Today's consumer shops differently and responds differently to advertising than the buyer of old. Customers no longer want to be insulted with blatant advertising or bogged down with promotional materials or emails from a brand they can’t trust.
Shoppers today want valuable information, interesting stories, and creative solutions.
Shoppers want content marketing.
How Content Marketing Works
Content marketing utilizes a variety of tactics (social media posts, blogs, podcasts, e-books, press releases, infographics, and on and on and on) to create and share valuable information (aka, content) with a specific customer base and target audience.
You are not selling, you are engaging. Content marketing shows that you are an expert in your field--your company is useful, interesting, and trustworthy; and at this point, you are.
The end goal to content marketing should be meaningful engagement with your customers. This will reward you with their business and loyalty.
The BUying Cycle
To fully understand how content marketing works, we must first understand the consumer’s Buying Cycle:
- Awareness: Customer becomes aware of a need, but unaware of a suitable solution.
- Research: Customer becomes aware of a solution and begins performing research to educate herself. (For example, an interested car buyer will read about what different types of cars exist and which one will best fit her needs and budget).
- Consideration: Customer begins comparing products from various vendors to make sure she'll be getting a high quality product at a fair price.
- Buy: Finally, the customer makes her decision and moves forward with the transaction.
Traditional advertising typically concentrates on the last two steps of the buying cycle; content marketing taps into the first two (awareness and research) by proactively educating consumers about products and services. By using educational, entertaining, or informative content (i.e. giving them interesting stuff to look at, learn from, read, and share) you create positive interest in your product without advertising for it directly, and introduce yourself while they're still in the beginning steps of the buying cycle.
How to Implement a Content Marketing Strategy
First, you must determine what kind of information would be useful or interesting to your audience. You should have a good idea of this already. For example, if you run a boutique hotel, you may want content themes revolving around travel, regional restaurants, wine tours, interior design, etc.). Once you establish the main themes, you can explore the various avenues to share your creative content.
- Social Media: Yes, yes, yes. We all know about social media. I'll keep it brief, but hear me out. Social media outlets are one of the best ways to develop relationships with potential customers, and with a plethora of platforms, you can choose the ones that best fit your purpose. A regular posting schedule (daily/3 x week) of quality--and relevant--photos, videos, infographics, and blogs (see below) provides plenty of opportunity to reach exponential amounts of people locally, nationally, and globally.
- Create a Blog: Hosting a blog on your website is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase site traffic. Each time you add a new blog post, search engines will scan your site, increasing your SEO ranking and makes your site easier to find. When building a blog from scratch, you should create and post your own unique content; however, sharing material from other sources (news articles, other blogs, influencers in your industry) can help to generate interest...just be sure to give credit where credit is due.
- Webinars, White Pages, and e-Books: These marketing gems can be used to educate prospective buyers about topics important to them. They are a great way to communicate complex information in an understandable and easily-digestible manner, and truly establish you as an expert.
Just as traditional marketing has made way for online strategies and social media, be prepared for what we know now to evolve. Regardless, now is now, and content marketing is an easy-to-implement, inexpensive, and highly effective tool businesses of all sizes can use to develop long-term relationships with loyal customers.