This article was contributed by Nathan Elly.
Content marketing can often seem like it exists in its own world.
While intrinsically linked to advertising and the rest of the digital marketing spectrum, the lack of a clear monetisation structure often makes for a lot of conjecture about its worthwhileness. However, in my time as a content marketing specialist, one thing has been proven to me time and time again:
It works, but not in the way many people assume.
Once again, the fact that content marketing often exists outside the realms of basic advertorials can cause a considerable amount of confusion; both for marketing specialists and their clients. So, the question inevitably becomes “how does content marketing increase leads, sales and ROI?” which is what we’re going to get into today.
Before we get directly into leads, let me ask you a question:
What makes people trust your business over its competitors?
Let’s face it; for the most part, every business will be competing against a variety of other ventures offering similar services. So, you can’t necessarily base your entire business plan around how good your service is. Customers need a reason to believe that your business is both an authority in its field and a place that they feel comfortable supporting.
That’s where content marketing comes in. Building your content portfolio not only gives your potential customers more ways to find and interact with your business, it (if done well) creates a consistent voice for your customers to gravitate toward.
When Has This Been Effective?
Let’s take Dove as an example. As one of the leading personal care brands in the world, with a history spanning over half a century, Dove had already cemented itself as a household name. However, with 2004’s “Real Beauty” campaign, they brought their brand nearer and dearer to the hearts of a generation through their body positive messages.
Utilising a mix of traditional advertising and digital marketing, this well-established brand managed to completely reinvigorate the perceived image of their company in a way that has managed to last over a decade. By creating a tone of support and empowerment, the shadow of this image now spans far further than their products themselves; forcing other large brands to follow suit as to avoid being left in the dust.
Why is This Important?
With this sweeping image taking the advertising world by storm, it’s easy to forget that, taken away from their marketing, Dove are simply a large personal care brand under the Unilever umbrella. The fact that Dove is owned by Unilever is especially important, especially when you look at the other brands that share said parent company.
Source: Huffington Post
Many are surprised to find that Dove, with its powerful female empowerment message, is a sister company to Axe/Lynx; a male-oriented fragrance brand that has been criticised for being misogynistic throughout its history. The fact that Dove has managed to use their content marketing campaigns to minimise association with this negative press is a fantastic example of how shaping your tone can be used to widespread success.
So, we’ve talked about how content marketing can increase interest in your brand. Now, how can it help you turn those leads into sales?
In recent years, publishing content has become a vital part of many companies’ marketing strategies, and for good reason. With that said, this doesn’t mean that every company is doing it right. Content marketing is an ever changing beast; with strategies that were effective even 5-10 years ago quickly falling out of favour.
What I’m trying to say is that content marketing can be used as an effective way to drive sales, but only when used smartly.
How Can Content Marketing Be Used to Drive Sales?
Whether you’re referring to internal or external content (content that exists on your website or on other platforms), content marketing offers a variety of benefits for your sales strategy. These include:
Attracting Website Traffic Through SEO
When it comes to online traffic, search engines are the gatekeepers of success. Gone are the days of people finding websites by typing in a URL, with 1.2 trillion worldwide Google searches per year making up a bulk of online searches. Therefore, as a business looking to drive sales in the online landscape, your goal becomes finding ways to get noticed and ranked highly by these search engines.
So, how do you do this?
While there are a variety of tactics that fall under the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) umbrella, one of the most effective tools for search engine success is link building. In short, link building is the process of ensuring that your business is being linked to by reputable websites. What factors go into a website being deemed “reputable” can differ wildly, but things like traffic, relevance to your service and domain authority all play a part in how effective a site will be.
This is one area where the distinction between old and new content marketing tactics comes into play. Back in the 2000s, link building campaigns ran rampant with keyword stuffing, spammy links and useless content that only existed to try and get websites noticed by search engines. However, with several updates to Google’s ranking algorithm, businesses who were utilising these shady tactics were quickly weeded out and penalised.
In 2018, the link building landscape is a completely different place. With relevance, keyword placement and the health of your link portfolio all playing a pivotal role in your campaign’s success, the era of high quality link marketing has arrived.
What Does This Mean For You?
It means that the success of your campaign hinges on the quality of your content, and your ability to perform meticulous keyword research. A well-written blog on a highly-regarded site that links to your service from a relevant keyword that gets traffic on search engines is likely to provide you with exceptional results. With that in mind, having an experienced copywriter as part of your marketing team is exceedingly valuable.
