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Think you don’t need content marketing? Think again

It’s easy to dismiss content marketing as the latest buzzword. We pick apart the arguments.

It’s easy to dismiss content marketing as the latest buzzword, saving yourself the effort of getting a content marketing program started. However, as Alexandra Middleton explains, this could be a mistake as egregious as rejecting the Beatles, deciding not to buy into Google, or selling a 10 per cent stake in Apple for $800.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to pass judgement on some of the biggest gaffes in corporate history. While the Beatles would become one of the most successful and beloved bands of all time, Deeca Recording Company didn’t get the memo, rejecting the band in 1962 on the premise that “guitar music was on the way out”.

Equally gut-wrenching was the decision by venture capitalist James Altucher not to buy a share in Google in 2000. At the time he described the opportunity as too small, but today says he made “the worst venture capital decision in history”.

If this doesn’t have you squirming in your seat, how about the time when one of the original Apple founders, Ron Wayne, decided to sell his 10 per cent stake in the business for a measly $800? Today those shares would be a worth a cool $35 billion. The cringe-worthy list goes on.

Content marketing is one of those big ideas that will have you kicking yourself with regret if you ignore it. By sticking with a traditional marketing approach, you place yourself at high risk of being left behind by your competitors. To shock you into perspective, here’s one of our favourite videos.

Logic prevails

Content marketing is by no means a new concept. Today, Michelin is a brand synonymous with both tyres and fine dining, two products that at surface level have little to no connection. But this dual image is no accident; the brand’s use of restaurants in marketing to support the sale of Michelin’s core products, tyres, is an early example of successful content marketing.

The Michelin Guide has been kicking around for more than 100 years and the stars awarded in it are coveted by hotels and restaurants across the globe. Regardless of its age, The Guide’s story is a timeless example of the genius of content marketing, with lessons that can be applied to businesses of all shapes and sizes.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were fewer than 3000 cars on the roads of France. The founding brothers of Michelin understood that by providing useful information to motorists in the form of maps, instructions for repairing and changing tyres, and lists of car mechanics, hotels and petrol stations, they would make it easier and more enticing for people to get out on the road, ultimately boosting sales of their product. If you’re thinking, ‘that’s clever’, reframe that thought – the phrase I think you’re looking for is ‘that makes complete and perfect sense’.

While it’s natural to have misgivings and objections, we’ve heard them all before, and answered them. So, before you make a decision, let me explain why you should absolutely say yes to a content marketing pilot program.

“Our marketing strategy is working just fine.”

When discussing business strategy I’m sure you’ve never had someone suggest that sitting on your laurels is the secret to success. If you want your business to grow you need to constantly challenge the effectiveness of your approach, including your dependence on traditional marketing. A study by Kapost and Elouqa found that content marketing ROI outweighed the ROI of paid search by more than three times. In the study, only nine leads were generated by paid search, compared to the 31 leads generated by content marketing. The study also highlighted the significant cost reduction of a content marketing approach, with mid-sized businesses spending 31 per cent less than they would have on paid search, and larger businesses investing 41 per cent less.

What’s more, good content doesn’t garner momentary attention; it retains its relevance and value over time. When done really well, it’s likely to be shared with others, giving it a far greater reach than any traditional paid advertisement.

“We already have a team devoted to PR and comms.”

Think about how many marketing messages you see on any given day. Some you elect to receive, such as newsletters or blogs you may follow, while others are simply in your face. Now think, how many of those do you engage with and how many do you actively ignore? Yes you may have an exceptionally talented PR and comms team behind you, but the case studies and statistics they generate are not your end game. I’m not saying their role is redundant, but the opposite. To have the greatest impact though, the work of that team needs to feed into an overall content strategy. Consumers don’t just want to know your logo or your founder’s story, they want a clear idea of what your products or your services can do for them.

“What does content have to do with driving business objectives?”

Everything. You’re not investing your time and expertise in creating content just for the hell of it. That would be crazy. A content marketing strategy needs to have a driving purpose and be tailored to the specific needs and pain points of your customers. While brand awareness is the top goal for content marketing in Australia, there’s no limitation on what you can achieve, provided you begin with an end goal in mind.

Take Renault for example. The Belgian car manufacturer had lost contact with its customers and, as a result, was missing out on repeat business. Once a Renault’s warranty expired, its owner didn’t always bring it back to a Renault dealer for a service and, while Renault was producing a print magazine and sending out an EDM to its customer database, that content wasn’t being created specifically to address this issue.

Listening to what its customers actually wanted and giving it to them, Renault launched an online loyalty program. Customers could use My Renault to plan maintenance, make appointments, and receive tips and discounts according to the model and mileage of their car. In just two years, Renault’s active online member base rose to almost 105,000, which equates to 25 per cent of all Belgian Renault owners. Dealer visits increased by 20 per cent, turnover after sales was up 25 per cent and they had a 31 per cent lift in turnover maintenance.

“You can’t measure it.”

I’m resisting the urge to say “see above”. If you don’t align your content strategy with a clear objective, then yes, you’ll have nothing to measure. But if you’re not doing that, then you won’t have an effective strategy full stop.

“Content marketing works. But for it to work, you have to have a strategy,” BT Financial’s online Editor Julie Hamilton told us in a Q&A last year. “You cannot do content half-hearted. You’ve got to have a strong strategy, a regular publishing calendar; you have to build the trust of your readers by publishing regularly and you have to measure it – it takes time, effort and commitment.”

“Why would I pay someone to write stories?”

Why not? If your customers are looking for insightful content that will help them with their decision to buy a product or service from you, or that adds value for them in some way, give them what they want. The reality is, people make decisions based on emotion, rather than cold hard facts. I would share the logic of this with you but instead I’ll let you read the story for yourself.

“We already have a Facebook page, Twitter handle and [insert here your social media channel of choice].”

That’s excellent, but simply posting on social media isn’t a strategy in itself. No aspect of your business or comms strategy should be looked at in isolation. Social media can be an extremely powerful tool for building awareness and engagement with your business, provided you post with purpose, and post content that is useful and interesting to your audience.

Think of social media as just another facet of an overall content marketing strategy that has been built with the specific behaviours of your target audience in mind. If you aren’t putting out content that interests your customers, through the channels they prefer to use, then you’ll just become a noisy nuisance in an already crowded social space.

“Marketing should be left to the marketing team.”

If you want the values of your organisation to be accurately reflected then you need to look at content marketing as a company wide-effort. As the C-suiter driving your organisation’s growth, your passion and knowledge are an essential ingredient in a strong content strategy, so at times, your input will be required.

Before you go running for the hills, this doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. It could be as simple as sitting down with a member of your content team and doing a Q&A, as BT CEO Brad Cooper did.

It’s easy to dismiss content marketing as being too time-consuming or an unnecessary addition to your already established marketing strategy. But the problem with an attitude of this sort is this: connecting with your customers and providing valuable insights and solutions to their problems works, and so well that Hubspot found that 82 per cent of marketers who blog daily see a positive ROI for their overall inbound marketing efforts.

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