How And Why Content Marketing Is The Only Kind Of Marketing That Works Online
Traditional advertising – or even online advertising – doesn’t work well for online businesses. Why? Because the online audiences search the Net for information. They don’t come to buy products. This is what we too, at Solohacks Academy, have discovered in our journey with Knowledge Commerce.
Research also suggests that when people come online, they like to follow their own pace. They read information they like, they develop an affinity for authoritative writers they like, and gradually they begin to trust the authors they like. Then, when the author recommends a product or two, the audiences become well-disposed to following his recommendations.
This is what Content Marketing is about. So, in a sense, the online marketer has to become a “publisher”.
- He has to publish articles rich in valuable and relevant “content”.
- He has to create his own unique brand of information.
- His content has to become more and more engaging, credible and trustworthy with audiences.
- He then influences sales, without needing to resort to interruptive and irrelevant advertising, that online audiences despise.
Content Marketing costs less to start with, but takes time to produce results. But when it does begin to sell for you, the profitability can be very high.
1. Understanding The Full Power Of Content Marketing For Knowledge Commerce
Content Marketing actually started as a customer backlash against aggressive advertising. When the Internet opened up, people who shunned advertising on TV and print channels found their freedom to read good informative content. Marketers reacted to this by “selling without selling”. In Content Marketing, the idea is to publish informative articles that people will love. They will then start trusting the author and later buy the products he recommends.
It is indeed a roundabout way to sell. But then, no other form of selling works anymore at all!
a. A Definition Of Content Marketing, And What Qualifies As Valuable Content
Brian Clark, Founder & CEO, Copyblogger, explains not just the “what” but also the “why” of Content Marketing:
“It means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.”
Brian Clark also explains beautifully what qualifies as “valuable content” from the customer point of view.
1. Valuable Content is content that people should desire and actively seek out. At the same time, it should also be the kind of content that Google would want to rank well in its search results – the idea being that searchers can get the best results for what they seek.
2. Valuable Content is content that can achieve whatever advertising is expected to achieve … but because advertising doesn’t work well online, Content Marketing has to do the job of getting people to know, like, and trust your brand.
3. Valuable Content is content that tries to spread valuable, relevant information, virally. Information goes from content-creator businesses via social networks, in a way that’s similar to “word-of-mouth exposure”, where people tell other people, and the idea catches like wildfire.
4. Valuable Content is content that doesn’t make people feel badgered, pressurized or brainwashed when making purchasing decisions. They want information that can help them make wiser and better purchase decisions, without trying to make up their minds for them.
b. The Big Benefits Of Content Marketing For Knowledge Commerce
Jayson Demers, writing in Forbes.com, counts up to ten great benefits of Content Marketing for online businesses. I’ve tried to condense his excellent article into 6 main benefit areas that solopreneurs cannot afford to sneeze at:
1. You get high visibility in search engines. Every time you publish new posts to your blog, Google is going to index these, and that means you are creating that many more opportunities to rank for more search queries. You will become more and more visible to the searching audiences.
2. You get more traffic from social media. If you excerpt your blog posts, and post these as updates on your social media platforms, more users will see and read your material. They will also share these updates with their circle of friends and followers, greatly increasing your audience networks and traffic.
3. You can convert more prospects into leads. Don’t just write generally on your topic of expertise. Instead, target your content cleverly to engage site visitors through the main steps (or progress-points) of their information-to-purchase journeys. This is the way to see if you can aid their conversion from casual prospects into active leads who may give you sales.
4. You can improve your brand reputation. As people read your material, they’ll keep building a favorable impression of your brand. If they find what they read helpful, informative, or enlightening, your brand will gain even more equity, since you will be perceived as trustworthy. Readers will reciprocate your interest in building a deeper relationship with them.
5. You can increase audience loyalty. You can aim your content marketing towards increasing the loyalty and bonding of your customer relationships. When your audiences start relying on you as a primary source of information – their go-to expert – their loyalty will become something you can rely on.
6. You can really decrease your marketing costs. Content marketing only costs a lot of your time, but it doesn’t take away a lot of your money. It’s incredibly cost-effective. Although your initial months of content marketing will seem sluggish, you will soon see traction and momentum build as you keep on at it. The secret is to persist and not give up. Success may be just around the next corner.
According to Julia McCoy, Content Marketing costs at least 62% less than other marketing forms, while delivering at least 3X customer leads.
c. How To Create Your Content Marketing Strategy Step-By-Step
Building your strategy is a sequential process, and these are 20 questions you can ask to clarify your content strategy:
- Who are you? What are your strengths and weaknesses, passions and interests?
- What niche (specific market segment) do you plan to produce products for?
- What business model will you follow?
- What is your main business goal and what are your sub-goals?
- What products or services are you offering? How are they differentiated from competition?
- How would you articulate your brand and its key difference?
- Who are the target audiences who may buy your products?
- Can you break down your target audiences into smaller specific segments?
- What problems do your target audiences have that your products can solve?
