Content marketing is absolutely essential to every brand (no exceptions). Until now, content marketing has been largely misunderstood and seen as the bastion of clever, high-tech B2B companies or the one-dimensional digital agency.
But in reality, every company needs to develop and deploy these capabilities and build them into their integrated marketing plan. There are a number of quality whitepapers available on the techniques of content marketing. (I encourage you to download several and read them). Most were developed by purveyors of individual technologies – which is why many companies have yet to develop content marketing programs with any confidence – they don’t see how it fits into their big branding picture because they are getting information in bubbles.
This examination of content marketing comes from a more holistic marketing and messaging perspective. From this perspective, in the world of true integrated marketing communications, all marketing tools should be considered in the context of all other marketing tools, because in the end, their use will affect and be affected by all the others.
Reason #1: Top of Mind Awareness
Without question, a successful brand needs to work hard to maintain its relevance and stay top-of-mind. No matter the category, to move to the front of the pack, your brand must be seen as:
- Providing the most important benefits
- Providing the best information on issues
- Trending and changing with popular sentiment
- Engaging and in touch with customers
- Present in all the places where important conversations occur
- Looking and acting like a leader
It is critical that any brand not only be positioned properly, but also participate vigorously. Enter content marketing. There should be a steady stream of communications (content) emanating from the brand that continually supports the brand’s position – telling the brand story. This is accomplished by publishing on a regular basis, in a variety of platforms, and in a variety of media that surround the customer.
This may seem like added busy work, but it’s essential because digital media is so vibrant and prolific that if you are not participating daily you lose ground (or soon will) to those who are. If you’re not engaged, you’ll soon be extinct.
Reason #2: Content Marketing Goals are YOUR Goals
The goals of content marketing are similar to those you’ll find in general marketing plans:
- To increase interaction and engagement
- To improve brand perceptions
- To drive traffic to your website/landing pages
- To identify new prospects and move them through the pathway to purchase
- To convert prospects into customers – online, traditional retail or other
- To maintain customer loyalty and increase the frequency and diversity of purchase
Reason #3: Content Marketing Builds Momentum
Unlike paid advertising where there is immediate gratification, content marketing tends to build upon its own momentum. The longer you do it, the easier it becomes, and the more you learn. It becomes an enjoyable part of the weekly routine. The “wins” are something the team can own. It’s good for morale. The more content you generate the better you will perform on a search basis. You will find content that is several years old still produces traffic and leads. Therefore, if you embrace the process you will benefit greatly.
Getting Started With Content Marketing
Once you’ve decided you need content marketing, how do you get started? The basic steps are as follows – we’ll get into greater detail below:
- Develop your positioning – what does your brand stand for
- Define your brand’s personality – how will the brand comment and communicate
- Have a keyword strategy/SEO strategy in place
- Design the strategy behind the campaign – where and when will you be present
- Develop an editorial schedule – what will your brand talk about, and when
- Designate & train authors – who will speak for the brand – how will they engage
- Build the tools – do this with your entire E-Co. System in mind
- Understand how you will measure and optimize the effort
Build Your Brand Story and Brand Persona
By nature, most of us are a bit insecure and humble. We were taught not to brag or boast. But your brand needs a persona with different attributes. Your brand should be an activist in its field. It should strive to be the most enthusiastic participant in its category. It should be outgoing and confident in its knowledge. It must work hard to make things simple and easy for its friends (customers & prospects). It must be talkative and present with words of advice.
You want to define how your brand will interact with people so that you know what tone to use as you communicate, and how to respond when others communicate with you. And you’ll want to make sure you have a keyword strategy developed so that each piece works to help optimize your results for the search engines.
Strategically Select Your Content Vehicles
There are many ways to produce and publish content. What and how it is executed will be determined by the needs of the customer, the competitive situation, and the goals of the brand. Some you can consider include:
- Social sites
- Outbound emails
- Blogs, websites, microsites, apps
- PR/blogger relations
- Speaking & event marketing
- Advertising (digital & traditional)
- Internal/customer communications
Most brands are best served by deploying several, if not all, of these platformed strategies in an integrated marketing campaign around a campaign or series of campaigns that are all coordinated to provide a steady stream of content.
STIR defines content marketing as “a fully integrated approach to utilizing content to drive interest in the brand via a variety of media to maintain relevance.” It is a mainstream marketing concern and a very contemporary approach. This is contrary to what you might think. Most companies that promote content marketing are utilizing email and blogging almost exclusively. In this case, Wikipedia has the definition right.
As you select the vehicles you’ll utilize, put together a calendar. This will help you plan your efforts – to make sure you’re being reasonable in your own expectations for what your team can handle and what your results may be.
Develop Your Team
This will take a coordinated effort that must have one primary visionary to lead it. You may need to serve that role or you must find someone who “gets it” to develop a master plan and push to see that it is executed with discipline and expertise. You’ll need to gather all the players who touch your various marketing elements –agencies and internal marketing employees. Clearly, define roles and outline expectations. Keep in mind that this will transform your marketing organization in that new efforts will be created. Consider this part of the inevitable evolution of your team and your process. Content marketing is a relatively new framework of thinking. So on-the-job learning is acceptable so long as there is buy-in and commitment.
In addition to the team, there may be tools you’ll need in place to help you develop and use your content more efficiently. Keep your ecosystem in mind so that you can ensure that information will be more readily shared across platforms. How you will measure your success will affect not only the content you build, but also how you build it, so remember your goals, so you can optimize your efforts.
While these sources tend to overlook much of the big picture advice I have just given you, they will help with the nuts and bolts of getting started and the more detailed process steps that you’ll need to take.