How much of an impact do you think it would have on your business if you had a steady supply of qualified leads for your products and services?
Now imagine that you didn’t have to pay for advertising to attract all those leads.
Seem like a pipe dream? It’s not. It’s actually the natural result of a well defined and properly executed content marketing strategy. In today’s post, the first of the Bright Ideas Content Marketing Guide, I am going to begin by giving you an introduction to content marketing.
What is Content Marketing?
Content Marketing is a term that is getting a lot of buzz these days…and for good reason. It works better now than it ever has in the past. We’ll get into why it works so well in a bit.
But first…what is content marketing?
Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. Content Marketing’s basic premise is to “provide some valuable information or entertainment – ‘content’ – that stops short of a direct sales pitch or call to action, but which seeks to positively influence a customer in some way.” This information can be presented in a variety of media, including news, video, white papers, ebooks, info-graphics, case studies, how-to’s, Q&A’s, photos, etc. – Wikipedia
Let’s put this another way: content marketing is the process of using high quality, relevant content to attract people that are already looking for a solution (that you have) to a problem that they have.
Content is Your Greatest Asset
Think about the last time you bought a product or hired a company to perform a service for you. How did you begin your search for this product or service?
More than likely, you started off with Google, or some other search engine. You may have also done a search on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Regardless, my point is this: purchasing begins with search and the way to get found is to create valuable content.
Think about this from Google’s perspective. What is their goal? To provide the highest quality, most relevant search results for a given query.
Over time, Google’s search algorithm has changed a great deal, and in its current form, Google rewards websites that:
- Have high quality content
- Have a lot of content
- Continually add content
- See their content regularly shared on social networks
So, if you decide to create high quality content on your blog on a regular basis, what do you think is going to happen over time?
Google will like your site more and more, and reward you with more traffic. The more traffic you receive, the more social sharing that is going to occur and the more social sharing that occurs, the more Google is going to like your site.
Can you see the snowball effect I’m talking about? If you decide to make creating high quality, relevant content the focus of your overall marketing plan, your site is going to receive more and more traffic over time, the by-product of which will be more leads and more customers.
Oh…and did I mention that all this traffic is free?
True, you did have to incur the cost of creating the content; however, this content can have a very long shelf life, and so long as it is timely, you are still going to be rewarded for it.
Let’s compare this to paid advertising.
With paid advertising, you can drive a ton of traffic and you can do it very quickly. The problem is that as soon as you stop paying the bill, the traffic stops.
With paid advertising, you are not building an asset. You are only driving traffic. Worse, any competitor with an advertising budget can easily replicate what you are doing.
Is that much of a competitive advantage for you? Nope.
This is not the case with content.
High quality content takes effort to create, and as such, few of your competitors are going to take the time to create it. Instead, they will probably go with paid advertising and continue to attempt to interrupt people to grab their attention.
I’d much rather put my time and effort into attracting people who are already interested in what I have to say/sell.
Once I’ve attracted those people, I can then offer them something for free in exchange for their email address, and now I’m building another even more valuable asset: a mailing list.
With a mailing list, I can reach out to my prospects and customers whenever I like. In other words, I can drive traffic on demand.
Think about how valuable that would be for your company. Think about the types of partnerships you could form with other firms in your niche if you could each drive traffic to the other, whenever you liked.
In a later section of the Content Marketing Guide, we’ll take a much closer look at how to build and leverage a mailing list. For now, just know that it is the natural result of having valuable content for your audience to consume.
Buying Attention is Hard to Do
Remember earlier how I said that content marketing is working better now than ever before?
It’s not like content marketing is particularly new. In fact, it’s been around for a very long time.
The following examples (source: Wikipedia) demonstrate early use of content to disseminate information about a brand, and build a brand’s reputation:
1895 – John Deere launches their magazine, The Furrow, providing information to farmers on how to become more profitable. The magazine, considered the first custom publication, is a success and is still in circulation today, reaching 1.5 million readers in 40 countries in 12 different languages.
1900 – Published in France, Michelin develops the Michelin guides, offering drivers information on auto maintenance, accommodations, and other travel tips. 35,000 copies were distributed for free in this first edition. Eventually, the company began selling these books, yet the publication set a precedent for both informative guides and content marketing distribution.
1904 – Jell-O salesmen go door-to-door, distributing their cookbook for free. Touting the dessert as a versatile food, the company sees its sales rise to over $1 million by 1906.
What has changed is technology adoption.
Today, we all have a smart phone in our pockets, millions of us are on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ LinkedIn, Youtube, etc…and the truth is that we are totally overwhelmed with information and advertising.
As a result, breaking through and actually getting someone’s attention is harder than it has ever been. Back in the day when we didn’t see 5 zillion ads a day, any one ad stood a much better chance of getting out attention.
Those days are gone.
Not only is our attention hard to get, but as a consumer, I have easy access to the information I want, when I want it, so why do I need to pay attention to your ad? I can just go to a search engine and find anything I want, anytime I feel like looking for it.
How Content Marketing Differs From Outbound Marketing
With content marketing, the goal is not to interrupt someone from what they are interested in – by attempting to grab their attention. That is outbound marketing’s goal – and it can be a very expensive one to achieve.
As a content marketer, my goal is to become what you are interested in, and in doing so, my chances of getting your attention go up exponentially.
To do that, all I have to do is design a content marketing strategy that will address the unique problems, goals, and desires of my target audience. We’ll examine exactly how to do this is upcoming sections of the Content Marketing Guide.
With inbound marketing, the communication is interactive and goes both ways. With outbound marketing, the communication is just one way – from seller to buyer.
With inbound marketing, the seller’s goal is to provide massive value to the buyer. That is how trust is built, and with trust, all sorts of wonderful things begin to happen.
With outbound marketing, the seller is not providing any value to the buyer. Instead, they are basically saying “Hey, look at me!! Buy my stuff!!”
If someone walked into a party and sounded like that, would you be very interested in speaking with them? Probably not.
On the other hand, if you met someone at a party who was incredibly knowledgeable about a topic you were interested in and after speaking with them for an hour or so, do you think you’d be more inclined to buy from them? You bet you would.
In case you still aren’t convinced that inbound is better than outbound, consider a few facts:
- 84% of 25 to 34 year olds have left a favorite site because of intrusive advertising
- 200 million Americans have registered their phone number of the FCC’s do not call list
- 86% of people skip television ads
- 91% of email users have unsubscribed from a company email they previously opted into
- 44% of direct mail is never opened
Why Start Now?
There is no better time to get started than right now. Developing a content marketing strategy is not rocket science. In fact, it is incredibly easy to do and I’m going to share with you exactly how to do it in upcoming sections of the guide.
Unless you believe that the Internet is just a fad and people actually like advertising, there is not better time to get started than right now.
Bright Ideas is here to help, so let us know what questions you have and we’ll do our very best to provide you with answers you can immediately put into use.
To get started, make sure you subscribe to Bright Ideas so that you will never miss an update to this guide. As well, you will want to watch my interview with Joe Pulizzi, and if you really enjoyed that, you may also want to head over to iTune to subscribe to the Bright Ideas Podcast.
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