The multiple benefits of content marketing

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.

Google anyone?

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.

Multiple benefits

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.  

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D. John Carlson
D. John Carlson
4 years ago

THERE ARE NO SILVER BULLETS

LEARN FROM THE GREATS

There are few business disciplines that offer the silver bullets on offer in marketing, and more specifically, marketing related communication. Almost every year, there is a new silver bullet guaranteed by a group of ‘specialist’ consultants, or advertising agencies, to drive superior results.

Consider:

• The advertising silver bullet in the 1960s;

• The public relations silver bullet in the 1970s;

• The direct marketing silver bullet in the 1980s;

• The CRM silver bullet in the 1990s;

• The website silver bullet in the 2000s;

• The permission marketing silver bullet around 2005;

• The social media silver bullet around 2010;

• The content marketing silver bullet around 2015;

• The ‘multichannel’ silver bullet is alive and well in 2016.

While the dates may be a little different, I am sure you get the picture. The facts are:

• Every so often, there is another specialist offering yet another silver bullet.

• Those ‘so oftens’ are getting closer and closer together as consultants fight for an edge.

• Just as there was no silver bullet in 1960 – so, there is no silver bullet in 2016.

Again, the facts are:

• There are no silver bullets. All modes of communication have strengths and weaknesses;

• Many of these silver bullets are repackaged bullets from the past – ‘content marketing’;

• Appointing a specialist snake oil salesperson is as dangerous today as it was in 1800.

I read two articles this week addressing the definition of public relations. Both were attempting to differentiate public relations from advertising and other forms of communication, and highlighting that it is not all about parties. Reflecting their insecurity, the authors were attempting to justify their existence and the discipline in which they are ‘expert’.

This is, by any measure, a puerile debate. Who cares what public relations is, and how it differs from other forms of communication? To me, this highlights the approach of so many consultants as they focus on what they are good at, rather than on what the client needs. It highlights the propensity for:

• Advertising agencies to have an advertising solution for every issue;

• Public relations firms to offer a PR solution to every problem;

• Content marketing ‘specialists’ to have a content marketing solution for every client.

Effective commercial communication is all about identifying the objectives and markets, and then using whatever modes of communication, in whatever combination is needed, to deliver on the objectives as cost effectively as possible.

Great businesses such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Coca Cola develop a comprehensive marketing strategy, and as a subset of that, a comprehensive communication strategy that uses whatever modes, in whatever mix is needed, to drive the outcome cost effectively. They know there are no silver bullets.

These businesses also know that effective communication is not about awareness, understanding, preferences, or even branding. It is about doing whatever is required to facilitate within the primary target market, the behaviour necessary to ensure the achievement of commercial objectives.

Great communication focuses on managing human (consumer) behaviour. What is the good of a high profile brand that everyone understands, but no one buys?

TRUST ME

1. There are no silver bullets in marketing.

2. Snake oil salesmen and women are to be avoided at all costs.

3. Great brands focus on behaviour change, using whatever tools are available.