Different people have different definitions of Content Marketing, but the bottomline is, it's the use of storytelling to build relationships with consumers by providing them with something entertaining or useful.
That's it. It's simple, and it's not new. In fact, companies have always sought to build relationships with consumers in hopes that they'll buy something, and content marketing has long been one of the most effective ways of doing so. These days, thousands of companies are writing blogs, taking photos, uploading videos, making presentations and creating all sorts of other content. Why? Because content is the most efficient form of marketing available.
No wonder why, according to www.contently.com, the Marriott group is creating Emmy- winning short films, GE has the most popular podcast in the world, Red Bull runs its own 135- person media company, and Purina reaches hundreds of millions of people with a series of videos about a talking cat.
Technology has made it easier to reach people with stories than ever before. As a result, brands are investing heavily in content marketing. That means articles, e-books, videos, infographics, comics, GIFs, and whatnot reaching an unprecedented number of people across social media, email, and dozens of other channelseven virtual reality.
- 74 percent of readers trust educational content from brandsas long as it doesn't push a sale. (Kentico)
- Marketers who publish a blog are 13 times more likely to have a positive ROI. (HubSpot)
Most of these companies, telecom giants included, use content marketing because stories make connections through emotion since people are less likely to forget an emotion and, as a result, they're less likely to forget you and your business.
Telecom companies operate in an extremely competitive industry where it's a constant bidding war over who offers the best coverage for the best price. Providing a service that is widely used by consumers requires direct, real-time access to customers in order to stay one step ahead of competition. Content marketing is, without a doubt, the most effective way of making a real and meaningful connection with customers.
So how are telecom companies using content marketing to attract consumers?
Finding the Target Audience and providing Relatable Content
An article in Huffington Post shares a story about telecom industry newcomer Virgin mobile, which had a hard time catching up with its more established competitors. Their research team found out that they have a bigger chance of leveling the playing field if they targeted the younger consumers, specifically the 18-24 age group. They discovered that most of these people complain about high monthly charges for voice usage a service very few even use.
Taking advantage of their prepaid services, Virgin Mobile launched a campaign with data usage. This, after finding out that 78% of their target owns a mobile device and that 25% of them use it to access the internet.
But Virgin did not stop there.
As a way to engage their target audience, Virgin partnered with the popular, ever-viral website BuzzFeed, putting content at the forefront of their campaign.
VirginMobileFeed an entertainment hub featuring live streams of pop music, viral content and direct links to Virgin's various social media channels, including Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter.
By ramping up the fun and friendliness quotient in their content offerings to consumers, Virgin honed in on what they knew their youthful customers would enjoy, and, by partnering with BuzzFeed, developed a fun content strategy destined to go viral.
Yes, you read that right.
An article from www.b2bleadblog.com tells the success story of Tellabs, a global communications equipment company supporting telecom leaders such as AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon and Telefonica. Despite it's being relatively small, it was able to hold its own in a cut- throat marketplace with competition up to 30 times its size.
Essentially, Tellabs is playing a David and Goliath game, and content marketing is the slingshot that the company think-tanks believed would give them a fair advantage. The rock in that slingshot is controversy.
Tellabs wanted thought-provoking content: the kind of content that if you discussed it with your prospects in a crowded room, it should inspire an argument.
So what they did was, they scheduled a number of meetings with other industry analysts who did not share the point of view that Tellabs had in their report. Most of them were surprised at the reports, some even thought the bosses were downright crazy. What the executives found in the course of those meetings was that, a lot of people's eyes were opened. They gained a point of view that they had not seen before. In short, it generated a buzz.
And that buzz have helped Tellabs to attract prospects outside of its traditional marketplace, such as Google, government agencies and utility providers using the same services as telecom companies. This has created a multi-million dollar pipeline of pending deals every year.
