Everybody is talking about content marketing. According to a new survey by Econsultancy, 90 per cent of B2B marketing professionals say they are aware of it. But how many really understand what it’s all about? Another quick look at the statistics tells you that only around a quarter of them are actually implementing content marketing programmes. Draw your own conclusions. The blaggers still rule OK would be mine.
The truth is though that content marketing is one of the biggest let’s-not-even-bother-to-discuss-it no brainers that’s ever hit the industry.
And it’s incredibly simple. Look away now if you’ve already got the scout badge, but in a nutshell content marketing is the process of publishing original material in the form of articles, videos or images on the web, driving this through selected social media channels in a way that encourages your target audience to engage with you directly online.
The goal is to build a connection, a consensual relationship with your audience allowing you to develop your brand awareness and ultimately generate painless sales, all at a fraction of the cost of doing it any other way.
Yes, there are tricky bits. Optimising your content, for example, with carefully selected keywords so that it contributes to your search engine optimisation (SEO) performance. You need to work out all the search terms you want your organisation, product or service to be found under. And these will of course change, so the keywords in your content need to change too to reflect this. Paradoxically, you have to balance this with the need for message consistency in order to maintain your SEO focus.
Knowledge is the key driver
The growth and technical development of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, not to mention LinkedIn in the business world, has made it ever easier for people to connect with businesses and develop ongoing relationships. But what makes them do this? What is going to motivate them to want to involve themselves and request more regular information from a business?
There are probably several answers to this. In the B2B world perhaps the key driver is knowledge and the desire to keep up with current thinking, or news within a specific market for subject area. Let’s take the example of someone in the middle office of a fund manager. They might be keen to engage with anyone who can keep them posted on developments in risk management or compliance in their industry. That would help them do their job and to communicate about these issues within their organisations.
But therein lies the challenge.
There is undoubtedly an art to producing the right kind of content: material that will really appeal to your customers. Many of our clients think they know their customers really well, but often they don’t understand what they want to read or to know or to be kept informed about.
According to Econsultancy, article posting is the most popular form of content marketing (79%), closely followed by social media activity (74%). No surprise there, because at Aspectus PR we see the two activities as part and parcel of the same thing. There is no point in simply throwing up an article on a site and hoping for the best. Driving that article through social media channels is what makes the difference between it being seen by a handful of people and being picked up and passed on by tens of thousands.
The survey also flags up the importance of e-newsletters (63%) and case studies (58%) in B2B content marketing. Again, we’d say they are part of the same thing. If you’ve got a great idea then you need to get it out there through every channel and in every form available to you. If it works as an article, then repackage it as an e-newsletter, make it the key theme in a customer testimonial or case study.
Building long term, consensual and interactive relationships
The truth is that successful content marketing boils down to the need for original, quality content, written in exactly the right way for the target audience. At Aspectus, we have always seen this as a PR imperative anyway, but now, with the rise of content marketing our core skills have become invaluable. We have also developed a detailed, current understanding of social media, Google and SEO. So much so that our clients now see PR as the engine room of content marketing. And who are we to disagree with them.
And if anything, our relevance to content marketing can only increase. Last year, in response to the explosion of content duplication as people begged, borrowed or simply stole any material published on the internet to boost their SEO, Google changed the rules. The Panda algorithm ensured that original, quality content was rated much more highly by Google for SEO purposes than duplicate content. This has placed a huge premium on good, proprietary material, especially articles, videos and surveys.
We have argued for a long time than PR has undergone a quiet revolution in the same way the media itself has. Our core business now involves message creation, management of message consistency and content marketing. Media relations still has a key part to play, but really only in the context of anchoring original content to a recognisable and respected source point. Thereafter, it’s all about marketing that content like crazy, using it to connect with customers and building long-term, consensual, interactive relationships with them.