Lately I’ve been having thoughts about how a number of businesses and SMEs appear to be going about content marketing and a recent post about a common misunderstanding within business content marketing, makes this post quite timely.
Content Marketing as Digital Marketers understand it
Let’s first consider what is meant by content marketing; broadly speaking the purpose of content marketing is to provide high quality, insightful content of unique value to a target audience. Ideally this allows organisations to showcase their expertise and wealth of knowledge within a given industry, market or subject matter. But why go to such effort to do this? When you strip this concept back, perhaps crudely, taking away all the niceties and value adding sentiment; in its bare bones content marketing is surely only self-promotion?
Where businesses go wrong with Content marketing
I would expect most SEO’s and content marketers to disagree with the previous statement however, it seems that increasingly businesses and organisations seem to be failing to recognise the importance of providing real value to their prospects and indeed their existing clients/customer base.
Today’s typical internet user doesn’t want to be sold to. They want to do their own research and find information that helps in their decision making or evaluation of your business, products or service.
I believe that too many organisations are ignoring these fundamentals in favour of that all too easy old-hat tactic of self-promotion. Would you agree?
More and more often content marketing strategies appear to be centred around self-promotion. Whether that’s directly, e.g. “Hello reader this is our company and this is how we deal with this problem, just look at us, we are awesome” or indirectly, e.g. “Hi did you know that…. and you can find out how we deal with this on our website”
Ultimately content marketing strategies should be engineered to promote an organisation at some point in the customer relationship cycle, the problem is that this typically is the first thing a business will do.
There is still a place for self-promotion, however ideally this should be managed to touch particular points and stages in the customer life cycle and not just at the beginning of the relationship.
It’s about the exchange of values and building relationships, not finding another way to sell
Ideally this marketing tactic provides the opportunity for organisations and businesses to build relationships with their audience(s). Over time, once desirable attributes such as trust, credibility, authority and so on have been cemented into the relationship (via their content marketing strategy), the organisation shouldn’t necessarily need to promote the individual business, products or services, because the result of the relationship is “top of mind status” i.e. their business is the first place customers will go when they require their specific products or services.
All too often organisations produce content which is not high quality, adds little value, or the expert opinion that SEOs advocate today’s online businesses must create – instead of taking the time to understand what their target audience would value knowing or that would empower them based on the business’s specialism.
Let’s remind ourselves of some principles
There are several tactics at the disposal of an organisation using content marketing as part of their overall digital strategy. However it’s vital that the tactics employed assist in achieving both organisational and digital strategy objectives – so what’s appropriate for one business may not be for another business or industry.
Principles of content marketing which cross businesses and industries:
- Give your customers what they want – a quick rule that I like is; “less about you, more about what they want”
- Know your audience – find out what makes them tick and give them that
- Self-promote your business, product or service but ONLY when the customer asks for it – ideally once a relationship has been established
- Your blog is not where you should sell! – direct prospects to the right places on your website where they can be sold to – its much nicer this way and your clients will appreciate this
- Always track your progress – use analytics to see what’s working and what’s not and then refine your approach – test, test, and test again
All of this takes time! Content marketing is a journey, a process that can in many instances be a strain on valuable resources (e.g. time and expertise) it is not a quick fix nor is it an avenue to sell or self-promote.
Considering the points raised in this article do you know of any examples of companies using content marketing in a way that doesn’t self-promote? Do you agree and if not, tell us how you approach writing good content in a comment below!
Original typewriter image courtesy of Seth Morabito via Flickr