loyal following?
Given how much the 21st century customer’s buyer’s journey has changed, content marketing has become essential. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the customer is in charge of the majority of their purchasing decision. They don’t need your sales pitches anymore: they can go educate themselves about your brand, services and products online (and compare you to competitors to find the best deals). What they do still need is information. By delivering relevant and valuable content, you can at least influence their decision-making by reaching them during their research and awareness stage. And if your content is exceptionally smart and helpful, your organization may just become a go-to expert for leads and customers.
Want to learn more about the changing buyer’s journey, and how content marketing could help your business adapt? Read our blog about inbound marketing…
See what we did there?