By now, most companies with a marketing strategy have some idea of the critical importance of compelling, engaging content. It's why so many websites contain blog sections – even if many of those blogs seem half-hearted at best – and why content marketing is considered by some to be "the only marketing left."
However, many companies miss the real purpose that content serves in marketing. Despite how it's often used, content isn't meant to just push out generic information or float a bunch of keywords that temporarily improves SEO.
At its most effective, content is a method of engagement. It's a way to connect with a wide swath of consumers and build a lasting reputation as a trusted source for information. Content may be king when it comes to developing a marketing strategy, but that doesn't mean all content is created equal.
Make it meaningful, not cynical.
Content's indispensability is what makes creating an effective content strategy so tricky. Nowadays, nearly half of all consumers engage with multiple pieces of a business's content before engaging with the business itself. This means a company's content had better be compelling if it wants customers to actually get around to making a purchase.
The financial services industry is an excellent example of where meaningful content can be a huge marketing boon. In today's era of distrust and consumer debt, more people are looking for helpful information in the struggle to take greater control of their finances. This need transcends demographics, and financial institutions looking to improve their marketing strategies have the potential to become trusted sources for consumers at every stage of their lives.
Mint.com is a great example of a company that succeeded in becoming just that. Mint's strategy didn't come from a cynical place; it came out of a place of empathy. Its content and marketing centered on an attempt to create a connection with customers that lasted beyond a single purchasing decision. This should be the goal of every company, and the content being produced should reflect that.
Consumers are five times more likely to look to trusted sources before they make a purchasing decision than they were even five years ago. Companies need to work hard to produce consistent output that's compelling, useful to the consumer, and genuine to the brand that's putting it out.
All of this, of course, sounds much more difficult and time-consuming than simply pumping out generic content to goose search engine rankings. That's because it is. However, meaningful content that's effective is achievable in companies of every size and in every industry. Here are a few simple steps to get your content on the path to creating lifelong advocates.
1. Get to know your potential audience.
Don't shy away from analytics as a way to better understand your customers. This will not only help you create engaging content to bring in new customers, but it can also be a way to create contextual content. Tailored information based on everything from user location or financial history can be used to keep consumers engaged in every stage of the buying process and beyond. The key is to figure out not just demographics, but also the actual motivations of your customers.
Do research to figure out what some of the issues, barriers, or misconceptions are around your brand. Understanding that is a better way to understand your audience. Then you can construct content that will address these areas and be instantly useful.
2. Pinpoint the right distribution channels.
When developing a content marketing strategy, it's not enough to just put content on your site and then sit back and wait for people to find it. You need to find relevant channels in which to syndicate your content. That way, users don't have to be looking for you in order to discover what you have to offer.
The distribution channels you choose should be appropriate to your brand and focused toward your ideal audience (which you hopefully already know by this step). The point of these channels is to make your content come across as informative, valuable, and authentic, so just pushing a link out to Twitter isn't going to cut it.
3. Don't underestimate the power of good timing.
Timing can often be a determining factor when it comes to whether content is embraced or ignored. For instance, people buy or lease vehicles only once every few years, so bombarding customers with daily newsletters about buying cars won't do much for you – other than inspire a lot of people to unsubscribe.
Ideally, you can use analytics to figure out which customers might be looking for a new product in your industry and to target them with useful content, but if you don't have that information, there are other ways to avoid tiring out users while remaining visible.
Rather than sending out huge blocks of text, focus on the headlines of the information you're trying to share and link to a full post or video. That way, only those interested in the subject will click, and other consumers won't get content fatigue.
You may have noticed these steps aren't just simple tricks to make old content look new again. They're ways to facilitate a more meaningful engagement with your audience which, in turn, will create lifetime customers. The key is to be authentic and objective. If your only goal in writing your latest blog post is to shill your latest product, customers will see through it. No one wants to read an 800-word ad.