With online marketing, content is king.
According to Anne Handley of MarketingProfs, “When content became king, marketers became publishers. We shifted our focus from traditional outbound strategies to delivering the kind of content that drives successful inbound campaigns. Instead of going out and hunting prospects, we had to learn how to lure them to our doorstep. High quality content, delivered consistently and through a variety of online channels proved to be the best way to accomplish that goal.”
As more consumers and buyers rely on online sources to make purchasing decisions, organizations that consistently disseminate valuable and interesting content will gain a competitive advantage.
The development and distribution of compelling content establishes an organization’s online presence and builds brand visibility and credibility. Engaging content facilitates online discussions and information-sharing amongst communities of interest: prospects, influencers, and customers.
There are two overriding objectives for online content:
Content must make an organization relevant to both target audiences (e.g. prospects, communities of interest, influencers, etc.) and search engines.
Content must establish an organization as a “go-to” source for information about a specific topic. Online authority establishes an organization as a subject matter expert.
Important principles on which to base a content marketing strategy:
- Content should educate or entertain, and ultimately create value by assisting prospects in making informed decisions.
- It should reflect what an organization stands for and must be transparent. It must be representative of an organization’s identity – culture, tone, style, message, and values.
- As with most things, quality is more important than quantity.
- It must support an organization’s positioning strategy – what distinguishes it from competitors.
- Online content should not be “me-centric”. This will turn off an online community.
- It should demonstrate a willingness to share insight and expertise. Organizations should not hold back their knowledge.
- Do not distribute content that is bland and full of platitudes. Nobody will consume it, so it isn’t worth the effort.
- Tell stories.
- Content should be developed for a target audience first and foremost; but, don’t forget to take care of the needs of search engines by being aware of and using keywords.
How Content Supports Business Objectives
Content development and distribution supports inbound lead generation, lead nurturing and conversion, customer retention, and brand building strategies.
Inbound Lead Generation
Creating and promoting content is key to filling the top of the sales funnel by driving increased website traffic, and subsequently, inbound leads.
This occurs because releveant content serves as a referral source; searchers that find content of interest will often link to an organization’s website. Content also drives increased traffic by making an impression on search engines when they crawl the internet and discover new and relevant material to index.
Content distributed through formats such as blogs provide an opportunity for on-going commentary about specific topics in a transparent, conversational style.
Recent data suggests that companies that create, optimize, and promote their blogs get 55% more website traffic and 70% more inbound leads
, than organizations that do not regularly blog.
Lead Nurturing and Conversion
Efforts to generate more inbound leads must be combined with a lead nurturing and conversion strategy. Prospects that land on a website must be compelled to take a next step in a well-developed process.
The goal of content from a lead nurturing and conversion perspective is to make precisely the right information available at the right time
so prospects feel confident in moving forward.
Website content must be developed with this objective in mind. This is why easy-to-find, easy-to-consume, value-based content
is so critical.
Calls to action (with compelling offers), are crucial to conversion and can be delivered in many formats such as case studies, white papers, “how-to”, tips, and promotions.
Once a business has earned a new customer, it is critical to nurture the relationship. Customer retention requires on-going engagement, and this is facilitated by consistently providing content that customers deem of value, such as:
- New product updates
- Service information
- Special offers/promotions
- Industry information
Online content is often what creates a first impression. What is said online is a reflection of what an organization stands for and how it conducts itself; this has a direct impact on its reputation, and ultimately on whether a prospect will buy.
The Bottom Line
To be successful online, businesses must commit to becoming content developing organizations. The first decision that you need to make if you want your online efforts to drive results is: how are you going to consistently create and distribute content that your target audience deems valuable?
Sharing insights and subject matter expertise is the best way to develop visibility, credibility, and authority before your prospect engages you in a human to human encounter. This increases the number of qualified opportunities and your probability of success – meaning you will close more business.
And that’s what makes an investment in content marketing more than worthwhile.