When done right, content marketing creates long-term engagement, trust, and loyalty among potential customers. Many businesses have a hard time grasping the basics of content marketing. Unlike most traditional marketing, content marketing doesn’t directly sell, and its value can be hard to analyze. Many content-marketing guides rely on a search engine and keywords strategies to draw easy clicks, but these will only take you so far. Unique, valuable, content is key to long-term strategic content marketing success, and these six strategies will put your brand on a stable road to customer engagement and conversion.
1. You Have to Fight for Attention and Awareness
Soren Kierkegaard, 19th-century philosopher, wrote in The Present Age: On the Death of Rebellion: “It is an age of advertisement, an age of publicity. Nothing happens, but there is instant publicity about it.”
The internet has created a world overloaded with information. Long gone are the days when a few select institutions controlled media. Now everyone can be heard, but they are also competing with everyone else for notice. To even get potential customers to the first stage of the marketing funnel, awareness, you and your brand have to climb to the top of this mountain of information. Somehow you have to differentiate your brand to capture your customers’ limited attention.
Content marketing, combined with other new inbound marketing strategies, relies on creating customer awareness and engagement first, worrying about selling and direct advertising later. Instead of focusing on publicising the nothing, as Kierkegaard puts it, content marketing is part of a broader strategy to truly connect with your customers, and consistent, unique content keeps potential customers coming back for more, creating trust and loyalty with your company and your brand.
2. Content is King
Despite the wealth of data provided by internet marketing, quality content that understands its purpose and audience is still the most critical piece of the puzzle. Data will be necessary for tracking and targeting customers, especially as your business grows, but it’s all for naught if your content can’t draw customers.
Compared to traditional marketing, content marketing feels like marketing through the backdoor. Blogs post don’t focus on direct selling, and may not even mention your products. Videos aren’t just product ads. Instead, content marketing is part of building your brand, and engaging potential customers with it. Then you can hit them with the newsletter signup form, Facebook follow buttons, and targeted ads.
Content should serve a dual purpose, providing readers with reliable, valuable information, while still fitting with your brand’s identity. A local dentist could use material explaining the ease of modern dental procedures while promoting their business as comfortable and inviting environment. A new startup making apps aimed at young tech professionals and entrepreneurs could use content about productivity and creativity while implying that their apps help with productivity and creativity.
3. Give People What They Want: The Unexpected
Academic researchers and marketing data analysts agree that the hunt for the unique and unexpected is what drives the internet. Communications researcher Marshall T. Poe describes this in A History of Communications: Media and Society from the Evolution of Speech to the Internet as the human need to find anomalies and fit them into their understanding of the world, help solve puzzles and increase knowledge. But creating content with unique peculiarities is easier said than done.
Taking unique value to the extreme, without having the information to back it up, leads to dreaded clickbait, which combines outlandish promises and solutions with unexpected and false information. Classic clickbait often offered solutions, “they don’t want you to know about!” But the novelty of such approaches is short lived.
Unfortunately, the human desire for unique ideas makes it difficult for data analysts to predict the reach of any one piece of content. Analysts such as Lutz Finger and Soumitra Dutta write in Ask, Measure, Learn: Using Social Media Analytics to Understand and Influence Customer Behaviour that even with tracking data, the human mind is still too complicated to predict.
You have to bring your perspective to what content is good and what isn’t. You can focus on quality, unique content to bring people in, or you can pump out regurgitated content to succeed by volume. Each approach has its strengths, but when you find the perfect, unique, quality content, then viral success and long-tail SEO results can pay off with long-term engagement and trust.
4. Give People What They Need: Value
Keywords, keywords, keywords used the be the only rule of content marketing, back when it was barely indistinguishable from search engine optimisation. SEO remains essential, but to keep potential customers interested you have to offer them some value. Providing valuable, useful information is much more likely to keep the clicks coming even after Google ruins your keyword approach with a new algorithm.
What is value then? That will vary a lot depending on your target customer. Think about your potential customer’s interests, needs, and problems, and provide them with essential information, techniques, and solutions.
For instance, business-to-business marketers do well focusing on detailed explainers, white papers, and content describing useful tools and techniques. On the other hand, lifestyle brands do well focusing on related lifestyle activities, including travel, nutrition, and health.
Try to include a value proposition right in the title, a line that promises the reader valuable and useful information. Remember, this is not a value proposition for your product or brand, but a value proposition about the content itself. Instead of an article called, “The Problem with Cat Carriers,” an article designed with a value proposition right in the title could be called, “6 Tranquil Tricks To Keep Your Cat Happy in Their Carrier.” Make sure your content delivers the value promised by your proposition.
5. Awareness and Engagement Don’t Equal Sales
Content marketing cannot do everything. It is excellent at building brand awareness by giving customers valuable information, but this doesn’t mean you can sit on your laurels. Your content might attract thousands of followers on Facebook and numerous hits from relevant Google searches, but if you’re not careful people will come only for information and forget your brand.
Creating a clear path from your content to your product and service pages is essential for converting from awareness and engagement to sales. Engaged potential customers are the easiest to capture, using targeted marketing techniques such as newsletter signups, sponsored posts, tracking cookies, and directed advertising. Take advantage of engagement already earned.
Awareness and engagement are the first steps, and a considerable part of the battle online. Pure name recognition goes a long way to getting customers stuck with multiple choices, and the brand engagement that comes from well-constructed content is even better.
6. Great Content Keeps Both SEO and Value in Mind
At its best, content should aim toward both search engines and readers. You should incorporate appropriate and relevant keywords, but because of the continually changing nature of search engine and social media algorithms, the content must still stand on its own.
Keep this in mind from the very start of your content creation or selection process. Great content hits relevant keywords, offers value to customers right in the title, lede, and description, and is mostly unique from other readily available material online. Hit even two of these conditions, and you have the makings of good content, but hit all three and you have an idea that might just take you outside the confines of regular engagement and awareness. Hit all three over and over again, and the trust and loyalty of your brand followers are almost guaranteed, giving you a lot of leeway to draw them into purchase opportunities.
Follow content that users appear to be interested in but which is not well-covered online. Use Google Trends and related searches to find searches people are making that aren’t yet covered in detail by many other sources. There is an opportunity to offer unique value.
Content marketing is a new world of strategic marketing by the back door. Gone are the carefree days of merely plastering your ads in front of people’s eyeballs. But done right, content marketing is a much more efficient and targeted way to draw in loyal, trusting repeat customers who genuinely see the value of your brand beyond just your product specifications.
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