Sell without selling.
This is what content marketing is about. The idea is pretty simple: to create a strong relationship with your prospects and maintain it with your clients, by providing them interesting and relevant content. Indeed, the customer journey has become quite complex and it is no longer about seeing an advert and buy a product. Competition and technologies have enhanced the interactions between a brand and its customers and companies have to design a complete environment around their offer, in order to separate themselves from the crowd.
Although it became a really trendy term and a must have in many businesses, content marketing is not a new concept. In the late nineteenth century, John Deere launched what can be considered as its first example: The magazine The Furrow, “A Journal for American Farmers”. At the time, the company that manufactures agricultural machinery had the great idea of providing free and useful information to help farmers grow their business. Working with journalists to educate farmers on new technologies, John Deere was not overusing its name in the paper and people did not feel marketed. This is why, thanks to the magazine, the brand could be perceived as reliable, helpful and technological.
During the following years, way before the Internet, there has been many other examples of content marketing strategies. You can find interesting ones in this article from Arnie Kueen.
Nowadays, the media and channels of content marketing have changed but the principle stays the same: first create a link, then slightly suggest the need (note that I am still not talking about selling).
Slightly suggest the need
Suggesting the need is basically the famous scene in “The wolf of wall street” (although content marketing strategies are usually more subtle) where the guy is asked to sell a pen. One does not promote a product but enlighten a situation where the product is or feels necessary: “Do me a favor; write your name on a napkin” “- I don’t have a pen”.
This is, for instance, part of L’Oreal’s content strategy. Through its website fab-beauty.com the brand promotes fashion and gives make up ideas. The company also has many Youtube channels, adapted to each market, where you can find tutorials from key opinion leaders. Once the audience sees the new trends, it will look for the products which allow applying those ideas.
What a coincidence! L’Oreal is precisely selling it. Add a few SEO tricks and right keywords: the brand will appear on the top when you look for this awesome glitter varnish you just saw. The riveting point is that the motivation is intrinsic: people do not feel advertised so they are more willing to buy.
Furthermore, interactions also work after the purchase: you can help your customers make the most out of your product by showing them how to use it. This is why good content marketing can create a loop within the customer journey.
I recently saw another good example of content strategy that I would like to share with you. It was a blog interview, with the founder of a solution to secure companies’ data through password management. The person (playing on the emotional feeling of fear) was explaining how easy it was for hackers to steal sensitive information from the enterprise. It was I think, a great approach because as soon as he enlightened that many companies do not secure their data enough, its cyber security solution appeared to be a must have.
Another significant goal of content marketing is to entertain. Companies cannot only advertize anymore, they need to establish a strong connection with their community. Thus, through entertainment a brand will be able to express the positioning and values it wants to get associated with. A few years ago, we could consider that advertisement was mostly surrounding entertainment. Patrick Lay, former director of the biggest French private TV Channel, had a controversial phrase about this in 2004 : “what we sell [to the brands]is human brain available time”. In my point of view, this implies that entertainment is used to provide space for advertising.
Now it is different because content marketing has lowered the distinction between the two. If you look at the BuzzFeed Model for example: they do not have any ads on their website but they are making money by creating tailor made (entertaining) content for brands. Indeed, entertainment often hides a well prepared strategy to indirectly promote a product or a service.
In fact, content marketing has taken so much space that we are observing the rise of content marketplaces. It has become the business model of many pateforms such as Facebook or Linkedin which offers to sponsor your content and display it to the right audience.
Now that you probably better understand what content marketing is about, I would like to give you some benefits of a good Content Marketing strategy and a few tips to start yours. Please feel free to add yours in the comments.
What are the benefits of Content Marketing?
- Increase visibility
Content marketing is a good way to improve SEO. Moreover interesting and shareable content will make you more visible.
- Generate qualified leads
Produce relevant content will give you qualified leads: it will attract a targeted audience willing to look for what you offer afterwards.
- Cost effective
You can start doing content marketing without a big budget. Create an account on social networks or a blog on website builder platforms and you are good to go.
- Position Yourself as an expert
Specialized content show that you know what you are talking about and gives you credibility towards your audience
- Nurture and engage a community
Encourage people to share their experience and talk to each other and your Brand will become the core of a community. Imagine how strong your positioning can be if you become the link between them.
- Create customer loyalty
Content marketing takes place at every stage of the customer journey, not only before buying but also afterwards. Offer support and customer care so that people can stay in touch with your brand.
- Avoid ad blockers
Because you are not directly advertising, content marketing allows you to bypass ad blockers.
3 Steps to start you strategy
1 Define your audience
First of all, you need to ask yourself “Who do I want to talk to” which can be translated as “who could be interested in what I am offering” or “who do I want to get interested in it” .
2 Create relevant content
Know your audience by listening to it. You can for instance look at forums to determine frequently asked questions or problems that could answer through your content.
3 Promote it
Producing good content is not enough. If you want your strategy to be effective, you need to promote it. Find where your prospects are (social networks, forums, collaborative plateforms…) and distribute your content.