For all the bloggers, online content creators, freelancers and new entrants, Content Marketing is the most over-used and under-implemented term. Many blogs, websites, Youtube channels fail when they implement content marketing without understanding it. Here in this article, we will not just understand the basics of content marketing but will find what right things can be done to set the things on the right course. It is also quintessential for budding entrepreneurs to know this concept before jumping to create any social media campaign.
Beginning with the Basics of Content Marketing
If you want to be successful in running your blog, website, online channel or any such medium, you need to remember that there is a story to tell. Many people jump directly to traffic, cost-per-click, turning clicks into sales, distribution channels etc. But before jumping in that monetized domain, one must build a strong foundation of content marketing. Without clearly understanding the concepts of content development, content marketing, copy-writing, user experience (UX) and content distribution if you launch a blog, website, e-commerce site etc., you’ll be punching much below the weight.
Content marketing is both educational and problem-solving. In normal marketing parlance, we say that the need is there, a product is made to satisfy the need, then the customer is made aware about the existing product (advertising), sales and after-sales services. But what if the customer is not aware of the problem or that the solution exists. Content marketing is a very sustainable form of marketing where your customers or we say the target audience learn, expand their understanding and in the process of their growth they may use your products or services. If only, sales are your aim for content marketing, then you are aiming too low.
Content Marketing begins with Establishing Rapport
It is not just sales and thankyou! You begin with firstly, understanding your product and what problem it solves or how it will add value to the people. Then you connect with ‘those’ people, which now I’ll refer to as ‘Target Audience’. You educate them about the problem they are facing or where they can work to increase their efficiency, thereby adding value to their products, services, processes etc. In this process, if your product fits their need, it is a welcome proposition, if not, then they value you for providing insights, leads and word-of-mouth marketing. You sell or you don’t sell, when you educate your target audience or add value to them, you generate trust, you build rapport. This helps you scale up your campaign and let you expand your reach.
Your target audience when trusts you and recognizes you as a source of authentic and genuine knowledge rather than some pushy ‘Click here and buy’ sales guy, they always refer more people to you. These people are those who are those, who are already interested in your product line. But it takes time to build rapport and generate trust. At least a year of consistent work with a sound target-oriented content strategy.
Content Marketing is not Selling or Advertising
This is the point where the majority of bloggers or amateurs in digital marketing falters. Young entrepreneurs often confuse it with social media marketing and some sales and awareness campaign. Content marketing is a long-term campaign. Now focus on the word campaign. Similar to some political or social campaign you connect people with you.
But unlike political campaigns, your promise to deliver is backed by solid results and the actual delivery of value and education. Unlike the social campaign, you don’t dissipate after educating them, you follow on rather lead with further education on different aspects of your product or changes with its upgrade.
Advertising is highlighting your product or services telling about how, where and when to buy, any offers etc. In sales, there is an actual sale of the product/service where the customer gets what he wants and you get the money. Marketing extends it with after-sales services, follow up with the customer and further improvements in the product line.
In content marketing you educate and facilitate the target audience to grow, understand and evolve. You provide solutions like a best friend whom they can trust. Am not asking you to do charity or being altruistic, but if they don’t trust you, why should be buy from you or believe in clicking the link which you have provided.
Not the Brand, Its the Audience
Content marketing is all about the audience. It is never about the brand. Brand is always in the background or even non existant. What exists is the benefit and the solution. How it makes the life of the end-user more efficient and thereby adding value. Value is the word.
Again, am not saying sales is not the motive. What I am emphasizing is that sales is not the main motive. The main motive is to have a loyal target audience which trusts you and finds you reliable.
Content Marketing vis-à-vis Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing (SMM) comes after content marketing. Companies do this to connect to the target audience for sales, views, feedbacks etc. Website owners do this to have views, drive traffic, build audience etc. But the same questions pops-up. Horse first or the cart? And you know the answer. If you have no content or your content is sub-standard, you’ll eventually lose in the long run to the most consistent, relevant and trustworthy horse. Marketing will ride on the solid foundation of content and the value which that content has generated. In SMM, you use various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, YouTube, Reddit etc. There you connect with people, engage and interact with them, spread the word, launch promotions etc. In content marketing trust is the brand and sales is the reward. In SMM target shifts to reach, audience and traffic.
When solid content marketing is supported by smart social-media marketing, then results are awesome. But when content is mediocre and social-media marketing is awesome, then you expose your sub-standard product and there is fast trust-erosion. Beware of this trap. Then you are with high traffic and nothing to sell in the long run. Simply, out of business with a good footfall.
Content Marketing is Not for Everybody
Content Marketing takes a long time and it is a tedious process. It has minimal to no returns in the short-run. If you wish to just cash in and wind up, then content marketing is surely not for you. It takes time to build trust, be visible and create your place in the minds of the readers. For a new blog, website or a YouTube channel, it is not that you post and you become Elvis Presley in no time. People will watch, become curious, some will try to probe further and engage with you, they’ll ask questions etc. You need to answer to them, solve their queries. If they are not in your domain then you guide them to some other authoritative source, thereby again building trust. Content marketing is not sales on e-commerce web site. It is a very long term relationship.
