A friend informed me the other day that marketing is the only thing she hates about her business. “Marketing is hard. It’s expensive. It’s the only thing in my business I dread doing.”
She wanted to know if she was doing something wrong.
Why was she asking me?
I’ve written about business and marketing extensively in the past and I’ve run many small businesses. People often ask my opinion about one thing or another I’ve touched on in my articles or have first-hand experience with. If I don’t know how to answer a question, I do research. The only difference between the other business owners and me is I take the time to learn about marketing best practices so that I can write about it with passion.
In my studies, I’ve found one thing every business owner can do to make their marketing workload easier and more fun. They spend less money implementing it and get a higher ROI.
I told my friend about it, and she has already started building a new marketing strategy.
I’m talking about content marketing.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is nothing new — it’s been around for quite some time. Some have even said it’s played out and has long since jumped the shark. But, I disagree because many people have bet their business on it and come out the other side better than before.
Joe Pulizzi from the Content Marketing Institute coined the term content marketing, and since then, many smart people have tried to define it in their own way.
The first definition comes from the Content Marketing Institute itself, in an article named What is Content Marketing?:
“Content marketing is 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.”
The second is from another reputable source, Brian Clark at CopyBlogger:
“Content marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.”
The last and my favorite definition is for people who don’t quite believe in the concept of content marketing. Again, Joe Pulizzi, in his book, Epic Content Marketing, says:
“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves, their wants, and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.”
Content marketing is putting what your audience wants and needs before anything else — like your burning need to hard-sell. It’s all about providing value before you even try to sell anything. You create relationships and community. It’s about building trust between your business and your audience. Content marketing is a completely different strategy from building a business the traditional way.
Jamming your marketing message down throats with ads doesn’t work anymore.
How is content marketing different than traditional marketing?
In the type of marketing generally practiced — the one you learned in school and the trenches — you would place an ad somewhere people will see, like a magazine or webpage. Then you hope it’s memorable enough to capture the attention and interest of your target customer. Then you hope and pray they will buy from you.
That’s where the term “spray and pray” comes from. You spray a bunch of ads in different places, then you pray that people will see it and act.
It’s played out, right?
We’re not saying that traditional marketing doesn’t have a place. It’s still useful in some situations.
But, content marketing is building a relationship with your audience with content before you try to sell them anything. You add value before you try to take their money.
How content marketing can help your business
Most of us in business have the same goals, but we are all in some way unique. The secret of content marketing is to educate the masses about your uniqueness.
“I love the idea, but what does it do?”
- Provides value from the start with no strings attached
- Grows the visibility of your brand
- Helps create new and profitable relationships with your customers
- Creates loyalty and trust
- Builds credibility, and more importantly, authority
- Generates traffic and eyeballs to your website
- Helps you communicate with customers and prospects through social media shares and comments
- Helps your customer make a purchase decision quicker
As you keep practicing your marketing skills and improving your content marketing efforts, you will find more benefits over time. The effort you make now will keep helping you for a long time to come.
How do I get my brand message out to my audience?
There are many ways to get our message out, but a few of the more common are
- Websites and blogs
- Social media
- Community outreach
The key is to start with one way of interacting with your audience and knock it out of the park. Trying to do it all at one time in a wimpy, scattershot way will never work. You have to have a plan, and you have to know how to implement it.
You should reach people the way they want to be reached. Then you should diversify your efforts to touch more and more people as you go. Start taking action with one channel, and you will soon see how they are all connected and which ones you need to explore next.
How do I get started with content marketing?
You can try to be a jack-of-all-trades, but why, when there are many companies and people emerging that have the knowledge and expertise to do it all? Here are a few of the steps that need to happen to create and run a successful content marketing campaign:
- Explore your area of knowledge and passion and ﬁnd out what is unique about you and your business. Ask: Why do we exist? If the only answer is to make money, then you may have a problem that content marketing won’t be able to help you with.
- Find and explore the needs and wants of your audience.
- Find the channel or platform you are going to use to reach and build your group of raving fans.
- Brainstorm content ideas. Create and deliver them to keep your audience engaged and excited.
- Drive traﬃc to your content. It can’t just be any traﬃc, but the exact people you are catering to and trying to attract.
- Network with other inﬂuencers and authorities in your market and build relationships.
- Know how to keep your audience informed, educated, inspired, and entertained through email marketing and social media.
- Know when to scale and diversify your eﬀorts, so you get the most impact.
This is the shorter list!
There are many moving parts to an effective content marketing plan. But if you find the right people to help, you will reap the benefits for a long time to come.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that content marketing will work overnight. It’s a process of finding and interacting with your audience that needs doing carefully and methodically. It’s hard enough to do what you do every day to keep your business going. This process takes time and effort, and you need to make careful decisions at the right time.
Content marketing is the future of marketing. Now’s the time to put your stake in the ground and get your message to the right people before someone else does. You have to let people know why they should buy your product over someone else's.
Business is fun, but it is also serious. You need to find your place in this billion-dollar gold mine. Content marketing can set you apart from the rest of the crowd!