What is content marketing?
'Content Marketing' is a relatively new and growing aspect of online and social media marketing, which I define as 'the production and use of a variety of valuable content on numerous online platforms aimed at entertaining, informing and inspiring consumers'. 'Valuable' refers to usefulness from the consumer's perspective, and so useful content is that which helps solve a problem by informing, educating or enabling. It is frequently something consumers will like, share and discuss. Examples might include case studies, videos, webinars, blogs, e-newsletters and white papers.
What are the benefits of content marketing?
According to research by the Content Marketing Institute, 33% of 'Best in Class' marketing budgets are spent on content marketing, whilst 55% of small B2Bs say they will spend more on content marketing during 2015 than they have done previously.
The growth in strategic content marketing signifies a definite move away from using content to directly 'sell' products and services. Research suggests consumers are now looking to purchase from businesses they perceive to be market leaders - those that answer their questions, but who also educate, entertain and inform. This shift in buying behaviour also shows that consumers, after identifying a need, usually turn first to search engines to tell them where to shop and who to buy from. This places greater importance on your business's ability to formulate a content marketing strategy and ultimately appear in relevant search engine results.
In a competitive marketplace, the big question is 'how?' It's not as simple as creating or curating great content that your consumers will find valuable - you need to put it squarely in front of them. Publishing content on your website is no longer enough - you need to shout about it, share it, post it on social media platforms, create adverts and email campaigns with it! This marketing activity, together with the quality and individuality of your content, will help your content have a longer 'shelf-life' in the fast-moving digital world.
The importance of content marketing in real terms
The overarching aim of content marketing is not only to demonstrate thought leadership and market positioning, but to increase website traffic, social engagement and inbound leads - from which sales are a desirable by-product. The more popular your content, the more likely other people will be sharing your content (and therefore marketing your business) for you too! The success - or otherwise - of content marketing activity can be easily monitored online using analytics software - meaning you can quickly report on return on investment! Unlike non-digital forms of marketing such as printed advertisements - from whose readers you receive little or no feedback - content marketing can reveal valuable customer data such as their location, time spent reading, sharing activity and even which brand of tablet they used to access it!
A quick example
Before I sign off, here's one of my favourite content marketing examples, created for Old Spice, the body wash and deodrant brand, which nicely embodies many of the key ideas behind generating a successful content marketing campaign - the ability to inspire, entertain and inform.
I'm sure you'll agree it does a great job of transforming what was perceived by consumers to be an outdated brand into a memorable, innovative and entertaining one. The content marketing secret of this piece is the strict avoidance of the hard sell.
The campaign's viral videoes received a remarkable 105 million YouTube views, won the Gran Prix at the 2011 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial, leading to single and double digit growth across their range of products. Old Spice became the leading male body wash and deodrant brand in the US.
Whilst the video is highly enteratining, there's some great thinking behind it. The campaign followed a revamped 'scent-inspired' product range, capitalising on the rise of male grooming, whilst targeting female viewers who commonly purchase body wash and deodrant for men.
It captures the shipping theme of the Old Spices' shipping logo and was celebrated for creating a feeling of connection between the Old Spice Man and the audience. The advert, staring NLF player, Isaiah Mustafa, was released just prior to the 2010 Superbowl and the campaign achieved social media engagement through inviting customers to ask 'Old Spicy Guy' questions via Facebook and Twitter.
This is well-executed viral marketing at its best, and hopefully this article has given you some food for thought when considering your next move in marketing your own unique content.