What is content marketing?

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Content marketing is so hot right now but what is it exactly? Answer: content marketing means that marketers are using content – eBooks, factsheets, whitepapers, blog posts, podcasts, videos – as a way to lure people. Usually that content is delivered online. You know the deal (see below).

what is content marketing

Sign-up, sign-up.

Once the customer is lured by the content, the marketer seeks to exchange the information for money or more commonly, freely for an email address. Once the email address is secured an eMarketing relationship is begun. The marketer’s goal may be to sell something or simply to inform and gain deeper support.  Content marketing is used by commercial enterprises and nonprofits.

Isn’t this what many of us have always done? Maybe. But probably not. 

Hootville has utilised content marketing since before the term was coined. We’ve given away free content (hopefully relevant, helpful, engaging) for 15 years.

Most professional service agencies do not do this. Their websites are little more than brochures with no free advice, comment or listings. Can you go to your accountant’s website for general information about superannuation changes? Can you visit your doctor’s websites and find answers to your frequently asked questions? Can you get a guide to planning your kitchen from the builder’s website? Usually not. They are all take, no give. In a world where there is so much free content, those that fail to provide valuable content are seen as unhelpful, out-dated and mean-spirited.

Nonprofits and community groups are often generous with their content but they fail to be true content marketers and reap the rewards. Too few NFPs blog engagingly with conviction on current news, too few peaks provide comprehensive listings of  jobs, events or resources. Too few stocktake their content and repackage or update it to make it more alluring. Few really push their content to readers and far too many simply give away their content without gaining even a humble email address. This is a fail for both marketers and those they target.

Why does content marketing work for both them and you:

  • it immediately provides value to the reader;
  • it creates an opportunity to exchange your content for an email address;
  • it asserts – and demonstrates – authority and expertise;
  • it quickly sets you apart from those that do not provide such value;
  • it increases appreciation in the reader – thus there’s more chance they will use / support you;
  • you can stay in touch longer;
  • it keeps people on your site / in your world longer;
  • creating content is usually cheaper than marketing alternatives such as direct mail or advertising;
  • it’s a positive cycle – the more people download your content, the more emails you have to promote the next piece of content and so on;
  • good content will keep luring readers years after it is created.

So what do we mean by “content”?

Content goes beyond words on paper: sure a short email is content. How about a series of automated short emails a month apart? How about an eBook? A factsheet? A series of videos? A slideshow? Infographics? Podcasts? Blog posts? Q&As? All of this is content. Use whatever works for you and your audience.

So where do I find all this content of which you speak?

Mine your current content – fact sheets, videos, Q&As, transcripts, blog posts, brochures and see what you already have that can be relaunched or refashioned. Eg: can you combine six blog posts about what to expect after diagnosis into one eBook? Create something useful than can be easily understood and consumed.

Beyond your existing content, draw up a list of content to create. This is more labour-intensive but allows you to start from scratch and create series of content that can be sent over an extended period. What are your FAQs, big issues, myths in need of busting? Create content around these.

The value proposition: a carbohydrate-based example

content marketing advice

You were powerless to resist their doughy charms.

Have you ever bought six bread rolls that were bagged together when you really only needed four? Why?

  • Well you were already there for bread anyway so why not buy a little more than planned?
  • They looked fresh and good.
  • They were keenly priced.
  • They were prominently displayed on a table in front of the counter.
  • The process was quick – no waiting in a 10-minute queue.
  • The bread was available for you to take home and consume immediately.

Do you see what we’re saying?

You have to package, promote and facilitate the exchange for it to work well.

Example: take six blog posts about one topic, bundle then into the form of an attractive eBook, prominently display it on your homepage and make the process frictionless and you’ll have success. Or you could wait for the reader to find and read those six blog posts themselves. Good luck with that.

Rules for content providers:

The attitude: growing databases of email addresses are a hugely valuable asset – content marketing helps grow your database in a way that makes everyone feel good. Reader receives valuable content, we receive an email address. From there we build a relationship to whatever end suits us. This is how we do business.

No more giving it all away for nothing. Your readers happily give over their email address to all sorts of organisations for far more mundane purposes. Your content is valuable. Lock under the nearest stairs anyone who says: “we can’t expect people to give us an email address for our free information.”

Content must be valuable. Not just informative – be helpful, practical, urgent, specific.

You have to give until it hurts. Only then can you ask for support or a purchase.

podcasting as content marketing

Consider creating a podcast. They are back in vogue.

Experiment with different formats – from eBooks, to single page factsheets, to video or podcasts. Venture beyond written words.

Recognise that content is only part of your challenge. Content must be presented well, marketed aggressively and be accessed in a seamless, elegant way.

Page design of the page on which people provide their details (AKA the “squeeze page”) is hugely influential. This is the squeeze page for our free PDF eBook Event Savvy. We’ve kept it short and simple. We’ll explain more about this soon.

More appealing content gets more readers: there was a time when newspapers were black and white, image-free, densely filled with words and yet people read them. Today that would not work.  Today, a newspaper website will have a mix of full colour articles, slideshows, video, Q&As, infographics, listings, clearly demarcated sections and cartoons. All of this makes their content more appealing. Do likewise.

Monitor your results. And boast about them to superiors. What is the metric by which you will judge success? Total the costs involved and divide by the amount your content has been downloaded / subscribed to. For our Event Savvy eBook we want to build our brand, gain new email addresses and secure speaking or emcee gigs for Brett.  On day one our eBook Event Savvy was downloaded 89 times at a cost of $3.14 per download including design costs and some Facebook promotion. With no ongoing design costs that cost per download goes down with every single download. How low will it go? We’ll keep you updated. Suffice to say the economics will work out a treat.

Serious fundraisers know how much they are willing to pay to acquire a donor based the average lifetime return per donor. Have you got something similar for an email acqusition?

Series of content are better than one-offs because they keep you in front of readers over a longer period of time. Don’t write one massive eBook. Consider a series of six documents each one or two pages in length. This may be more enticing to the reader. Don’t do one video – do a series.

So if content marketing is so smart, why do so few do it ?

  1. Content marketing is hard. It’s hard to conceive and create content.
  2. Quality writers with genuine news sense are rare. Writers are being kept busy on the obligatory stuff – newsletters, annual reports and the like. We guarantee that creating a series of suitable content will yield better results than your next annual report.
  3. Writers are yet to see themselves or be seen as content creators. They are still stuck in the idea that words on paper are king. Contemporary writers need to transcend this which is why we tackle content creation in our writing workshop Copy Savvy 101.
  4. Skills. If it’s easy it gets done; if not… How easily, quickly and affordably can you conceive, write, design a document, infographic or podcast? Can you shoot and edit simple videos in the office? Learn the skills and outsource the rest.
  5. Too few marketing departments really take pride in building email addresses. Too few really analyse what options deliver the best ROI. Printing and mailing costs will usually cost more than online content marketing.
  6. Coming up with content – especially on an ongoing basis – is intimidating.
  7. Very few marketers are rewarded for coming up with a fresh idea – such as content marketing – and pursuing it
  8. Creators are too busy with their next post or Tweet.
  9. The technology required is baffling. Just how do you automatically send a document in exchange for an email address? More on this soon.

 Help I’m stuck for ideas:

content marketing training

Ideas most often occur in the brain region.

Consider simple, short, list-based documents which we’ve listed before such as:

12 ways to…
7 mistakes to avoid when…
How to…
So you’ve just been diagnosed with…
Subject X – the facts.
An introduction to…
Meet 9 people just like you.
The combined wisdom of last year’s class.

We’ll be adding to this in coming weeks. Meanwhile – please share it.

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