Content marketing is a narrative form of marketing focused on consumers' needs while telling a story. Without being a thinly disguised promotion or advertisement, its conversational, human voice gently persuades prospects and helps buyers and the public provide consumers with useful information to aid purchase decisions, improve product usage, and entertain them.
Think content marketing doesn't matter? Then, look at Man of the House, Celebrations, and Amazon to see how different companies, namely P&G, 1-800-Flowers, and Amazon, support their brands and products while driving sales.
To maximize its effectiveness, develop your marketing plans around the four pillars of content marketing: context, channels, connections, and commerce. (Here's help for keeping your content marketing on track.)
Context. Provides the basis for branding and message relevance. It draws prospects in and engages them.
Integrates elements of an organization's brand. Among the important branding factors are colors, typography, voice, language, and graphic elements.
Creates backdrop for conveying your offering's story. At the center of content marketing are company and product stories to which readers can relate.
Supplies the place where content appears. For an integrated marketing plan, assess all of your options including your website that's your marketing hub (alternatively, use a blog, Flickr, or YouTube channel), search that's online content's directory, social media including owned and third-party, apps distributed via smartphones and tablets, offline options including print media, direct mail, and customer communications, and real-time content like live events and conferences.
Employs variety of conduits. Email, online communications' workhorse, drives social media interactions and is one of mobile's dominant uses. RSS, known as feeds, offer content distribution. Chat is an exchange channel for business and personal use. Social media communicates via messaging on social networks and social sharing. Texting offers time-sensitive communications. Offline includes print direct mail and postal letters. Lastly, don't underestimate the human voice for phone and live events communications.
Encompasses a wide range of formats. Incorporate more than one type to provide different entryways to your organization. Options include text, video, photographs and graphics, audio, presentations, and comments.
Is delivered via a variety of devices. In today's wired world, people consume content from multiple devices at the same time during most of their waking hours. Therefore, ensure your content can be read via computers, smartphones, and tablets.
Connections. By its nature, content marketing engages prospects, buyers, and others. Marketers' goals are to encourage engagement and build relationships over time. Of course, it's critical to respond and keep the conversation going.
Create bait to lure readers and participants in on other platforms. Use content marketing to support search optimization and findability, extend social media to attract participants, and attract attention at live events.
Place content on a mixture of platforms where readers engage to maximize reach and build relationships. Among your options are social media networks, online forums, and offline activities such as social media (like Meetup), live meetings, and conferences.
Enable readers, prospects, and customers to forward or share information. Leverage readers' relationships by allowing them to distribute your content.
Support marketing initiatives on other platforms and communications. Integrate non-promotional content to attract and maintain readers on other conduits like email and text messaging.
Commerce. Supports sales at every step of the buying process. Content marketing effectively answers prospects' and buyers' questions about your offering in a variety of formats because they don't trust advertising.
Be present to enter consideration set. Since most shopping starts with online research, have a digital and mobile presence to ensure your firm's included.
View commerce options broadly. Where possible, be present on as many platforms as are relevant to your buyers. Among the alternatives are your website to provide product information and purchase ability, social media options (especially Facebook) to sell directly without participants having to leave the platform, social commerce, which involves a combination of online shopping, social media, content and collaborative tools (like Kaboodle and Threadless), and mobile commerce, which enables consumers to buy via their smartphone.
Know buying is no longer just the purchase! It's research and additional information that helps customers. Don't overlook customer ratings and reviews with your product information or they'll go elsewhere to find it!
Link content to product page so prospects can click to find out more. Support purchasing by integrating a contextually relevant call-to-action and related unique promotional code, to easily track content marketing results.
Allow prospects to close the deal the way they want to, when they want to. This includes at your retail store, online, via phone, or via mobile.
By integrating the four pillars of content into your overall marketing, you can attract prospects to your offering, build a relationship with them, and persuade them to purchase. Used effectively with an appropriate call-to-action and unique tracking code, content marketing delivers measurable bottom line results. As a result, content metrics can be more easily tracked.
Is there anything else that you'd add to these four pillars of content marketing? Alternatively, is there anything that you'd change? If so, what would it be?
Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen
This column was originally published on January 23, 2012 on ClickZ.
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Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.