Use Content Marketing as a powerful tool to win new customers, and keep the ones you’ve got.
Information is the capital of life and modern business. People value it. They need it to make informed decisions about the products and services they buy. People use it to better themselves, to gain an intellectual advantage over their peers, to get what they want, and to avoid mistakes.
Businesses use information to gain superiority over their competitors – to differentiate, to add value, to communicate with their markets, and to excel where others face mediocrity. Smart businesses understand how to turn their knowledge into easily understood packages of information that transform their marketing, ultimately achieving sales growth and profit performance.
Content Marketing is rapidly becoming all about the haves and have-nots of marketing. Businesses that fail to understand and apply this valuable strategy to their marketing are lost in a time warp of low yield advertising and marketing communications that simply fail to achieve marketing objectives.
A new era in marketing
The modern consumer has become something of a maverick. They are no longer coerced into buying decisions by simple, low information advertising, which they often resent and ignore. They want to compare products and services, evaluate suppliers, and learn about how a product or service will add value to their life or business before they buy.
The internet has become a powerful information resource that enables consumers to quickly and efficiently research and analyse, but it is far from their only resource. Every communication, regardless of the media, contributes to the perception prospects and customers form about a business.
Contemporary marketing is all about creating a dialogue and building relationships with prospects and customers. Simply blasting them with brand advertising ‘to keep your name out there’ is an expensive, low return way to grow a business.
Maintaining a dialogue and building relationships is just the same in business as any other relationship, it needs to be constantly adding value to the other person. In the context of business, this means educating and informing them, and showing them how to get what they want or solve a problem in a practical, illustrated way that they understand and can identify with as being relevant and important to them.
One of the biggest assumptions in business is that prospects and customers understand all there is to know about what a business does and sells. The reality is, most don’t. If they did, they would already own or use it.
So what is Content Marketing?
Content Marketing is about giving people what they want. It is about becoming a valued information resource for people that have a need or an interest in the products or services you sell. It is also about becoming an education resource for people only just discovering an interest or need in the products or services you sell.
Content Marketing was around long before the internet was created
Many people think Content Marketing is an evolution of web marketing – it’s not. It’s been around as long as advertising itself, and it’s used successfully in every communication media. For example, Fast Moving Consumer Goods manufacturers (FMCG’s) are using television to educate and inform consumers through Infomercials – which they respond to – in place of expensive brand advertising.
Innovative entrepreneurs use Talkback radio as an opportunity to educate their market, answer consumer questions and position themselves and their brand as experts in their field. Others release books to achieve the same objective. Hilde Hemmes, founder of Herbal Supplies in Australia, used both to create a multi-million dollar market at a time when most Australians had no idea what a medicinal herb was, let alone what they do.
Professional service industries use newsletters, blogs, ezines, seminars and informative web sites to educate, inform and demystify their professions, creating demand from a broader market, and boosting billable hours from a better educated client base.
Smart businesses in commoditized industries use information to differentiate themselves and create a value proposition that is not just based on price alone. Innovative printing companies that have seen their product spiral into a price driven commodity, have recognized that printing is primarily used by business clients as a marketing tool. By educating clients about marketing through informative web sites, blogs, ezines, newsletters, fact sheets, and workshops, they are able to strongly differentiate their business from traditional, production only competitors. They are also winning and retaining clients that value the marketing related services they provide, and are willing to pay a premium for a one-stop solution.
Instead of yelling at people through advertising that tells people what to do – which modern consumers resent – information marketing engages, educates, informs, motivates and inspires people to buy and keep on buying from businesses they value.
What makes Content Marketing so appealing to small businesses is the ability to differentiate themselves and define their market position against larger competitors for a fraction of the budget that a traditional campaign requires. Many of the tactics are low or no cost, and are highly effective at targeting the customers you really want and need to grow your business.
What the experts have to say about Content Marketing
Leaders of peak marketing bodies around the globe, high profile consultants, marketing experts, leading advertising agencies and futurists all agree that Content Marketing has a predominant role to play in marketing communications for all businesses, large and small.
They all concede that the web, combined with a range of new media, have changed consumer behaviour in a way that has forced a massive rethink in how businesses communicate with their markets. The days of so called Push advertising are all but over. In its place, is Pull, or what some call inbound marketing, which enables the consumer to communicate and interact with businesses on their own terms.
The whole concept of inbound advertising is to attract prospects with quality information content they value and want to view, enabling them to learn and make informed buying decisions. Push advertising, on the other hand, places a message in the prospects face, regardless of their motivation or desire to view it.
Push advertising also tends to be very visual and low in information content, which consumers rarely respond to unless the advertiser has a strong brand with an established, well known and easily understood message.
