Our media environment is increasingly cluttered. We are bombarded by advertising messages on social media, websites, print media of all varieties, television, outdoor, radio – virtually everywhere we look or listen, someone’s trying to sell us a product or service. What’s more, buying advertising space is expensive. Even if you have the budget for paid advertising, it can be difficult to accurately target the people most interested in your business, especially if you are a business-to-business company. What if there were a way to attract your most qualified customers to you without having to buy ad space? Sounds too good to be true, but in fact it IS true — content marketing does exactly that.
Content marketing is one of the hottest trends in the industry today. Virtually any business, B2B and B2C alike, can find ways to make it work to their advantage. Simply put, content marketing means you educate and inform customers and prospects about topics relevant your industry, demonstrating your expertise while building relationships. You aren’t promoting your products or services directly — instead, you’re helping your customers by educating them, which in the long run makes them more likely to do business with you.
Types of content marketing
You’ve been exposed to many types of content marketing, even if you’ve never heard the phrase before. Content marketing is all around us, and takes a wide variety of forms. Some of the most common are:
Blogs: Blogs (like the one you’re reading now) provide information and expertise on topics your customers and prospects are interested in. They can take a variety of forms — checklists, how-to guides, or informational articles. Blogs do more than attract people to your website – they improve your website’s search engine optimization, because anything you write will be filled with keywords relevant to your business. What’s more, Google prioritizes frequently-updated websites in search engine results pages. For example, a ladies’ clothing shop might publish articles on ways to wear scarves, or this season’s hottest trends in jewelry; a marketing firm might provide advice on marketing strategies; or a hospital supply manufacturer might post about how hospitals can reduce inventory costs. What problems do your customers have, and what information do you have that might help them?
Podcasts: Podcasts are recorded presentations (often, interviews) that provide useful information. They are more popular than ever before, and can easily be hosted on your WordPress website (as well as on iTunes, Soundcloud and podcast sites).
Email marketing: Anyone interested enough in your business to subscribe to an e-newsletter is a fantastic prospect. But everyone is more likely to be interested in a newsletter that’s designed to help them, rather than one that promotes your business exclusively. Do you have an e-newsletter? If not, you’re missing out – the initial investment in getting a newsletter set up is low, and the return on that modest investment is huge. E-newsletters can be used to promote your content — especially digital content such as your blog.
Brochures and other print collateral: Many businesses publish brochures or other collateral that’s designed to help their consumers. For example, a candy company might put out a brochure about safe trick-or-treating, or a manufacturer of knee braces might publish an infographic poster illustrating the anatomy of the knee for use in physicians’ offices. In each case, the collateral is not selling the company’s product directly — instead, they’re building customer goodwill, which over the long run is a great investment.
Videos: Videos are a great way to demonstrate something, or illustrate how a product is used. Once a video has been published to YouTube or Vimeo, it is very simple to embed a video on your website. For example, a beauty salon might create a series of videos about “up-dos,” an office supply store might publish a video about how consumers can choose the right computer printer, or a craft store might create a video showing a fun new painting technique. Although the rise of digital media means filming and editing a quality video is easier and more affordable than ever, you can also share content from a simple PowerPoint using a site like SlideShare.
Other forms of content marketing include infographics, white papers, comics, or even memes designed to be shared on the internet.
Ways content marketing benefits your business
It’s important to note that content marketing can’t replace paid advertising — it’s indirect, and is therefore a very slow sell. While you don’t have to pay for ad placement, there may still be costs involved – design and printing costs for brochures or posters, or production costs for videos. Most importantly, producing quality content marketing requires time and effort. However, the benefits are significant:
Education: Your employees benefit from your content marketing as well – those who research and write the content stay on top of their game, and all employees should read it.
It’s self-targeting: People specifically interested in the topics your content marketing covers will seek out that information. To continue with some of the examples above, a person at a physician’s office seeking care for a knee injury will be looking at the anatomy poster produced by a brace company. A hospital supply manager might Google ways to reduce inventory costs, and come across your blog post with tips on that subject. A woman who wants to buy a scarf but is unsure how to wear one might look for an article with fashion advice. Content marketing attracts the specific audience you want to reach, while traditional advertising generally reaches a much broader audience.
It’s long-lasting: Once your customers and prospects find your content, they’ll return to get more of it. In particular, blog posts can be on your website indefinitely, continuing to increase your search engine optimization. Traditional ad campaigns, by contrast, run for a defined period of time, and afterward they disappear without a trace.
It’s information your customers want: Usually, advertising is seen as an irritating interruption. Think about it – we are generally bombarded by advertising while consuming some other form of content, such as watching the big game on TV, listening to music on the radio, reading a magazine, watching a video on YouTube, or browsing the internet. We’re conditioned to ignore such intrusions, and do everything we can to avoid them – we click away from ads, DVR our TV shows, and turn down the radio when an irritating ad comes on. By contrast, content marketing is genuinely interesting to your customers and prospects. It’s information they want and need, and they seek it out – and that’s even before you start promoting your content marketing.
Promoting your content marketing
Producing content marketing is a significant investment, in time if not money. So once you put in the work, you should actively promote your content. There are a number of ways you can do this:
E-newsletter: As discussed earlier, your e-newsletter is a great way to alert your most engaged customers and prospects to what you have to offer.
Website: Your website should promote your content marketing – especially any digital form of marketing, such a blog. But if you have a brochure, why not post a PDF of it? You can embed your videos, too. Show your customers that they can come to your website for important information that will help them. Is there a way to highlight your latest blog post on your home page, for example? Embed those YouTube videos so people can see them on your website.
In-person: Anyone who has face-to-face contact with your customers should read your content marketing. What’s more, they should work to direct customers and prospects to that content: “yes, we get a lot of questions about how to use social media in marketing. Our blog has a number of articles that you might find helpful – I’ll shoot you an email with some links.” This reinforces a crucial sales message – that your company is knowledgeable.
Social media: Share your content marketing on any social media channels your company uses.
Content marketing can help retain current customers while attracting new ones. It requires an investment of time, but few hard costs are involved. Adding a company blog is often a good place to start. What’s more, if you have a good website, adding a blog is usually a relatively simple matter for your developer. Brainstorming blog topics isn’t hard, no matter what kind of business you have. Sit down with your staff, particularly your salespeople, and come up with a list of ideas — and see if you can make content marketing a valuable part of your overall marketing strategy.
About Prime Design Solutions, Inc.
Prime Design Solutions provides a full range of marketing and advertising services, from planning, strategy and training through execution. By specializing in both visual and technical disciplines, we offer a wide range of solutions to help you reach more customers. Visit our website for a list of services.