Why content marketing is important for small businesses

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Why you need to make some time for content marketing

Beyond the comfortable TV Commercial

Advertising used to be primarily about using broadcast media like
TV, Print and Outdoor. Ah, those were the pre-fragmentation,
pre-digital days when ad agencies would get a sizeable budget from
a client to go off and shoot a TV commercial, safe in the
knowledge that it would reach a large part of the target audience.
However, every year the share of advertising money spent on
broadcast media falls and both digital and content marketing
increase their share. For example a recent survey by the Content
Marketing Institute found that 60% of marketers expect to increase
their content marketing budget this year.

Why content marketing matters to marketers

Simply put, content marketing is using content as a hook to
attract consumers and then engage them in an ongoing relationship.
Flower diagram showing the benefits
        of content marketing
The content can range from a simple blog post to a branded
website, from an infographic to an international cause. Brands
need to be found easily and quickly on Google. Getting a higher
page position can transform the success of a company. Earlier this
year Google released the latest version of their search algorithm,
‘Panda’. In the past Google found and ranked pages on a number of
factors. More than ever the volume and quality of content on a
website is essential to get to the top of the search results. Big
and small companies are now restructuring their marketing to
maximise the amount of content that they can produce in order to
rank highly versus their competitors. This is a big growth area.
Understanding how to use content to improve your attractiveness to
search engines is going to be a critical life skill for all
marketers.
diagram showing some examples of the
        different types of content marketing

But creating content by itself is only part of the task. I’d
like to explore how to get the content out once you’ve created
it, and what role it plays within the larger marketing strategy.
The same marketing rules apply here with regard to identifying
your target audience, getting the message right, communicating
with big ideas and evaluating the success. The bottom line is
that although companies are willing to invest in content
marketing, they still need to know what the return is on that
investment.

But content marketing isn’t new is it?

No, it isn’t new. There are plenty of examples of brands producing
‘guides’, magazines or information sheets. Just think of the “Sky”
magazine launched in the 90s, cereal promotions or free DVDs in
the Sunday papers. Brands want to communicate to consumers as
effectively as possible and they’ve always sought better ways to
do this. The change is that now this is being done digitally.
Because it is cheaper and because the web is global, there is now
far more volume that ever before.

The key benefits of content marketing for Brands

A) Positive perception of the Brand

Simply put, by giving the consumer a reward the brands are making
the consumers like them. If the brand creates an expert guide (for
example a sports drink giving away a music track that’s good to
exercise to). But brands also want to be seen as experts in their
fields, so instead of giving away a music track the sports drinks
brand might give away a guide on sports nutrition. This aims to
influence our opinion of that company and make us see them as an
expert. This affects our purchasing decision, e.g. how much we are
willing to pay for the razor blade from the company who is an
expert, versus the other brand.

B) Content can be traded for leads and eventually sales

I’ve worked at companies with huge databases of customers, but it
takes decades to build up those lists. Most companies have to
start at the very beginning and try to get people to sign up to
their mailing list. But the consumer expects to receive something
in return for signing up. Even a humble newsletter may be enough.
However, smarter companies have realised that they can put out
content that ‘feels’ really expensive and get consumers to sign
up. You’ll find a lot of marketing companies offer to give away
reports, or research papers or ‘how to guides’, but in order to
download them you must supply your email address and a whole bunch
of other data.

C) Content is used to engage the consumer in a conversation

Marketers are obsessed with turning consumers into ‘brand
ambassadors’. A brand ambassador means someone who feels very
strongly about a brand, so much so that they actively recommend it
to their friends and family. Researchers are now trying to monitor
this using a measure called ‘Net Promoter Score’. Sometimes
consumers just like brands and they become ‘fans’. But often
brands encourage consumers to ‘fall in love by identifying
possible ‘fans’ and giving them exclusive content. For example, if
you’ve got an o2 phone you’ll be eligible for priority moments
ticket to concerts and sports matches. The idea is that consumers
become ‘fans’ and then start telling their friends about how great
the brand is and encourage the to become customers too. The
arrival of social media now allows marketers to really have a
conversation with consumers. In the old days, the only way to
interact was by putting pen to paper, a concept that almost seems
as dated as using a quill! Now tools can summarise how favourable
the comments are on twitter, to see how much people like
particular brands. More importantly, brands can listen. The moment
that a new advertising campaign has gone live (be it TV or online)
they can listen to users’ reactions. They can ask them for their
opinions, they can invite them to exclusive events, they can even
try and mollify their concerns or criticisms. Check out Local
Response, a US based company that allows brands to engage
immediately with twitter users.

D) Increase Search Engine visibility

Google control 70% of all searches in the world (96% of all
mobile) and being ranked at the top of the search results is vital
to any company. Search Engine Optimisation used to be a ‘dark art’
but since Google have introduced Panda, the emphasis has been put
on the volume of quality content, as well as inbound links. All
companies are struggling to stay ahead of their competitors.
That’s always been the case with advertising, where they have
tried to outspend each other, or come up with a better advertising
idea. Now the struggle has moved to content. The company that has
the most content will get the more traffic and get the most sales.
So companies are now investing in creating quality content. It
can’t just be any old junk, the more relevant and consistent the
better ranking you will get.

Return on Investment

Remember that marketing departments have one aim, to drive
sales. Marketing departments get a bad press internally because
they spend money, sometimes a lot, but rarely make any. I once
worked in a marketing team in the early noughties where we were
given the responsibility for a website, it felt like it was
because no one else wanted to look after it. Management viewed
it as costly but necessary. I identified that we could make some
ad revenue. But as soon as it became commercial, the sales team
took it over!
The key metric to assess the success of a campaign is Return on
Investment: Evaluating how many sales (or clicks, or likes) the
campaign has generated for every £ spent. There are few
benchmarks to compare it to at the moment, however that is
changing quickly. But if the return on investment is low, then
it will be very difficult to get buy-in from the CEO and CFO of
the company.
On the plus side it has always been very difficult to measure
ROI for broadcast media like TV, Print and Outdoor. In
comparison digital media is very easy to track. When somebody
clicks you can track their entire journey using cookies and
tracking codes. With email marketing software like Responsys or
Ominiture, you can see what percentage of emails have been
opened and how many have been clicked. The marketer should be
using this data to constantly evaluate what works and what
doesn’t, and readjust the campaign accordingly.

Page 2: Some great examples &
viral campaigns