Marketing is changing dramatically and that can be confusing and overwhelming for businesses making the switch.
As the balance tips towards content marketing, and away from paid advertising, there are more choices to make. How do you know what’s the right content? Where do you share it? How often should you publish? Do you need a blog or just a Twitter account?
Many of us working in the content field have these worries. So I asked Henneke Duistermaat, a UK-based marketer specialized in marketing consumer durables, to answer some of the questions I hear people asking.
Henneke says she is on a mission to make dull products exciting, and colourless companies charming, so we can safely follow her advice.
What are the trends in inbound marketing right now? What is new, what is working, and what isn’t?
Content marketing has been a buzz phrase since Coca Cola explained its content marketing strategy in two videos titled “Content 2020” late 2011. If you haven’t seen the videos, you can find them on YouTube.
Content marketing is not really new. Joe Pulizzi points out that in 1895 John Deere launched a customer magazine called The Furrow. The first Michelin guide was published in 1900 and Jell-O distributed its free recipe book in 1904.
What’s new is the increased focus on online content marketing. The Panda and Penguin updates to Google’s algorithm earlier this year have given content marketing a boost. These updates have shown that SEO tricks don’t work any more. Article spinning and links from low quality websites have been devalued by Google.
Google wants to provide searchers relevant content of high quality. If tricks to fool Google still work, then they will only do so for a limited period of time. Now more than ever it’s important to have quality content on your website, to guest post on quality websites and to be talked about on social media.
This is what content marketing is about. You need to provide quality content that is useful for your audience, that engages your audience and that builds trust and authority for your company.
What are the most popular types of content marketing at the moment? Can you give some pros and cons?
A lot of people seem to think blogging is passé, but blogging forms the basis of content marketing. A blog is your own real estate. You have control. You can do things the way you like. A blog helps with search engine optimisation. And it helps you build authority and develop trust with your audience.
Social media is useful for distributing your content and for interacting with your audience, but your blog should be the home for your content. You don’t have to call it a blog of course. It can be a content library, a collection of articles or case studies, a portfolio of podcasts, videos or photographs.
Visuals are an important part of content marketing. Pinterest is now the third most popular social media network. And Instagram has been growing fast, too. Visuals provide a great opportunity to tell your company’s story, to show off your products, and to make your website more appealing.
Infographics are another way to present useful information. I don’t like using clichés, but it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Can you give 5 tips to help small and larger businesses build a solid foundation for their content marketing?
1. Firstly, start with your audience. A useful way to do this is to describe your perfect customer. What does she read? What is she interested in? What is she worried about? What does she dream about achieving? What are her objections to buying from you? Thinking about your perfect customer will make your content interesting, engaging, and persuasive.
2. Next, decide what content your perfect customer is interested in. Which questions can you answer? How can you create testimonials? How can you show the benefits of your products and overcome objections? What language does she speak?
3. Your content shouldn’t all be about your services and your products. Show that you’re an expert in your industry. Comment on industry news. Interview experts. And don’t forget that your content can be text, audio, visuals, or video. Above all, be useful. Help your perfect customer with solutions to her problems.
4. An editorial calendar will help you create content on a regular basis. It’s absolutely fine to create something just once a week or even every other week. The quality of your content is more important than the quantity.
5. And don’t forget that you need to spend time promoting your content, too. Do you know on which social media channels your audience is most active? Just start with two or three channels. Don’t try to be everywhere.
Build up a following in a natural way. If something doesn’t work, move to another channel or change the way you engage. Ask different questions or share different stories. But always be authentic.
For companies just starting out, what’s the best way to begin?
Start with your own website. Develop content on your website first. You can develop content in various sections of your website: frequently asked questions, a blog, a news section, product or service descriptions, testimonials or reviews, your “about page” – these all deserve your attention!
Try not to sound too corporate. Nobody likes talking with a company, so add some personality. Be yourself. And skip the gobbledygook!
What are your thoughts on content curation, alongside content creation?
I don’t see content curation and creation as two separate forms of content marketing. Curation and creation can easily be mixed.
And curating content requires some form of developing new insights – for instance by providing a chronology of facts, explaining different views (and adding your own), changing the format (infographics are popular at the moment) or distilling a complex subject down to an easy-to-follow overview.
What content marketing mistakes do you see companies making the most?
The biggest mistake is to talk too much about your company, your products, your service. Nobody is interested! Remember that benefits are more important than features.
Try finding related topics to write about rather than just sell your service or your products. Advising and educating your audience is a powerful way of selling.
If you’re a decorator, provide tips on home improvement. If you sell vegetables, provide recipes. If you’re a recruiter, share your tips on career planning and life/work balance.
If talking too much about yourself is the biggest mistake, being boring is the biggest sin. Make sure that your writing is tight, engaging, and memorable. Create videos that are short, fun, and exciting. Present pictures that are beautiful, evocative, and colourful. I love how Kronos creates cartoons to find prospects and engage with their employees.
And lastly, tell us about your plans in the world of marketing – do you have any goals or projects on the horizon?
I am launching Enchanting Marketing – a website with content marketing tips to help businesses acquire new customers through social media, email marketing, SEO and blogging.
Photo credit: coolmonfrere on flickr
What are your content marketing worries? A problem shared is a problem halved, so let us know in the comments below. Do you have helpful hints to add to Henneke’s advice? Share that too – and join me in wishing Henneke luck with her new website.