Content Marketing 101
If you’re starting to fantasize about your upcoming marketing strategy, don’t get distracted by the glitz and glamour of the latest digital marketing craze. Sometimes the best marketing approach isn’t the sexiest or flashiest.
Just like in romantic love, the most solid marketing approaches are about what’s on the inside, like, the inside of your e-newsletter. You’ve probably guessed it, we’re talking about Content Marketing. The overlooked but widely celebrated choice tool of strategic marketers worldwide.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, their annual research shows, “the vast majority of marketers are using content marketing. In fact, it is used by many prominent organizations in the world, including P&G, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and John Deere.” But it’s not just the big boys who are wise to the power of content marketing, small businesses and one-man operations choose to market through content – because it works.
Value Makes Your Content Piping Hot
If you know a marketing strategy has proven success, but you’ve been wondering how to make your content start churning out some measurable benefits, you’re not alone. It’s not about the volume you pump out – and creating loads of content won’t help you. Content marketing is a matter of quality over quantity.
There’s nothing that will get a user to unsubscribe faster than an onslaught of daily e-newsletters that offer nothing in return for that precious click. You’ve got to make content count, ensuring that everything you’re asking your audience to open provides some kind of value.
You know your audience – if not, you should swing by and talk to us, we’re experts at that – when starting to wade into the waters of Content Marketing, think of your customers first. A great way to get started is to send out a survey, chat them up on Social Media, or find some way to find out how your customers are talking about your business. That will give you a pretty good sense of what your customers pains are, and what solutions your organization offers. Suddenly, you’ve got some value to provide.
When you speak directly to a real every day pain your customer has, your chances of making a meaningful impact through your content marketing increases exponentially. If they don’t have a particular pain (but we’re sure they probably do), finding a treat from you to them is another successful method to make your content marketing soar.
Take Virgin Mobile for example, the communications goliath was one of the first of their kind to adopt social media and content marketing strategies. They’ve carved out a strategy that allows them to provide better service to their customers, with a social newsroom that Virgin uses to promote apps, music, and other digital content throughout the day. Their social engagement skyrocketed.
“Scaling our content efforts isn’t just about expanding the size of our social reach across new platforms,” explained Ron Faris, Head of Brand Marketing for Virgin Mobile in an interview with Forbes Magazine, “It’s about deepening the level of engagement we have with our fans in the social communities they hang out in. We’ve been successful so far in rewarding our fans with Virgin Experiences on Facebook and Twitter.”
My inbox gets flooded with the latest sales from a number of apparel retailers, none of the content is very unique or offers me much value. It’s sales, sales, sales – which is kind of a turn off. I can easily opt in to view a new set of sporty shorts on my own when I need sporty shorts, so I’ll cue the unsubscribe link. Forty-eight emails a week about the latest bras and yoga pants is not doing me any favours.
On the other hand, I also subscribe to a number of Marketing Newsletters from thought leaders throughout the industry. They don’t swamp my inbox, and every newsletter has some little gem of information that I can apply to my daily life. I’m much more prone to save them, refer to them, and they make my job easier. I wouldn’t dare unsubscribe from them – they offer too much value to me.
It’s vital to appeal to your target and know what they need. They don’t need your product alone, or your service. They want something a little more personal than that.
Your Voice, Your Vibe & A Style Guide
Your customer should know it’s you when they opt in. Whether it’s your social media channels they’re surfing, your e-newsletter, your blog, or your website, consistency is what they are looking for.
What does your brand sound like and talk like? If your brand was a person – what kind of person would you imagine it to be? Taking the time to personify your brand may seem like a dreamy nonsensical exercise, but don’t get it twisted, it’s incredibly beneficial (and it don’t cost a thing).
We humans don’t emotionally connect with corporations, but we do connect with other people. And the world is made up of an infinite mixture of individuals who range from serious, to zany, and every personality type in between. Your brand personality has to be authentic to you, so if you’re not the most fun and youthful brand, don’t fret, the right people will connect with you when you keep it consistent.
Pardot research notes, “80% of consumers say ‘authenticity of content’ is the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand.” Therefore, it’s powerful to stick to what’s real for you and your customers.
A great way to get started is to build your Copy Style Guide. It will help guide your voice, and the way you communicate through your brand. It’s a useful tool that you can pass around to anyone at your organization who will be dabbling in communications. A new team player on your Social Team? Rather than trying to describe what you’re going for on your communications, hand them a trusty Style Guide. It offers guidance, rules, and the goals of your content marketing, so no matter who is typing up your content – you can depend on consistency and brand authenticity.
