People attempt to predict it every day.
From football bets to market shares, we like to think that we can know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t claim to be able to see the future, but I have been in the business for awhile, and I have some ideas on how the landscape is changing for Content Marketing.
I think anyone who is in the business of selling (which should be everyone) should have some idea of how content strategy can help grow their business.
Before I make my predictions, I want to touch on a few key points of conversation. For those of you unfamiliar with content marketing, I feel it is important to explain what is changing, and why. This will give context to my projections.
- Why Traditional Marketing is Losing Out
- What Makes People Like Content Marketing
- Things to Avoid When Creating Content
- Ways to Make Quality Content
- Future Predictions
- What That Means For Your Company’s Future
The Problem With Interrupt Marketing
Imagine the stereotypical salesman type. Smart clothes, overly excited smile, a firm handshake and an unrelenting devotion to his product. Sound familiar?
It’s a persisting image, and buyers are quick to point these people out when they see them. The fact of the matter is, people hate feeling sold to, and traditional marketing often has this feel to it.
While traditional marketing is still a powerful player in the advertising world, the general public is getting better at identifying these prompts and blocking them out.
Not only that, there are companies literally selling tools to block your messages – for example, through DVR, Ad Block, or caller ID.
So how does this all come back to “content marketing”? Content marketing has become mandatory because consumers have shifted the buying process.
In a previous post on how to start a content marketing strategy, I explain how nearly 60% of the buying process is done before the customer even contacts a vendor. Even more telling, 64% of customers research a company and their product online before they make a first purchase, meaning your initial contact with a customer probably happened before you knew they even existed.
All in all, there is a shift in the possession of knowledge. There is less and less a need for a well informed sales staff, and more need for a way for self-informed customers to find your product.
So what if the information these customers want isn’t on your site? These people are looking for information from various sources to solve a problem, and if you don’t provide them with useful information they will look elsewhere.
If you don’t answer their questions someone else will. It’s that simple.
This is one reason that in an study from Allurent, they found a lack of information was the reason that 67% of customers did not buy.
This is why providing helpful information for your customers (content marketing) is one of the most important pieces of your inbound marketing strategy.
Why Does Content Marketing Work So Well?
When buyers are at the beginning of the buyer’s journey, they crave information. This is why it’s critical to help them find the answers they seek.
Being helpful is the foundation of a proper content strategy. In the words of Jay Baer, author and content strategist, you should “help not hype”.
The idea is pretty simple.
Think about the last time you needed something and researched it online. What did you do?
You checked searched on Google for ratings, you looked at customer reviews (Amazon), you searched for competitors.
You used that content to make a decision and the site with the best content, the one that answered your questions best, probably won your vote. It’s the same when customers come looking for your product.
This is just how people buy today.
In the old days, advertisers tried to interrupt people from what they were interested in. Today, marketers need to become what people are interested in, and providing genuinely helpful information (content) is the way to do this.
The Problems Companies Have With Creating Content
First and foremost, quantity does not equal quality.
It’s one thing to put out posts and share to social media, it’s another entirely to start seeing a positive ROI from that content creation.
The beauty of a quality content marketing campaign is that, over time, content becomes an increasingly valuable asset. The more content you spread around the web, the more people that find you. It does, however, take time.
The investment of time and money that is required to succeed is why some companies get discouraged and give up.
Neil Patel has some great examples of ways companies have been creating bad content. He brings up some great points, and I’ll summarize a few below.
1. Writing in a Vacuum.
Neil calls out companies who rely solely on the marketing department for content creation. His point is companies expect the marketers to do all the writing and content creation, and then when they need to create things for topics they don’t understand, are left out to dry.
So with that in mind:
- Include other departments/contributors; have them submit ideas
- Have Guest Bloggers
- Use data to back your claims
What good is the content you create without the ability to satisfy readers? What good is it if it doesn’t answer their questions fully? Yes, quality content takes time and costs money, but if you’re providing low-quality content… well, what’s the point?
2. Winning the Audience Over
At the end of the day you need subscribers, conversions, whatever you created your blog for. In short:
- Have A Goal
- Make A Strategy
- Stay Focused
You are putting time and energy (and probably money) into this program and expect it to provide results.
It will undoubtedly take time to see those results, so in the meantime you need to stay focused on your goal and use your content creation strategically to support you in that goal.
So what can you do to win over the audience?
Be helpful. Be authentic. Include comment sections and reply consistently to feedback. Create contests and give away free material to loyal subscribers. Ask your leads or customers about experiences they have had and to share them with you.
Coke does a great job of this without really pushing their product.
Look at the way customer happiness is alluded to throughout the page. Notice the prompts and hashtag suggestions, none of which explicitly refer to Coca-Cola.
Coke has consumers generating content for them – and Coke gains brand awareness and trust in the process. You don’t have to do what Coke has done, but you do want to consider how your marketing efforts can be more customer-focused.
3. Lack of (Correct) Sharing
It should be clear to you that content promotion is every bit as important as content creation, if not more so. What you want to consider is whether you’re using the right social media.
What is the “right” social media exactly? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I know what has provided the biggest return for Bright Ideas so far, but that is constantly evolving.
I do know that promotion and content syndication on StumbleUpon has had almost no impact on my subscriber list, but Peep Laja had nearly 10,000 referral traffic from the site. So where does that leave us?
