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Guest Blog: Chris Measures - What is content marketing and why should you care?
Whether you are a client buying marketing services, work for an agency or are looking at a job in the profession anyone with a passing acquaintance with the sector will have seen the phrase ‘content marketing’ increasingly bandied around. So what is it – and why is it important?
The changing landscape
Content (whether brochures, adverts or press releases) has always been a vital aspect of marketing. Well-written, targeted copy gets across your key messages, explains your products and services and builds engagement, and ultimately helps increase sales.
Three factors have raised the importance of content. Firstly, the internet means that the sales process has now evolved, with much more of the research phase carried out online, by the potential purchaser, with the direct involvement of the supplier. So, instead of calling up to get a brochure or visiting a shop to ask questions, the purchaser starts on the web, often with a Google search.
Secondly, the internet has dramatically increased choice. Whereas before consumers and businesses were limited in who they could sell to (and buy from) because of geography, they now have a world of potential suppliers. This is a mixed blessing – how do you pick the best fit for your needs in this world of choice? How do you ensure you are found by a Google search?
Finally, consumers and businesses have become increasingly savvy and adept at tuning out marketing and advertising messages. We skip TV adverts, ignore pop-ups and are generally much more suspicious of being marketed at.
So, how can companies (whether B2B or B2C), reach their target audiences and engage across a much more complex sales process? This is where content marketing fits in. In many ways content marketing is similar to copywriting throughout the ages. It has to be compelling, targeted and reflect the key messages you want to get across.
However there are four key differences between old style copywriting and today’s content management:
1 Written for search
Ranking highly in search results for the right keywords and topics is critical if your products and services are going to be found in a world of choice. Google and other search engines are increasingly good at recognising genuine content that answers a particular search query. This means that the best way of being found is by producing well-written, useful content, rather than resorting to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) trickery that tries to artificially inflate your position in the rankings.
So content marketing needs to revolve around the topics and keywords that you want to be known for. And how do you find these topics? You need to study your buyers, their personas and what they are looking for. Building a better understanding of your target audience will help refine the topics, keywords and language you use within your content.
2 Need for engagement
Customers are suspicious of being marketed to, meaning that the best way of building a long-term relationship is to provide them with interesting, relevant information. This could be content that educates them, engages them or helps them do their job better. What it isn’t is sales-led messaging telling the world how wonderful you are. Again, this is where content marketing helps. By delivering articles (such as blog posts or case studies) that people want to read, you kickstart the process of building a relationship between them and your business, and position yourself as a thought leader. This is particularly useful in sectors, such as B2B, with a longer buying cycle – you can keep people informed and stay on their radar, ready for when they are looking to purchase.
3 Cohesive campaigns
A single piece of content is not enough. Often buyers will want to begin by finding out about a broad subject, then narrow down into a particular category or technology and look at all the different methods of solving their problem. So companies need to create a full library of content that meets the different needs of buyers across the buying cycle. Think of it as a sales funnel, but driven by content, rather than necessarily calls or emails from a salesperson.
The best way to build a cohesive campaign is to centralise the management of content, so that you can see what a prospect has viewed or downloaded, and use this to build a picture of them and their needs. Look at asking for information (such as email addresses and other details) in exchange for downloading some content, such as ebooks, in order to find out more about your prospects.
4 Closely linked to sales
The beauty of the web is that you can see exactly where a lead has come from, and what pages of your site they have looked at. This granular, data-driven approach means you can see what content is working and what needs tweaking as you move forward. It also enables marketing to link more closely to sales, providing more qualified leads, with a deeper understanding of who they are and what they are looking for. Ultimately this increases the chances of turning prospects into purchasers, benefiting the bottom line.
Many people see content marketing as simply copywriting by another name, and many of the techniques are the same for both disciplines. But content marketing is more integrated into the sales process, combining interesting and readable copy with the ability to be found online and helping engage prospects in a deeper, more conversational, and better-planned way. In a digital era of unlimited choice and greater buyer power, content marketing therefore needs to be at the heart of everyone’s strategies.
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