Are your clients looking to pull customers to them?
Much has been written about “opt-in” marketing recently — probably too much, to be honest. An entire industry, of which I am part, has sprung up to produce articles, videos, blog posts, podcasts, and other forms of new media for this model. The goal of this form of marketing: educate, entertain and otherwise engage (forgive the overused term) people, with the hopes that they agree to be marketed to through repeat visits, signing up for an e-mail list or following on social media platforms.
While this may seem like a brand new idea, this practice has been around forever, albeit on different platforms than its current iteration on the Internet. Broadcast TV itself can be considered an older, indirect form of content marketing: people opt-in to be entertained in exchange for hearing occasional marketing messages.
I mention this because some marketers get downright arrogant about content marketing. It’s as if we are expected to forget that probably quadrillions of dollars in trade have taken place over thousands of years without being facilitated by a single blog post or Tweet. A content marketing strategy should therefore complement your overall plan, not replace it, especially if your business has been built using traditional methods which customers are used to, like a regular ad in the Sunday paper. Dropping all existing actions can be disastrous.
That being said, inbound, opt-in marketing does have some real advantages over the traditional marketing model, as long as it is done right.
When planning a content marketing strategy, realize that you become the publishing company or broadcaster. Like any TV station or magazine, if the content is boring or useless, you will have a small audience and little sales. Produce something interesting and people will find you, for quite a long time after initial publication.
Like the majority of the Internet-connected world, I have my own blog. In the classic case of “the cobbler has no shoes,” it is rather sparse, as I focus my efforts in producing content for others. However, one post I did several months ago, which is simply a tutorial on resizing many pictures at once using Adobe Photoshop, appears at the top of Google results — including the number one spot — for many keyword phrases.
While the keywords are a bit long tail, nonetheless this one piece of content produces a steady stream of visitors daily from all over the world. My ad revenue is up, but more importantly, I am getting repeated exposure of my name from something I wrote six months ago — and traffic has increased over time.
One powerful characteristic of a content marketing strategy is the propensity with which people share content — in effect doing your job as a marketer for you. As a recent example, my production company recently launched a web series about young Hollywood celebrities. We have spent zero dollars on advertising. Instead, we have leveraged the fact that people have opted-in to our various blogs, email lists and social media accounts to get the word out. Not only does our audience watch our content (and accompanying marketing messages), but they also share it with friends, family and fan base at zero cost to us.
One caveat: If our content was poor or a rehash of other material, this would not be the case; producing or hiring others to produce good content is crucial.
Placing an ad in a magazine can help reach a specific demographic, such a teenage girls through Tiger Beat, but this does not offer the same degree of personalization available through content marketing on the Web. The reason is that a magazine does not provide instant analytics and statistics which detail exactly who is viewing your content, where they are viewing from, and their behavior while viewing the content, like the Web offers.
With feedback like this — as well as proactive measures, such as surveys directed to email lists — content can be tailored to specifically address what your audience is most likely looking for. Now that most forward-thinking companies have a social media and content marketing presence, I suspect the next big push will be on developing even better web marketing analytics to ensure marketing reaches the right people all the time. Good content and laser-targeting, what an excellent combination for brands.
Whether you already have a content marketing strategy in place or not, it is an exciting time to market on the Web. Here’s to your---and your clients'-- success.