You don’t need to be an expert in Buyer Behaviour to understand why consumers and business buyers have developed a resistance to Push advertising, but value Pull advertising strategies.
How Content Marketing can grow your business
People buy what they understand
The biggest assumption in business is that the market understands what you are selling and how it will add value to their life or business. The reality is that most people don’t. In this age of digital technology, even the most benign and common aspects of our life involve products that are complex and change so quickly that they are superseded before most people even understand the previous incarnation.
Every aspect of life has become complex and confusing. Common sense should make it clear that any business that wants to remain relevant and valued needs to make customer education a significant part of their marketing strategy.
Content Marketing differentiates businesses
Most industries are over-serviced and highly commodifed, which means there are a lot of businesses with very little differentiating them. To the consumer or business buyer, this usually dilutes the buying decision down to buying on price, because there is no other premise to make a decision from.
Real Estate is a classic example. There is no shortage of agents, each with their own unique brand image. But to the consumer, there is really nothing that differentiates the capabilities of one from the other. Agents that use information products such as newsletters to educate their market are able to successfully position themselves as experts, purely because they have an information strategy and their competitors don’t. The articles also generate enquires from inquisitive readers. Invariably, this often leads to an all important listing.
In marketing, perception is reality. If you are educating your market and your competitors don’t, then you become the expert by default.
Content Marketing creates referrals
Information marketing can be a powerful referral tool. Information that is unique and valued by one reader is also very likely to be valued by someone they know.
People love to give other people information that makes them look good and will generally benefit the recipient, whether it’s a family member, work colleague or friend. People you have never met can become the best referral generating mechanism you have, IF you provide quality content.
People value informative content
You only need to look through history to understand that humans have always valued information. The greater the access to information, the more empowered people feel and the less inclined they are to divest their thinking to others, whether it’s the influence of political powers or the endless influence of advertising messages.
From the moment the printing press was invented, and information began being disseminated throughout the world, so began an intellectual awakening and an empowerment of people, regardless of class or race. The more informed people become, the more egalitarian the world became.
We are in an age when virtually anyone can gain knowledge about anything. Even just a few decades ago, these possibilities were merely pondered. Now, it is our reality – a way of life.
People buy from businesses they like and trust
Trust is difficult to establish with prospective customers who have never dealt with you before. There is nothing to base the trust on unless they know someone who has bought from you previously. Information helps to build a foundation of trust. By giving people information that they find useful and informative creates the logical perception that if you can write knowledgeable content, you can probably do it just as well. It validates your capability claims.
If the prospect is updated with information content on a regular basis, such as through an email or printed newsletter, then they begin to feel as though they know you and understand how you operate. As with any relationship, the better we know people and the more we know about them, the more likely we are to like and trust them.
People prefer to deal with experts
It makes perfect sense that customers want the best that money can buy. But choosing the best is often just a matter of chance, particularly with services.
Smart business owners are using Information Marketing to build a personal brand and a perception in the market place that they are on top of their game. A book, white papers, a published article, even a quality newsletter or content rich web site help to boost this perception as an expert. Notice how people that appear on the Oprah show with a book go from obscurity to international expert (and instant millionaire) almost overnight. This is Information Marketing at its best.
You don’t need to have a best seller to be considered an expert. If you are providing your market with information and your competitors aren’t, then you are in the winner’s seat already.
Content Marketing is about Relationships
Many marketers refer to Content Marketing as Relationship Marketing, and for good reason. In modern business, the primary function of marketing is about creating a dialogue and building a relationship with customers and prospects. An ongoing dialogue which is based on the frequent delivery of new and relevant information will, over time, build a sense of trust, understanding and a desire to buy a product or use a service.
Information is also a passive form of advertising that doesn’t tell the prospect to do anything, but by informing them through expertly crafted messages, they quickly reach the conclusion that they actually need what you have to sell. An outcome that ‘tell’ style advertising rarely achieves, particularly in low budget small business advertising.
People are cynical about what businesses have to say about themselves
Modern consumers have become extremely cynical about what businesses have to say about themselves. Basically they just don’t believe it, and for good reason. The claims are rarely validated and often lack objectivity.
What they do believe is facts and information that help them solve a problem or get what they want in their life or business. If you get the content right in your Information Marketing, your product or service becomes the obvious solution.
Want to find out how to use Content Marketing in your business?
Content Marketing can be a highly successful strategy for virtually any business, from a micro business working from home to a multinational corporation. What many small businesses find so appealing about Content Marketing is that they can use it as their primary marketing strategy using tactics that are low or no cost to implement. And the results; well they speak for themselves.
If you would like to know more about Content Marketing, please email
me (Peter Downs) or call 08 8332 4160.