Today as customers we have become accustomed to ignoring traditional advertising and to find our answers online where again we can block adverts by the simple installation of a Chrome extension. Conversely, smart marketeers have already understood that to make a business successful, we need to forget about traditional marketing (considered spam!) and to focus instead on content marketing. But what does content marketing really mean?
Content marketing is a strategic approach which aims to drive, attract and retain high valuable customers by creating and distributing valuable content through social media channels; from blogs to videos and podcasts.
Instead of pitching a sale to potential customers, content marketing focuses on engaging with a well-defined audience through content creation and distribution with the intention of shaping consumer behavior. This strategy is based on the principle that by offering content of value, people will ultimately buy into our products. It is about ‘convincing’ our audience that our brand is indeed the leader in solving their problems.
Customers spend time online, so you must be there
People tend to be more open in buying from brands or people they know and as a survey conducted among millennials showed, these consumers spend a large amount of time online and based their decisions on the time of information they gather on niche-specific sites and social media. Therefore, if you and your brand create a faithful group of followers that can clearly identify what you and your brand stand for and are aware that both of you posses either the experience or a product that they could be interested in buying, you can now use your efforts in turning these potential customers into effectual customers in a natural way that provides the longest and most effective return on investement (ROI).
Great Content as a way to Attract an audience
In order to get an audience, you need to let strangers know that you exist and what your business is about. A great way to create a listening audience is to generate content that people are interested in reading and sharing on social media platforms. How can you do that? That’s simple, you need to provide value. How? First, you could start by promoting an entertaining type of value, such as funny videos, jokes or uplifting images. Whatever represents a source of amusement is something that people love to share with friends and to talk about on social media. A second great type of content that people love to read and share is educational, such as videos and blogs that can teach people new skills, solves problems or simply presents complex topics in simple words (infographics). However, independently from the source of your material, approach or type of media, what establishes great content is the depth (make it big), the impact of the delivery (make it loud) and the force of the identity (make it personal). To get ideas just check out this blog about content marketing examples, it provides a list of 30 sites that were really successful in providing great content, made an impact in their delivery and showed a clear, personal voice that made their brand recognizable among the many.
How to generate content that users will respond to
Finding a topic to write about might be a daunting task; you might experience writer’s block syndrome or find difficult to come up with ideas. In order to overcome the first and most difficult step, you could start by writing something that you like or know about. By simply applying the “I will write something” principle, you can get the confidence that you need to become a blogger.
When I started blogging I was scared of doing a bad job as I read everywhere how important producing good content was. So I decided to start small: I wrote few replies on Google+ and then when more confident, few short posts. I suddenly realized that now everybody was writing long posts or writing something new, sometimes it was a short summery on a specific topic or a “How to blog” that people could refer to if experiencing a similar issue. What you need as your first digital marketing post is a well-written post to which you add your personal twist or point of view. You will soon realized that you are confident enough to do it on a regular basis. After you have started posting few entries, you can even go back to old posts, improve their content or update them with more recent information. In this manner, you don’t need to come up with new ideas all the time and it is an easy way to show that your site always offer fresh and relevant content.
However, if you are really struggling to come up with ideas, here are few ideas:
- Start by writing something you are interested in; a short entry describing a passion of yours could be enough to generate some buzz; people are much more interested in reading something where they can feel there is a real human being behind it.
- If you are afraid that not enough people will be interested in your passions, you can also find out about popular trends on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, Reddit and so on.
- Visit sites like Quora to understand what people are concerned about, which problems they are facing. Be the solution, answer their questions and eventually drive them to your site if that link could provide additional information (do not spam!).
- Start a conversation on someone else blog. It could be a less frightening approach, which could by itself already achieve several goals: learning how to write a post by reading experts’ blogs, discovering that you indeed possess extra information that could add value to the discussion, and finally interacting with the right crowd.
- Ask people directly what they would be interesting in reading or create a survey to know if people will be interested in your next topic. If not, it would save you time to focus on something else.
Engage with your audience with curated content
A better way to engage with your audience (AKA, potential customers) is to speak their voice, solve their issues, spark a conversation. A way to produce better content for your audience is to consider this formula: 50% curated content, 30 % original content. The remaining 20% can be purely promotional. Curated content means providing content that is well written, organized, easy to follow and rich of examples. Original content means mostly content that speaks your point of view; it does not mean it needs to be totally new. It could be something as simple as answering questions that people ask on social media in a way that can be easily understood by that niche. It is all about sharing content that people like, appreciate, engage with and eventually share; this is the most effective form of free marketing, when users market for us our content to friends and acquaintances! Speaking the language of your audience achieves two goals at the same time: you build an audience that are interested in what you are saying and therefore a crowd of potential customers and also filter out all the users that would never turn into customers as not interested in our services, products or expertise. It is not about filtering out who is not interested in in our niche (such as cooking, photography, fashion etc.) but also about our sub-niche (traditional vs fusion coking, experts vs beginners, high end vs high-street).
Be consistent with your schedule
After finding topics you want to write about, you now need to find time for sitting down and actually turn into words your thoughts.To begin with I would recommend to dedicate few minutes each day; just start by writing few short posts to get into the writing rhythm. When you start feeling more confident, try to get into a writing routine that better suits your needs (you might find that writing while having lunch at work is your favorite option). Whatever your schedule (daily, weekly) make sure to stick to it. For more information on how to become more productive, read my three posts on “How to work smarter, not harder“.
Acquire and maintain customers
When your audience of potential customers has become first time customers you want to turn them into recurring customers. As long as you provide value and you offer a solution to people’s problems, people will keep following you and buy into your brand. However, keeping them loyal is something that cannot be ignored and even if your customers see you as the leader in the field, their loyalty could switch off easily. Here are some tips on how to keep them coming back for more:
- Make them feel special
I was once a loyal member of the gym LA fitness. I enjoyed both their classes, the opening hours and their very good monthly fees. However, things were getting really boring for loyal members (I used to go between 4-5 times a week for 4 years): the classes were not changing, the difficult level was too low and not even a bottle of water was offered as reward. Yes, you could bring a friend to try the gym with you on a free pass. But I wanted the reward not to offer it to someone else. I felt unappreciated as loyal customers and I left. The gym closed down, it is now called “Pure” but it seems the attitude has not changed.
- Give them a special offer
What about a loyalty voucher? This seems to be a choice that many companies opt for. However, I am really annoyed when it is a limited time offer. I understand that it can be limited in case it is about a sale or an anniversary discount. However, which should my coffee loyalty card expire? I did spend money, right? I like Boots attitude. You can collect points on everything, they do not expire and on specific times you can even get more. It makes me feel in control of my loyalty to them.
- Keep them entertained on social media
Social media are the perfect platforms to engage with your audience in a non-spamming way. Many companies have been added to people’s personal profile simply because they offer fun, educational, trending content. It is an easy way to offer that quality content we have been talking about and the same time, remind people that your brand is still active. Just look at some examples like Oreo, DollarShaveClub, Lindt chocolate or National Geographic. These are companies that have embraced digital content marketing in its full potential.