In the digital economy content marketing is king, so, if you don’t understand how it works nor have the skills to produce content marketing campaigns you are going to be seriously left behind in the digital marketplace. You need to get smart, fast!
Why content marketing?
The rule of thumb generally acknowledged by marketers is that content marketing delivers three times the performance of conventional advertising at a third of the cost. In fact, like any other form of advertising, you can construct a strategy around pretty well any budget, but with content, you stand a better chance of a result with a lower investment.
The main advantages of content marketing are that it is highly targetable. It’s also non-interruptive, which is an essential in the new paradigm. It costs less because you don’t have to pay to appear (although you can do if you want to improve performance further) and it maybe provides a better balance of strategic and tactical benefits than traditional advertising.
However, don’t think content marketing is going to give you instant results. If you are lucky it might, but that’s a lot of luck, more likely you will have to build momentum. Then again, you would with any other medium.
Filling the content marketing skills gap
The biggest challenge for businesses trying to build a content marketing team is finding people with the skills they need. You might be surprised to hear that in my experience the toughest role to fill is that of writer. I’ve interviewed literally hundreds of people who call themselves writers who just couldn’t write content. It’s a unique skill that even established copywriters or journalists can’t always adapt to.
The need to deliver content has persuaded many businesses to employ writers on the basis of, what they believe to be, their familiarity with social media. This is a mistake. For one thing, the two aren’t as connected as you might think. Content writing is more journalistic than the conversational style you see on most social media. Besides, you only have to look at some of the grammar on social media to realise being familiar with the medium doesn’t mean you can write!
If you are out-sourcing your content, you will also need an editor to manage strategy, brief writers, manage them and distribute what they produce. Don’t forget Search Engine Optimisation either. SEO and social media marketing skills aren’t the same as knowing how to use FaceBook!
However, the growth in video content means that video is really where you want to be. Video content has more impact, is more engaging and communicates more. It’s more costly too of course.
You’ll also need even more specialist skills. Someone who knows how to shoot footage, editing skills and the ability to design your format and maybe script each piece. You’ll also need people who are good on camera. You can hire a professional coach to teach your key personnel the basics to being a good performer, but always remember, the way they appear on camera will have a big influence on how viewers will view your business or brand. You have to be hyper-critical in choosing who represents you and sometimes a professional presenter is the way to go.
As the volume of video content increases video content skills become more important. I recently conducted research that confirmed production values really do play a key role in determining the success of content. People don’t engage well with poorly shot and badly edited content despite what some of the social media “experts” would have you believe. You also have to “design” the format of the videos you produce. Random footage shot on an iPhone still have their place, but are unlikely to deliver the best outcome for most businesses. Invest in good lighting and cameras (if your budget will stretch a 5K camera it’s worth it for the additional editing scope it gives you), think about what you are trying to achieve with your films and plan your production. Ask yourself whether an interview, talking head, studio or location format is most appropriate to your brand and your tactical message.
High quality content isn’t cheap to produce and, depending on the volume of content you are planning, producing this in-house is often the best bet. I’ve helped firms set up and train their own in-house production team and even created in-house broadcast-quality TV studios for a number of clients. Not only does this often cut production costs, it will add responsiveness and agility to your marketing.
It’s not just about the content
Content marketing isn’t just a case of producing the editorial. Technology means that these days any communication is just a part of an intricate machine, with every component monitored and designed to move prospects, step by step, closer to becoming a customer. Digital marketing is more joined-up than we ever managed to make traditional media and it’s essential you fully exploit all its advantages.
Like all other forms of advertising every piece of content you produce will have two elements – strategic and tactical. The strategic element is probably the most obvious. You will be producing content primarily to inform and build relationships. In the digital age, old-fashioned interruptive advertising doesn’t work because consumers are in control. They know what they want, and this includes what information they want and they’ll search for unbiased answers to their questions on-line. The content you produce should be single minded – one article, one topic – and written with SEO in mind. You can tag your content, but if you don’t build keywords into your pieces you’ll be massively reducing your potential.
Writing with SEO in mind
Your SEO advisor will be able to tell you what subjects your targets are searching for so you can produce the content that meets their needs. The same expert will also tell you what words and terms they are using to find the information, so you can include these in your text. A good writer will know how to do this in a way that doesn’t lead search engines to the conclusion that you are playing them. If they do they’ll penalise you.
You should produce a transcript of video content too, to help the search engines find your content and use one of the on-line sub-titles services to add titles to your finished film. This also helps search, but most importantly enables people to watch the videos in situations where it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to have the sound turned up on their device.
Adding a call-to-action
The way you leverage the tactical element of your content is to build in calls to action. A great way to do this is to produce a give-away that relates to the subject of your editorial – an infographic or white paper is an easy solution. Alternatively, some kind of on-line consultation offer, or free access to some kind of video event, like a lecture or webinar. These elements are often referred to as “lead magnets”. When you make this offer within your content it should lead viewers to a dedicated landing page where they will enter their contact details in exchange for whatever it is you are offering. Clearly your offer has to be worthwhile to succeed, but once you have their contact details you are off!
These connected prospects will continue to find your content through search, but if you know where to contact them you can flag it to them whenever you publish something new.
It’s relatively simple with the tools we have at our disposal today, to identify which of your content resonates with individual visitors and based on these insights you can, over time, get an idea of how they connect with your proposition and reach out to them with tailored offers.
Content marketing isn’t just about acquisition
You can see that content marketing is a process, not just random pieces of editorial and this should give you a better understanding of what’s required, but it doesn’t stop once your prospect becomes a customer. Content marketing plays an essential role in developing your customers – cross-selling, up-selling, recruiting them as advocates or even affiliates. It will also help you develop your brand community because it reaches prospective employees, distributers and suppliers.
Content marketing isn’t just for external consumption
Nor is content confined to external communications. Internal marketing is a crucial plank of any business success. In the digital age, building a brand that delivers its promise requires a closer relationship with internal stakeholders than most businesses are used to and content plays a vital role in forging these relationships.
There’s no doubt content marketing is a powerful tool in the right hands, but the music isn’t in the piano. If you want to get full value from content you have to know what you are doing. The risk of losing money on your content campaigns is high. It’s made worse though by of the large number of self-proclaimed experts, who don’t have a clue, selling advice to businesses that lack the experience to discriminate between a real fake expert and the real thing.
If you’re about to start exploring the potential of content marketing, but you are unsure if you are approaching it the right way, I’m always happy to offer advice to anyone who looks me up.
July 30, 2019