Beyond growing your network, and in turn the new business enquiries those relationships spawn, business networking events are a great means of getting feedback on pretty much all things business.
Like the recent one I attended where the conversation revolved around the merits of so called ‘content marketing’.
I describe it thus because there is a misconception that content marketing is a new digitally driven phenomenon. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Back to the future
Content marketing has been around since marketing itself. Any time a business operator has been sought out – or paid for – their opinion on their business field of endeavour, content marketing – potentially in tandem with publicity – has been operating.
This means columns in newspapers and magazines, guest appearances at trade shows and conferences or on radio and television. All of these are forms of content marketing because as the phrase suggests, they are getting a marketing advantage by providing content.
But back to that business networking event.
The person I was engaged with was expressing doubt about the effectiveness of their content marketing efforts: “We get the occasional lead but given what we pay for it, we are considering whether or not to continue with it next year”.
“How are you tracking with regards its other benefits,” I asked.
“Oh we are pretty hard-nosed” said the business operator. “Unless we get proven leads we spend our money elsewhere”.
What about future leads?
Now I’m all for hard leads as a critical measure of return on investment but there’s a whole lot more to content marketing that just qualified leads.
The point is while those who are ready to buy immediately are sales and marketing gold, there are still some very handy ‘consolation’ prizes when it comes to content marketing.
The first is what many call ‘link bait’. Link bait refers to the quality of the content you provide being so good that others want to refer to it by including a link to it in any of their own websites, emails and social media.
This spawns the ‘viral’ that so many organisations spend considerable sums on achieving.
But this viral has an important second advantage.
Search engines like Google reward websites that are seen as ‘opinion leading’ by measuring the number of quality links linking to your content – aka an ‘inbound link’.
So say a reputable industry publication either re-publishes or links to the piece on your website, Google gives that a big tick and a corresponding lift in prominence to relevant key words.
Say your article was on ‘genetic engineering’ and the industry’s leading website or publication linked to the blog piece on your website. Due to the importance of their website as a quality provider of content in that field, Google would rank the link to it much higher than for say the website of a local newspaper.
And so when searching for ‘genetic engineering’, your website would be more prominent than it was before the piece was added to your website and linked to.
This effect alone will not only increase your chances of getting a qualified enquiry, it will also:
- Increase traffic to your website;
- Increase the chances of signing up for similar content by email or social media (likely to generate a future qualified lead); and
- Increase your prominence in search engines for topics (keywords) your content discusses.
These benefits in themselves are outstanding benefits. But as they say in the infomercials, that’s not all.
Because the more you keep your business in front of your prospect, the more likely they are to accelerate their contact with you.
The value of the reminder
The reality is most smaller business operators lead very busy lives. They may well have been meaning to contact you about that new product or service you can provide for them.
So putting your content in front of them has two further impacts.
First it reminds them to get in contact with you about that piece of business. Second, it moves you to the top of their ‘evoked set’ for your industry.
Top of the class
In marketing terms, this ‘evoked set’ refers to the brand the consumer recalls for that particular category of business so that it, in the mind of the beholder, becomes the leading brand.
The advantages of this are too numerous for this blog, suffice it to say that whenever that person thinks of or is asked about a provider in your industry, your business will be the one that is mentioned, again increasing the likelihood of a qualified lead.
So after taking all this into consideration, my advice to the business operator at the networking event was to measure far more than qualified leads to understand the success of their content marketing strategy.
Measure things like website visits, email and social media signups, social media ‘likes’, search engines prominence and brand awareness.
In doing so they may well be pleasantly surprised about just how effective their content marketing efforts really are.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.