Content Marketing and Why it Works
Content marketing is hot. You’ve heard it. If your company is not already testing it out in some way, someone is probably telling you that you need to. But do you know why? Is it because everyone else is doing it? Because someone at the top of your company told you to?
To make content marketing work for you and reap the rewards, you need to understand where it came from, why it works, and then take the right steps to get started. First, a little history.
A few years ago, marketing changed forever.
Old marketing was not always an integral part of business plan, but rather a creative cost center. It counted as its leaders some very talented creative types, but few marketing strategists, and even fewer business strategists.
Old marketing favored those companies with the most money, because money bought various forms of media, which turned into awareness, and that awareness would eventually (hopefully) lead to revenue.
Old marketing blasted the consumer with message upon message, ad upon ad, until he or she willfully succumbed.
Old marketing was simpler.
Consumer Behavior Changed and Marketing Changed Forever
The Internet, now inhabited by 81 percent of American adults, according to the Pew Research Internet Project, changed consumer behavior in a way that hadn’t been seen since the advent of television. Consumers and businesspeople got access to new information – information that could only be created, organized, published and distributed via the Internet. The new medium spawned new vehicles, which consumers began using to communicate, research and engage. First email. Then websites. Search engines followed. Social media came next.
A power shift occurred. Consumers became empowered and informed in situations where previously companies had the upper hand. Companies that provided information (content) to address consumers’ questions and need for information were getting the business. Those that didn’t distribute valuable content were pushed aside.
Budgets began to shift with consumer behavior. By 2016, Forrester forecasts interactive spending to reach $77 billion, up from $34 billion in 2011. Seemingly in the blink of an eye, marketing changed. What CEOs used to flippantly call marketing “spend” is now considered a marketing “investment.” CMOs have become superstars of the boardroom. Advertising-heavy approaches have been replaced by strategic marketing approaches.
Push became pull. Old marketing became new marketing.
Content Drives All Things Digital
In new marketing, consumers and businesspeople research, shop and buy products and services using the new vehicles that have emerged: websites, search engines, mobile platforms, email and social media. What does a company need in order to become “findable” in any of these vehicles? Content. More content. And even more content.
The amount of content you produce is overshadowed by only one factor – the quality of the content you produce. Every single day, 2 million blog posts are written, 294 billion emails are sent, and 864,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube alone. As a publisher, and more importantly as a marketer, you are fighting for already short attention spans, and you’re doing it in a sea of cluttered content.
More Than Ever, Strategy is What Separates One Company From Another
These massive shifts in marketing have left many people and companies in the dust. They were too slow to move, too skeptical to change, too proud to accept reality. On the other hand, the companies and people that embraced these shifts will tell you that a cohesive marketing strategy, derived from a well-planned business strategy, still rules the day. That marketing strategy, to be truly effective, should now be content driven.
Why Does Content Marketing Work?
Content marketing works for a very simple reason. It educates and engages your audience. Research from Sirius Decisions shows that a buyer, on average, is more than 65 percent of the way into their buying decision before they ever decide to reach out to a sales person. Where do you think they are getting all of their information? Right. The Internet. And if you don’t give it to them in a way that makes you look like a thought leader within your industry, your competition will. Concerned that the competition will steal your secret sauce by sharing too much?
Remember Emeril Lagasse? When he joined the Food Network (then Food TV), he proceeded to reveal, one by one, all of the recipes that were the most famous and best selling at his New Orleans restaurant. Now instead of ponying up for a night out at Emeril’s, you could easily stay home and make a meal using the exact recipes Emeril’s served. Do you think business at Emeril’s restaurant went into the tank? Emeril went on to open MORE restaurants, expand into multiple television shows, and sign lucrative licensing deals for cookbooks and cookware. At its peak, the “Emeril Empire” was raking in more than $150 million per year. Emeril created smarter buyers and turned them on to more sophisticated products. And while many of them probably tried to make his recipes at home, many more of them still knew that the chefs at his restaurants could make them just “that much better.”
The same thing goes for your product or service. Tell your audience how it works. Let them in on your secrets. The ones who think they can do it themselves will give it a try. But when they grow weary of making the effort on their own, or when they realize it’s actually more difficult than they thought it would be, they will naturally come to you for help if they learned it all from you in the first place.
Planning Before Execution
But don’t give away all of your secrets without a plan. No content marketing effort will be successful without a strategy to back it up. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report, of the marketers who consider themselves ineffective at content marketing, 84 percent have no documented content marketing strategy.
We’ve seen lots of clients who come to us and just want to start executing. Many people think that the faster you get going, the faster you will see results. Not necessarily. A content marketing effort is a marathon, not a sprint. And without a plan and strategy, results from randomly created and distributed content will be shaky at best, and measurement will be challenging.
Develop a solid plan and make sure it is supported from the top of your organization. Your plan should include things like:
• Goal setting
• Identifying target audiences
• Competitive and aspirational benchmarking
• Development of ideas, messages and themes
• Consideration of distribution channels, tactics and technologies
• Content assessment
• Planning for process, team and tools
• Agreement on how success will be measured
Content marketing definitely is hot right now, and it’s probably not going anywhere. Get in on it but don’t jump in without an understanding of what it is and without a plan. Mailing it in on the content marketing planning process will seal your fate, and worse yet, it may spell premature doom for your chance to do content marketing the right way. I95