- For each of your target audience segments, can you develop audience personas (descriptor cards with mock visual likenesses) and buyer journeys (routes they take from interest to desire to purchase)?
- What are your target audiences’ online search habits and keyword search habits?
- If you already have a website, can you audit it to see if it is serving your audiences’ content needs?
- For new content creation, can you brainstorm ideas that match people’s problems along their buyer journeys?
- Which content management platform will you choose after you have explored them all? (Hint: WordPress Is Numero Uno.)
- What formats will you create content for, judging by where your audiences hang out online? (e.g. textual, video, audio, podcasts)
- What channels will you use to publish your content? How many can you handle as a solopreneur? (e.g. blog, social media, email)
- How do you plan to manage and monitor your content creation and publication?
- What metrics will you use to analyze performance? Are you aware of what’s most important to measure for your goals?
- What systems will you put in place to keep ahead of the market and abreast of the latest trends and technologies?
- What systems will you put in place to keep ahead of the audiences and competition, and how they shape up to new trends?
2. The Key Building Blocks Needed For Your Content Marketing
How and where do you begin your Content Marketing? Let’s look at the online Core Content Marketing Model in greater detail. It is visualized below. It has principally four components:
a. Your Website & Blog – Your Main Components Of Content Marketing
A business website and its accompanying blog need to be viewed as a “brochure-cum-magazine” combination. The predominant difference between a brochure and a magazine is that a brochure never changes its content unless we go for fresh updates and reprints. A magazine is fresh from issue to issue.
While our website should generally include our predominantly static or slow-changing content (e.g. About Us Page, Our Products and Services Pages, Contact Page etc.)., the blog has to be viewed more like a magazine full of category-segregated articles. New articles need to be regularly written and published complementary to our chosen marketing niche and target audiences.
The idea here is that potential customers, or even other stakeholders, would become easily bored and not be interested in frequent visits to our website, if the company information does not change often (as it won’t). On the other hand, the ever-fresh magazine style blog provides reason for people to return frequently to the website.
b. Tying In Content For Email Marketing And The Social Media
The social media – such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube – are to be viewed as traffic generators for our website and blog. When a blog post is written, we should simultaneously post short excepts of the post to the social media, with hyperlinks leading back to our blog … so that the social traffic is led back to where we can present ourselves as we want to.
Email marketing is another inseparable part of blogging and content marketing. Why is it important to the whole scheme of things? Here’s why.
Think what a waste of effort it would be if you posted on social media and brought lots of people to your blog and website, but had no way of then staying in touch with them to bring back, again and again, to your site? This is where email marketing becomes an invaluable add-on …
To be able to create a mailing list of people who have been visitors of your site is the whole purpose behind the email marketing game. On the website, and working along with the blog, we need to include an “optin form” with an enticing free downloadable “lead magnet” (perhaps an ebook, or an email course), that asks people to supply their email addresses if they wish to get regular updates from your site and blog.
Once people are on our mailing list, we have to keep an email campaign going (at an optimum frequency) so that they are reminded of us and our site, but don’t feel badgered to buy our services straightaway.
c. Creating Content For The Different Stages Of The Buyer’s Journey
What you should blog about depends on your audiences’ buying journeys: Business blogging should be done to match content with what target audiences are looking for.
Now, this is where we have to factor in the buying journey that target audiences use. The buying journey is a diagram of the stages people typically go through, as they explore information before buying. To be able to sell products and services to people, we need to put out information on our niche topics that matches each stage of the buying journey.
This helps audiences to get enough information to progress to the next stage of their buying journey (hopefully getting readier and readier as they progress, to buy goods and services from us).
Here is a visual of the 8-step buying journey that audiences invariably go through before buying:
They first get triggered to become aware of something that interests them. They look for deeper information. They then do some comparison shopping of different sellers, and decide to give a chosen seller a try.
If happy, they buy – and experience the service the get with the purchase. If they’re happy again, they buy even more products from the same seller, and start recommending the seller to friends.
The diagram below also shows the kind of content they need at each stage to progress to the next stage.
3. Key Content Marketing Concepts And Types – And the Process Workflow
We’ve covered most of the important aspects of Content Marketing so far. But there are a few other related ideas that it will help you to get clear about. Here they are …
a. Content Curation, Content Promotion And Content Repurposing
There are three concepts related to Content Marketing that you should know:
While we analyze the different types of content it’s also valuable to see two distinct types of content production.
Content Creation is when you create your own original content – like, say, an opinion article on a concept or topic that needs explaining. Content Curation is when you put together a group of related quotes, opinions, statistics or information from others’ articles, with your own analysis and comments on each.
Content Curation naturally saves you a lot of time. It can also allow you to write to the people you’ve quoted, to ask them to promote your piece, in both your interests.
Clearly it is not enough to merely create content – if you don’t actively promote it, the content will not be found by people who need to see it. Among the many ways there are for promoting content are the big three:
- Social media promotions: As mentioned above, you can use social media to announce every blog post you write – or even otherwise, post regular social updates that keep your brand top of mind with social audiences.
