Content marketing has been in the marketing mix for several years.  We’ve been talking about this stuff since 2012.    Back in the day, if you had a company blog and a steady social media presence you could say you were doing content marketing.  Those days are gone.  Today, content marketing is much more refined.

And it’s no wonder.  Americans consume 15.5 hours of media per day according to a UCSD study.  That’s a lot of content.  When you use content to market your business or solution, how can you make sure that content is cutting through all that clutter?

“The point of content marketing is to attract, acquire, and engage an audience,” according to the Content Marketing Institute.  Where many marketers run into trouble is with this idea of engagement.  It’s one thing to put something out there that gets a lot of views or pickup –  it’s another when you create content that encourages interaction and (even better!) tells you something about the viewer.  That idea of give and take is the future of content marketing.

It’s not easy.  58% of marketers say their content doesn’t create enough opportunity for engagement, according to the Economist Group.  So while we might generate a lot of content – creating opportunities for people to use that content in a meaningful way is tough.

A good place to start is by examining your content and asking yourself (or your team) three key questions.  Content marketing isn’t cheap, but it can be phenomenally successful.  Make sure you’re taking a smart approach by pausing for a little reflection before you kick off 2016:

Are you selling or engaging?

Content marketing will not work if it feels like a sales pitch.  Take a look at your last few pieces.  Are they making a hard sell?  Are you focusing too much on keywords and not enough on the value you provide your audience?  Do you reference your products or services?

Content marketing should pull people into a common experience.  You want to create something that allows your audience to discover your brand.  The days of the :30 commercial are quickly coming to an end.  It’s time to start talking with our audience, not at them.

In other words, if you have a real estate blog, don’t spend that space advertising pieces of property.  If you have a finance blog, don’t talk about the benefits of your refinancing program.   If a reader smells advertising in your content, they’ll quickly turn to something else.  They have a ton of options out there.  There is a time for selling, but content marketing is a time to engage.

Action Item – Audit some of your content (blog posts, social media posts, email campaigns, etc.) and see if your language is engaging or selling. Make a 2016 resolution to remove all selling language from your content marketing.

What is this content doing for your customer?

Strong content should help your customer learn, do, or decide.  It should be useful.  Before writing a piece of content, understand its purpose.  The purpose of this blog, for example, is to help educate marketing professionals on content marketing.   If the purpose of your content is to educate the reader on a product or service you offer, you have some work to do.  That’s doesn’t pass the useful test.

Perhaps you want to help your customer do something.  So if you’re in real estate, you might want to offer advice on moving. If you’re in finance, you can help your customers consolidate debt with content on budget tips.  It’s not a direct sale to your products or service, but it’s helping them take action that relates.

You can also use content to help a customer make a decision.  This type of content (interactive content) is the most impactful and popular content trend.   In insurance, Allstate uses a great tool.  Zillow branded a popular tool – Zestimate – which is another great example of decision-based content.  It allows visitors to calculate the value of their home to decide if they should sell.  Redfin has recently announced their own version.

This type of content allows consumers to actively engage.  It’s the future of content marketing.

Action Item – Audit some of your content (blog posts, social media posts, email campaigns, etc.) and categorize how the content is useful.  Is it educating?  Does it provide instructions?  Does it help your audience make an important decision? If it’s not doing any of those things, perhaps it’s time to make some adjustments moving forward.

How are you measuring?

Matthew Sweezy from Pardot was quoted as saying: “The true measure of content is the experience the person has with it.”  Back in 2010, we measured content marketing with things like unique visits, downloads, page views, and shares.  If we got enough eyeballs on our material we deemed it a success.   We still might look at those metrics, but they don’t necessarily measure how effective your content is.

If 1000 people like a Facebook status, but no one purchases your product, was it worth it?   If you have 1 million monthly views to your site with no conversion, there’s a disconnect between spend and return.  Today – it’s not enough to that someone came to your site – you need to create an experience that tells you something about that person: needs, pains, interest, goals, etc.  Because that information is something you can build a relationship on.  You can gain that level of insight from content marketing.

Action Item – Ask your team how they are measuring their content marketing?  What are you gaining from each piece and how can you improve?  How can you design content that will help you pinpoint a consumer’s ultimate goals?  It’s difficult to offer a solution if you don’t understand their problem.  Your content can help uncover this insight.

 

All of this is easier said than done, but if you start by looking at what you’re doing today and asking yourself these key questions – you can start developing more effective, impactful content marketing campaigns.

It’s something we’ve grown very passionate here at Onboard.  If you’re interested in learning how our local data can help your content marketing, contact us today.

 

About The Author

VP of Sales and Marketing

Erin has 15 years experience in marketing everything from global conferences to global coffee companies. Her big loves include her baby boy, teaching too many spin classes, musical theatre, and Onboard Informatics (of course!)

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