It’s no secret consumers are becoming more resistant to traditional advertising. Attention spans are lower, and competition for time and money is fierce. Terms like “ad blindness” point to dropping click-through rates on display ads and a consumer mindset that ignores whatever it doesn’t want to see.
This is not to say display doesn’t work, but this and other forms of “push marketing,” wherein consumers are interrupted with sales messages, are no longer sufficient. Just as the proliferation of the Internet and a demand for more accountability in marketing prompted the mounting shift towards digital and away from traditional media, the growing number of choices available to consumers and increasing reliance on word-of-mouth to make purchasing decisions has forced marketers to think critically about consumer engagement and devote more resources to drawing consumers in with relevant and well-positioned messages, an emergent “pull marketing” tactic called “content marketing.”
While ad campaigns of the past relied chiefly on creativity and clever presentation, such smoke-and-mirrors tactics are outdated. A nice-looking display or print ad still serves a purpose, and a memorable TV commercial boosts brand awareness over time, but when it comes long-term consumer engagement, a brand’s ability to provide solutions to consumer challenges is what sets it apart from the crowd.
With companies spending 33% of 2010 budgets on content marketing according to leading agency Junta42, it is wise to follow suit, but doing a mediocre job is worse than nothing at all. To shed light on this critical trend, here is a list of five questions to ask before taking the content marketing plunge.
1 – What is my goal?
As with most things in life, defining goals before undertaking a new endeavor is practically required for success. However, too often marketers respond to the pressure to “do” content marketing by delivering content with no strategy behind it, thus setting themselves up to fail.
Before creating a content marketing plan, one of the first steps is to identify goals. While making more sales and boosting revenue are nice, get more specific. Identify which products and services to push and how content fits in to the overall marketing plan. Conceptualizing content as a tool to generate consultations, newsletter sign-ups, and signed contracts, for example, makes it possible to create a strategy aligned with these goals, and the goals more plausible to achieve.
2 – Who is my target audience?
Once content marketing goals have been clarified, the next step is to identify a target audience. Targeting a large corporation as a B2B company calls for one tone while communicating with everyday consumers as a B2C company requires another. Likewise, selling one product or service over another requires targeting different demographics in various ways, and positing products or services as solutions to problems requires an understanding of consumer wants and needs.
Know your audience and its challenges, and let this knowledge inform your strategy by tailoring the format, subject, and delivery of content to best meet the needs of your audience and business.
3 – Am I ready to commit?
With the wealth of content available, you are lucky if people give you a chance to prove your content worthwhile, so don’t let them down. Keep your signal-to-noise ratio in check by setting out to deliver value, devising a schedule, and sticking to it, and allow the phrases “quality over quantity” and “less is more” to inform your plan. Because consumers remember brands they can rely on for consistent solutions, and forget those who deliver inconsistent or subpar work, four pieces of quality content delivered over the course of as year are more valuable than 40 pieces of mediocre content delivered in the same period.
In turn, when tempted to skimp or rush, remember: quality content takes time and resources to create and deliver. If you can’t commit to a content marketing plan destined to succeed, wait until you can before taking action and avoid the urge to do it halfway.
4 – How will I deliver the content I create?
Every piece of marketing content you create must be delivered to its audience, and the delivery method should inform its creation.
Will content be available as a download from your website? Emailed to prospects as an engagement tool? Printed and distributed at industry conferences? Shared via social media?
Know how you intend to deliver content before you create it, and let this inform its production and design. You wouldn’t want to email a 50 page white paper to a prospect, so don’t create a 50-page document to answer those prospects’ questions. Thinking about delivery when creating a content marketing plan will help determine how many pieces of content on a certain topic are needed on and in what format they should be designed.
5 – How will you track results?
Just as setting goals is important, so is tracking results. Without a way to measure performance, you’ll have no way to know whether goals are being met or how to optimize your strategy.
Tracking mechanisms should be identified for every piece of content in your plan. Will content include unique links that track website traffic? Will mailing lists be segmented and engagement measured from groups receiving different pieces of content? Will sales numbers from groups using content marketing and those doing without be compared?
It can be difficult to figure out how to track content performance, but don’t let this be a deterrent; without a way to track results, the value of any one piece of content is nebulous and optimizing a strategy for best results nearly impossible. Knowing how many deals were closed as a result of a case study being emailed to a prospect or how many white paper downloads generated sales will help you refine your strategy to meet the changing needs of your business.
For more information on content marketing or other forms of online advertising, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.