Things to include when developing your Copy Style Guide:
- Grammar: different people use different rules, pick the rules you dare not break.
- Tone & Voice: Funky, serious, fun, or technical, set the tone and never stray.
- Point of View: Know your vision, and how you talk about yourself and the world around your brand.
- The Words You Use: Have some favourite words you like associated with your brand? Include them.
- Formatting: Is it just me, or is it super aggravating when formatting is all over the place (it’s not just me) – create the rules for better consistency.
A great example of a company with a clear Copy Style Guide is Aritzia. Their copy is always consistent and it stays true on every platform, which spans all of their content marketing. It’s casual, cool and fits well – just like their high priced sweaters.
Copy is often subtle, most users don’t really think about while they’re reading it – but they’ll know right away whether they like it. I had never thought about who wrote pop-up windows, and clever buttons, and witty headers as a web browser – then it became my job. Now, I really appreciate and point out great and effective copy. Being able to establish a clear voice for a brand and have that maintained consistently across every platform is pretty amazing.
I’m nerding out, I’ll stop.
Simple, playful, and elegantly casual, Aritzia’s content is always on point and on brand. Even though I rarely shop there, I keep my eye on their content marketing and I’ve yet to unsubscribe. Their Facebook Page among their other social feeds never feel out of place, it’s a followers dream. You know what to expect, you connect with the content, and Aritzia’s built a community of style-savvy ladies armed with Wilfred blouses and TNA tights – 174,392 Facebook followers don’t lie.
Put Your Content Marketing To The Test
You may have a great intuition on what your audience is going to connect with. By now, you’ve got your style guide, a clear voice, and a sense of what your customer needs from you. Perfect!
However, there’s no shame in testing out your strategy. In fact, there is no reason not test out your strategy – and all the marketing whizzes will say so (loudly and wisely). You might have the guts, smarts, and marketing savvy to set a clear plan in place for your content marketing, the magic ingredient is the testing.
Embrace the power of numbers and tracking measures to see just how your plan is really playing out. It will give you valuable insight into what in your strategy is definitely working, what might be falling flat, and let you alter your strategy based on the behaviour of your customer. Isn’t that delicious?
So much power in numbers and a little AB testing. By monitoring, analyzing, and keeping your eye on the engagement – you’ll be able to continue to sculpt your strategy to the best posting times, most impactful content your users are craving, and become a content marketing bad ass.
Extra Tips For Content Keeners: Visual World
Still looking to bolster your content? Maybe I’ve missed something, let me just check.
Oh here it is, the secret ingredient of Supreme Content Marketers: Visual Content.
As a copywriter, I always lead with words, but despite my own obsession with content, the reality is, a lot of people don’t want to read a mile long diatribe. I have no idea why, but you might be asking too much of your customer if they are expected to read something that will take any longer than a minute. And even a full minute can be too much of an ask for your audience.
(Hint: you can get away with more words if you’ve got a great brand story – and some great storytellers on your team)
The secret ingredient to make your content engaging and something all your very own is packing a punch with the visuals. And before you go cruising the Stock Photography available online, do consider whether your business would best benefit from your own photographs. This is a great investment for lifestyle brands, companies selling products, or even non-profits. People like the real feels, and using great imagery does sway the masses.
If you’re looking to up your content game with awesome imagery that will complement your brand and voice, you can always start with a fun little project: the moodboard.
I’ve mentioned moodboard before, when speaking about Iconic Logos. It’s another great tool that can apply to your own photography, or even just set some guidelines around what to look for when cruising the stock options. Photos are worth a thousand words, so it’s important that your imagery also aligns with your brand – and it’s another thing to consider when creating your Copy Style Guide.
Content Marketing doesn’t sound sexy – but it is. It’s the choice of companies large and small, can be done with a limited budget or a massive one, so it works for almost anyone.
We always recommend starting with your thinking cap, and developing a strategy that plays to your audience. If you take the time to really think about who you are, and what value you provide, get on board with going hella consistent, and punch it up with testing, you can succeed and stand apart from your competition.
Wanting to learn more? Come talk with us, we’re really nice people, and we love to help organizations find their voice.
If you want to learn more about specific key elements of an effective marketing plan, read our 50+ page booklet on How to Write A Strategic Marketing Plan That Yields ROI – complete with explanations