Although content marketing is still a relatively new idea, the message that good content equals more sales is filtering down from the niche to the masses. According to a recent studyfrom the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 90% of B2C marketers said they were using content marketing in 2014, compared with 84% the previous year.
However, the study also revealed that only 34% consider themselves to be effective at content marketing. We think that’s due to confusion about what the term actually means, and a lack of commitment or strategy from the outset (less than half of those said to be using content marketing actually had a dedicated plan in place).
In this post, we’re going to look at a tangible definition of content marketing and why it’s important for every business, before letting you in on the 9 golden rules of producing good content. Let’s start with the basics.
So…what is content marketing?
We turned to the Content Marketing Institute again for a clear definition:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and ultimately to drive consumer action.”
There are a few key things to take away from this summary: firstly, “content” is what it says on the tin: information in a range of forms – nothing more complicated than that. Copywriting, brochures, social media, flyers, emails… it’s all content. Many businesses get too caught up in trying to work out whether or not what they’re producing can be deemed as content, when actually, the term refers to all collateral you produce for marketing purposes.
Secondly, content marketing should be strategic, with the end goal of driving a customer to take action, whether that be to walk into your shop, visit your website or buy your product. More importantly though, is the term “clearly-defined audience”. Producing content is one thing, producing it with a specific audience and consequence in mind is content marketing.
As we’ve already mentioned, it isn’t enough to randomly churn out emails and brochures with the hope of converting customers. Here’s our hard and fast rules for making your content marketing a success.
A strong editorial plan or calendar will help keep you on track when other business priorities tempt you away from content production.
Like any other marketing activity, if you don’t set goals for your content you won’t know whether you’re over or under-performing.
We get it, it’s easy to become excited about content. It’s fun to produce and once you start seeing results, you don’t want to stop. But before you commit to producing 5 e-books and 30 emails a month, consider your resource. Content marketing is very much a “quality over quantity” scenario, so don’t stretch yourself.
As a marketing agency, we’re used to hearing “but we can’t produce interesting content – we’re a plumbing/HR outsourcing/carpentry business”. It’s easy to think that if you aren’t Virgin Atlantic or Coca Cola, then your business is boring and you have nothing to say.
That’s when it’s time to start thinking outside the box. Look to brands like Charmin and B&Q – toilet paper and DIY probably aren’t the most exciting topics in the world, but creativity and storytelling help to bring them to life for a customer.
The term “evergreen” applies to content that will not grow out of date quickly, if at all. This means it will stay relevant and interesting to your customer long after you’ve produced it, making it more valuable to you as a business.
If you’re writing something which will appear online, it’s best to get to grips with SEO to make sure your content has a good chance of ranking in search engines and actually being found by customers.
A big mistake that a lot of companies make is assuming that their customers will want to read whatever they produce.
Instead of pushing out the first thing that comes to mind, ask yourself: what is the audience looking for? Can I answer a question or provide a solution?
Tone of voice is a lot more important than many people think. Nailing the right tone of voice for your brand can make your communications more authentic and effective, as well as giving you stand-out in the marketing place. Identify the tone of voice that works best for you, and keep it consistent across your communications to build up a brand identity.
Two tweets per day, one email a week, one direct mail piece every month… sound familiar? It’s easy to get stuck in repetitive patterns with content, especially when your budget can’t stretch to much more. But it’s important to try and keep your ideas fresh in order to keep consumers engaged. Try different things, different outlets, different tactics – but most importantly, learn from your mistakes.
Is your content marketing strategy working for you? Let us know in the comments below!