Content marketing has become a necessity within most marketing plans, the purpose being to help build a long-term relationship with your customer by creating, curating and distributing content that adds value to their lives, which in turn drives your business goals. Candice Claassen, content marketing specialist and founder of newly launched content marketing company, Foreword, explains why it's so important to have a good content marketing strategy in place and how it adds value to the traditional marketing mix, the steps to follow to get it right, and how to measure how well your strategy is working.
Q: What are some of the misconceptions around content marketing?
A: We tend to hear about content marketing in social media a lot, but it has a much bigger role to play. Content essentially umbrellas all your marketing and advertising channels and needs to be funnelled into the right place by asking these important questions:
Who do I want to talk to?
What am I going to say to them?
When is the perfect time to say it?
Where is the best place to have this conversation?
Why? What goals do we have to achieve?
Q: How does content marketing fit into a business' overall marketing mix?
A: Content marketing is consumer-first marketing; so it not only adds the most important element to the marketing mix, but puts it right in the centre - the audience.
Q: How does one go about planning content and how do you measure results?
A: Before you can plan content, there needs to be a content strategy that is aligned to the strategy and the goals of the business - this is going to answer the where, what, why, who and when questions. After you have these answers, the next question will be how? And the how is where the planning starts - what resources do you have available to generate the content and manage it on various platforms? Can you develop a content calendar so that your team can successfully manage this process?
Measurement forms a critical part of the process and depends on the goals set upfront as well as the various platforms the business operates on. Content cannot be measured with a single metric, so we use a suite of analytics tools to compile a cohesive report, which we then compare to results in the business, for example a rise in sales or leads, etc.
Q: What would you define as good, engaging content?
A: Good, engaging content puts the customer first. It's not about what I have to sell or tell, but how I can add value to what you're doing without interrupting what you're doing.
Q: How do you determine what to publish where?
A: Share content where your customers' eyeballs are. But this has to be said: it's crucial to know who your customer is. It's not good enough to simply place them in broad target audience. The rise of social media is forcing us to get to know our customers intimately. Think about it like this: directly on the other side of your tweet, is a set of eyeballs reading your message, one-on-one on their own personal cellphone. That's close. You're effectively one step away from your customer and if you're on the wrong platform, talking to a person you don't know or not adding value, you lose them.
Q: In terms of content marketing strategy, how does it tie in with business goals?
A: Content and business goals seem worlds apart, but they are intimately linked. No matter what business you're in, a customer is not going to buy a product from you or tell their friends about you if they don't feel that your business adds value to their lives. Content marketing is a way for you to prove you add value beyond the product or service that you sell. It is about providing user-friendly, accessible, relevant and valuable knowledge to the consumer. That's how loyalty starts - and a loyal customer ticks a few boxes in terms of business goals.
Q: What effect can a good content marketing strategy have on a company?
A: We've seen a variety of effects - some companies have seen record sales since implementing a content strategy, while others have completely changed the relationship they have with their customers by working hard on building a rapport. We've even seen clients change their business models because of the unrecognised product opportunities content strategy highlighted for them.
It also has a massive effect on internal marketing teams - content strategy forces everyone to start thinking broader than the silo they work in.
Q: On the other hand, what are the dangers of not having an adequate content marketing strategy?
A: There are many symptoms of a poor strategy, but the two we see most often are:
A COPE (Create Once Publish Everywhere) approach to content. It's copying and pasting the same content from your blog to your Facebook page to your Twitter account to your newsletter, without considering the fact that every platform has different nuances and, most importantly, very different audiences. This approach creates the impression amongst your customers that you're spamming them, which weakens your relationship.
Then there is tunnel vision content. Some get so obsessed with what they're saying on one channel and getting results on that platform, that they forget about the short- and long-term goals they need to be driving in the business.
Q: What advice do you have for marketers wanting to create/rectify their content marketing strategies?
A: Firstly, have a plan that everyone can rally around - and not just the social media team or the sales guys - everyone that is responsible for delivering content to your customers.
Secondly, start as soon as possible and know that you're in it for the long haul - content marketing is a long-term, full-time commitment with fantastic results if you wrangle it correctly.
Q: What does the future hold for content marketing in South Africa?
A: The future is bright for content marketing in SA! I can see three things unfolding in particular:
More content partnerships. Content marketing is going to lead marketing and branding in South Africa in the next few years because it delivers results. Internationally, we're already seeing impressive moves by huge players integrating content marketing into their core. In July alone we saw LinkedIn buy Newsle (a startup that combs the web for relevant articles) and Bizo (a technology company that allows B2B marketers source and track leads) in the space of two weeks. Locally we might not see such game-changers yet, but I think we're definitely going to see the rise of content partnerships, which is why we also explore it as an option for our clients in our content strategies.
An increase in B2B content marketing. We're also going to see a lot of growth in business-to-business content marketing. Till now, content marketing has been very B2C focused, so there are exciting times ahead for the B2B sector.
Greater focus on measurement. For content marketers I think brands are going to want to see results, so measurement of any content marketing efforts is going to be one of the key focuses of the future.
Foreword content specialists offer a full-service solution for content marketing in the form of:
Content Strategy - a blueprint for companies to follow, answering the what, when, where, who and how questions.
Content Development - copywriter and designer teams work with you to create content for your platforms (whether it's newsletters, websites, social media, blogs, videos, etc.)
Content Management - community managers distribute, and monitor content and interactions
Measurement - Foreword builds a streamline reporting suite for each client depending on the platforms being utilised.
For more information on how to equip your business with an effective content marketing strategy, contact:
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