Everyone seems to be talking about using blogging and social media to promote their businesses. The question many business owners ask (or should ask) is “will this just be another fad, or can this kind of online activity really drive long-term & consistent business opportunities?” It’s often challenging to see a direct relationship between online activities like blogging or social media posts and business growth.
The good news is that there is a connection, if it’s done right. These online activities are part of a marketing strategy known as Content Marketing, also sometimes called “Inbound Marketing.” which in this context mean the same thing.
What Is Content Marketing?
So, we’ve talked about content marketing in terms of blogging and social media, but how does that really help grow business? To get a better idea about what Content Marketing actually is, and how it works, you need to start with a clear understanding of your audience. The idea is to research the problems or challenges your audience faces, then provide solutions to these challenges via content such as blog posts, videos, whitepapers, worksheets, e-books, etc. By distributing this helpful content, or assets, via your website blog, social media accounts, email, etc. it becomes available to and discoverable by your target audience and, done correctly, they are happy to share their contact information in exchange.
The key is to create useful content. Your visitors don’t want a sales pitch. They want a solution to their problem and/or an answer to their question. By providing value, your business gains trust, and begins building relationships.
Let’s Skip the Buzzwords – How Does Content Marketing Drive Business?
We left off with trust and relationships. Many business owners see these things as somewhat intangible.
The tangible actions generated by a website are typically:
- Sales: sales leads (phone calls and emails) & online sales/revenue
- Subscribers: email signups, social media signups
- Reach: social media metrics (likes, retweets, etc.), blog reposts, shares, etc.
The million dollar question then is “How do we bridge the gap between trust/relationships and tangible actions?” That detail would depend on each content marketing campaign strategy, but some examples of these mechanisms are:
- Directly linking to your services pages from your assets, which lead to more sales phone calls & emails
- Offering downloadable assets that require your visitor to submit contact information, which lead to more subscribers in your email marketing list
- Requiring social media activity (follow, like, share) to access your assets, which leads to visitors discovering more of your content, and in turn to building more trust
The Content Marketing Process
There are a number of steps that need to be implemented for effective content creation.
- The first step is researching your customers. You need to develop a profile for the kinds of people that you want to attract to your business. For example, if have an HVAC business, you might have both residential and commercial customers. You will need a profile for each of these types of client. The more specific you can be about your target audience, the better you can address their needs.
- The next step is to identify problems that your prospective customers are having. For our example HVAC contractor, your clients may have a heating system that is not performing well, or they may want more energy efficiency.
- Once you know what problems your prospective customers are having, you can work out solutions. For our HVAC contractor, there might be a number of different ways to solve these problems. One client may need some simple system maintenance, while another might need a complete new HVAC system. You want to demonstrate that your business is an informative resource to help your target customer find the right solution for their challenge – not just that you can sell them the services.
- To build trust with this target audience you can convert these solutions into useful and compelling content. Our HVAC contractor can create posts exploring options for upgrade HVAC systems to save energy, tips for seasonal maintenance, or new technology and trends, just to name a few. This content can then be published online in a variety of forms including blogs posts, videos and social media.
- Finally, once you’ve begun to build trust with these target customers, it’s time to convert them into leads. This is where marketing assets come into play. With some of the content mentioned above, you can create worksheets or downloads that require your prospect to submit their contact info in exchange. Now you can market to them directly and personally since you already know what they might need.
Why Content Marketing Drives Business
Now that you understand what content marketing is and the content creation process, you can begin to see why a great content marketing strategy can help drive your business.
- Traditional marketing is interruptive, and no longer effective. People have turned off and tuned out mass marketing channels like television, radio, direct mail and the yellow pages.
- People are using the Internet as a tool to solve their problems. When a person uses a search engine, he or she is indicating a specific problem that requires a solution. This person may encounter your content when searching for a solution.
- Content marketing meets people early in their buying process when they are still exploring solutions to their problems. Instead of a sales pitch, content marketing offers genuinely helpful solutions to problems that people are struggling with and does it exactly at their time of need.
- By demonstrating that your business can solve problems, you position yourself as a trusted expert in your field. When someone is ready to purchase a solution to her problem, he or she is going to turn to an expert that they know and trust. If they’ve found your content helpful, that expert is going to be you.
- Your customers can share your content on their social media. This expands your audience and transforms your best customers into ambassadors for your business. What better way to gain new customers than word of mouth. Content marketing makes it easy for your customers or even prospective customers to become your biggest promoters.
Hopefully by now you can see that producing great solution based content drive people to your business. So, what are you waiting for?
Content marketing takes blogging, social media and other online channels and turns them into customer magnets for your business. If your business is ready to take Internet marketing to the next level, Web Tech Marketing Services can help. Contact us for more information about developing your content marketing strategy.