Digital Marketers Call it “Content Marketing”
Because today’s marketing environment is crowded, it’s more difficult than ever to declare what makes your business different from the rest. The surest way to stand out is to invite people in—often, this is accomplished with content marketing.
Think of content marketing as a form of anti-advertising. There are no pitches, no slogans, no tricks.
Instead, content marketing is a way for you to share your expertise with customers and prospects who are looking to work with someone who is an expert at what they do and can express it in a clear, focused and honest manner. According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is essentially “educational”.
Perhaps as important, your content marketing efforts will increase your ranking in Google and other search engines. Search engines long ago decided they wanted to drive traffic to sites that would prove informative and helpful to people using their search tools. Gone are the days when buying a few keywords or worse, keyword stuffing, will help your presence.
Search engines now look for sites that can speak in depth about the subject being searched.
Google provides robust guidelines about how to organize and present your content. Take a close look at their advice on how to “Optimize Your Content”. You’ll notice they suggest making content that is “interesting and useful”, that speaks to your audience.
Very simply, the more you share about what you know online, the better chance you have to attract customers who want what you’re selling. Partly, this is because you will have more volume based on enhanced placement in search rankings. But perhaps more important is that you will have more engaged customers; they will read through what you have written and if you have written well enough about your business, they will likely feel more ready to trust you with theirs.
A Successful Content Marketing Strategy
Let’s take, for example, two different companies that sell garden tools–let’s call them Gardener A and Gardener B. They have two very different types of owners. Gardener A is reluctant to share his expertise because he feels like he is “giving away” his knowledge and that the more he tells people about gardening, the less they will need him. He sells most of his goods through his physical store and very little through his website. He figures this is the natural order–people just don’t buy gardening tools online.
Gardener B partners with a copywriter to share information about all types of gardening techniques and gardening tools on her site. Her website has a blog that’s updated regularly. Her company’s social media accounts are active. The information that’s shared online describes the garden tools available with great care and the instructions about how to use them, and what other tools will help achieve the same task are clear and inviting. She has a small shop, but most of her business comes through the website. And it’s growing. She ships gardening tools all over the country.
Gardener A has never taken the time to understand his customers. They come to the store, buy a rake and leave. If you were to ask him what his typical customer “looks like” (in other words, what kinds of things they were interested in), he would probably say “gardening tools”.
Gardener B knows much more about her customers. She has learned that there are three different “persona” types that shape her content marketing strategy.
Persona 1: Casual Gardener
One type of customer is a casual gardener who is looking for some basic potted plants for springtime, and some quick tips on how to keep the plants healthy. For this type of customer (or, as marketers call it, a “persona”), a lot of visuals–flowers in bloom, gardeners enjoying their garden, plus descriptions about relaxing in a beautiful garden are posted. A few small “tips and tricks” are added to help the customer tend their casual garden.
Persona 2: Dedicated Gardener
The second type is a more serious, dedicated gardener who considers themselves an expert about certain gardening techniques and shows off their garden frequently; maybe they even have made a name for themselves locally; perhaps they engage in local flower shows hoping to win a prize. The content for this gardener is much more robust, even scientific at times. Soil types and light profiles are discussed. The set of tools on offer are more robust, more specialized, and more expensive. There are blog posts and articles about landscaping more generally, and how to build a meadow in the yard, and how to attract certain types of birds; certainly there will be talk of ponds and fountains as well. The second type of customer generates probably sixty percent of the total business for Gardener B.
Persona 3: Gifter
The third type of customer is buying gifts for others. For them, there is an emphasis on gift-wrapping, on seed packets, indoor gardening kits, flowerbeds, vases, and even cut flowers. The tone of the content changes from “how to garden” to “what is the right gift” for an occasion, relative or friend. Holidays play a big role in the content directed at the gifter.
All of this is to suggest that Gardener A, who wants to not share knowledge with a digital audience, misses out on a growth opportunity. And that Gardener B recognizes this opportunity. They not only recognize it, but they have also built a content marketing strategy around the opportunity by emphasizing specialized content for target audiences.
Gardener B optimized in the following ways:
- Studied their audience and created customer “types” or personas
- Created content to address each persona
- Shared knowledge openly in order to educate customers
- Provided in-depth content about gardening specialties
Gardener B understands that marketing talks to your potential customers in ways they can relate to and understand.
Using Content Marketing in a Sales Funnel
The design of a content marketing program will be to draw customers through what is called a “sales funnel” that begins with a broad appeal, has enough depth so that customers “engage” more completely with your site; and then reach what is called “the bottom” of the funnel, where content becomes product-specific—drawing the client closer to a buying decision.
The stages of customer engagement can be described as follows:
- Reach—locating possible customers
- Engage—with content marketing, draw the customer closer to a sale
- Convert—deploy content specifically to create a “call to action” or “ask for the sale”.
- Retain—Remember that content marketing doesn’t end with the sale. You want to leave your customer looking for further expertise, which leads eventually to another sale.
It’s important to note that, while we have given an example of an online store where the transaction takes place in the browser, content marketing works as well for any business. Your goal may be to get customers to get in touch for your services, in that case, you just need to make more people aware of your brand.
Content Marketing Works for Any Business
The most important thing to understand is that much as in face-to-face commerce, you want to start a conversation—and that content marketing is your role in that conversation that leads to sales. You’re knowledgeable and confident about your business. Partner with a company that’s experienced and confident about turning your knowledge and passion into content that’ll help your business stand out and drive traffic to your site.