To listen to some people talk about content marketing, you would think they discovered a new particle of physics. This isn’t meant to give short shrift to content marketing but to acknowledge the audacity of some marketers.
Content marketing in its most basic is the use of content to educate and nuture prospects and ultimately acquire leads and customers.
By no means a new approach, content marketing has seemingly been around for as long as there have been marketers. Think of cookbooks issued by Campbell’s Soup or Hershey’s. Or a hair styling guide published by a beauty product company. Each is educational while reminding you of great ways to use the product.
Or in the B2B space, consider white papers or the ubiquitous case study.
The key difference today is that content marketing is not a uni-dimensional, monthly, quarterly or even weeky process, but an ongoing, continuous process tied to a specific lead generation strategy that can be automated and personalized.
In other words, it’s content marketing squared, revved up by new bells and whistles but always tied to a plan. The end goal is the same—to educate, nurture and acquire leads and business—but the process can be more effective. Think of an enveloping web of content that draws you in.
Many people in our experience, however, continue to do content marketing old school—kicking out the occasional white paper or case study or article or blog piece but never cementing it together into an integrated whole.
Doing it piecemeal is akin to working out on a whim. You get a little bit ahead only to lose everything on the days you don’t exercise. Continuing the analogy, you want to have a content marketing plan and schedule just as you would in exercising. Otherwise, it won’t succeed.
Here is a checklist of 4 key things to consider as you create your content marketing plan:
1. Where’s Waldo? Where do your customers and prospects hang out? Are they on Twitter? LinkedIn? Facebook? Offline events? Reading trade magazines? Watching videos? Listening to podcasts? Wherever they are you want to be. And in many cases, some will prefer one hangout to another. You need to be everywhere there is a reasonable size audience.
2. Arrive with gifts. Customers and prospects like everyone can use a helping hand. What can you do that will enhance their lives? Is it listening and responding better? Providing self-help videos? Publishing thought-provoking articles? Delivering a report that provides new information?
3. Time your gifts. Just like you don’t give diamond earrings to someone on a first date, you begin slowly—listening to your customers and prospects and understanding their needs. Then gradually educating them on the industry via blog posts, newsletters, articles and more. Define the content frequency that works best but be sure to be always accessible and visible and credible.
4. Measure/personalize. If someone isn’t interested at first, don’t write them off but keep in low-key touch mode. Meanwhile, if someone is ready to act, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk.
Think of content marketing as a journey with a destination in mind, be it driving revenues, increasing the number of your customers or selling a particular product or service. Then plot out how the content marketing path will help you get there. I'd love to hear about your content marketing journey. What have you found to be most effective?
—Wendy Marx is a B2B PR and marketing specialist. Find out more at Marx Communications.
[Image: Flickr user Marjon Lukje]