Some Marketing Wisdom IV: The Art of Content Marketing

– written by Charlotte Kraeft, Head of International Marketing itelligence AG –

Hi everyone, in my series “Some Marketing Wisdom” I am talking today about a topic which will bring a fundamental shift to any Marketing practice and therefore is clearly overdue in this blog series: Content Marketing!

But what is Content Marketing in a broader sense?

Doug Kessler found a very nice explanation for this theme: “Traditional Marketing talks at people. Content Marketing talks with them.” This quote tells us all about the phenomenon Content Marketing. It is about engaging with (potential) customers. It is about understanding their needs, sometimes even anticipating them and for sure it is about addressing customers’ needs. It is about connection, about communication and interaction with customers. A further illustrative definition which I have found online is: Content Marketing means “stepping back from a “me-centric”, sales-type of approach and produce content that educates, entertains and engages.” (See https://www.verticalmeasures.com/services/content-development/).

O.k., got it, but why should companies engage in Content Marketing?

With the rise of online and social media capabilities, the customers’ buying behaviour has changed a lot (See image: traditional vs. new buying paradigm). While conventionally the number of considered brands or suppliers decreased over the course of a traditional buying process, nowadays the number of potential suppliers/brands does increase in the research phase of a customer. This means that the research phase is distinctive: You have to make sure that you are found with exciting and well-defined content by (potential) customers.

Source: http://ecsb.exbdblogs.com/files/2011/03/purchase-process.jpg

Or with the words of Patrick Spenner, contributor at forbes.com: “High quality content has to fundamentally change the customer’s direction, and it does that by teaching and motivating the customer in specific ways.” See (http://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickspenner/2012/09/10/two-qualities-of-content-marketing-that-matter-most/). Or just put it that way: Empowered customers self-direct their own learning. Be prepared for this and adapt your business model accordingly.

Which practical and strategic impacts does this trend have on Marketing work? 

What can be said without any doubt is the fact that the typical marketing expert will change from an advertising agent to a publisher; hence more journalists and editors will conquer the Marketing departments of tomorrow (see http://mashable.com/2012/07/27/refinery29-marketing/)

Content Marketing demands a lot of intense work while execution is key. Why is that so worth telling? Well, it all comes back to the changed behaviour of (potential) customers: They are empowered by online research capabilities, the power of likes and dislikes, open chats with peers etc. and will be more demanding when it comes to content search. Therefore, I’d like to recall: execution is key: There must be something interesting to find, and it must be updated and released on a frequent base otherwise you are out of the game. How simple is that.

A very good practical guide to Content Marketing is to be read here: 7 Lessons from Content Marketing’s Greatest Hits (see http://mashable.com/2012/04/11/lessons-content-marketing-greatest-hits/). Let me summarize these 7 lessons roughly for you since they hold a lot of value:

  1. Make it multimedia: When you publish consider to cover or link as much communication channels and instruments as possible: Social media, print, podcasts, videos, etc. are some to be mentioned here.
  2. Layout stays important: Sure, the name of the game is Content! But nobody will be tempted to consume the greatest contents if design does not transport the greatness. So, do not save time and money here.
  3. Subtle and gentle touch: Marketing speech belongs to yesterday. Show your competence and knowledge and that you do understand the needs of your customers. Do not go for the hard pitch. It is all about subtlety. From my point of view this is extremely important when it comes to publish White Papers. I think that this instrument does belong more to the category of scientific papers than to traditional marketing tools. Using marketing speech here would ruin the whole concept of the paper namely to give an objective and strategic 360 degree view on a topic and hence being able to position as thought leader.
  4. Provide your customer with the whole picture: To be continued? The answer for this question will be given in the next post? No, not a good idea! Do not leave loose ends. Try to answer all the questions and solve all uncertainties. Give your customers a link list for further readings; contact addresses for questions…do not leave them alone. They will find the answer somewhere else and again: You are out of the game. How simple is that.
  5. It is all about sharing: Spread your valuable content and make sure that it can be shared easily. The exposure online is big and you can extend the reach of your valuable content by letting it be shared easily.
  6. Balance expert and user content: Do not only talk only from the expert angle: It is important that customers feel connected and can identify with your content. From that point of view, it is important to also cover the users’ side. Make sure you cover both angles.
  7. Offline is not dead: Make sure you are also represented offline: This can vitalize your online activities as i.e. Red Bull did it successfully with its TV spot, see e.g. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oouK7sPcYuo?rel=0&w=560&h=315] Furthermore, make sure that your offline and online activities are streamlined and well-coordinated.

For further practical advises have a look at this checklist: http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/leibtag_content_checklist.pdf

And finally, what are the main conclusions?

The stats show that Content Marketing is actually ubiquitous and cannot be denied. Content Marketing is the logical answer to the rise of online as well as social media functionalities and the consequential empowerment of customers. Content Marketing is not about producing high gloss marketing material to make promises to the customer, it does moreover teach and motivate. Content marketing does show compelling reasons to the customer why action is necessary.

To put it simple: Content marketing can make our lives as marketing folks much easier: It makes sure that you do not need to execute rigid searches for customers anymore, moreover YOU WILL BE FOUND 🙂

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