What is content marketing all about?
By Charlie Britten
25 Jan 2019
Mention the phrase content marketing and many people will wonder what it means. The answer is that it is a type of marketing that works differently from the traditional way of trying to sell goods and services.
Traditionally, marketing works via the explicit promotion of goods and services. Content marketing, by comparison, takes a less direct approach through interesting, relevant, but not ‘salesy’ content.
It works by producing news articles, blogs and videos about the topics that particular products and services are associated, in order to attract the interest of those reading or watching the content. For example, a retailer selling hiking boots might write about the experience of climbing a mountain, or a legal firm might produce content explaining how a change to the law could affect certain people. Because it is relevant to their interests, people will be attracted to read it.
The idea is not just to gain the interest of potential customers, but also sustain it, as they will typically need to see content around seven times before they make a purchase, something known as the ‘rule of seven’. This means content marketing plays a part in what is known as the buyer journey.
Each journey starts with awareness, when a potential customer learns about the topic and the company offering a product or service. The next stage is consideration, when they think about whether to buy. This is followed by the third, when they do finally make a purchase, and the fourth, which is when the goal is to make sure a happy customer comes back for more and recommends your firm or brand to his family and friends.
But if that is what content marketing is, how can you get people to come to your site to read it in the first place?
An important part of the answer, but not all of it, is something called search engine optimisation, or SEO. The optimisation part means certain very important words and relevant images are placed prominently in the text to make it more likely your content will appear on search engines when people look for information by entering a particular word or phrase, known as a keyword.
However, it is not enough just to have good keywords. Search engines reward relevance, trustworthiness and readability, and you want your reader to be interested and keen on coming back for more.
For this reason, you need to be telling a story with your content, something that the reader can relate to in some way and that captures their attention. However, to ensure you can carry on doing this you will need to plan ahead. That is why you need a clear strategy, in which each piece of content fits into the theme and promotes the same messages and ideas.
For that reason, before you even start you should be working on a long-term content strategy and be constantly thinking of new ideas for relevant content.
All this means that your content does need to be good, otherwise it will not get potential customers past the awareness stage. Strong and clear headlines are very helpful, but they must stay relevant to the text. More importantly, the content has to be interesting enough to keep readers coming back.
To do this is, you have to know what sort of people your content is meant to attract. By considering a number of likely characteristics to do with things like age, sex, what job they do and where they live, you can build up a picture of the typical customer you wish to target. This is known as a buyer persona and will give content writers a guide of who to appeal to.
Content can come in various forms, but a central theme should be to tell a story, whether this comes in the form of a blog, news articles or ‘how-to’ guides. Indeed, some content can be recycled in different formats. For instance, one week’s breaking news may be the topic of a later blog that considers the wider implications of a development and how people have responded to it.
The main reason content marketing focuses on telling a story is that it answers the question of "Why?” Why should people be interested in one firm’s services over another? The answer lies in why a firm does what it does - a sense of mission and meaning that inspires buy-in from potential customers.
Companies in many sectors have captured this truth, a prime example being IT giant Apple. But this is something a law firm can emulate and it can be at the heart of its story, since storytelling is at the centre of content marketing.
Producing content that people want to read is important, but it is crucial to ensure it provides ways for them to move forward in the buyer journey. That means having a call-to-action (CTA) in each piece of content. This normally takes the form of a button or clickable link at or near the foot of the page.
The CTA could be an invitation to buy, but if the customer is at the consideration stage, it may offer alternatives like a form to fill in for more information.
By working with BeUniqueness to create great content, you will give yourself a clear advantage over many of your competitors.