The internet has radically changed the way businesses communicate with their target audience. Instead of promoting their brand through a simple advertisement, companies are now expected to inform, educate and even entertain existing and potential customers in any number of ways.
Content marketing represents an unprecedented opportunity for your business to connect with customers and build up a loyal following. Think viral videos, pop-up stores and email newsletters.
A study published by The Content Marketing Institute last year found eight in 10 Australian marketers are producing more content marketing than they did the previous year. The research also found Australian businesses plan to spend more money on content marketing this year, with 53% of marketers saying they plan to increase their content marketing budget and 16% saying they will significantly increase it.
So how can your business reap the benefits of content marketing? SmartCompany spoke to some leading experts for their key tips.
1. Understand what content marketing is all about
The concept of content marketing has been around for a little while now, but the idea can still be foreign for small business owners who don’t have much time to spend on a marketing plan.
Michelle Gamble, founder and chief executive of Marketing Angels, says put simply content marketing involves creating or sharing content that a business’s target market might find helpful or entertaining.
“Content marketing is where your brand provides useful information to customers and potential customers to build goodwill and ultimately drive sales,” she told SmartCompany. “It’s different from traditional marketing in that traditional marketing simply promotes brands, products or services.”
Trevor Young, founder of Expermedia, agrees.
“It could be a blog post, slideshow, events or Facebook and LinkedIn updates,” he said. “But it’s important that whatever they produce it either educates, informs, empowers, inspires or entertains.”
Young says it’s critical to understand that content marketing is about creating value.
“If it’s relevant and of interest to your audience they’ll discover it and come to you,” he said. “Which is diametrically opposed to traditional marketing, which is interrupting people with your message.”
2. Surprise people
Young says pop-up stores and interesting videos can really grab people’s attention. However, it’s impossible to tell exactly what will go viral.
“You have to earn people’s attention,” he said. “Then you’ve got to respect that audience.”
One example is how online bookstore Bookworld encouraged Australians to shop locally during the Christmas period. As part of its campaign, Bookworld transformed bus shelters and tram stops in Sydney and Melbourne into mobile bookshops.
Kim Noble, marketing manager at Bookworld, says the campaign was a success because it was able to tap into commuter’s everyday routines – something that provided a unique connection between the business and customers.
“Once you have that connection with a consumer the path to converting them is much easier,” she said. “The best part of investing in good content is that unlike a marketing campaign, which is in market for a limited time, a good piece of content marketing will continue to work for your brand long after the initial launch.”
3. Plan ahead and know your audience
Gamble says often the hardest part of content marketing is coming up with ideas for the content in the first place. She recommends businesses thoroughly plan what kind of content they want to produce based on their target audience.
“Spend some time thinking through the top 20 frequently asked questions that your customers ask you,” she said. “Then think through the top 20 questions your customers don’t ask but should. This will give you the basis for what content you should create.”
Gamble says the next step is to figure out what platform will work best. This will vary from business to business.
“Are they likely to read a printed newsletter or are they largely mobile? In which case, short videos might work or an app.”
Young says businesses need to start thinking like publishers. People aren’t interested if you create content for yourself – it has to be all about the audience.
“What keeps them lying awake at night? When you’re creating your content you’re creating it for them.”
Having an editorial calendar can be a good way to keep on top of things, according to Young. That way as a business you can plan the frequency of your content and ensure you aren’t creating too much or too little.
“It allows you to ensure you’re hitting the mark.”
4. Use social media to promote your content
Gamble says it’s important to make sure people know about the content your business is producing. After all, there’s little point in spending a lot of time and money on something if no one knows about it.
“Make sure you are investing in social media and building your following so you have ways to promote any content,” she said.
Young says SMEs are in a particularly strong position when it comes to being able to have an authentic online presence.
“You’re not a faceless organisation,” he said. “What a small business has got that others haven’t is the personality of the owner and the enthusiasm and knowledge they’ve got.”
Young says social media – whether it is Facebook, Twitter or a blog – can be a great way to promote your business’s content as well as infect people with your energy.
“Put your heart into it,” he said. “Create content that has personality. Sure, there’s ways to write things and do videos but nothing beats heart, personality and passion.”
5. Take a look at successful examples and know what works
Gamble says recent campaigns by health products maker Blackmores and Woolworths are two good examples of content marketing done well in Australia.
“Blackmores has developed an extensive online presence that has free online communities you can be part of, free health advice and nutritional and naturopathic information,” she said. “This information helps position Blackmores as the trusted health and wellness authority in their space.”
Gamble says Woolworths “Recipe to Riches” campaign engaged customers while promoting the supermarket’s brand. The campaign involved encouraging entrepreneurs to create a food product that would be stocked in Woolworths stores.
“The show showcased what is involved in creating a product, educating consumers on how products get to market and featuring the Woolworths brand.”
Young says content marketing works well when there is a longer body of work to consider because that investment adds ongoing value to a business. He says a good example of this is the Best Australian Blogs Competition run by the Australian Writers’ Centre.
“As well as giving content it gives people something to talk about and share,” he said. “It gives them a leadership positioning in the blogging community in Australia. And that’s a good audience for them.”