Content Marketing is the Future of Marketing
With the field of marketing evolving fast and technology no longer remaining a second fiddle, the paradigms are changing. Internet, social media and smartphones have change the way consumers look for products, information or reviews. Analytics, traffic and SEO has changed the way the sellers shout out to the customers. Internet is vast and your shout can go to non-targeted people or you can miss the trees while looking for the forest. Everyone is jumping on the internet and redefining the business, but amidst all the social media campaigns and bulk of daily spams customer is looking a safe, reliable and relevant source to depend on. It is at this point, when the content marketing enters and fills the void.
With technology evolving fast and internet reaching to more and more geographical places, the places to market your brand or product has shifted from bill-boards to advertisement spaces on websites. Models and movie stars are facing stiff competition from social media influencers which sometimes hold authoritative command over certain domains. Missing the social media is a big loss, social media is a marketing bill board and content is the electricity which will illuminate it.
Main Features of Content Marketing
Well-Defined Target Audience
Content marketing tends to educate the target audience about a certain thing and then if the product or service suits them, you pitch in the product/service. Content marketing is not like a T.V. commercial which is meant for all. There is a well-defined target audience which is already looking for a particular product or service or are facing certain issues for which they looking for solutions. You provide solutions and it generally follows a hand-held approach. The audience after learning from you, interacts and engages productively. You build a relationship. You are like a friend, philosopher and a guide. The target audience should see you as an authoritative and a genuine source which provides relevant solution rather than just asking to buy.
Relevance is another essential in content marketing. If you are trying to find a solution to a problem, which nobody is looking for then you are shooting in the space. Researching what the audience wants and where you can fill in the gap is the key. If you are an independent blogger or a freelancer, then keyword search is a must. If you are a company then take feedback from your salesforce, the technical division and direct feedback from the customers.
Being relevant also means being updated to the changing needs of the customers and how they want the product/service to be delivered. Memorize this mantra which I am giving you for free: ‘From customer satisfaction to customer delight’. Yes, this is the main mantra. Give them what they are wanting, but give them something more.
Define your niche or the subject which you want to deal in and then do thorough research aka due-diligence. As a young entrepreneur, the due-diligence part is much more essential at every corner. Get here to know 10 Essential Qualities of Successful Entrepreneurs.
If you cannot show up, why should you be remembered? This goes true for all the marketing efforts. It is a kind of universal marketing rule. You need to be there for them, even when they don’t want it. People love predictability and familiarity. If they are habitual in seeing your posts then there is a brownie point in trusting you. Even Google Search Engine will trust you more if you are posting your articles, posts, images, campaigns regularly.
Consistency is the key. You cannot bulk up one day and then be absent for a long time. It does generate suspicion. Even every informed prospective customer looks at the date of posting of the content. Everyone wants the latest and updated content. Consistency increases the trustworthiness and regularly updating your work increase relevance.
Trust and Reliability
Trust or reliability is built by what you are sharing on consistent basis and being relevant. Yes, this is an add-on to the above mentioned points. Market is competitive and competition is good. What is needed is that you should not compromise with the quality of your content. If your content is mediocre, then soon competition will push you back or your target audience will drift away to some other better quality content provider.
Don’t sell fake products, false promises or such products which may give you huge commissions but will end up destroying your image. Once your image is destroyed, you wont be accepted by anyone. Protect your image by hard work. You need to build for a long term. Scammers may be successful for once, but then the word ‘once’ limits them. If you cannot to hard work on a consistent basis for a long time then don’t come for content marketing. You’ll hurt your image as well as your target audience too.
Solutions and Education
Content marketing is not about pitching the product. As a blogger or a Youtuber, you must be very well aware that there are many products which can solve a given problem. So a product is not the main highlight, it is the solution. Target audience wants the content provider to solve their queries about the problem and lead or suggest the most effective, affordable and dependable solution. They want you to educated and solve their confusions which were not well addressed by the salespeople or the Bob next door.
If you are a company with a brand and a product, you don’t sell the product with discounts. When it comes to content marketing, you educate the target audience about how their given issue is well addressed by your product/service and you are their to watch your back. Then deliver the result. You end up having a strong and loyal customer base which also brings more people to your network and it is indeed a win-win situation.
Finally the cat is out of the bag. It is value addition which will matter in the end. It applies to both the content provider as well as the target audience. If you add people randomly to your social media channel by some hook or crook method, it will not matter if your content is great or mediocre, they will eventually go or will never engage or comment. Similarly if the target audience will not feel that they are getting any benefit by subscribing to you or visiting your channel, why should they waste their time. Value addition is a deep seated need. When you provide solution or point them to a reliable source, then you provide value. Each and every interaction provides value.
This article on Content Marketing is meant to provide insights into how content marketing is the boss and content is the king. Content marketing basics and beyond helps you to understand the sound fundamentals of online marketing. You need to understand this in order to be an effective player and make your business shine.