We’ve all heard the marketing cliché that “content is king”. But how did this one aspect of digital marketing ascend to the crown, and how did marketers become such loyal subjects?
The thing that makes content so important is simple – humans enjoy it. For the foreseeable future, humans will be the ones buying your products or services. No matter what comes down the great Google pipeline (or Google’s replacement – anyone else remember Alta Vista?), content that makes your customers laugh, learn, or be inspired will always be successful.
So what’s the best way to pay tribute to the content king? Keep reading.
Use What People Know and Desire (Pizza and Wine)
Start by investigating who your customers are, and what it is that they want. At this point, marketers should know better than to just talk about their own products. Steve Gaither, President/CEO of JB Chicago (@jbgrafx), explains that “the messaging and the words you use to speak to your target audience can make all the difference. For example, we launched a campaign for Vitalicious with the goal of informing consumers about their 190-calorie VitaPizzas. Rather trying to shout about the product’s benefits louder than all of Vitalicious’s competitors, we opted to take a different angle by creating an emotional connection.”
Gaither’s team “tapped into the love consumers had always had for pizza, and let them know they could once again be reunited with that love – thanks to VitaPizza – using the tagline You + Pizza. Reunited and it tastes so good. And it works; during an ad test, we found that this type of branding message outperformed any other types by a three-to-one margin.
Adam Broetje, CEO of Odd Dog Media (@odddogmedia) agrees that it is important to know your audience, but you must also be mindful of campaign goals:
“Say the goal of our campaign is to promote a new variety of Syrah wine that our winery just released. It’s a high-end wine with a price of $99 per bottle. The audience for this type of product is going to be a knowledgeable consumer who has tasted a lot of wines and knows terminology such as “tannins” and “acidity”. Therefore the type of content we would use to promote this is going to assume a familiarity with the wine industry and talk about the specifics rather than the basics. This article topic may be something like, “5 Foods that Pair with High-Tannin Syrahs.”
You can also use this strategy with less esoteric projects. Broetje uses the same strategy to sell a very different product to a very different customer.
“Conversely, say the goal of our campaign was to sell a ton of our most produced wine. It’s a low-end Cabernet Sauvignon with a price of $12 per bottle. The audience for this is going to be the budget-conscious consumer, who might not know (or care) what “tannins” or “acidity” are. They are probably looking for a bottle to drink after a rough Tuesday at work, or to bring as a gift to a dinner party. I can’t tell you how many bottles I have purchased just because I laughed at the label or saw an award sticker and a good price. A sample topic for this campaign could be ‘10 Best Wines for the Buck in 2014.’”
Do Judge an Article by Its Title
Once you have your audience identified and campaign goals set, you need to settle on exact titles for your content pieces. This seemingly small detail is important – create it with care. Ivana Taylor, Marketing Strategist for DIYMarketers.com (@DIYMarketers) knows that small businesses need to get crafty (and even wacky) with titles.
“Extreme content and extreme headlines consistently deliver the desired result – stop, read, click. In fact, talk to any successful online marketer and they will tell you that fancy ‘Madison Avenue’ headlines might be great for brands with millions to spend, but they don’t come close to the conversion results that come from interesting, intriguing, and even cheesy headlines.”
Taylor explains that function has shaped the form of current headlines, “as our content went digital, the money was in clicks and conversions; click to read the story, click on an ad, buy something. By definition, this new incentive is going to change the tone and flavor of a headline.”
Taylor does admit that while most headlines are “awful,” they do achieve the desired result – “they get us to stop, read, and click.”
I Can Has Funny Joke?
Funny digital marketing (or attempts at it) is ubiquitous. From dancing dogs to irreverent captions, funny content rules the internet. It is memorable, shareable, and it brings attention to your brand. Hunter Boyle (@hunterboyle), Sr. Business Development Manager for AWeber, advises that “humor is extremely important for digital marketing, because it's one of the best ways for people to connect with each other and with a brand. These days, with so much content being produced, if you can get humor right, it will stand out from the crowded field, create a stronger response, compel people to reply and share, and perhaps make a purchase – basically, most of the results marketers are looking for.”
