5 Key Facets of Successful Content Marketing

EUR 1400. That is the total amount of money we at 1ClickFactory spent on advertising in 2014 and 2015, even though we were very active in marketing during this time.

During this time, we generated more than 1000 customer leads, were recognized as one of the most innovative software development partners by Microsoft, and reached the highest ever brand awareness in our target markets. A big part of this success belongs to the fact that in 2014, we focused acutely on content marketing as an organization – on marketing by selling less.

Recently, I was honored to speak in a session for marketing students at Vilnius University and introduce them to fundamentals of successful content marketing. Here is a short summary of my session that you might find useful to reflect on your own content marketing strategy.

The Marketing World We Now Live In

Let’s start by taking a look at a typical buyer’s behavior and the marketing environment we operate in today. Profiling today’s consumer, he/she:

Always plugged-in: Today’s customer is 24/7 connected to the Internet, mostly through smartphones. According to various sources (1 - below the post), the penetration of smartphones reached more than 60 % in some Western Europe countries and up to 75 % in the USA. This percentage is even higher when we talk about young consumers age 18-34 with around 77-85 % of smartphones adoption rates. That means the majority of us have content-gathering tools with us all the time.

In addition, we even have relationship problem with our phones – many of us could not go a single day without their phones (we check them everywhere and all the time – in the shower, while driving, etc). This addiction even has a name, it’s called "nomophobia" (short for no-mobile-phone phobia) and as psychologists say that it's affecting more and more young people.

Prefers anonymity. Self- service rules: There was time when the sales person controlled the sales process. Sales professionals were the only ones who knew the service features, pricing, competition, and customers needed to call or visit to get information for making the buying decision. Over the last decade, the power balance has shifted to the customer as most information can be easily found online. And even more, now customers try to avoid contact with the sales person at all costs. They prefer information to be provided on a self-service basis – on Internet; they prefer research independent and unassisted. Customers contact a sales/company representative (if they contact them at all) very late in the sales cycle (often after they already made a buying decision). They make decisions based on the information they find on product websites, social media, etc. and the impression they get through these means.

Content rules: The average customer engage with 10 pieces of content before making a buying decision. 80% of buyers prefer to get company information in a form of articles versus of an advertisement. 70% of buyers say that company’s content helps them make better product decisions.

Informational noise: People today receive hundreds of marketing messages per day. As a result of this informational flood, people become very highly selective for information they consume. For marketers, it has become more difficult to get through this informational noise and make an impact with their messages.

Social media is a key: Though some business people still believe that social media is a subject of B2C marketing and it doesn’t work in B2B, there is much evidence that proves social media marketing effectiveness in B2B as well. According to Marketing Sherpa, 86% of business buyers engage in some form of social activity for work purposes and most of them are using the big 4 - LinkedIn, Youtube, Twitter and Facebook. These four are amongst the most popular social media platforms for B2B today.

What if you could sell more by marketing your products and services less? Why content marketing?

In order to win the war of information and attract customer attention, organizations need to enter content marketing that is about creating useful and compelling information for customers that solves their problems or answers their questions and drives profitable customer action. We need to refocus on developing customer-focused content that is useful for customers, which drives them to actually pay attention our brand and reach out when the time comes to buy. In other words, content marketing is about selling more by marketing your products and services less?

5 key facets of successful content marketing

If this is the case, what are the key elements of successful content marketing…

#1: Be Highly Useful

Valuable and compelling are the keywords for content that works today. This sounds crude, but your customers don’t care about you and your products. They care about themselves and their needs. Your customers do not want to know what you sell but what your company knows, they need your knowledge that can be useful for them to solve their problems.

Therefore, to be successful in marketing, companies need to focus on providing useful information that solves their customer pains/addresses needs and encourages them to act as they would like them to act. As content marketing guru, Joe Pulizzi, says, “Good content marketing makes a person stop, read, think and behave differently”. Good content marketing should drive behavior change in your customers.