It Helps Customers Understand Your Service
When we use the phrase “help customers understand your service”, we’re not necessarily referring to simple product descriptions and pragmatic details about the service itself. Each service exists to fulfill a want or need, and both onsite and offsite blogging allow you to flesh out the reasons that someone may want to interact with your business.
So, How Do You Do This?
For several years, I worked as a content marketing specialist for a web scraping company. While for the sake of anonymity I will avoid naming the business in question, but I feel it’s an excellent example of how to explain the need of a service, as opposed to the service itself.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn how few people know why web scraping is a worthwhile service. Whilst explaining the intricacies of how data extraction and website crawling works would potentially draw the interest of some consumers, it still doesn’t explain why you should use it in a relatable way. So, we took another tact.
As opposed to writing blogs about the service itself, we focussed more on finding examples of scenarios where this would be effective. From blogs about how marketing intelligence can benefit your marketing campaigns, to articles on why competitor analysis is a vital part of any ecommerce store, we successfully developed a portfolio of written content that worked in two ways:
- It sought to justify the existence of this service with real world examples of its use.
- It gave the impression of authority for those that read these pieces.
That second point is more important than you may initially think when looking to drive sales.
Authority, Trust, and Reputation
To stand out and find success as a business, especially one in the digital landscape, there are three elements that you need to develop:
Trust – With the internet being flooded with less-than-stellar products and fraudulent services, you need to be able to ensure that potential customers believe your business to be trustworthy. Otherwise, they are almost certain to look elsewhere for your service.
Authority – When working with a business, especially one that will be providing you with an important or highly-technical service, you need to know that they understand every facet of their field. People are unlikely to gravitate toward a business that has no proof of their expertise.
Reputation – This can often come down to reviews and word of mouth. While this may seem like a simple area (good service = good reviews), this isn’t always the case, and there’s a lot that can be done or neglected to shift that balance in either direction.
These are the three pillars of any good business. While they are things that can come naturally once your business is large enough, that doesn’t mean that any successful business today is resting on their laurels. Brands like Nike spend a considerable amount of time, energy and resources ensuring that the boons of their products never stray too far from the hearts and minds of their audience. So, whether you’re a fledgling startup or a multinational conglomerate, keeping your business alluring to your target audience is vital.
How Can Content Achieve This?
Both online and offline, content is your human connection to your audience.
Through the use of the written word, videos, images and overall aesthetic of your website, customers will inevitably draw a personality from your business. This is often a comparable drawcard to the service itself, as people prefer to support businesses that they can identify with.
More than just attempting to advertise a product, your goal should always be to create a voice and tone that is consistently appealing to the demographics that your business is trying to convert into customers. With that said, don’t assume that you understand exactly what your target audience is looking for. Like all things, a little research can go a long way when attempting to identify topics that your audience will be interested in.
In this instance, keyword research is your friend. Services such as Hubspot and Google Analytics will allow you insights into what people who are searching for your services are interested in. This gives you a perfect starting point for creating a content plan that you can flesh out based on how your audience interacts with the content provided.
Many website hosting platforms, such as WordPress, offer a wealth of analytical data, including bounce rate and average view time for specific pages. This is a great overview of whether or not your content has peaked the interest of readers. A long view time and low bounce rate means that people are sticking around to find out what you have to say. Alternatively, if your readers are disappearing after ten seconds, it’s probably time for a change.
How All of This Affects Your ROI
While I can give you all of my views on the subject, the question that everyone asks is the same:
“How do I earn more money from this?”
In the end, most businesses exist solely to make revenue, so understanding how to monetise your content marketing efforts is an excellent way to wrap things up. Unlike services like PPC and traditional advertising, both of which have a very clear line between the action and whether someone will convert into a customer, content marketing is less direct. This makes it difficult to explain as a money-making effort, but it’s also its greatest benefit.
Content isn’t about frantically trying to convince people that your product is the best, it’s about giving your audience something to gravitate toward; something human.
It’s a vital part of defining your image and differentiating your business from those that are trying to take its place. Often, in regard to building the image and personality of your brand, it can be the deciding factor that makes people want to trust and support your business.
Content isn’t just a worthwhile (and relatively small) investment, in many cases it’s integral to your success in the online world. Your business is trying to connect with people, so give them a reason to connect with you.
This article was contributed by Nathan Elly, who runs the Digital Marketing Agency, Digital Next.