The ability to share text and multimedia with diverse audiences online with no extra cost for large scale delivery has transformed not only society and business but marketing too. There are a huge number of benefits to businesses creating their own digital content and making it available for free. This relatively new form of marketing offers exciting and creative ways for brands to differentiate themselves while building real connection with their audiences. The rewards can be huge and fun too - so let’s dive right in!
What is content marketing?
As the name implies, content marketing is about building relationships with your marketing audience, by the use of marketing content. Essentially, the aim of content marketing is to develop more meaningful relationships with existing and potential customers by freely providing them useful information or other digital materials that help them and which inspire them to trust and value your brand. Generally, in the context of the internet, ‘content’ refers to the contents of a page or other similar digital delivery medium. Therefore, any kind of content marketing definition must include the communication, for marketing purposes, of all of the types of information that can be contained by a web page.
There are several benefits to this approach when compared to other lead generation strategies, including:
Valuation: The psychological and emotional appreciation we tend to give when receiving something useful for free.
Advocacy: The ability to motivate people to become advocates for your brand and to share your content on to other people themselves – potentially reducing overall marketing costs as compared to traditional ad campaigns.
Social media growth: Adding value to social media profiles in a way that motivates people to subscribe and tune in to future marketing messages voluntarily.
SEO: The potential value to Search Engine Optimisation efforts that results when content containing links to your website is distributed and duplicated on other websites. This is a great way to generate backlinks from sites that might otherwise be difficult to achieve.
Reputation: The possibility of increasing the perceived status of a brand due to creating a well respected and useful piece of content. Sometimes a great piece of viral content can do more for a brand’s reputation than equivalent, but far more costly ad campaigns.
The unpaid nature of content marketing allows for a far more friendly and grass roots approach when reaching out to social groups and communities, so has the potential create connections with people who would otherwise strongly resist marketing efforts.
Content marketing strategy
There are several commonly used methods for promoting content for little or no cost as part of a content marketing process which tend to involve providing both a marketing value and a value to a target audience without directly or overtly selling anything. The marketing messages imparted might motivate people to enter a sales ‘funnel’ which leads them on to eventually becoming a customer or might help the advertiser achieve other goals.
In some cases the content might be used as an overall strategy to create a perception of value for certain ideals which then motivate people to take action of their own accord - eventually providing value back to the advertiser and their brand/organisation. The overall success of this indirect form of marketing is more challenging to measure than traditional direct sales tactics, yet can be effective none the less.
Forms of content marketing often relate to the distribution channels available online and include:
Blog posts & Articles: Provide meaningful value by sharing educational or entertaining information.
Videos: Shared through online platforms which similarly engage and entertain.
News articles: Distributed through online news aggregators or traditional avenues.
Ebooks: Can cover a wide variety of topics and hold a lasting appeal.
Case Studies: Research work that is suitable for public consumption from within an organisation can be repurposed and shared or created specifically for promotional purposes.
Podcasts: One of the most popular forms of digital communication online currently. Has the potential to reach large numbers of people and to really connect deeply if correctly executed.
Video games and mobile apps: The lowering cost of development for specialised software opens the door to exciting opportunities for content marketing.
Email Marketing Campaigns: A wide variety of opportunities exists through voluntary (opt-in) email lists which meet a common need that people have in their daily lives.
As with traditional marketing on TV and Radio, having a charismatic speaker, writer or presenter is hugely important for multimedia content. Some projects are better suited to members from the organisation themselves presenting information as an authoritative source, while others are better served by hiring professional speakers/writers. The huge array of popular video channels on other social media sites allows for in-depth research to be performed on target demographics and to gain inspiration when creating fresh content ideas. In many ways, the approach here is to produce content just as anyone else would do that seeks to help others and grow a presence online.
Interestingly, in some ways search engines themselves are a form of content marketing, in that they help people reach the information that they need while also inserting marketing messages from paid adverts along the way. Novel methods of carrying out content marketing will no doubt continue to emerge and it is for creative marketers to experiment and come to understand which options work best for them in achieving their goals.
The idea behind a lead magnet is generally to provide a significant piece of valuable content without financial cost, but in exchange for an email address which is verified in order to download the free content. In some senses the free content can be seen to be a bribe to motivate people to opt-in to email marketing or to begin a form of sales funnel.
Lead magnets are a fun digital marketing tool in that the free content ideally does truly offer something of value and so opting in to future communications is initially seen as a fair ‘trade’ by many people (when audience targeting has been diligently designed!). The process of building rapport with people can then extend through future email communications which build a relationship without being pushy or irritating. The overall aim is to create a sense of respect and appreciation for receiving what are, ultimately, a form of marketing communication.
Various unscrupulous techniques have been used over the years to attempt to apply pressure to those who have entered such sales funnels, but this is truly not necessary or beneficial in the long run. Organisations who genuinely seek to build real and valued relationships with their audience need to carefully consider the decisions that go into building their marketing materials as unethical actions can having lasting negative consequences. A tone of friendly connection, without pressure, needs to be held consistently in most cases in order to produce the best results.
CRUCIAL Content Marketing
We aim to help our clients to connect with the right content creators for their unique needs and to help them to ethically distribute the end results to precisely the right people in an efficient way. Whether you have commercial goals or are seeking to promote a message that will change the world, we’re ready to work with you to get your voice heard far and wide!
While our own in-house team are capable of producing creative writing and multimedia products, we excel at making use of the wide variety of talented content creators in our contacts network in ways that put marketing know-how into practice on your behalf. We are happy to work with your own marketing team in order to help you reach your goals or, if needed, we can plan, manage and implement the entire content marketing process for you – from research to monitoring and optimisation.