We have all experienced the feeling: we know the buzzword, but we aren’t too sure what it covers. Take content marketing: the meaning is generally clear, but how can it be used as a market differentiator, in B2B, or on a limited budget?
To get the facts behind the buzzword, asking an expert – such as business development consultant Gregor Küpper – is always the best approach.
How do you define content marketing? What are we missing?
Content marketing can be defined as broadly or narrowly as you like. The narrow approach is that of selling or buying studies and reports related to one’s activities and promoting them. I prefer to look at the broad approach. Let me explain. Do you have a website, do you post on LinkedIn or Facebook for your business? Then you are facing the same challenges as 99 per cent of your colleagues: how to keep your audience interested and stimulate return visits.
Content marketing as I see it is about finding new and interesting information for your target groups and presenting it in such a way that it is relevant to them. This way they see you as a trusted source of information. Which in turn is key to becoming recognised as the reference in your sector.
But we all focus on renewing the contents of our website regularly. Why or how can content marketing make a difference?
We are under constant pressure to publish new information. But what if we have nothing new to say, no new product to announce or no new event to present? This is a real challenge. Bringing in external content will help us position our organisations.
For example, imagine you run the website of a cruise operator. You want to ensure visitors get all the relevant information about the ships, destinations and programmes you offer. However, your competitors do the same, and they also offer similar routes and programmes as well as nice accommodation and great food.
This means that prospects can easily compare offers and special deals and choose their cruise operator accordingly, making you easily exchangeable. A rather sobering thought. What can you do to make a difference, to stand out?
|measures reputation||builds reputation|
|is a cost||generates revenue|
|nice to have||increases bottom line|
If you profile the cruise passengers you are targeting, you may discover that there are a variety of topics that interest them: ecology, health, well-being, culture, history, music, food and drink, entrepreneurship, social development, nature to name but a few. If you post news, articles or innovations about these topics, your visitors will most likely find them interesting. And if in addition there is a link to the sea cruises you offer, it will make perfect sense to them. For example,:
- Beer X was included by renowned beer expert XYZ in his list of 'The 100 beers you need to try before you die'. That announcement is posted on your site together with the news that beer X is available in the Captain’s Lounge bar of your fleet.
- City Y is elected the Cultural Capital of Europe. Its heritage is closely linked and intertwined with one of your destinations. Clients are invited to discover its history as well as the culinary influences on your destination during a short video presentation and are offered a special buffet with typical food during the cruise.
- Professor Z from XYZ University has just announced the results of groundbreaking research on ageing and longevity, which proves the beneficial effects on health and wellbeing of couples doing intellectually interesting and physically challenging activities together. You present the new activities that are proposed during the cruises that are fully in line with his research.
These are just three examples from many that you can post on your website. The idea is simple: present information that is new, interesting and relevant to your potential clients, ideally from trusted sources of information or recognised experts. The immediate result: you captivate your visitors. They discover things they did not know. And as these are presented by experts, you are also seen as an expert. All of a sudden, the websites of your competitors look a lot less interesting - rather like dull booking sites - whereas you manage to stimulate their imagination and surprise them. Which gives them a reason to share about this with friends and family. Positive word of mouth! The most precious and most sought after publicity you can generate.
That’s a nice example, but not everybody is in such a competitive situation. For instance if we operate in a business-to-business environment…
Really? Keep in mind that whether business-to-customer or business-to-business we are always dealing with people, and people are the same whether they are in a b2c or b2b environment. Actually, this is even more relevant in a b2b environment. Usually you have a much better knowledge of who your customers are. If you know who your customers are, you can easily profile them and determine their interests and challenges. The rest of the process is the same as in b2c. I know it sounds simple, but that does not mean that it is easy.
My point exactly! Who can afford to spend all the resources necessary to continually look for interesting content, when budgets are already tight? It is very time consuming and frustrating - think of Google searches that give you either three or 300,000 hits depending on your query formulation.
The solution is technology. You know about tools to monitor what people are saying about your brand, how it is perceived, what the overall sentiment is. With content marketing, you go much further; you actively influence that perception by selecting a number of sources that post information of interest to your clients - be they websites, bloggers, twitter, etc. and only focus on them.
Their information is already highly targeted and if you filter that limited stream of information, you will find content that is relevant.
The next step is curating that information: shortening and editing it so that it becomes fully relevant to your target group. Ideally also adding a call to action to engage them. This can be an invitation, an event, additional information or even asking for their feedback, opinion or experience.
You mentioned technology. Are there tools that facilitate this process?
Absolutely. Several tools allow you to easily follow what is published on a given site or on social media. There are also tools that allow you to edit this information and re-publish it to either your website or your social media. However, most tools cover just one of the steps in the content marketing process: 1) finding interesting sources; 2) filtering their content; 3) editing it to make it your own and more relevant; 4) publishing it to your online channels; 5) measuring their impact
As a communication professional, in order to work efficiently and coordinate in one single place the work of your comms team, you need a fully integrated tool that covers all these steps in one single tool.
To my knowledge there are just a few tools covering the entire process. The interesting thing is that a European company is now becoming the reference by offering a professional tool that covers all the above steps and allows the user to choose between cloud based and server hosted solutions.
How does one choose the best solution?
This depends on individual situations and priorities. However, when evaluating which tool suits you best, you should address the following questions to help you make the right choice:
- Will a single person use it or a team?
- Do you just want to monitor the perception of your brand or also publish to actively influence it?
- Do you wish to host your data on your own server or host it in the cloud?
- Are you comfortable with your data being stored in the US or prefer the EU?
- Are you tech savvy and like working with different tools or wish a fully integrated professional solution?
- Will becoming the reference in your sector make a difference to your bottom-line?
How do I sell it to my financial director?
As a trusted source of information and the reference in your sector you attract more clients, keep them longer and reduce churn. This should convince him. If not, the generation of positive word of mouth should. It is the most credible and effective promotion of your brand - and it’s free!