Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Content Marketing: The Only Marketing Left

Content marketing is the only marketing left.
    – Seth Godin

Content marketing is certainly not new. It is generally accepted that one of the first businesses to use content marketing effectively was John Deere in the magazine titled The Furrow to provide farmers with a resource of practical information that would increase their success. At the same time, it established John Deere as an expert on all things related to farming.

For these same reasons, companies are now embracing the concept of content marketing to deliver practical and relevant information to their clients. The emphasis on useful and relevant information means that clients and prospects are becoming increasingly sensitive to bias and deceit, demanding transparency from businesses. Rather than relying on advertising alone, clients are reading reviews and comments – often without knowing much about the reviewer.

This leads to the need for businesses to adopt a new marketing strategy. Content marketing consists of focusing on creating and distributing information that a specific target audience will find pertinent and engaging. Rather than emphasizing the features and benefits of a product or service, content marketing is communicating without direct selling. It is providing information that educates your clients and prospects so they can make better buying decisions. It gives control to clients rather than the business.

Make Sure Your Content is Worth Reading

If you are in the early stages of implementing a newsletter in print or through email, or any other periodic communication with your clients, you may find yourself focusing on developing the recipient list, gathering information about your company, and deciding on a layout. We agree that these are important, but we also suggest that you focus on developing the content.

Put yourself in the mind of your target audience. Develop a list of general topics that would interest them, and think about where you can get good content. Are there credible sources within your company or organization who could be regular contributors? Can you subscribe to industry magazines as a source of research and statistics?

No matter what topics you decide to use, be sure you engage the reader by making it interesting and relevant. The more information you provide, especially information perceived as educational, the more interesting the content will become and the less overt your sales message will be.

Best Practices for Content Marketing

Successful content marketing is built on a foundation of well-written copy that covers topics of interest to the target audience and also follows the rules of grammar and copyright law. The best content will:

  • Be useful to the target audience
  • Be unique in some way from what others are writing on the topic
  • Use a writing style that the target audience is comfortable with
  • Be fresh and appealing
  • Advance a conversation
  • Use good grammar
  • Honor copyright law
Useful Content. Remember that the goal of content marketing is to build trust and confidence among your target audience by attracting and keeping their interest. Do you know what those interests are? Can you define them in the context of the products and services your business or organization provides? If not, then the first task is to study the people you’re trying to reach. Conduct surveys, ask for feedback, and try sample topics until you can define their needs and desires.

Unique Content. To ensure your readers will continue to be interested in what you write, successful content marketers do more than compile relevant information from other sources. You will need to add something – facts and figures, personal anecdotes, a new perspective – that will intrigue your readers.

Writing Style. Your writing style is how you write rather than what you write. Depending on your topics and audience, you may want to use a narrative style which describes a personal experience based on a real event. An expository style that conveys information or explains something difficult to understand might be more appropriate. You might also choose a persuasive style that tries to convince the reader to accept a point of view or take an action. Within each of these styles, you can use grammar and sentence structure to strike a conversational tone, a formal tone or an entertaining or humorous tone.

Fresh and Appealing Content. The best way to keep content fresh and appealing is to write about what you know. Find topics in areas where you have some expertise. Not only will it be easier to write, but you will find it easier to offer unique insights and perspectives.

Advance a Conversation. Good content advances the reader’s knowledge on a topic. Avoid rambling, repeating yourself, and adding words, phrases, or sentences that add nothing to the content.
Use Good Grammar. Misspellings, run-on or incomplete sentences, misused words, and other grammar violations will cause your audience to pay more attention to the mistakes, than to the content. Proofread vigorously and edit ruthlessly.

Honor Copyright Law. If you are using information from other sources, give appropriate credit, and use quotation marks to indicate when you are using another writer’s words.

Amazing Opportunities in Print

When it is time to decide how to distribute the content, all media channels should be considered. In his book, Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi lists seven reasons why print is an excellent option.
  1. Print Grabs Attention. We are all getting less mail these days, so what we do receive really stands out.
  2. Print Focuses on Client Retention. Historically, companies have used print to stay in touch with their clients after a purchase has been made.
  3. No Audience Development Costs. Content marketing newsletters typically target existing clients, so it’s not necessary to develop a mailing list.
  4. What’s Old is New Again. Since marketers have been using so many other media channels recently, print is being sought again because it is now considered non-traditional by some.
  5. Clients Need to Know What Questions to Ask. It has been said that the web is where we go to get answers, but print is where we go to ask questions.
  6. Print Still Excites People. The printed word is still perceived as more credible than what appears on the Internet. It is generally felt that if it is in print, it must be important.
  7. Print Lets People Unplug. More and more people are choosing to spend less time online and more time reading printed pieces instead.

Let Us Help You Perfect Your Content

If you are having trouble finding a writing style or the time to create content, let us help. We may have someone on our staff who can assist you, or we can provide solid recommendations for copywriters, editors, photographers, or other professionals to augment your efforts. One of our services is to help our clients develop and execute an effective marketing plan, so let us go to work for you. Contact Brigid with questions or to arrange a convenient time to talk. Let us help you become known as the expert in your field!

Q&A: How can I improve my proofreading skills?

Here are a few proofreading techniques that you may find helpful:
  • Read whatever you have written aloud. You may hear an error that you did not detect while reading.
  • Read the words you have written from the end to the beginning. This will allow you to pick up redundancies and spelling errors that you neglected to catch.
  • Ask someone else to proofread your text.
  • Look for the errors you are prone to making, such as misspelling certain words.
  • Use a style guide when proofreading. Strunk & White’s Elements of Style remains the most popular and often-required guide to popular use of American English. It is readily available in bookstores and online.
If you have time, put what you have written aside for 24 hours, then read it over with fresh eyes. If you find something you missed earlier, make any needed changes, and run another spell check. Then give the document one more careful reading. Proofreading is a vital step in the preparation of any document.

Content Topic Suggestions

If you’re finding it difficult to find topics, here are a few suggestions:
  • Interview an expert in your company or from outside to provide an expert opinion on a topic of interest.
  • Ask an expert in a complementary field to write a guest article.
  • Share your knowledge in “how-to” articles. Providing answers is a great way to keep in touch with clients, members and to reach out to prospects.
  • Invite readers to submit questions or topics of interest.
  • Simplify a technical issue. Explain a technical topic in simpler terms.
  • Describe a client problem and show how you solved the problem in a case study.
  • Describe a community project or donation made by your company or organization.
  • Profile an employee that has outstanding job performance.

Drive Awareness & Leads

One of the most effective marketing approaches today is content marketing. Over 85% of brands use it, according to Content Marketing Institute. In fact, small businesses should put more focus on content marketing, than larger brands because they don’t have massive ad budgets but they still need to drive awareness and leads. Content marketing is a great way to do both.

Content marketing is a way for businesses to inform clients and prospects about their products and services by offering tips and education about things clients are interested in. Content marketing generates awareness, engagement, and leads.

Ultimately, good content marketing builds trust. And if someone trusts you, they are more likely to buy your products and services, and more likely to tell their friends and family.

If you need help with content marketing, let me know – call or email today!