Any business with access to the Internet can create and publish anything they see fit. This is content. Blog posts, videos, interviews and case studies are all types of content. The marketing aspect of content marketing, at its simplest, is making sure that the right people read/watch/otherwise engage with the content, and then go on to do what the marketer wants them to do.
Content is the backbone of a variety of digital marketing activities. As of October 2015, 72% of businesses have a content marketing strategy in place – but 70% lack a consistent, integrated strategy for their content, and only 29% have a system for reusing and repurposing content. These stats suggests that businesses recognise the importance of content marketing but don’t always grasp how to make it work for them, or whether it’s the best fit for them in the first place.
So, when should a business use content marketing?
When they have something to say
Content marketing is a commitment. Businesses that use it successfully have decided what they’re going to say and when they’re going to say it.A content calendar helps; a straightforward document which outlines the exact type, topic, purpose and publication date for each piece of content, and imposes a consistent schedule which will keep customers and clients interacting with the business on a regular basis. The calendar outlines the content flow for an entire year, meaning that the content can tell an extended story, or focused around major events like product launches, conferences or important dates.
The key is consistency – content has to be produced and published regularly, and it has to be valuable to your target audience (more on them in a moment). A blog page on a website that was last updated a year ago doesn’t create the right impression or a regular relationship with readers, and it doesn’t make a dent in Google’s rankings.
When they know who they’re talking to
Content needs to be tailored and targeted. A successful business knows its target market inside out: their age, their income, their interests, and how they like to be addressed. That knowledge can and should be used to shape content. Tell your targets something they want to know. Focus on addressing their needs and you’re more likely to guide them into the action you want them to take.
When they need to educate an audience
A business with a complex product or service often needs to explain exactly what it has to offer. Content that demonstrates the value of the business’ product or service to a prospective customer helps that customer move along the sales funnel.
However, if the product is relatively simple, and the sales funnel relatively short, the content creation budget may be better spent on advertising. For example, a customer either needs shoelaces or they don’t – no amount of content is going to make their shoelaces break and create the need that brings them into the sales funnel.
When they have somewhere to share it
How is the content going to reach the audience? Blogs on websites are considered a must: they build leads, establish brand identities, and they’re the third most common influencer of purchase decisions.
However, the best content is cross-promoted and can be re-used. Content which appears in a newsletter before being published on a blog gives newsletter subscribers a sense of privilege, of being rewarded for engaging more closely with a business.
Content which appears on social media can be shared and spread, and thus introduced to new prospects and markets. Content is not an island, it is part of a larger marketing ecosystem, and any decision to write content has to involve a consideration of distribution strategies, too.
When they have people to create it
Badly executed, the potential benefits of content marketing are for nothing. Shaky, poorly-framed videos, tone-deaf tweets burdened by #wishfulthinking in the form of #hopelesslyoptimistic #hashtags, shallow or bloated writing full of buzzwords and run on sentences – none of these make a good impression with audiences.
Businesses need to realise that knowing their products, services and markets doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to talk about them. It’s best to maintain a small team – of employees, external agents or freelance contractors – who understand the brand’s tone of voice and the content calendar, and who have the skills to produce quality content.
Is content marketing right for my business?
Content marketing has a huge number of benefits, but it doesn’t work for every product or service. It also needs commitment to a long-term strategy and a certain standard of quality. If you have something to say, someone to say it to, some way to say it regularly and someone to say it to, consider content marketing.
Content is just one part of an overall marketing strategy – to see how yours is working, take our free Marketing 360 Healthcheck.
Featured image from Search Engine People Blog on Flickr.