- Influencer/blogger outreach: One of the most hardworking methods of content promotion is influencer or blogger outreach. Tell people who are your peers in the market to help promote your content to their wide circles of influence. And then do the same for them.
- Guest blogging: Another way to promote your content would be by guest-blogging. Countless websites need content that they themselves are unable to create and produce at spate. So long as you can write for their sites, to their brand guidelines, they will offer to publish your guest posts, and give you a link or two back to your own site, to increase your site’s network of connections.
REPURPOSING CONTENT FOR AMPLIFICATION:
After the core components of your Content Marketing are stabilized, and producing some results, you can venture into repurposing your core content into other formats.
To “repurpose” is to convert the core content into other forms of content – such as converting your blog posts into Powerpoint slidedecks or videos or podcasts. You’ll be able to reach new audiences who prefer their content in such formats, rather than only as readable text. This amplifies your content visibility and reach, and gets you newer audience segments.
b. The Content Marketing Process Workflow Visualized
CONTENT MARKETING PROCESS WORKFLOW:
If we look at the typical workflow of Content Marketing, your process will look like the diagram below:
- We have a site about our company and blog regularly about our niche topic.
- Our content answers audience queries at all points of their buying journeys.
- We post excerpts of our blog posts on social media and attract people to our blog.
- We have a lead-magnet and an optin form to capture email addresses of visitors.
- We then regularly email our mailing list to keep touching (but not pushing) them to do business with us.
- Parallelly, we continue to do a lot of content promotion to proliferate our visibility and reach across the Net.
- After our core campaign has acquired some traction, we begin to repurpose our core content (into slidedecks, videos or podcasts).
- We continue to look for newer ways to amplify access to newer audience sets.
c. Types Of Content And Their Categorization
Apart from the various concepts related to Content Marketing, people also segment content into different types …
TYPES OF CONTENT: FROM THE INTERACTION POINT OF VIEW:
From a marketer’s point of view, you can write shortform, longform or discussion-type content.
- Shortform Content: Shortform content becomes very important as a way of keeping up with your updates in the social media. Look at the example of a Twitter update. It’s sometimes referred to as “microblogging”.
- Longform Content: Longform content could be blog posts, ebooks, whitepapers, PDF docs, case studies and other forms of elaborately-explained content.
- Discussions Content: You’ll find good examples of discussion-type content in the comments sections under blog posts, or in the specialized Groups in LinkedIn or Facebook. People usually ask questions of each other and elicit answers.
TYPES OF CONTENT: FROM THE UTILITY POINT OF VIEW:
From the audiences’ point of view, there are three things content needs to be able to do, to provide utility to your posts. Every post you write has to be Searchable, Snackable and Shareable.
- Searchable Content: To make a post searchable is to optimize it – to become easily searchable in the search engines like Google and Bing. SEO (search engine optimization) is a vast field in itself.
- Snackable Content: Snackable content, as the name suggests, is content that is in the right bite-sized pieces for all the many formats or devices that a reader may read the content through – such as mobile-friendly or tablet-friendly content.
- Shareable Content: Interesting, entertaining and inspirational content is also highly shareable. Things that pique our curiosity or stimulate our creativity naturally encourage us to reach out to other people who may end up feeling the same level of interest or motivation.
TYPES OF CONTENT: FROM THE FORMATS POINT OF VIEW:
Finally, we have the three types of content that are dependent on their sensory impact … we have text we can read, visuals we can see, and audio we can hear.
- Textual Content: After we have started getting a multiplicity of screen sizes – like laptop screens, tablet screens, mobile screens and so on – text has been seen as most useful when it is visually chunked. To make text more enticing to read, we have to treat it as a visual element, and make sure it looks pleasing to the eye in its layout. Only then is it going to be read.
- Visual Content: There are at least 8 different types of visual content (if not more) that are highly popular online. These include: pure images, illustrations or photographs; cartoons, memes or other funny or memorable images; data driven charts and graphs; infographics and animated GIFs; screenshots; Powerpoint slidedecks; flipbooks; videos …
- Audio Content: Audio content is usually in the form of recorded voice or music clips. They can be used for podcasts or even for videos. Another form of sound that is very appealing on a blog post is soundbites. It could very short bits of video-talk by experts, emphasizing a point you are making in your post.
In Summary …
- Advertising doesn’t work online. In fact Content Marketing is the only marketing that works.
- Content Marketing costs at least 62% less than other marketing forms, while delivering at least 3X customer leads.
- There are 20 key questions you can ask to clarify your Content Marketing strategy. Strategy creates coherent marketing.
- Your Core Content Marketing Model should have 4 building blocks – your website, blog, email marketing and social media.
- Content Curation, Content Promotion And Content Repurposing are some other related concepts you should know about.
- In this article we’ve detailed the ideal ContentProcess Workflow as well as the many types of content.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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