Plus, it became a platform where Tellabs gained worldwide industry attention. For instance, Tellabs is the only telecom company to have two stories featuring its content listed among the top 10 most-read stories for Total Telecom, an industry magazine serving readers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Communicating with Video
Here's another story from Huffington Post:
When Samsung sat down to craft their marketing strategy for the Android-based Galaxy S3 in anticipation of the iPhone5 release, marketers knew they had to focus on touting their own product and its unique capabilities while acknowledging the existence of their direct competitor's achievements. As seen in the case of Virgin, focusing on consumer pain points is always an excellent way to garner a reaction; Apple, Samsung's biggest competitor, was banking on their existing brand cache and customer loyalty in order to hit proposed sales and revenue targets for the iPhone. And, while the iPhone 5 was expected to be a huge success technologically speaking, Samsung took advantage of Apple's ongoing triumphs when crafting an integrated marketing for the release of their own device.
Samsung chose to forgo traditional marketing tactics and decided to go viral with social video. The result was a subtle and very clever commercial addressing the central pain points of iPhone users such as exorbitant costs, long lines at retail locations, software glitches, incompatible power adapters, screen size and so forth. The video's placement on YouTube was another agile strategy; given the massive volume of traffic YouTube amasses each month. According to a recent study by AYTM Market Research, nearly 60% of Internet users visited the video platform in March 2013, and 21.7% of users frequented the social network each day.
By showcasing the commercial on YouTube, Samsung recognized its viral potential and the value of YouTube's potential as an innate broadcasting and publicity tool.
Telling Their Story to their Employees First
Just as customers want to self-educate, so do employees. They're going to go someplace for information, why not their employer? Building and engaging internal audiences are keys to creating differentiating experiences for customers, prospects, and other groups. The objective is to approach internal storytelling with the same strategy, rigor, and creativity as you do external storytelling.
BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion) is a fabulous example of how a company can tap into storytelling to educate and inspire employees. The company that saw blistering revenue growth in the early 2000s found it couldn't keep pace against sexier competitors like Apple and Android. Sales tanked and employee numbers shrank. By 2013, the company began to look for a buyer to take the company private.
Before that could happen, a new CEO with experience in turning around troubled companies was hired. In December 2013, one of his first actions was to send an open letter to customers and drive a stake in the ground about BlackBerry's future:
We are very much alive, thank you.'
Our for sale sign has been taken down and we are here to stay.'
Management realized that before BlackBerry could instill confidence in customers, it had to instill confidence in the employees. Instilling the brand story making BlackBerry synonymous with work tools took center stage. From a brand-story perspective, the company wanted anyone looking for greater productivity, efficiency, security, and privacy to choose BlackBerry. And it required employees to understand and believe that BlackBerry could deliver before they could get customers to do the same.
As a high-profile brand with a huge social and blog audience (nearly 50 million social followers at the end of 2014 and 1 million blog readers a month), BlackBerry has an extensive audience to whom it could tell its turnaround story. But leaders knew the story would never become authentic if they weren't able to tap employees to make the story come alive.
Being Timely and Relevant
This article from Huffington Post illustrates how important it is to capture the audience with timely and relevant content:
When you purchase a new mobile device, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to use it in its entirety without some formof guidance or instruction from the manufacturer. In fact, there are probably several undetected shortcuts to learn as you become more familiar with the phone itself.
The latest email marketing strategy from Verizon Wireless takes the wait and theorizing out of the equation by deploying a series of targeted email newsletters to new device owners directly following their purchase. The intent of these emails is purely informational, and not intended to drum up immediate business, given the fact that the recipient made a recent purchase and most likely won't be investing in a new device for another one to two years. On the contrary, Verizon's aim is to educate their consumer base through targeted, device-specific thought leadership.
The content of the welcome email is separated into a four-part campaign, establishing a how- to, step-by- step guide for new users and owners. Verizon was able to assess the ROI of its product-specific newsletter by evaluating the open and click-through rates of their email campaigns, respectively. According to data shared by John Edwards, Verizon's associate director of email and search marketing, published on ChiefMarketer.com, the initial newsletter, otherwise known as part one of the segmented campaign, resulted in a 42% open rate and a 35% click-through rate. Although Verizon's high open rate is not necessarily surprising, since the consumers opening the email had recently purchased a Verizon Wireless product, and were presumably in need of the information, the initiative is a clear example of how to leverage both thought leadership and consumer needs as a means to garner in engagement and connect personally with users.
All these strategies have had positive results for the companies that employed them. But of course, content alone is not the answer. Content without community, without approachability, without humanization and kinship is ineffective. Just as content that is focused on selling, rather than helping, is doomed to fail.