Harnessing The Power Of Content To Engage Your Customers
The most common buzzword on the lips of marketers right now is content marketing. Like all good buzzwords, this term implies a powerful new approach for consumer engagement, but its exact meaning—and more importantly its application—can sometimes be elusive.
“Content marketing is the art of communicating with customers and the target audience without selling,” according to Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton in their book Valuable Content Marketing. This description highlights the essential truth about branding engagement: consumers expect to be engaged before they will even consider buying into a brand’s line of products or services.
In this world of content as cultural currency, the greatest investment marketers can make is not in advertising, but in providing consumers with a chance to engage, contribute, and learn. The content must be dynamic, relevant, and useful to the consumer, whether that content is a helpful how-to video, a sleek infographic, or a well-crafted blog post.
Engaging consumers without breaking the bank
The advantage for brands is that producing this content is cost-efficient—a boon for small brands on a budget that need to invest in low-risk strategies such as content marketing to guarantee a strong ROI. The first step any brand should take before developing their own rich content is to engage its community by asking them what they’d like to see and what questions they want answered.
Many brands will find that once they’ve established a culture of content, their most engaged brand ambassadors will often contribute their own rich ideas and media, enhancing the experience for other users in organic and exciting ways. The end result is brand loyalty and trust, as the community will know they are being listened to and respected.
What makes the best content?
As is often the case with most Web 2.0 strategies, there is no one-size-fits-all type of content that will work for all brands all the time. Brands looking to develop rich content should have a clearly defined goal, whether it’s to drive traffic or foster brand loyalty.
Here are a couple examples of smart content marketing for small businesses:
- A small plumbing business could post blogs and diagrams to help its customer base deal with various small plumbing issues such as a leaky faucet. By offering free advice, the brand will build trust and become a thought leader.
- A hair salon could use Pinterest to post images of the most recent trends—from prom styles to professional fashions. This will not only establish the salon as an authority that keeps up with the fashions in its industry, but also it will save consumers time when trying to decide what hair style is best for them.
- A chef at a popular local restaurant could post short videos teaching its patrons some simple cooking techniques. These videos could be especially helpful during the holidays, when people are looking for the best recipes to really make their holiday dinners sparkle.
How is your business building its content currency? How are you measuring customer engagement and the effectiveness of your content strategy?
This post was originally published on AT&T’s Networking Exchange Blog.
Great post Cheryl. I liked it so much that it inspired me to finally create (a well overdue) new pinboard on Pinterest: http://bit.ly/RvmemC
Thanks so much!
As a current student at the University of Southern California studying sociology, business and marketing, I am very interested in current topics and leads for creating effective marketing strategies. Your focus on content marketing is up-to-date and I enjoyed your tone as well as the three beautiful examples of how this tactic can be valuable and executed. In your post, you express that “the advantage for brands is that producing this content is cost-efficient—a boon for small brands on a budget that need to invest in low-risk strategies such as content marketing to guarantee a strong ROI.” Is it really a guarantee? Content marketing is argued to be a ‘less cost per lead’ technique due to the various free social media platforms out there. However, this trend requires large initial investments and requires lots of patience according to Eloqua Blog. Moreover, it can actually be super costly to be a solid campaign that incorporates creative, on-topic and emotional evoking content pieces on a timely schedule that reaches target audiences.
Reading Jay Baer’s article about the costs of applying content marketing, he exemplifies how this strategy typically costs a firm around $60,000 a year in labor alone. What if a company decided that a small online video series would be good for raising their brand recognition? This creative piece thus adds extra costs in venue rentals, videographers, planning and editing that is not previously accounted for; furthermore, such a method can be very demanding with needing to create such “dynamic, relevant and useful to the consumer” content as you stated for it to be effective. On top of that, Margie Clayman in her Business 2 Community article informs readers that 64% of businesses who have implemented this content strategy do not feel like they are using it successfully. Do you think something should be said about content marketing being more cost intensive and encompassing creative ambiguities, than the current approach of it being very inexpensive? The stress of this approach can be a double-edged sword for many small and medium sized businesses that need capital to run their businesses, but need to invest in marketing innovatively to gain brand loyalty and profits. With that said, sometimes a whole marketing plan that is content focused is not necessarily the most realistic, probable or beneficial plan for businesses, as say a direct marketing approach may be. Would you agree that other strategies should be focused on for some businesses, or do you think all business should incorporate content marketing? Thank you for your thoughtful post and for engaging with me in this topic.