Never before has the average consumer had access to greater information on the goods and services that interest them. While a benefit to us all, this simple fact also poses significant challenges on how to effectively market to such a diverse group. While they still hold a place in every marketing plan, hoping to gain attention and marketspace through sheer exposure simply isn’t savvy enough anymore. There are too many mediums from which we try to focus our attention: television, web browsing, social media, terrestrial and satellite radio, movies, magazines, blogs, podcasts……the list goes on. What’s the answer? While there’s no one solution, I’ve always felt that content marketing can go far to get your messaging in front of the right audience.
Much like Public Relations, one of the primary goals of content marketing is to supply information to consumers that will be of value, establish credibility, create positive associations, and ultimately foster loyalty and brand association with all of these traits. The end result of content marketing is to drive sales, albeit through a less direct method.
Creating collateral for this purpose is no small task, especially for small and mid-sized businesses. After all, if you’re fortunate enough to have a small marketing staff, chances are their efforts are focused on other important tasks like enhancing SEO, inbound and product marketing, increasing audience size, staying updated on current trends and the work of competitors, designing the creative for various campaigns, etc. It’s not an uncommon problem and a major reason why content marketing is contracted to freelancers and PR firms.
Whether or not you keep your content marketing in-house, there are some best practices that we always recommend for our clients. We’ll touch on the first few in this post.
- Create a plan with goals. Good advice for most aspects of life, having a plan helps you to define who your content is talking to and what you want it to say. What is the ROI for each piece of content—are you looking to foster engagement over social channels in order to transition commenters to a related page on your website or are you creating a high-level byline article to get the attention of C level executives with the goal of partnering in the next six months? The answers to these questions and how you measure success will make a huge difference in you strategize for each campaign.
- Track the proper analytics. Now that we’re elevated in (or mired by) the information age, defining success through metrics is no easy task. As I’ve detailed before, there are a wealth of metrics available, each with a useful purpose. It’s well worth the time to define success by detailing how it will be measured. Are you going big and developing a content marketing campaign to wrestle the Share of Voice (SOV) away from your closest competitor or are you going broad and trying to increase your mentions across targeted platforms? Simply measuring impressions is seldom good enough to define success anymore, which means that you have to be nuanced enough to track the right data to prove the campaign is providing value.
- Take an interest in, but don’t get lost in writing for SEO. The importance of Search Engine Optimization is without question. The days of simply hoping to appear as a search result left with the dial-up modem (when, coincidentally, the Yellow Pages were still an in-demand resource). Even the least among us in terms of technical prowess understands the vast difference in showing up on page one versus page five (or even page two!) of a Google search. Being buried among the search results has two distinct disadvantages, 1: Your business information is located so deep that it will never be found 2: Your competitors with better SEO will gladly take the customers that are searching for you. These are scary thoughts, but when it comes to content marketing, it’s important to remember that your audience are people and not robots. As mentioned earlier, the goal of content marketing is to engender positive feelings: loyalty, trust and value. A search engine algorithm doesn’t have a concept of these terms, which is why content marketing needs to be focused on your current and potential customers. While alluring, a headline that’s filled with buzz words and geared toward achieving a good hit on Google often makes little sense to the reader, which is ultimately a wasted opportunity.
While time consuming versus other methods, content marketing remains a powerful tool for small and large businesses alike and these are just a few best practices that Milldam PR uses to help increase the success of our clients. In a future post, I’ll detail the remaining tips so that you can begin incorporating content marketing into your strategic plans. It truly is a small investment that can generate large rewards and drive sales, as long as the content is created properly.
Brendon Stellman authors the column “Pure BS” and is Vice President, Director of Client Relations for Milldam Public Relations.