Reaching consumers by the traditional methods of marketing and advertising has become a thing of the past. DVRs allow them to skip past the television advertising. Magazines and newspapers are becoming thinner, some non-existent, since readers are using electronic devices instead of opting to turn pages. Smart marketers are realizing they have to use other methods to reach consumers.
Enter content marketing: attracting and retaining customers by consistently creating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. More simply stated: providing consistent, high-quality content that solves people’s problems.
Companies send out information all the time, in fact it’s estimated that we receive anywhere between 300-500 images a day, yet only really ‘see’ half of them. Buyers are searching for information that will inform them, educate them, or help them solve a problem. Good content marketing makes a person stop, read, think and behave differently.
The phrase itself—content marketing—may be among the hottest marketing concepts today, but this type of thinking has been around, successfully, for more than 100 years.
In 1895, John Deere published The Furrow, a magazine that educated farmers on how they could use technology to make their work easier and run their businesses more profitably. Their intent wasn’t to sell tractors, at least directly. Their philosophy was if their customers were successful, they, too, would be successful. Obviously their thinking paid off—Deere is listed among the 50 most-admired companies by Fortune magazine and ranked as one of the 100 best global brands by a leading brand-consulting firm.
Jell-O was a minor success until 1904, when they sent armies of their salesmen into the field to distribute free Jell-O cookbooks, a pioneering marketing tactic at that time. Their goal was to introduce their desert product as a versatile food. In the next two years, the company saw its sales rise to over $1 million.
Content marketing, broken down, is basically built on three premises: great listening, powerful communication, and skilled teaching. The businesses that did these things 100 years ago were generally the most successful with their “marketing.” The businesses that are doing this today are the ones we read about in content marketing books and case studies. And the businesses that are the best at doing the above in the future will continue to be the leaders.
The platforms by which we deliver “content marketing” (websites, social media, etc.) will likely change with time, but the principles will remain the same. Ninety three percent of marketers now use content marketing as part of their overall marketing plan. Eighty percent of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. Seventy percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company, while 60 percent say that company content helps them make better product decisions.
Rather than using outdated, traditional methods of outbound marketing, businesses are finding that content marketing attracts customers and builds real trust between brands and consumers. Marketers are seeing firsthand how social media and content marketing are tightly linked, and are understanding the importance of having a content plan; in fact, 44% of business-to-business marketers now report having a documented content strategy in place.
Using blog posts, newsletters, social media, videos and other inbound marketing techniques, businesses can build relationships, authority and trust with their audience; and ultimately, increase sales. Location-based couponing and promotions are continuing to drive in-store visits and sales.
No matter what business or industry you’re in, creating effective, useful content is critical. It’s not always easy, but doable. Quality should be your goal if you want to stay relevant and grow in a world overflowing with expanding competition for the most valuable of resources: time.
Content marketing may have been around for decades, but its best days are still ahead. Your customers will never grow tired of useful information that helps them be better at what they do. The more you contribute to their education, the more they will contribute to your bottom line.