No one likes the overbearing car or furniture salesmen. Sure, people want someone who is helpful, available and can answer their questions, but more and more tech-savvy consumers turn to the Internet for information before ever hitting a showroom floor.
From what car to buy to where to go on vacation to the benefits of essential oils and vitamins, most people research products, services and unbiased reviews online before making a purchase. Thanks to Google and search engine optimization (SEO), a potential customer in California can find your business in Michigan. That’s where content marketing comes in. Whether it’s a website blog, direct mail campaign, promotional video, email newsletter or social media posts, businesses need to provide valuable information to prospective clients and customers as well as established ones.
The Content Marketing Institute offers the following definition of content marketing: a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Notice the words strategic, valuable, relevant and consistent. To be effective, content marketing is much more than intermittent social media posts. First, you need to define your goals, your audience, what you want to accomplish and measurable outcomes and then develop a plan to meet your company’s objectives and digital marketing strategy – maybe it’s more website traffic, increased sales, or new customers.
To reach the right people and motivate them to do something, content marketing must also target a clearly defined audience that goes beyond age, gender and income. What kind of content could you distribute that would inform, entertain, and engage them in a meaningful way?
- Strategic: Consider the wants, needs, interests, questions, concerns, and reservations of your prospects or customers. How does your product or service fit into their lives? Why do they need it? How will it benefit them? Why should they choose your product or business? What expertise do you have that is relevant and useful?
- Valuable: Educate, inform and inspire. If people take the time to read your blogs or watch a video, they expect to get something useful or worthwhile out of it. Make sure they come away feeling like they’ve learned something, been entertained or can take the information and apply it in their life or career.
- Relevant: Your content must address consumers’ wants, needs and interests. They’re looking for information to solve a problem or make a decision, so become the go-to expert they turn to for answers. Be relatable, conversational and honest without being pushy or salesy. Get to the point. Be clear and concise. Keep it simple and easy to digest. Show your audience that you get them – connect on a human level and people will respond.
- Consistent: One blog post isn’t going to grow the audience you want, and it isn’t going to make you look like a trusted resource. Effective content marketing is delivered over a period of time and on a regular basis. For written pieces, use active voice and a friendly tone that represents your business and brand. Keep it short and easy to understand. Your look, feel and messaging, including the content, should sound similar across multiple platforms and help customers and prospects feel like they have learned something and can trust you and your organization.
The good news is Google is your friend, which is why you need to be ready when a potential customer sees your business in a search or stumbles on a blog post and clicks on your web page. Consumers turn to search engines, whether they know it or not, for information on ways to solve their problems or what to buy when they type in a word or phrase. People want content that helps them make informed decisions, but they don’t like being sold or scammed.
Studies show consumers are less responsive to traditional advertising and prefer to learn about companies through articles rather than advertising, which drives home the point of quality writing and providing relevant content without tricking them into clicking on a bunch of links only to try and sell them something.
Google’s updates in recent years also reward quality, which translates into up-to-date content that isn’t overly optimized or “spammy.” Publishing new and diverse articles, and updating your website’s existing content, will boost visibility and rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs) and keep people coming back to your site. Google recognizes “keyword stuffing,” which means using the same keyword or phrase too many times, and red flags it or lowers the ranking. It’s important to write for the reader in a way that is natural and Google will reward you.
Ultimately, a good content marketing campaign drives customer action that results in profits or growth for your business, boosts your reputation and credibility and makes a positive difference in the lives of both prospects and loyal customers.