How To Do Content Marketing
I bet you have heard the phrase content marketing, but are you sure how to do content marketing correctly? and I am probably right when I assume that when you hear this phrase, the first couple of things that pop into your head are Facebook, Twitter, blogs and viral videos on You Tube. Do not worry, as you are not alone. In case you are thinking that content marketing is a new phenomenon, you are mistaken. The concept has been in existence way before the birth of the internet. Wondering why? The answer is buried deep in the fact that storytelling is at the heart of content marketing, and humans have been telling stories for an eternity.
As humans, we find stories fascinating and captivating and therefore they are an excellent tool for capturing our attention and believe me, marketing pundits know this in and out. That explains why a blog like the one authored by Tim Ferriss, a movie like Jurassic World left a lasting impression, and why Kevin Spacey was engaged as a keynote speaker at a marketing event.
Now let’s move on to some definitions that precisely describe content marketing so that you know what is being discussed. Content Marketing Institute defines the concept as a strategic approach to marketing that focuses on the creation and distribution of valuable, consistent and relevant content for attracting and retaining a precisely defined audience with the ultimate goal of driving profitable customer actions.
The above definition is pretty good but we can clarify it even further. The definition emphasizes that content marketing by its nature is a long-term strategy and is geared towards forging a strong relationship with the target audience. This is attained by consistently providing the target audience with superb content, which is relevant to them.
These marketing endeavors eventually induce customers into buying your product. They change their loyalties by switching to your product instead of a competitor’s. Contrary to popular belief, content marketing stands in stark contrast to one-off advertising. It takes a step further than advertising by showing that you really care about your customers and their needs.
We have all heard clichés like Content is King, and it is true because content is hot! What once used to be a quite modest cadre of YouTube enthusiasts and passionate bloggers has become a behemoth marketing arena. There are countless specialist agencies that are engaged in developing branded content as well as huge media outlets that offer native advertising. However, some cling to the belief that content marketing, as a strategy, has jumped the shark already.
In a popular blog, Mark Schaefer contends that the sheer volume of content that is hurled at a finite attention span makes content marketing an unsustainable model. I vehemently disagree with this argument because, to be honest, the same can be said about anything. Today, we have more of everything, like TV channels, websites, consumer goods and movies, compared to a decade ago and these businesses are thriving. It is a plain fact that content marketing has made its way out of infancy and businesses have to learn the art of doing it right.
As the art of storytelling has evolved with the advent of the internet and social media, there are a number of platforms that are simultaneously competing for peoples’ attention. It is the job of the marketers to ensure the stories they tell resonate with the readers. Now that we have discussed in detail the idea of content marketing, it is time to move on to the more important question: How to do content marketing?
1. First, Don’t Call it Content
In my humble opinion, the famous article Content is King by Bill Gates, where he presciently made an argument that content would be the Internet’s killer app, triggered the problem. He foretold it back in 1996 that successful people will propel the Internet ahead as a reservoir of ideas, products and experiences, i.e. a marketplace of content. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs started to pile on, attempting to acquire, leverage and marry content with distribution to come up with an invincible business model. It was an era of excitement, with numerous buzzwords and deal flow.
However, a majority of ventures failed. The first problem you need to realize before you venture into the area of content marketing is that content, irrespective of what people think, is not a fungible entity, such as credit default swaps or pork bellies. Content is a source of information, entertainment and inspiration and to do content marketing effectively, talented people are ready to devote their whole careers.
So, be wary, in case your aim is merely to do some content marketing, you are most likely doomed for failure. In order to succeed, brands have to become publishers and this involves not only engaging in new activities, but learning new perspectives and skills.
2. Define Your Mission
To be successful in your content marketing efforts, you should be prepared to think in terms of goals and objectives. You should have specific goals in mind, like promoting revenue, creating awareness or increasing loyalty. Your strategies should be devised to attain these ends along with design metrics that measure your success. On the other hand, publications start with an editorial mission. Take any good publication, like The Economist, and you will notice the clarity in their mission.
These publications stand for something. You will not see quarterly changes to their missions and their mission will not change on the achievement of certain objectives. Rather, the mission deepens and becomes more important. Some brands like American Express and Red Bull have successfully articulated their missions. However, a majority of businesses fail in this respect and their content marketing initiatives look like long form adverts. So, the first rule of being successful at brand publishing is to start thinking about what you are offering to the world.