Customers only need sales-related content (e.g. sales factsheets) at a very particular moment in the sales process; the point in which your prospect is already ready to buy. This means, you need different types of content for the top and middle of your lead/prospect funnel for prospective customers that have just started their research.

#2: Be Easily Found Through Good Content

Search engines are how most people find information these days, whether at their desktop, laptop or mobile phone, they turn to search engines with most of their inquiries. Searches are range from simple (e.g. “best sushi in Austin, Texas”) to more complex (e.g. “ERP software for stock distributors”). In the world of content marketing, you can see why displaying in research results for your relevant keywords is a must to survive. Nine out of ten buyers claim that when they are ready to buy your product, they find you (2 - below the post).

Having said this, don’t forget that Google, Bing and Yahoo aren’t the only means that prospective buyers will use to find you. Surprisingly, in the last few years the role of search engines has declined. Why? Because there have been a number of other mediums available to find what you are looking for through – social media, Quora, YouTube and more. These alternate search methods should be considered when building out your marketing strategy.

What is content marketing’s role here? Content plays an important role in recent updates to search engines algorithms. Now it’s almost impossible to game the system with so-called black hat SEO (search engine optimization) techniques. You need to have credible content to be shown up in search results.

#3: Insource Marketing in Your Organization

In order to feed the growing need for content and to increase the reach with this content, marketing becomes a widely dispersed responsibility, an all hands on deck responsibility. Companies need to involve all their knowledge workers, not only those in the marketing department, in their marketing, in other words – insource marketing. Why?

  • Customers want to know what we know, not what we sell. Each individual in your organization has useful knowledge locked in her/his head. Unlock it.
  • Information provided on behalf of company experts are trusted far more than from a brand.
  • Leveraging your employees personal network, you can increase the reach of your messages dramatically.

#4: Build Proper Social Media Strategy

Many organizations understand content marketing as social media marketing only. While your content marketing strategy should also feed your social media channels, social media marketing is an entirely separate entity.

Unfortunately, it is all too common for organizations to begin their strategy with their social media channels (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook), instead of starting by focusing on the content that will be feed into those channels. Essentially, your content marketing strategy should always be developed and refined before embarking on your social media strategy. Why? Social media won’t be effective without valuable and compelling content.

To be successful in social media, you must be able to tell your unique brand story, then by executing your story in social media you will be able to evaluate which channels work best for your brand.

As marketing guru, Jay Baer, says, “Social without content is one-legged stool”. First have content, like a blog, and when the blog is great, only then do social media.

Keep in mind, that different channels require different types of content/storytelling. I personally like this article that illustrates which content is appropriate for different social platforms.

#5: Work as a Publishing/Media Company

If you are going to succeed in content marketing, you’re going to have to think and work as a media company. In the past the publishing process was complex and expensive, and companies marketing (budgets) were very dependent on publishing/media companies. Today, there are no technology barriers to publish the content. Nowadays, anyone can publish for free online in a few minutes or even seconds. But in order to succeed you need to introduce professional publishing practice in your organization to make the reader your #1 priority and avoid being too salesly with your content. To start, hire a professional journalist or writer, develop professional editorial practices and manage information as a product.

The profiles of marketing department members have also changed. Marketing departments become markishing department (marketing + publishing). As the need for content grows rapidly, more and more professional journalists make move from media companies to work for non-media companies. You might notice advertisements of open positions in non-media companies (e.g. tech companies) for journalists, editors and content marketing directors. The future of media belongs to non-media companies.

Another reason for turning to an in-house publishing organization is that media companies in most cases will not have the kind of industry-specific knowledge and flexibility you have.

I hope you found this article/story about content marketing fundamentals at least a little bit valuable and it inspires you to take the deep dive into investing and exploring content marketing.

1. Europe Ericsson Mobility Report, June 2014; http://www.statista.com/statistics/203722/smartphone-penetration-per-capita-in-western-europe-since-2000/http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Market-Rankings/comScore-Reports-December-2014-US-Smartphone-Subscriber-Market-Share?
2. RAMP Program, Integrated Marketing and Sales training material.