Creating compelling content that builds audiences is an important marketing pillar for anyone starting out in business.
Known as content marketing, custom media, custom publishing, branded content and branded media, this style of marketing is particularly important given consumers are increasingly seeking out information they can trust.
Get business news first
Sign up to SmartCompany’s daily newsletter
Content marketing enables businesses to deliver content via tutorials, email newsletters, white papers, custom publications, ebooks, free reports, blogs or social media.
Anyone can create relevant content that spruiks their business. If you’re a landscape gardener launching your own business, you could own a niche audience of followers keen to hear your thoughts on drought-resistant gardens, for example.
Content marketing is the way of the future, says the chief executive of the Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising, Jodie Sangster.
“The future of marketing is content marketing. The convergence of data, technology, new consumer consumption habits and digital distribution mean the business case for content marketing has never been more compelling.”
Craig Hodges, chief executive and founder of King Content says content marketing has been around forever. It works best for companies that want to drive leads and sales, working across multiple sectors from banking and finance to fast moving consumer goods, he says.
“It’s not something that has developed in the last couple of months, as many people might think. The real game changer has been the transformation in the way consumers find brands and ‘stuff’ in general.
“Google has played an integral role in this by determining they wanted a search engine free of keyword-stuffed landing pages, instead ranking quality sites with great content,” Hodges says.
This has encouraged brands to begin investing in owned, searchable content assets that are of value to the consumer and share the essence of what the brand stands for through storytelling, he says.
“If you couple this with the role of social media, a powerful sharing and amplification tool, it’s easy to see why there has been such a focus on developing quality content marketing strategies.”
Content marketing works well for new online homewares/linen store, I Love Linen.
Melbourne founder Lauren Roe has had strong results from Facebook despite the brand only launching a few months ago.
“A great Facebook strategy is based on engaging with customers and promoting a certain image around a desired lifestyle and then finding ways to link it back to your products,” Roe says.
One of her recent posts was shared by a popular blogger with a huge Facebook following, which resulted in a day of high traffic and sales, she says.
“It’s so easy to manage because once you have a good content strategy and you know the themes around how you want to post, then you can pre-source and pre-load all the content. We do this once a week so it’s locked and loaded so we don’t have to think of content ideas on the fly,” Roe says.
“I know Facebook works because I track the click-throughs from Google Analytics and can track the purchase journey that way. A great example is a customer that I generated via Facebook has purchased with us three times in just under six weeks,” she says.
Content marketing is also a key marketing pillar for Intrepid Travel, with content partnerships forged to develop content that will appeal to potential customers.
One of its most successful partnerships has been with sustainable food filmmakers The Perennial Plate. This partnership sent two chefs to 13 countries to create short videos that reflect local food culture, which aligns with Intrepid’s new range of food adventures and commitment to responsible and sustainable travel.
“The videos are authentic and compelling and each has its own distribution strategy. The first video that was produced received over 300,000 views and the series so far has been viewed by 2.75 million,” global public relations manager Eliza Anderson says.
Many start-ups already embark on a PR campaign, but minor tweaks to existing PR, communications and social media content isn’t the same thing as content marketing, according to a report by technology research firm Gartner.
Hiring freelance writers to create your content, create a pipeline of talent via online freelance marketplaces like elance or outsource your newsroom can be great ways to get the content you need, says Gartner analyst Jake Sorofman.
Ultimately, businesses need to decide what end result they want to achieve from content marketing from the outset, he says.
“Do you want to create blog posts, build a special website or blog, or generate Facebook comments or Tweets? Ensure that whatever content management system you are using can create content forms that match your goals. Also ensure that each asset you generate can be shared socially,” Sorofman says.
But creating content is one thing. Making sure it’s reaching an audience is something else altogether. Distribution of content is a major issue, according to a recent roundtable forum held in Sydney.
Hosted by ADMA and content marketing firm Edge, it found that many businesses overlook the importance of developing distribution strategies.
Care needs to be taken when it comes to distribution as distribution via social media can turn consumers off, according to a recent report by Pitney Bowes Software. It found that 83% of consumers have had a bad social media marketing experience.
Simon Bird, general manager Australia, warns that annoying customers can mean lost revenue, with 65% of consumers saying they’d stop using a brand that upset or irritated them through its social media behaviour.
“It’s critical for businesses to develop an in-depth understanding of their customers’ communications preferences and what makes them tick. You need to approach customers through the channels they like and with content that is relevant to them and their current situation.”
Five tips to help start-ups thrive in the age of content
- Create brand ambassadors. Use Twitter Advanced Search to find people who are talking about similar offerings to yours. Contact them and get them excited about your brand
- Understand and track your SEO. Use free Google tools like Adwords, Analytics and Trends to compare keywords, view keyword search traffic demand and find out if your keywords are converting traffic
- Take advantage of hashtags. Simple and consistent hashtags like #apps help your target market find your start-up. Use social dashboard tools like HootSuite or TweetDeck to find relevant hashtags.
- Find free publicity. Sign up for free services like SourceBottle and HARO, which connect journalists with sources to easily and cheaply build a reputation in your industry.
- Protect your reputation before you have one. Use free tools like Google Alerts and watchthatpage.com to find out what is being said about your company, competitors and industry.
Source: Ali Berg, head of content, Online Circle Digital