But truly funny marketing is no laughing matter – it requires both thought and precision. Boyle cautions that the “biggest obstacle is hitting the right mark. Trying to be funny may not work for every brand, and it’s not as easy as it looks. Humor can be incredibly tricky, and when it falls flat, it lands hard.” Boyle advises that “video and visuals are often the best bet, because reading in digital spaces requires more effort from the audience. Look what a funny video did for Dollar Shave Club. But then look what a few not-so-funny videos didn't do for FTD. The medium isn't a sure thing. You really need to tap into your audience personas and vibe to figure out how to make humor work for them.”
Boyle recommends being honest, and listening to others. “If you are experimenting with humor and it feels like it's trying too hard, you're probably right. Try tapping the funniest person you know, inside or outside your organization, to serve as a creative consultant.”
Avoid These Crimes of Content
To ensure that your content creation meets your business goals, Brotje offers this list of important tips to help you get the most from your efforts.
- Don’t focus only on the sales pitch – make your content valuable on its own. “There is more value in the content being shared to a wide audience then there is in a hard sell.”
- Make it easy to speed read – try “short sections with bold headings. Long, dense paragraphs are more daunting and are more likely to be ignored.”
- Use at least a single keyword link back to your site – “if you don’t get any sales out of it, hopefully it gets re-posted elsewhere and helps your SEO.”
- If these clicks do come to your site, ”be sure there is a prominent call-to-action. This can be anything; a phone number, product sale, newsletter signup, or a social follow.”
- Offer value with your call-to-action – “[consider the] difference between Sign up for our newsletter and Newsletter subscribers get 15% off their first purchase.”
Once the content has been posted, your work is not over. Brotje emphasizes that you must track your conversions. “The beauty of online marketing is being able to track what happens and measure for success. Google Analytics and their Campaign Goals are a great, free way to do this.” Taylor adds that “conversion statistics and reader behavior will become second nature to you. Tools like Crazy Egg and others that track and analyze visitor behavior will drive design, content, and headlines.”
Different Strokes for Different Likes
A concept that gets a lot of attention on Facebook may fall flat on YouTube, or vice versa. Crafting different content for different platforms is time well spent. Allen Schweitzer, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer for Brafton (@Brafton), knows that “digital marketers who take a different approach with each marketing outlet are more likely to be successful than those who don’t. What works as a search-friendly video title won't make the best email subject line, but creating a custom newsletter centered on that video might maximize your reach and return on that asset.”
Keep your content differentiated, but related – “you need to have an action plan that strikes a balance between overall brand consistency and information that matters most to particular users.”
To get started, Schweitzer advises that you consider “what resonates with your audience at various stages in your sales and marketing funnel, on different platforms or networks. This isn't to say your blog strategy will have no consistency with your email strategy. It starts with a comprehensive, goal-focused strategy. Savvy marketers are quick to recognize the importance of creating diverse content types that optimize each channel, while still maintaining a consistent message that’s on-brand.”
What Does the Future Hold?
Trends come and go, in business and in web platforms – what is popular today may be dated tomorrow. What can we expect from content marketing’s future?
Brotje sees content marketing “becoming more of a science as it matures. I would guess that the systems to measure content and its effectiveness will become easier for small businesses to access, as it’s typically only been larger companies who have the budget to set it all up properly.”
Having access to these measurements may increase content marketing’s effectiveness, and quiet objectors. “For any managers who question whether content marketing works, being able to show them statistics of success will make all the difference. That ‘three hours of content writing brought us five customers worth $500 each’ would be a pretty powerful statement to tell a manager, and makes for an easy decision.”
Gaither predicts that “people will soon begin rebelling against 140-character limits and make a return to long-form content.” Taylor agrees that “slow and finely crafted copy will be the next big thing. Remember the slow food movement – at the peak of the junk food craze? I expect content and truly killer writing to be the next trend.”
Items that truly resonate with your customers will always capture their time, attention, and eventually dollars. This longevity is one of the ways that investing in good content can save you time and effort in the long run – truly good content, whether funny, educational, emotionally compelling, or all of those things, will never expire.