Aug 12 | 4 minutes read

Content marketing Part 1

Visit any online marketing event and you’ll likely hear people discuss how content marketing is replacing more traditional promotional approaches. But what is it exactly? And is it really anything new?

Content marketing typically involves the creation and distribution of content that attracts attention, positions the organization positively in the minds of customers and/or prospects, and thereby strengthens awareness, loyalty...and sales.

The content does not overtly sell in the way a typical email promotion pushes for an immediate conversion. Instead, it delivers value to the customer or prospect by being interesting, useful or entertaining.

This influences the customer’s view of the organization and their willingness to buy from that organization, particularly in the long-term.

So what does that content look like?

Pre-Internet, content marketing involved print newsletters, infomercials, books, magazine articles, in-person events and similar. So the concept is certainly not new. The traditional B2B email newsletter works on the content marketing principle: deliver a stream of useful content to build trust, loyalty and mindshare so that when the customer is ready to buy they choose your products or services.

However, content’s current popularity is due in part to the growth of new channels and vehicles for publishing and spreading content via the Internet. Website articles and email are no longer your only online options. The alternatives now include YouTube videos, Facebook pages, Twitter streams, webinars, blogs, virtual conferences, slideshows and more.

Equally, social networks make it easier for content to get shared around, reinforcing the value of the content approach.

Here are four examples of how a B2C DIY chain might use content marketing online:

  • A weekly blog with advice on  how to complete popular DIY tasks.
  • A YouTube channel featuring two-minute “how to” video tips for those tasks.
  • An email newsletter that alternates between traditional promotions and articles that help customers make more informed product choices.
  • Customer ratings and reviews on product pages.

ccording to 2013 benchmarks from North America, an impressive 86% of B2C marketers and 91% of their B2B colleagues now use content marketing.

Those same benchmarks reveal that both favor social media, website articles, email newsletters, videos and blogs, while B2B organizations (as you'd expect) are also likely to exploit case studies, white papers, webinars and research reports.

Where to start?

There are four main tasks that underpin your first steps in content marketing...

1. Define the content you want to use

There are two key questions here:

  • What content do customers need or want?
  • Which format do they prefer? (Where do your customers consume content?)

The answers require an understanding of the interests and issues that concern each of your main customer types. In particular, consider the decision-making process behind purchases: what content will have the biggest impact on that process?

Of course, your choices also need to reflect your business expertise, objectives and resources…

2. Review your content resources
Take an inventory of your internal content resources:

  • Review all your existing material (online and offline) and customer service resources to find content you already have that can be used for a dedicated content marketing campaign. Can you use product documentation, chat transcripts, existing reports, website articles, testimonials, photos, etc.?
  • Can you repurpose content from one channel into content for another (like adding a "featured Tweets" sidebar to your emails)?
  • What production resources are available in terms of content expertise (for producing the actual information) and format expertise (for creating the vehicle for that information)? You can also outsource content production if need be.

3. Map out the production process

  • Define where responsibility lies for creating, managing and implementing a content marketing strategy.
  • Develop guidelines so content production follows shared objectives and reflects your desired style and branding.
  • Build an editorial calendar to keep track of production and distribution requirements through time…and don’t forget to map out how you might measure or evaluate the success of your content efforts.

4. Plan for promotion

Great content is a wonderful marketing opportunity, but how will people discover, access and share your content?

What combination of paid (e.g. Google AdWords), earned (e.g. press releases) and owned (e.g. your Twitter feed) media will you use?

Ensure content you publish online is easily shared: embed links and icons that allow people to instantly share your article, video etc. using the most popular sharing channels. These are email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and any relevant regional or themed social sites (like Pinterest).

Of course, one excellent channel for promoting content is…email! Part 2 of our look at content marketing explores how email (and social) fit in your content marketing strategy…

Anna Kristensson