By Marcia Mattushek
The ‘content marketing’ buzzword has been around since the mid-90s, but content marketing itself – telling a story that provides customers with something of value, to encourage engagement with your organisation – has been around for a very long time.
As early as 1895, John Deere launched their magazine, The Furrow, to help farmers become more profitable. You can still subscribe to The Furrow, although these days John Deere also engages customers on Facebook, Twitter, and via their own YouTube channel.
Think of recipe books your grandmother had that were given away by food companies – well-thumbed books with tried-and-tested recipes? Content marketing!
Understanding your customers’ needs is the first step in developing effective content marketing. By listening to your customers and understanding their issues, you can provide them with solutions that build trust in your brand and encourage engagement.
Businesses need to be customer-centric in their strategic planning, and with the digital landscape now allowing us to personalise everything from Coca-Cola cans to Nutella jars, it has become easier and more vital to provide for specific customer needs. Writing for Forbes, Daniel Newman says, “Often, brands use social media to blast highly generic content – content that people are ignoring.” The customer’s world is so saturated with information that bland content may not even register.
Ryan Skinner, from Forrester Research, identifies the goals of content strategy:
- provide valuable content that meets customers’ needs;
- provide valuable content that makes customers’ lives a bit easier;
- provide valuable content that differentiates the brand by generating positive emotions.
Types of content marketing
Content marketing comes in many forms, including blogs, webpages, infographics, podcasts, videos, books and e-books, workbooks and templates, and social media. Some are more appropriate to your business than others.
Well-written content – which speaks to your values and engages with your audience – sets you apart from your competitors and distinguishes you as an expert in your field. But it’s essential to provide the content and the forum within your customers’ playground. This goes back to understanding who your customer is, and where they are most likely to be found.
Rapidly changing technological focus, together with the time-poor nature of our lives and the overwhelming amount of information that we process on a daily basis, has made video content more and more relevant. Think of your own search habits: are you more likely to read through the many pages of a ‘how-to’ manual, or search for a quick YouTube clip?
Neil Patel, writing for Forbes, identified ‘A good marketing consultancy will be on top of strategies like these – along with changing technologies – to position your brand right where it needs to be.