You’ve heard the old adage before—there are those who lead, and those who follow. And, as you know, consumers remember the leaders.
Nowhere is this more evident than the exploding realm of content marketing.
While the term “content marketing” has been around for over a decade, the intense attention around the practice of content marketing didn’t start taking off until 2013—meaning that everyone is still on the bleeding edge of content marketing.
Today, even with 90+% of companies engaged in the practice (in both the B2C & B2B markets), spending an average of 25% of their marketing budgets on content creation, curation and distribution, brands across the spectrum are still trying to figure out exactly how to answer the question of “what is content marketing?”—and how to effectively derive value from the practice. The stark reality is that, despite the vast amounts of money spent and content being created, only 9% of marketers feel that their content strategy is “very effective”, according to the IAB’s 2014 B2B content marketing benchmark report—leaving you to wonder why you should even bother, especially considering the ongoing difficulties in measuring ROI connected to content.
In a word? Relationships.
Your brand’s perception is composed of three major points that you can control. Of course, your Product is the most critical, followed by your brand’s outward Presentation (the core of “branding”—your website, collateral and outbound marketing). And lastly, perhaps the most difficult pillar—Personality—the crux of your brand differentiator and the core of content marketing.
Because today’s consumer holds the vast majority of the power in the brand/consumer relationship, it is now more critical than ever to connect with them in ways that add value and build an authentic “human” relationship. Smart customers demand smart brands, and 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of relevant, informative (read: NOT self-serving) articles as compared to an ad—making content marketing the most effective method of moving prospects further into the buying cycle.
Of course, the emerging ubiquity of content marketing in every industry means that the practice itself is no longer a differentiator, and that consumers are facing a deluge of content—with research from Nielsen suggesting that 50% of a consumer’s online time was spent with custom content. So, how do you effectively differentiate? We suggest the following:
- Know Your Customers—Find out what your customers want, where their pain points are, and where you can help them be more successful, and then deliver that content
- Focus on Engagement—Remember that Content Marketing is a tool to publicize your brand’s thinking, personality and value; a relationship and reputation-builder and NOT a click-builder. Studies have shown time and again that brands must focus on creating solid content that engages—the ROI will follow.
- Inform, Don’t Sell—While 74% of consumers trust brands to provide education and insight, an overt sales pitch drops that level of trust by 29%. Remember that your customers are smart and have developed finely tuned “B.S. Detectors”—a “clever” sales pitch won’t cut it any longer.
- Be Device-Conscious—Understand that different devices and platforms are different, and tailor custom content to each outlet, device or platform. Bite-sized content for mobile, infographics & imagery for social, long-form for blogs, etc. Oh, and make sure the experience is consistent, regardless of device or risk losing a chunk of your prospects in mere seconds.
We’ll continue exploring the emerging world of content marketing in future blog posts, so stay tuned and let us know how your brand is approaching content in the comments below!