You finally did it. You took your idea, refined it and formulated a business plan. You got your finances together and determined your business structure, registered with the appropriate governing bodies, built your team and chose your vendors. You've branded yourself and now you're open for business, hoping your business grows.
You’ve even been proactive with marketing, having already taken out print ads in newspapers and investing in billboards, radio spots and TV commercials. The only problem? All of your efforts haven't garnered the results you expected. Sure, you may have increased awareness of your products and services, but you’re not seeing the ROI you expected.
Why? Due to the increased use of various social media platforms and the internet in general, traditional “outbound” marketing may not be the most effective and efficient way to build your brand and drum up business. Don't get me wrong. Traditional marketing works. But if you want your business to stand out above the competition (and I know you do), then investing in content marketing is a great way to do just that.
But what exactly is content marketing? How does it work? How do you start? Whether you've heard of content marketing or not, here are answers to the 10 most common content marketing questions:
1. What Is Content Marketing?
This might have been obvious. But hey, the best place to start is at the beginning. The short answer is that content marketing is telling your story. Specifically, telling the story of your goods or services. When your business writes and shares pieces of free helpful content in different formats — such as articles, blogs, videos, etc. — that are of value to your target audience, awareness in your business grows and results in an increase in new customers.
Content that is entertaining, engaging and educational can attract potential customers and demonstrates to them that you have expertise in your industry. This promotes trust in your brand and increases the potential to convert leads into lifelong customers.
2. How Does Content Marketing Work?
Content marketing works by allowing businesses to interact with (and go where) their prospects are. Being in front of your target audience and sharing engaging content serves to increase visibility and build relationships with those who may become new customers. And if they don't, well, you've still increased awareness. And that is a good thing. But with all of the online platforms out there, your business can focus on those platforms where its target audience visits the most.
But wait... there's more!
In addition to your target audience, there are other types of folks you may want to engage with your brand. For example, bloggers may write about your content. If those bloggers have a large number of followers, they can offer your business additional exposure.
3. If I Have a Content Marketing Strategy, Can I Abandon Outbound Marketing?
Um, no. It's best to use traditional/outbound marketing in conjunction with a content marketing strategy. You may find that your business relies more on content marketing. But traditional marketing still has its place. Just imagine that you've been driving on the interstate for thirteen hours straight and really want to sleep. It's certainly not a good idea to do so behind the wheel at 70 miles per hour. That's right about the time you spot the billboard on the side of the highway that informs you that a quality hotel is at the next exit. Assuming you rent a room at that hotel, traditional marketing worked.
4. How Can Content Marketing Benefit My Business?
According to new data from MIT Technology Review, Americans spend nearly 24 hours a week online. That's a lot of surfing without water and a board. And when they're surfing online, they are absorbing content. So as stated above, you are where your audience is.
Now, the bottom line with content marketing (just like with traditional marketing) is to increase your business' bottom line. When you have a strong content marketing strategy in place, your business can increase revenue and reach your business goals. Additional benefits also include:
- Climbing in search engine rankings, generating more traffic to your website.
- Broadening your reach and visibility across social media platforms.
- Establishing your business as innovative while building the trust and confidence of your target audience.
5. What Is a Content Marketing Strategy and Do I Really Need One?
Demian Farnworth at Copyblogger.com defines content marketing strategy as “a plan for building an audience by publishing, maintaining and spreading frequent and consistent content that educates, entertains, or inspires to turn strangers into fans and fans into customers.” Every day your business may be publishing content in the form of blogs, videos, digital and print newsletters and periodicals. This is a large part of your business' content. And it can be a lot of stuff — or not enough.
On top of that, you want the content you create to be appropriate and relative to your business. If you want to be certain that you're delivering your content to your target audience, you can't rely on UPS. You'll need to be thoughtful about your content marketing, which means creating a content marketing strategy.
6. How Long Will It Be Before I See Results?
I would love to make you smile and say that you'll see results in just a few minutes. Like that bogus “diet” pill I tried. Truth is, no one can say for certain just exactly when you'll see positive results. Some small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may experience a bump in traffic very quickly. But for most businesses — particularly those just starting out or those expanding their online presence — results may not be so rapid.
Keep in mind that a content market strategy is a long-term strategy. According to Australian-based Content marketing company Castleford, seeing results will “depend on what goals you set, what budget and resources you have at your disposal and where you're starting from.” With that said, there are several benchmarks that can assist you in setting realistic expectations. Generally speaking, a strong, consistent content marketing campaign can garner positive results at about six months.
7. How Can I Measure the Success of My Content Marketing Strategies?
If you've been able to finally run out and purchase that McLaren 600LT you've been dreaming about because sales are through the roof, then you could say that your content marketing strategies are successful. But truthfully, that probably isn't the most appropriate metric to use to determine success. There are many other metrics that are more practical. And you can use those that matter most to your business. For example, if you’re more concerned about creating brand awareness than lead generation, the metrics you’ll want to pay attention to are organic web traffic, SEO and backlinks.
8. Is Content Marketing Fail-Safe?
Sadly, the answer is no. Just like my denture glue (when not applied properly), content marketing can fail. Marketing Insider Group states that the biggest reason content marketing fails is due to a lack of strategy. It is important to know your target audience and how to engage them. At the same time, each brand should know their own specific needs to form an effective content marketing strategy.
9. Can I Outsource My Content Marketing?
You can. But don't outsource your content marketing completely. No one knows your business like you do. Your content reflects your brand identity and you'll need to be involved in it. There are some great content marketing agencies that provide a full range of services, however, so definitely consider outsourcing the content marketing you need most. After all, you may not have the time or expertise to do it effectively yourself.
10. Where Can I Get Ideas and Inspiration for Content Material?
Paul McCartney claims that the song “Yesterday” came to him in a dream. He woke up and sang the phrase “scrambled eggs” over and over so he wouldn't forget it. It has since become one of the most covered songs in rock history. You don't have to wait for that to happen to you. Our friends at Wishpond offered the following suggestions:
- Check out the blogs you personally enjoy
- Look at what your competitors are doing
- Have brainstorm sessions
- Monitor changes and trends within your industry
- Get with your customer support team to see what frequently asked questions your customers are posing
- Visit websites and publications that cover the latest news, such as Feedly and Twitter
Now that we've covered that, it's time to get busy! With a little time, organization, and creativity, you can grow a successful content marketing strategy. There are many online resources you may utilize and many reputable content marketing agencies to help your brand get out there, get noticed, and get results. Finding the right one is the best way to grow your business.