Hard sells are out; good content is in.
People have DVRs and remote “mute” buttons for a reason – they don’t want to listen to advertisers anymore. In the same way, they ignore much of the Web-based advertisement that has traditionally been used to bring inbound traffic to a site. Instead, they want valuable information that promotes trust, awareness, branding and positivity. They want to feel they are dealing with experts who are ethical, who understand their products and services, and who put more emphasis on educating potential customers than capturing them. This is the essence of content marketing, and the wise eCommerce professional will develop a content marketing campaign to satisfy this customer need.
The backbone of a content marketing strategy will include the following:
- Blog posts and guest blog posts
- eBooks and guides
- Social Media Posts
- Webinars and live presentations
- White papers
- PowerPoint presentations
- Podcasts and videos
You are probably engaged in some of these strategies already, although you have not called them “content marketing.” Indeed, it is a relatively new term, and as businesses become more aware of the critical importance of these strategies, the next year or two will probably bring about the following trends:
1. The titles and roles of advertising and marketing professionals will change: Businesses will begin to post employment opportunities for “Content Managers,” and job seekers who are skilled in developing rich and engaging content in all of the above-mentioned venues will have positioned themselves well to assume these new positions. More and more of companies’ budgets will trend toward content marketing because it is less expensive and more effective.
2. Content marketing strategies will embrace mobile formatting, so that consumers may obtain their information anywhere. Thus, blog posts and other media marketing methods will become shorter and more action-oriented.
3. New software will begin to show up that attempts to demonstrate a business’ return on investment from the use of content marketing strategies. An entire field of SASS development will open up for those at the forefront of content marketing evolution.
4. Content marketing focuses on relationships with customers, through branding and sentiment. If companies succumb to the temptation to automate content, in an attempt to cut costs, their marketing will fail. Content must be of consistent high quality, and people are needed to create it.
5. Traditional SEO approaches (i.e., keywords, tags, etc.) will diminish in importance, especially as Google algorithms change and Hummingbird becomes firmly established. Content will drive search results, not keywords.
6. Brick and mortar businesses will need to get on board with location-specific mobile marketing, providing valuable information and promoting “flash deals” to customers within their geographic locale. Failing to get on board with location-specific marketing will harm a business’ bottom line.
For lack of a better term, the key words that define content marketing are “valuable” and “relevant,” and these two terms should drive all of the content you create. You have a good idea of your customer demographics; you know your products(s) and services intimately. You bring both of these together, not by focusing on your product(s) or services but by focusing on information that your customers want and need. This is how you build relationships for the long-term. You are the expert; you provide quality content that is valuable and relevant to your customer, and you have the customer forever – no hard sell needed.
Because content marketing is a relatively recent concept, it is easy to wonder if this is just a new “trend” that will not stand the “test of time.” Early, short-term studies on the part of some business giants (P&G, Microsoft, John Deere) show that content marketing does result in higher sales, and they are thus expanding such strategies. The beauty of content marketing, moreover, is that it works for the little guys too.