Many business owners, marketers, and other professionals labor under the mistaken belief that content marketing is just another form of advertising and that advertising is a good thing. After all, if you aren’t advertising your product, brand, or service, how will anyone know you are selling it, right? The biggest pitfall to assuming that advertising is king and everything else is little more than a loyal subject is the failure to realize the onus of creating a B2C connection rests entirely on the shoulders of a one dimensional component. In other words, you are hoping to make a sale based on a pretty picture or catchy jingle.
Successful business professionals and marketers know that one of the key secrets to success is built upon the premise that meaningful content creates a connection between business and consumer, compelling a person to make a purchase that eventually evolves into unshakable brand loyalty. When you achieve that type of relationship with your consumers, they will always come to you for what they want or need, even if the other guy is selling it at a fraction of the cost.
So what is content marketing, anyway?
Content marketing is telling your target audience not only what you are offering them, but how and why it will meet their needs or exceed their expectations. It also tells them how you stand behind the offering and what you have invested in it on your journey to making their investment in it worth their time, effort, and money. Content marketing tells a story that includes your desired consumer in a starring role, as opposed to advertising, which targets the contents of your consumer’s wallet as the main attraction.
Isn’t content marketing just another part of advertising?
You could look at advertising versus content marketing by comparing it to a highway billboard versus a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman. The billboard is doing nothing more than advertising something by using an image and some words, hopefully put together in a way that makes you want to know more. At that point, it is up to the consumer to proactively say “yes” and go find a place where they can procure the item being advertised. At least Burma-Shave had the good sense to make their roadside advertising into an entertaining and distracting gimmick. You actively sought out the next sign in their series of several that created a rhyme, joke, or clever sentence focusing on their product.
The Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman, however, comes into your home and makes himself a temporary member of your family. He wants you to vacuum your floors first, even if you just did it before he arrived. After you’ve done so and have assured him that he won’t find a speck of dirt or dust anywhere on that beautiful living room carpet, he pulls out the big gun – his trusty Kirby. It weighs a ton, costs a ton, and looks like something from the 1950s. You secretly scoff in your mind. After all, you know your carpet is clean. A few minutes later, he pulls out the special in-line filter installed in front of the canister and shows you a hideous amount of dirt, dust, dog hair, and what-the-heck-is-that. He has the good grace (or the good training) not to have a gloriously smug expression on his face as he tidies up his mess, then he quietly mentions the fact that you will never have to buy another vacuum cleaner again as long as you live. The Kirby salesman is a walking, talking example of content marketing.
How can you utilize multiple marketing channels for content marketing?
You cannot create a consumer experience or build a meaningful relationship by including more information in the item description section of a page on your online marketplace. While that does help provide a potential buyer with more details about the technical aspects of what you are selling, it doesn’t make them feel invested in choosing you over your competitors. After all, they have already found it on five other online marketplaces for less than what you are selling it for. This is where cross-channel marketing comes in and helps you drive consumers toward your business instead of away from it (to a cheaper competitor, in most cases).
There are several options available online when it comes to making content marketing the most powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal. Some of these online marketing channels include:
1. Interactive social media (such as Twitter or Facebook)
2. Webcasts and webinars (on sites like YouTube or hosted on your own website)
3. Visually driven social media (Pinterest and Instagram, for example)
Combined together, these different components of online marketing act as a funnel of sorts themselves, driving your target audience toward your web-based shopping cart and pushing them through to completion of a sale. Another huge benefit of making the most of multiple online marketing channels is that you can dramatically increase brand awareness. This can draw consumers to your offerings simply by making them aware of aspects of your brand that may otherwise remain hidden. Examples of this could include how companies donate a percentage, flat rate, or matching amount of every dollar spent on humanitarian, environmental, or other “positive impact” causes that are meaningful to many people.
Does your company only sell items created from responsibly sourced materials? Do you create, donate to, or otherwise support initiatives that help improve quality of life for certain individuals, groups, or entire countries? If your company does participate in any activities such as those, it means those causes are important to you – so say so! You can end up with a large pool of consumers who choose you simply because you have let them know you chose something that is also important to them. Use content marketing to put your brand in front of your target audience, rather than try to use advertising to put your product or service in front of them.
Advertising is nothing more than telling the world what you are selling. Content marketing tells them why they should have it, how they cannot live without it, and, more importantly, why you should be the one they get it from. It’s the difference between walking through the showroom or taking a test drive. If it is important for you to know what it’s like to be behind the wheel before you take it home with you, don’t you think it is just as important for your target audience to have that feeling, too?