During the sixties, before advertising firms became more astute in regards to political correctness, men traditionally ran these agencies. It was a time when the good old boys network would wine and dine a potential client over a three-martini lunch. And the level of entertainment that was bestowed upon a client was often times more important than the creative work that was produced. These masterminds of marketing were often called “Mad Men,” (i.e., short for “Madison Avenue Men”), due to the fact that most of these agencies were headquartered on this avenue in New York City. This real life scenario was dramatized in the hit TV show Mad Men, where the main characters are highly persuasive and sometimes even unethical. And when they got the business, these hard-selling ad men would create advertising that pushed their client’s products on the consumer, who bought into the glossy picture or snappy jingle without much hesitation.
But times have changed. And we’ve come a long way since the 1960s on how to reach the consumer. Besides the “traditional” methods of television, radio and print, there are lot more channels to drive awareness and engagement with the target audience. Today’s consumers are less likely to be swayed simply by a hard-selling advertising campaign and are more informed than yesterday’s buyers. They look at a company’s website, read reviews and learn as much as they can about the reliability of a product or the reputation of a business before making a purchasing decision. And they follow companies and brands that they want to know more about on social media. With this evolution of the consumer, how can a company position themselves in a better way? The answer is content marketing.
What is content marketing? While there are many definitions, content marketing is basically the ability to communicate with your customers and prospects without hard selling. It is about publishing and delivering information on an ongoing basis that makes your customers more informed. The principle belief is that if consumers come to you on a regular basis for information, they will see you as an expert. And if a prospect is willing to take the time to become engaged with this longer form of advertising, they will reward you with their business and loyalty.
Content marketing has been gaining popularity over the past few years, but it is not new. There are countless examples of companies that have been able to effectively use content marketing, but the credit for being one of the first content marketers goes to John Deere. In order to engage their audience, content marketers tell stories and in 1895, John Deere, a company known for their tractors and farming equipment, produced and published a custom magazine called “The Furrow.” This magazine told human stories of the American farmer. And while the magazine focuses on the farmers, John Deere’s equipment was featured. So when farmers enjoyed the stories they read, they associated this feeling with John Deere’s tractors and equipment. The Furrow has been very popular since its introduction and this publication is still being produced today and read by many people in the US and Canada.
While some companies still create printed magazines, most of today’s content marketing is created and distributed digitally through various forms including blogs, downloadable eBooks or guides, how-to videos, podcasts and infographics. Below are some of the main benefits of content marketing.
Content marketing establishes your company as a thought leader. Let’s say you have a pest control company. If you want to increase trust in your audience, you can start a blog and share the best ways to eradicate termites and other pests. This allows prospects to see your company as one that provides value and this trains consumers to go to your blog regularly to learn about new topics related to your business. Statistically, 60% of consumers say they feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its site. This not only improves your brand image, but it increases the trust that consumers feel towards your company.
People follow brands that have interesting information to share. Your content marketing strategy should always come before your social media strategy. First determine what would be of interest to your target and then create helpful, useful, and shareable content specifically for that group of people. And promote this content through your social media channels to get more followers. The more followers you have, the more likely you will be able to get sales from them. In fact, 67% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from brands they follow.
Companies with blogs get 97% more inbound links. This helps you rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). But this is not limited to blogs. There are a number of different types of content marketing that you can put on your site to keep consumer retention. Just think how long your consumer will stay on your site if you have a helpful how-to video? And the longer your consumer is engaged, the more Google will recognize that you are providing high quality content which will increase your organic rankings and visibility.
In general, Content Marketing is more cost effective than other forms of advertising. Traditional media is expensive and in the 1960s, there were not too many alternative options. But now, instead of spending all of your money in traditional media, you can create content to share through the non-paid channels, such as social media. The only expense is the time and effort it will take to create valuable content that people find useful and engaging. There is also the value you get from increasing customer engagement and attracting people with a real interest in your brand, which helps grow a long-term audience.
Instead of the hard-sell tactics used by the “marketing men” of the mad men days, content marketing has improved the way advertising is done. It positions your company as a thought leader and it gives your consumers the information that they crave to become more informed about the products and services you sell. This, in turn, creates a more engaged consumer who will trust your brand and ultimately reward you with their business. And there is no reason to be “mad” about that!
What are your thoughts? What are some other benefits of content marketing?
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Want to learn more about content marketing? Check out the following resources, where I obtained some of the above information: The Anatomy of Content Marketing, What is Content Marketing?, 59 Benefits of Content Marketing, and The Story Behind “The Furrow.”