The right plan depends on your company. Again, Neil Patel has another great resource on social media sites for blogging.
As you get started, know that almost all sites benefit from using the following:
- Google +
Otherwise, test and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s always a changing environment. Share what experiences have worked for you in the comments section below. I love to hear other people’s experience what’s working or not. Which brings me to my last point:
4. Not Measuring Your Results
All of these suggestions would be useless if you couldn’t tell whether or not they are working. A proper content strategy adjusts as you go. Find out where people are coming from and how they heard of your site.
- Google Analytics provides some basic metrics for your to track where people are coming from and what media they used to find you.
- Hootsuite is a social sharing tool we use to see what is being shared and where. It’s great way to gain insight on what people are saying about your blog or website after they visit.
- Marketing Automation is a way for your company to track how your leads are behaving. You can then customize their experience by offering them relevant offers and products and by making points of what they do in your site. Hubspot is a powerful tool we use to monitor and automate our inbound marketing.
The right analysis can provide ideas on how to grow your traffic and how to allocate your resources more effectively. Just throwing your content up and never stopping to see what sticks is not a sound strategy.
How You Can Create Quality Content
Creating great content starts with deciding who you are creating it for.
Next, you need to learn about their wants, needs, and desires. Once you understand your buyer persona, you are now ready to begin creating content for them.
Once you know who you are writing for and what their problems are, it’s time to get started.
When creating this content, be sure to reference other thought leaders. Mention them in your post. Link to them. Make them look good. In today’s world, this is one of the best ways to build a professional network – and when you help them, they will return the favor.
Ah, at last…
While I do not have much of a crystal ball, I do have a couple of educated guesses on the changing landscape. In a nutshell: All signs are pointing up.
As you can see, the graph provided by KiSSmetrics shows 76% of Business to Business companies utilize blogging as part of their content marketing strategy and 87% use more than one content marketing technique.
Clearly there is a demand for these mediums and many companies are taking note.
As I mentioned earlier, a big reason for this is a shift in the buying process. People don’t like to be sold – but they do like to be informed.
I don’t see this trend reversing itself anytime soon. In fact, I see it accelerating.
As an example, consider Red Bull. The energy drink company has gone from promoting its product to becoming a full-fledged publisher. That’s crazy. Red Bull has been so good at creating content to drive interest in their brand that they have committed to massive undertakings in content creation.
They are creating amazing thrill-seeker videos and material which sometimes never even mentions the product they sell.
Just take a look at the page Red Bull created for their space jump event. Red Bull could have plastered their log all over the video. Instead, they only put it in the places you’d expect. Judging from the 36 million views this video got, people didn’t mind the branding one bit.
Needless to say, it’s a promotional gold mine.
Some viral campaigns are informative, some are funny, some are thought provoking, but the point is they all do a great job of increasing awareness and promoting a product it for its benefits (tangible or otherwise).
I’m not suggesting you should buy a lucky rabbit’s foot and plan to make a viral video, I’m just noting the changes and the expectations customers have of companies.
Not everyone has the marketing budget to fund a space jump.
So what does the future look like for regular companies? Not everyone will have a huge viral success, but everyone can create content that the market will WANT to consume.
- Content Will Be Its Own Department and Have a CO at Most Major Companies- This idea is pretty universal throughout all the prediction articles. Content is becoming such an integral part of inbound marketing campaigns that most companies – especially medium to large-sized – will employ full-time staff to keep up with demand. This should promote better content and push competitors in all industries to do the same.
- Marketing ROI Will Be More Monitored Than Ever Before- With the more resources spent on content creation, companies will shift from having a “just get it done” attitude towards Social Media and Content Marketing, to a more conversion rate measured system. This shift will likely see the rise of more and more SaaS start-ups designed to monitor content marketing effectiveness.
- Better Content Management Systems Will Arise- With the likely creation of content marketing effectiveness software, we will probably see a better system for the management of content creation (interestingly enough, my own SaaS falls into this category). Expect to see platforms which allow users to limit log-ins, monitor multiple forms of content simultaneously, and have a much cleaner way of distributing their information.
- Mobile Content Strategies Will Determine Successful Campaigns- In May 2013, 56% of adults reported owning a smartphone. That number is only increasing. If companies plan on staying relevant to their consumer base, they will provide content which is mobile compatible at nearly all levels.
- Google+ Will Grow With The Increase in B2B Companies Using It- Google has not quite seen the adoption rates people expected with the introduction of their new social media platform, but with the amount of businesses using the service and its importance to Google Site Rankings and Authorship, people expect to see growth in this new media.
- RedBull Will Create A Netflix Original Series- Ok, maybe not. But it sounds good, doesn’t it?
By the way, Joe Pulizzi provided great insights in his Bright Ideas interview as well.
If you’ve come this far, you should walk away from this with a clear understanding of why Content Marketing is important and how it can help your company.
This is what you should take away from this:
- Traditional Marketing is Intrusive, so Customers are Blocking it Out
- People Like Content Marketing Because it Gives Them a Choice
- Companies Write Bad Content Often – Don’t Be One Of Them
- Writing Good Content Means Research
- The Future Is Bright for Content Marketing
Be proactive, not reactive. Learn more from people who do content marketing well. I never stop looking for ideas and Influencers who can shift my perception.
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