The #1 rule of online marketing is content is king. Your website, social media, SEO or other internet marketing campaign can’t succeed without “fresh, unique, frequently updated” content. But what exactly does that mean?
What Is Content Marketing?
In the last few years, various names have sprung up for producing great content that is more “editorial” than “sales pitch” in nature. Previously, it was called “informational marketing” or “education-based marketing.” Now, the name has shifted to more catchier terms like “content marketing” or “inbound marketing.”
The fundamental principle behind content marketing is that people don’t want to read your sales pitch. They don’t want to sit through your commercials, read your ads, or be interrupted by your “Buy from me!” messages.
Value is subjective, but if your marketing messages are self-promotional and scream at prospects to pay attention to you, your prospects will judge them as having no value and filter them out. People only pay attention to what is important to them.
With content marketing, you recognize that people only care about “What’s in it for me?” so the best way to get people interested in you is to offer them editorial information that addresses their current aspirations and problems.
What Is Great Content?
Great content adds value to your prospects’ life in some way. That might be telling them how to do something, appealing to their emotions, passions or beliefs, entertaining them, or offering another point of view.
The rule of thumb is that if your readers consider it worthwhile, then it’s good content. Depending on your audience, good content is:
- humor and entertainment
- practical, useful free information on a topic
- opinions, commentaries, and reviews
- products for sale
- forums, chat rooms, and communities
- breaking news
- free tools and software
- demonstrates your expertise
- provides a free sample of your services
- provides a snapshot of your personality
Of course, you’re not limited to just one of those categories, nor must you try to incorporate them all into your site.
Why Is Content Marketing Important?
The NY Times estimates that people are exposed to 5000 marketing messages each day. To cope, we filter out what isn’t relevant. Content marketing strives for relevancy, so it isn’t filtered out. Here are 6 reasons why content marketing is essential to any marketing campaign.
- Engage readers – Content marketing adds value to people’s lives by offering interesting, useful information that helps them solve a problem, achieve a goal or make a purchasing decision.
- Tangible body of work – When selling services, it can be difficult to explain all the value you provide. By producing articles, books, audio, video, seminars and other educational materials, you share what you know in an accessible way.
- Position yourself as a thought leader – While people want to do business with those they know, like and trust, they also want competency. When you position yourself as a thought leader, you demonstrate your expertise and have others vouch for your credibility.
- Drive sales without hard selling – People like to buy but they hate to be sold. Content marketing offers them information to help them make purchasing decisions without sleazy, high-pressure sales techniques designed to manipulate their emotions.
- Build an authority website – Search engines want to rank sites they perceive as “the best” for any given topic, so they look for websites considered “authorities” in their fields. An authority site has lots of useful content and plenty of other websites linking to it.
- Evergreen content – A good content strategy involves creating content that doesn’t have an “expire by” date. You create the content once and can use it for years to come.
What Does Content Marketing Include?
With content marketing, it helps to think of yourself as a publisher. Just as magazines have editorial calendars planning what topics they will address in upcoming issues, you should have an editorial calendar for your website, blog, newsletter, podcast, or speaking series.
Content marketing can include anything you publish. That might take the form of:
- Writing: blogs, articles, white papers, ebooks, guest posts
- Audio: podcasts, teleseminars
- Video: Youtube, recorded presentations, webinars
- Graphics: photos, infographics
If you are just getting started with content marketing, writing is probably the easiest. Consider what types of content your target market wants and start writing articles about those topics.
Where Do You Get All Of This Content?
The biggest obstacle to content marketing is producing content on a regular basis. Where do you get good content? Here are a few ways to generate content from your website:
- Write it yourself. If your business is based on selling a service, your best bet is to write the content yourself. This accomplishes three things:
- The biggest obstacle you must overcome is demonstrating that you are a trustworthy, likable person who can do what you say you can. When you write articles, tip sheets, and guides, you offer people a way to put some of your advice into practice now.
- When people do what you tell them and realize that it works, they start to trust you.
- With repeated exposure, you become a trusted adviser, so that whenever they have a similar problem, they come to you – and there’s a good chance that next time, they’ll pay for help.
- Hire a writer. If you can’t write it yourself, hiring a writer to write exclusive content for your site is the next best thing. Again, I stress that having unique content is important. If people can go some other place to find the exact same articles, there’s a good chance they will.
- Accept guest posts. If you already have a large readership, you can ask people to submit articles to your site in exchange for a blurb about them and a link back to their website. You probably won’t want to publish everything that is sent to you, so in this case, you’ll need to create article submission guidelines for what you will and won’t publish. Make sure you only publish unique, high-quality articles.
- Interview an expert. Interviews are an easy way to generate content without doing much research. You can either conduct one in person or create an email with a couple of questions and send it out to known experts in your industry. Then, publish the transcript to your website.
- Pull content from your readers. If you have a discussion forum or comments section on your blog, you can take the best pieces of advice and put them together into a quick article. You can also ask readers to submit questions that you or some of your readers answer on your website.
How Does Content Marketing Differ From Advertising or PR?
Content marketing differs from advertising because you own your publication, so you don’t have to buy media exposure. Your content is editorial in nature, not a blatant sales pitch, so it attracts readers looking for information. Advertising usually interrupts prospects and asks them to pay attention to you. Content marketing pulls in readers looking for specific information.
That said, content marketing isn’t straight-up, unbiased journalism either. With a PR campaign, a journalist writes about you, so you have no control over the finished piece. With content marketing, you control every aspect of the editorial process from topic selection, to production, to publication.
Does Content Marketing Replace Traditional Advertising or PR?
No, it is a tool that should be used together with traditional advertising and publicity campaigns to build awareness of your services. Your content is only useful if people know about it, so you still need a promotional strategy.
It is far easier to promote educational content people consider “valuable” than material that is obviously a sales pitch for your company. If you create great content, people will want to link to it, share it, and tell their friends. So you use advertising and PR to generate awareness of your content.
You might ask why you need to add this “middle layer” to your marketing.
Getting people’s attention is extremely difficult – and convincing them to buy from you when they don’t know, like or trust you is virtually impossible.
Content marketing helps you to build your case – that you are different from other companies, that you know what you are doing, and that you have specific expertise that can benefit them. It does this by appealing to your prospects’ self-interest and giving them valuable information they want to read.
As people consume more of your content and get to know you, they will be more open to learning about your services.
Content marketing is not an instant solution to all your marketing woes. Rather, it is designed gradually walk consumers through their buying process so they feel comfortable buying from you.