Content Marketing is one of the many digital buzzwords you cannot avoid these days. You may also have stumbled across Digital Transformation, Native Advertising, Internet of Things, Big Data, Machine Learning, Algorithm, Customer Journey, Digital First, E-Health, Micro-Moments, Geo-Fencing … While the term Content Marketing first appeared in 1996, the idea has been with us since at least 1732 when Benjamin Franklin published his Poor Richard’s Almanack with the goal of promoting his printing business.
You might be unaware of the amount of Content Marketing you see every day, or how far back the practise goes. Johnson & Johnson began sending wound treatment guides to doctors as early as 1888. In 1895, John Deere published the first issue of The Furrow, an agricultural magazine that published print advertorials. The Michelin Guide (Michelin Tires) began in 1900 as a free guide offering car drivers information on accommodations and auto maintenance. I still have a free cooking book printed for young couples from 1964 and published by the Rogers Sugar Company – in addition to the many bakery items is an Introduction about the importance of sugar for a healthy and growing family.
Companies have long understood their customer’s “journey” and how to use different tactics to move them towards a purchase. In the past Content Marketing was practised in print, then radio, then television, and today via websites and our smartphones. Today we talk about User Stories, User Paths, Target Group Analysis – more buzzwords, but with your users multi-tasking, across multiple devices, they are more important than ever to understand.
What is Content Marketing?
“Content Marketing is a marketing technique of 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.” – Content Marketing Institute
91% of B2B companies and 86% percent of B2C companies report using content marketing, which is estimated to be a $300 billion industry.
Content Marketing uses various resources (newspaper, TV show, video, blog, social media etc) to do three things: To create interest in a product and/or service, to increase sales, and to increase brand identity and trust. Content must not also be informative for existing customers but should also speak to potential customers.
Before a company begins their Content Marketing, it is important that they first research and understand who their target group is. Their target group is then divided into unique segments. Content can then be created for each of these segments.
How do you know where to publish content? First, look at all channels and platforms your target group visits. Then, decide which content is best suited for each platform. What works well on twitter is perhaps not ideal for facebook. What works well in an inflight magazine might not work well on your blog.
If we think back to the Agile project planning process I wrote about last month, the second step we looked at was Requirement Analysis. The most important requirement for Content Marketing is that the content speaks to our audience. People are today very savvy and informed consumers. It is said that for each piece of content we receive, we research three pieces ourselves. We need to understand why we are writing the content and placing the images and linking to related information if we want it to be relevant. We need to understand the requirements of our audience.
We are Slaves to Purpose
“Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.” —Charles Eames
Everything we do, every project, every hour spent on the couch or at the gym, invariably has a purpose. Without purpose we have nothing. So, what is the purpose of content, and, how can we manage what we are doing with it in an efficient and effective way?
Your content should answer the Why and the How that is your (or your brand’s) purpose. * Ask yourself: Is my content relevant to my purpose? Will people who see my Content Marketing and go to my website via that content find the likely answers to their questions? Will I speak to them?
When we talk about content, two terms that are often used interchangeably are important:
Content Strategy (Why you are creating content, who you are serving, and how you will help them in a way no one else can.), and
Content Plan (How you will execute your strategy, who on your team will be handling, and details like the key topics you will cover, what content you will create, when and how you will share your content, and specific calls to action you will include).
Implementing the Strategy and the Plan is probably you, the Content Manager or Content Marketer – or quite possibly you without the title, simply updating your site and putting together a facebook ad. How do you connect content with related content (user paths and stories), share content in a social media or marketing environment (fitting the right message to the right medium), and write relevant and useful content that will drive people to your site? (understanding context). **
Quo vadis Content Marketing?
Three factors are important if a company is to be successful in their Content Marketing. They must be able to answer the questions and needs of their target group, offer them added value within the content, and to create interest in further products and services.
There are four basic types of websites – Websites offering Content, Website selling something (shops), Websites for B2B, and Websites offering Support. However, information – the answer to a question – is for most users the reason they turn to the internet and hopefully come to our website.
The potential to leverage content and provide information to multiple users on multiple platforms is easier and cheaper today than it was a generation ago. It may be temptingto place the same content on all your platforms or to put too much content out there , but with more and more companies creating more and more content on more and more channels, a problem has arisen.
We seem to have hit a “Content Limit”, resulting in a Content Marketing Paradox – where we are creating more content with less return. Industry numbers speak of an increase in content of 35% but a fall in engagement of 17%. If we are publishing uninspiring content on every available channel, we run the risk of the demise of content marketing – much like the demise of the television commercial. Our users may “turn off” and “tune in” somewhere else.
What Were Those Asterix’s I Saw?
It is important to understand that social media is not just a communication channel but ultimately a kind of retail space. We buy most products because we identify with the brand. We follow and share information about brands, influencers, celebrities etc. because we have an affinity for them.
We probably don’t buy Starbucks coffee because it is better than other coffee chains – we buy their coffee because we identify ourselves with their brand, as part of their tribe. Their politics, interior design, logo, music, customers all go into a brand mix which is ultimately what is being sold. Not the coffee. The same can probably be said about everything from running shoes to breakfast cereal. Something about the brand touches us. By purchasing it we are saying “This is who I am.”
Social media should not only promote and engage that which is core to your brand, but also the peripherals – other brands, with which you associate. These could be sponsors, partners, clients, mentors, brand ambassadors, products, even in some cases even competitors. More than anything, people really want to know what others are doing with your product. These connections are the brand obsessions. It’s all about speaking with your audience. “We know how you live, and what you want. We get you.”
Content Strategy/User Context
A meaningful analysis of a user’s context requires not only an understanding of users’ goals, but also of their behaviors: what are they doing (carrying groceries? driving? in a meeting?) how are they feeling (bad day? great day? fired? in love?), and what are they capable of at the time (mobile? one hand? two?) – and that is over and above if their internet connection is working well or not …
Whether people see our content and respond to it is as much a matter of our understanding their goals as it is understanding their behavior and as much as possible, matching our content.
If you would like to dive deeper into Content Strategy, beyond simply Content Management, then these books are a great place to start:
Further Reading / Sources
You might also like my posts on these related subjects: