When Marketing’s Goal is to Emotionally Connect with Consumers…Content is the Once and Future King!

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Defining the Objective(s) and Mechanics of Your Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing continues to be on the upswing as a method of building connections and relationships with target audiences. Its goal is to drive visitors to a web site to identify, and obtain, desirable content. Arguably, content is the most effective form of digital marketing, building value and credibility. Like any proactive form of outreach to consumers, including classic advertising approaches, content must have discipline around investment and return. In other words, the resources of time, money, people, and technology have to be accompanied by stated financial objectives and actionable analytics to prove their worth..

Core to any good content strategy is the effectiveness of websites as information sources and relationship-builders. Without innovative and useful content, not only will Google not reward the site with high search placement, but associated efforts – email campaigns, social media marketing, and search engine optimization – will also fall short. Why? Because, even if they are attracted, visitors won’t have a good usage and emotional experience, and they will be less likely to return or convert. And, because return frequency and/or conversion are the twin objectives of any good content development program, that’ll translate to content ineffectiveness, or worse.

Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, i.e. putting an ad or promotional blurb on another site, can drive traffic to a company’s site. It can often get quick results, in the form of brand visibility and site visits; but the downsides are that it requires knowledge about what partner sites will work best and it can also quickly become cost-prohibitive

Search engine optimization (SEO), the high placement of keywords that, when consumers are searching for content, will bring them to a marketer’s site, remains a core element of content marketing. It can help with page quality, especially with a well thought out title and description (determined by intelligent copy testing). Social media marketing (SMM), in turn, will help enhance search performance for the site.

For marketing planners, it’s a reality that SEO, PPC, SMM, and email must interconnect and mesh; but even the most well-designed communication plan will not yield desired results without innovation and good management So, yes, there’s a lot of Cirque de Soliel-level juggling skill required to make these content programs successful. And, it will only become more complicated as more companies invest more dollars in content marketing, competing for the consumer’s attention.

Where Is Content Marketing Headed?

Seth Godin has been quoted as saying “Content marketing is the only marketing left.” He’s reflecting the new dynamics of consumer decision-making in which push marketing has long since given way to social, educational, story-telling, and gaming/involvement content. All of this is designed to create and sustain emotionally-based relationships.

According to Contently, a content marketing company, 80% to 90% of U.S. businesses are making strategic use of content; and half of those companies invest one-quarter of their marketing budgets on content. So, it is critical to understand where content is trending and how marketers can capitalize on its benefits and avoid its pitfalls.

Contently has identified three principal content strategies:

  • Owned content – publishing through captive media
  • Rented content – sponsored, or paid, content through another comapany’s media
  • Social content – posting and publishing content through PR and social media

Contently believes that, in addition to “digital printing presses” for creating content and distributing it through social media channels and native advertising, more progressive content marketers will use detailed analytics to help plan and refine campaigns. The increased, and more refined, use of social networks is moving content from audience-reaching to audience-building, i.e. building relationships more than connecting with prospects.

Another trend noted by Contently is the focus on building opt-in email subscriber lists, so that the content moved through owned, rented, and social media can be more effectively managed and leveraged to build relationships. This will, increasingly, bring content software into play.

Contently has also identified what content techniques believe will not work going forward. What doesn’t work – indeed, has never worked – is self-serving, thinly-veiled brand promotional material masquerading as content. This isn’t objective news or original insights. It is another form of ‘push’ marketing, and it undermines a brand’s credibility and trust level.

Also, repeating material seen elsewhere, i.e. licensing content, can threaten trust because it is not original Though inexpensive and relatively easy for companies to obtain, re-purposing previously published content will do little to build consumer interest or relationships.

Finally, any form of content deception is sure to backfire on companies. For example, teasing consumers with inflated promises in headlines will reduce credibility and make it more challenging to build a relationship. As Contently notes: “We will see brands get better at writing engaging headlines, yes, but we will also see content that matches the expectations that those headlines set.”

All of these trends are part of the content maturation process.

One important lesson that marketers have learned about content’s power (to attract or repel) is that it is far from linear. In other words, consumers may shift back and forth from marketing to sales – and at their individual, emotionally driven whim. For targeted content to succeed in leveraging inquiry and page visits into sales, irrespective of whether the customer is new or established and irrespective of where they are in the current purchase cycle, developing and interpreting consumer personas has to become a priority. Simply stated, the name of the game has been, and will continue to be, targeting the right content to the right consumers at the right time. No small task.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Mike!
    Glad you kicked off this conversation. I agree with you that this is a really great movement and direction ….

    Meaning, if you are not adding value to customers, then you’re not going to earn the right to their attention, and certainly not their advocacy.

    It is interesting that people are thinking about this as a maturing process, when in fact it is in a way, going back to the future, where your local merchant cared about you and your life. That what they delivered to you was perhaps a product, but also information, support and an ongoing relationship.

    J

  2. “When EF Hutton Talks, people listen.” I sure remember the company’s slogan, even though I never did any business with EF Hutton. The advertising tagline was invented before social media. Today’s version might be, “The more content that EF Hutton creates and shares, the greater the probability that targeted prospects will engage.”

    That has an awfully bad ring to it. Conspicuously absent from my invented slogan is the word ‘people’ – a point that I think you’re leading toward in your last paragraph. But what concerns me most is the self-inflicted fissure that marketers are creating by extracting ‘content marketing’ from ‘marketing.’ Is that a good thing? I don’t think so. I think it has led to some bad practices.

    What’s happened is that content marketing has become an end in itself, minus understanding its place in the overall marketing and business strategy. At the same time, the results that customers want have been ripped from the context. To me, it seems content marketers are more comfortable with vaguer parlance that includes ‘audiences,’ and ‘targets.’

    For proof, look at what Contently is highlighting: “80% to 90% of U.S. businesses are making strategic use of content; and half of those companies invest one-quarter of their marketing budgets on content.” The word ‘customer,’ ‘prospect,’ or ‘consumer’ – the ostensible reason for creating this content – isn’t even part of the discussion.

    I hope that thoughtful marketers will read the entirety of your blog and recognize that effective content marketing means focusing on developing positive conversations and interactions with people. We can assume that, ultimately, doing so will lead to greater revenue. Companies that look at ‘conversions’ as a short-term end game, will find the path to developing valuable relationships will be a tough road.

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