Adapting Your Offline Approach to Digital Content Marketing
If you run a business and have spent any time researching marketing trends, you’ve no doubt heard about content marketing. It’s all the rage right now; a must have for any business. It’s new and fresh – well for the most part…
While the label is new, the approach is not; it’s been around for centuries, and there’s a good chance you’re already doing it. A good understanding of the approach will help you bridge the gap between what you’re doing offline and what you should be doing online.
The Content Marketing Approach
Unlike brochures or advertisements that attempt to convert quickly, content marketing is subtle and sustained generating interest by providing value.
Offline (non-digital) examples date as far back as 1891, when Dr. August Oetker printed recipes on the backs of his Backin baking powder packages. Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute (yes there’s an institute) takes it back to the Stone Age in this history of content marketing infographic.
As you can see the only significant change has been technology. The approach remains the same, and nearly every person I’ve met has a well-defined and executed offline approach to content marketing. The challenge is adapting your offline approach to the online environment, technologies and tactics of digital content marketing.
Digital Content Marketing
People have questions that need answers and problems that need solving. They want useful and relevant information that is easy to find and easy to digest. They’ll stick around longer for a good story and leave better informed. They have the world at their fingertips, and very little patience to find a needle in your haystack.
of US Internet users interact with blogs and social media
of people would rather learn about a company through articles than through ads
find custom content useful
Technologies and Tactics
Astonishing advancements in format, distribution and (most notably) relationships separate your offline content marketing from its digital counterparts. Today’s options are seemingly boundless and (because they’re all on the internet) inherently connected.
- Formats: Blogs, press releases, articles, e-books, infographics, white papers, podcasts, videos, and others.
- Distribution: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, email, search, pay-per-click, Q&A, groups, and others.
- Relationships: Influencers, friends, connections, followers, fans and networks.
Moving forward without a plan puts you at risk of wasting time and money. Below are are key considerations that will make your efforts more efficient and effective.
Key Considerations for Effective Content Marketing
Start with Your Audience
The most effective content marketing targets specific groups or as the industry calls them “audiences.” It zeros in on their challenges, needs, interests and influencers.
Create detailed personas (fictional representations of your audience) to guide your content, format and distribution decisions.
Personas are defined through thorough experience and research. Review recent client relationships; ask them for input if appropriate. Talk to your sales, service, and support staff; they are on the front line each day. Analyze your website analytics and CRM for clues and indicators. Research with 3rd party tools like Google Trends.
Stay Small but Scaleable
Publishing costs time but it doesn’t have to cost you money. Consistent blog posts, videos, presentations, and other formats get you out there. Use things that you’re already producing.
Social media and search engines are free. If your Twitter/LinkedIn updates stand out and are well-timed, people will click through. If the content is good it will be shared and search engines will find it.
When it’s appropriate you can add:
- People to produce more content and increase social media engagement
- Software to increase productivity, improve communication and streamline distribution
- Paid media to expand reach (Facebook ads, Google AdWords and sponsored social media)
Your time and attention are worth it. According to Demand Metric, 90% of organizations market with content because it costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates approximately three times as many leads.
Get the Right Tools
The right content marketing tools and services can make the time-consuming process of planning, creating, and distributing content more efficient. They also provide feedback about where you are and where you could go.
Measurement is essential for content marketing. How else will you track performance, determine success/failure or gain insights about customers and trends? Google Analytics can tell you who your visitors are, how they found you and what they did during their visit. Read Measure Marketing Success with Google Analytics for more information.
Learn from Others
While many businesses are marketing with content, not everybody has the experience necessary to achieve results. Learn more and learn faster by studying the best (and worst) content marketers.
Analyze their approach, formats, distribution and relationships. Do they appear successful? If so, what strategies and tactics can you adopt?
Stay Focused on and Engage Your Audience
The best ideas come from your customers and prospects. They have the questions. They have interests. They communicate their likes and dislikes.
As you would in real life, engage with your audience to find out what they need. Ask questions and get feedback. Join and participate in discussion forums and groups. Monitor social media and Q&A websites. Send out surveys or offer incentives. Be as creative and persistent as you are in person.
Content marketing works whether it’s online of off.
It’s very likely that you already have the material and a pretty good idea of your audience. It’s worth your time to get it in the right format, on the right platforms and shared with the right people.