3. Hold Attention Instead of Grabbing Attention
You must not, like many marketers, think in terms of the sales funnel. This model develops awareness for a brand which sparks interest leading to a sale. Believe me, this model has run its course and is now broken. Creating awareness nowadays rarely results in a sale. Rather, it leads to online searching, which the competition will use in order to retarget your customers. Put differently, if you build awareness and walk away, all you are doing is generating ample leads for your relevant industry, but little revenue for your company.
In this digital age, you need to rethink how you market and concentrate more on holding attention while devoting less time to grabbing attention. Coming up with headlines that are merely catchy slogans will not be effective. Instead, promise clear benefits. The opening sections of your content should persuade readers that further reading is worthwhile. Your structure should have readability, consistency and clarity. On top of everything else, you should deliver an experience that people find desirable and prompts them to return and share the content with others.
4. Create a Genuine Value Exchange
To create and deliver a superior experience for your audience, it is important that you stop thinking in terms of promoting a product and instead think about providing a meaningful value exchange. All brands have something to offer, and if you present your product offering in a compelling manner, it is unlikely that consumers would mind that you are simultaneously promoting the brand. As an example, Nike has exceptional connections with top rated athletes.
As a result, its viral YouTube video featuring LeBron James racked up 1.3 million views in 24 hours. Above all else, the value exchange should be true and meaningful. So, for instance, if your company deals in consumer electronics, a listicle detailing the sex life of Millennials may get you millions of views, likes and shares, but will eventually turn out to be a waste of time. Metrics don’t mean much if they fail to serve your mission.
5. Concentrate on Content Skills Instead of Content Strategy
One of the most apparent implications of content marketing is the surge in the number of content strategists. They are mostly washed-up brand planners who have labeled themselves content specialists or experts. Although they are exciting, witty and even insightful at times, they rarely have any publishing experience. This is one of the main reasons why content marketing efforts go down the drain. What you must keep in mind is you require content skills more than content strategy.
You have to develop meaningful and positive experiences rather than witty and punchy taglines. This entails placing your mission ahead of the metrics and providing value rather than a thinly concealed sales pitch. The takeaway is that you should take your brand publishing seriously. By no means is it a gimmick, it is a craft which takes serious effort and time to perfect. So, to make your content marketing endeavors successful, learn the craft of brand publishing.
6. Always Tell the Truth
Make sure you feature people, facts, situations and emotions that are real. To the largest extent possible, the content should show and not tell. Your content should depict your product in a real world context. Use consumer stories, client perspectives, case studies and narratives. Matters like why you are relevant and how you add value are some examples that you can use to tell your specific story.
7. Be Generous When It Comes To Using Data
Key and relevant data gives context to your content and lends you credibility, which is crucial in today’s age of information. Your content should be well grounded in facts. Research, data and numbers act as a foundation for any story. Your opinions, ideas and spin may or may not be a part of your story. This depends on exactly what you are attempting to convey. But remember that your credible and reliable content is deeply rooted in facts, instead of your beliefs and opinions. In other words, put data before declaration, giving your audience a solid reason to trust you.
8. Cite Credible Sources
Do not hesitate in giving credit where it is due. As an example, if you use a graph that is taken from another company’s website, cite your source and link it. In case the graph was based on someone’s data, cite that source. When you interview someone for gathering useful information and use what that person said, whether directly or indirectly, do not forget to attribute the ideas and opinions to that person.
Always be on the lookout for the best sources. A newspaper reporter goes to the scene or site of the incident for accurate and timely reporting. In the business context, be prepared to do the same. If you are writing a blog about a new technology, speak to the person who developed it, not the marketing personnel promoting it. Find the person who is at the heart of the story.
9. Incorporate Opposing Point of Views
A document that comes with a single perspective is called a press release. Make sure your content includes multiple and even opposing point of views when the matter is of such a nature. At a bare minimum, recognize that other point of views may exist and don’t overlook them. Doing so will impair your credibility.
10. Keep Things Simple (and Edit)
Like numerous other things, business can be complicated. Products that you produce may be intricate or appear impenetrable. But the content you produce should break down the complexity so your audience can comprehend it better. Convey your message in simple, accessible and easy terms and let go of the corporate lingo. Using visual elements can make this task easier.
In the context of magazines and newspapers, editors are the final authority regarding what is said, where it is said and how much time will be dedicated to saying it. A brand needs to follow a similar economy with respect to the content they develop and should concentrate on developing the best ideas in the best possible way.
I hope you now have a better understanding on how to do content marketing the correct way.
If you can take away one thing that is, you must become a great story teller. And in such a noisy world you have to do it well.
Those of you who focus quality time on telling great stories, no matter on which platform or in what context you choose, will always win in the long term.
Yelling louder won’t help you any more, only yelling better things.