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Content Marketing 101: Introduction to the Newest Marketing Tool for Businesses.
By Jennifer Nagy, President of jlnpr
Thursday, 30th January 2014
 

The traditional marketing methods that businesses have used in the past are becoming outdated and uninteresting to consumers, leading to low conversion rates, decreased website traffic and lower ROI (on a company's marketing spend).

Today, many companies are choosing to implement new and creative marketing strategies with the end goal of establishing their company and key executives as experts in their industry. Not only does this increase a company's overall credibility, it also helps to shorten the sales cycle drastically.

The most effective thought leadership campaigns use content marketing to educate readers (potential clients, media, industry experts, etc.) about a company's area of expertise.

So how can you get started with your content marketing strategy? First, it's important to know the basics...

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a targeted marketing strategy that involves creating insightful, engaging and interesting written content with the aim of creating customer loyalty and increasing opportunities for future business. An effective content marketing strategy will help a business engage with its customers, leaving them better informed and interested to find out more.

Content marketing can include a variety of tactics including:

  • Thought leadership articles published in high-profile publications
  • Blogging
  • e-Books
  • Webinars
  • Among many others...
Content marketing is not a direct sales tactic, but rather a two-way communication medium between a business and its target audience. Like public relations and social media, content marketing is not directly designed to sell a product/service; however, it can have significant effect on brand awareness and can be highly effective at positioning a company as an expert in their field.

As I'm sure you know, these activities cannot be directly linked to an increase in sales, but they can significantly decrease the length of the sales cycle, making it a highly effective marketing medium -- especially for start-ups and companies working in a highly competitive market with high supply.

By improving the public's understanding of who a company is and the product/service it offers, content marketing is a fantastic way to increase a company's credibility and brand recognition without the significant costs associated with more traditional marketing methods.

In order to get the highest ROI from your content marketing strategy, it is very important to follow these four tips:

Embrace the Blog

Hosting a blog and sharing content on your website not only allows your customer to understand your position as a thought leader, but it is also the easiest and most effective method of driving traffic to your site and increasing your SEO ranking. Every time a new blog post is added to your blog, the search engines scan your site, which immediately leads to a boost in your search ranking.

Create a weekly blogging schedule and post on the same days every week, so your followers will know when to visit your blog to read your new posts. Businesses should be publishing a new blog post with original content at least twice a week. At least another two times per week, you should be sharing content from other sources (news articles, other companies, studies, stats, etc. with links back to the original source) through your blog. For even greater consistency and brand recognition, you should cross-promote your blog through your company's social media channels.

Promote Through Social Media

Social media is one of the best ways to post and share your content but because many companies are only now beginning to integrate it into their strategy, it can go a long way to establish your company as innovative. Before getting started, it is important to understand the role of social media and the benefit it offers for businesses: social media is one of the best marketing mediums for developing relationships with (and loyalty from) potential customers, but in most cases, it is not a direct sales tactic.

Implementing a social media posting schedule will help your business maintain its competitive edge, and ensure that you can offer interesting, unique content on a regular basis. The more views your post receives, the more it will be shared, commented on and enjoyed by both new and existing customers -- and the greater ROI that your social media outreach will earn. Because of this fact, scheduling your posts to ensure the greatest exposure to your followers can make or break the success of your social media strategy. Scheduling tools like Oktopost will enable businesses to share content at the time of day that it will make the biggest impact.

As well as publishing your own content on a consistent, ongoing basis, businesses should be engaging with customer's posts to ensure continued customer satisfaction. For example, if a hotel guest tweets a picture of the fantastic view of the beach from her hotel room, the hotel should acknowledge the post offering a friendly greeting or 'thank you' for the post. Consider also retweeting (sharing the image with your followers) and then recognizing the customer on #FF (follow Friday), as one of your property's amazing guests. This will make the guest feel special and she will remember the hotel for its fantastic beachside view, as well as its friendly staff.

Drop the Sales Pitch

Effective content marketing minimizes the need for a sales pitch. In fact, if a company does choose to promote their company within their content, its content marketing strategy will not be effective. Most consumers are highly distrustful of advertising messages and so the moment your content becomes promotional, readers are likely to lose interest. Customers visit websites and social media channels to learn insightful information about a business' area of expertise, not to experience a hard sell (or even a soft one!). Instead, provide customers with the information they are looking to find in a creative and informative way.

For example, a hotel can use content marketing to increase repeat site visits from potential customers, increasing brand recognition, brand loyalty and increasing direct bookings in the process. In order to do so, the hotel would need to make their website (and blog) a destination for consumers to find out valuable travel tips (including topics like: how to save on your upcoming hotel stay, etc.). Because readers keep coming back to the site to learn from your content, they will be more likely to remember your hotel and visit your direct website (instead of the OTAs) when they are booking their next hotel stay in that destination.

By providing info instead of just using your content to sell, you are giving the customer time to develop trust for your company, before receiving your sales messages. If your content continues to be engaging, informative and creative enough, the customer will remember your company and come back to make a purchase when they are ready to do so.

Add Videos

Videos are very popular content with followers because most people connect more strongly to visuals than copy; however, many companies are hesitant to use video content because of their perception of it as expensive and time-consuming to create. In reality, videos can be much easier to produce than you might think. With a well-planned script, a professional setting and proper lighting, you can use free video apps (i.e. Vine and Instagram) to create mini-looping videos that can be shared on all of your social media profiles quickly and easily.

Additionally, creating a longer video for your homepage or for YouTube will not only position your company as a creative thought leader, but can also offer very beneficial marketing exposure. For example, multimedia content often appears on the first page of Google search results, which helps to make your business more visible (without having to invest in expensive SEO or Google AdWords campaigns). Even if your videos are not visible on the first page of search results, consumers will often use YouTube to conduct a search. In fact, YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world.

To conclude, as it becomes harder for companies to stand out from the crowd in a highly competitive market, a content marketing strategy becomes increasingly important. Content marketing is a low-cost, highly effective way for companies to establish a position of thought leadership and develop relationships with potential customers using top-notch content.

If you have any further questions about content marketing or if you would like help planning and creating your business' content marketing strategy, please don't hesitate to contact me at any time at jenn@jlnpr.com.

Originally published by The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission.

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