“Content Marketing” – sometimes referred to as “inbound marketing” or “digital PR,” is a tactic that’s been around for many decades, but the rise of the web – and social media – has made it a key tactic for business marketers – both B2C (business to consumer) and B2B (business to business).
A number of factors have contributed to the attractiveness of content marketing in recent months, including:
- The rise of ad blocking software. About 75 million U.S. internet users employ some kind of ad blocking, according to emarketer.com. Usage of this software is particularly high among the “millennial” generation. Projections are that about 28 percent of U.S. internet users will use ad blockers in 2017. Ad blocker use is being driven by annoyance over the irrelevance and low quality of internet ads, along with security concerns.
- Consumers are growing increasingly demanding that companies provide comprehensive information about their products and services to be included in any pre-purchase consideration set. According to content consultancy site salsify.com, “88 percent of consumers demand accurate, rich, and complete product content” before hitting the buy button.“
- Search engines demand a critical mass of high-quality content to exist on a domain before considering it in any way “authoritative.” Put simply, if you want to have any presence on the first pages of Google, Bing, or other search engine, you need content – lots of it, and such content must demonstrate “social proof” in the form of inbound links.
So content marketing is more important than ever today. So let’s talk about the five big rules you need to adhere to when mounting a content marketing campaign for your business (or yourself):
Rule 1: Pay it forward
Remember that corny movie from 2000 called “Pay it Forward?” Well, this emotional potboiler contained a lot of excellent lessons for today’s content marketers. Why? Because successful content marketing efforts “pay it forward.” In order for you to get anything of value back, you must put value out first. Today’s information-hungry prospects have been conditioned to expect a lot from you. These people wouldn’t be browsing your site or inspecting your social channels if they didn’t need something, and it’s your main job to meet this need completely, not by delivering a brochure on how great your solution happens to be, but by delivering the solution itself — at least enough of it to genuinely help your prospect out without expectation of immediate recompense.
Many marketers will likely fear that if they “give too much away” in the form of useful content, they’ll lose a sale. This kind of thinking is inappropriate. You shouldn’t be afraid of showing your prospects how you approach a problem, or directing them to helpful resources they can use on their own. Only by “paying it forward” will you gain any traction in the hearts and minds of prospects (which is what you’re really trying to do, isn’t it?)
Rule 2: Tell, don’t sell
The content that you’ll be marketing must resonate with your target audience to be successful. For this reason, it cannot be promotional, pushy, or one-sided. Instead, it must be impartial, well-researched, and authoritative. If your only call to action is “buy now” you’re missing the boat. (“Learn more” is a far better CTA than “buy now.) Ultimately, your primary goal in content marketing is not to drive sales, but to build trust. In this sense, it’s very similar to the relationship that’s forged between a publication and its readers. So tell – don’t sell – in the content you produce.
Rule 3: Play a long game
Content marketing campaigns, like SEO campaigns, are long-term executions. It may take weeks – maybe longer – for search engines to spider and index your content, and months before you acquire sufficient links to have this content rank in any significant way on the search engine results pages.
Too many marketers bail on content marketing before the rewards start to roll in, and too many consider their campaigns “failures” if content doesn’t show up on the first page of Google. What they don’t realize is that non-page 1 listings matter. Why? Because motivated purchases seeking complete information about the products they intend to buy often dig much deeper than page 1. These high-value prospects may execute numerous searches (often from multiple devices) and did very deeply before they arrive at a decision. So don’t be discouraged by not appearing on the first page!
Rule 4: Let your content be driven by data
Everybody on the internet has an opinion, and that’s great, but what your prospects crave is hard, factual data. That’s why data-driven articles, whitepapers, Slideshare presentations, infographics, and other quantitatively-sourced content perform so well.
The best kind of data you can use for your content is data that’s proprietary to you. But even if you don’t have access to a proprietary data depository, you can tap into the Web’s big data repositories to find data supportive of your article’s point. For example, Google Trends can be a great source of trend data. So can reports issued by private industry authorities (Forrester, Gartner, et al.) and government entities. The web is awash in data so make free use of it to support the content you produce.
Rule 5: Don’t rule out paid promotion
Organic reach – on social media platforms and the Google SERP – is an endangered species today. So even the best content will often remain invisible unless it’s backed up by paid promotion. Many marketers bridle at the notion that, after paying to generate content, they’re additionally required to pay to distribute it, but that’s the reality. The best argument that one can make against this is that it’s quite likely that one’s competitors are embracing this strategy.
The good news for marketers who are skeptical about paying to distribute their content is that Facebook, Google, and Twitter all permit you to spend promotional money in very small, hyper-targeted chunks. A small budget – spent intelligently to reach just those prospects representing your most profitable customers – can go a long way using these platforms, so don’t rule it out.
Kevin Lee is Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Didit a leading digital marketing and technology firm. While Didit started in SEO in 1996 and PPC in 1998, over the last 5 years Didit has made 11 acquisitions to transform itself into a full-service marketing firm. Kevin and his biz partner coined the one-stop-shop strategy BigTique due to the fact that internal experts in each marketing discipline are at the client’s disposal. Kevin continues to invent new technology platforms for Didit and new marketing ideas for clients. Kevin also co-founded We-Care.com which has generated over $8 million for nonprofits via cause-marketing. Kevin Lee, is a true Digital Marketing pioneer and gives back to the industry via books, speaking engagements, and 780+ published columns. Kevin received his MBA from Yale University. Kevin lives in Scarsdale with his wife Dr Allison Kahner and two kids.