“Content marketing” is the buzzword du jour, and it’s being used as a brand-building, customer-engaging cure-all for companies big and small. It’s a very attractive and logical idea in theory: offer people value-added content, whether it’s in the form of an infographics news piece, a funny story, or an enjoyable video — and in return, they’ll love you for it.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
But turning theory into reality is another ball game altogether. To help your brand navigate this exciting world, we’ve created a list of best practices when it comes to content marketing.
Don’t lose sight of your goal
Producing the next blockbuster movie or bestselling book might give your company an amazing boost and introduce an entirely new audience to your brand. And if your ultimate goal is to build brand awareness, it might very well be worth the investment.
But if you’re looking for a more concrete ROI for your money — such as actual sales of your product or service — then it might not be sufficient to merely push out a one-off successful piece of content. You also need to make sure that your content directly correlates to the product or service you’re selling.
A generic “Cute Kitties” montage is not likely to immediately bolster your cat food sales — but a cookbook that incorporates your company’s own kitchen accessories or gourmet ingredients into the recipes will have a clear call to action.
Don’t disguise your content
Consumers are savvy, and quick to catch on to any gimmicks or disingenuous marketing. According to a customer engagement survey conducted by the IDG Enterprise: “Trusted information [source] is hard to come by due to… lack of truly independent unbiased information.”
Never try to disguise your content as anything other than what it is, because your audience will see right through you.
If you have a call to action or a specific purpose that comes along with your story on “The Coolest Shoes to Watch For This Fall,” like getting your readers to purchase some shoes from your shopping website, then be transparent about it.
Does your “Coolest Shoes” story only feature shoes that are available on your website? If so, your story is innately biased. A better approach would be to broaden your scope and also feature some shoes that your website doesn’t carry, or to change the title of the story to reflect the truth: “The Coolest Shoes This Fall on ABC.com.” Your customers will appreciate the honesty.
Do think twice before becoming your own publishing house
Content marketing is an inherently appealing concept — who doesn’t want to create awesome content? — and after a few successes, it can be tempting to shift your company’s resources to make content creation a priority.
But before you commit to effectively starting your own media company, remember that content creation is literally what an entire industry does for a living. Magazines, newspapers and publications of all shapes and sizes create content every day, and the media industry is a business model in and of itself.
So unless you are a company that provides content to begin with, or unless you have an unlimited budget or a captive audience at your disposal, do think twice about where your company’s true expertise lies, and whether it’s worth the effort to effectively venture into a different industry altogether.
For instance, if your company makes designer headphones, you might think that producing a music magazine would be a valuable brand extension. But before you commit, here are some questions to consider:
- What will make readers choose to read your publication over all of the other publications already in the market?
- What will you do about the conflict of interest that might arise when you publish anything that is related to your own brand, or a rival brand?
- Do you have the resources and the ability to continuously produce engaging content?
Don’t produce content for the sake of producing content
This might be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to fall into the trap of the daily grind — even seasoned publications commit this sin when there are pages to fill and deadlines looming.
When in doubt, just put yourself in your audience’s shoes: Will they learn something useful or get a chuckle or a gasp out of your post? Take caution in polluting their already saturated newsfeed if the answer is no.
Do remember that even the most effective content marketing won’t be able to salvage a mediocre product or service
Content marketing is an exciting channel that might enable your brand to convert new customers and retain old ones, but it is not a magic pill. If you don’t have a great product or service to begin with, not even the funniest videos or most informative stories will convince your audience otherwise.
Think of content marketing as an extra avenue for your awesome product or service to reach new heights, rather than as a last ditch attempt to salvage a flailing brand. With a great product and the appropriate content marketing strategy, the sky’s the limit. But without the proper foundations in the first place, it’ll just be a matter of time before the cookie crumbles.
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