Consider the following figures.
- 65% of companies say their biggest marketing challenge is generating traffic and leads (Hubspot).
- 91% of people find ads intrusive and 81% say they’ve left a website after encountering a popup ad (Hubspot 2016).
- 89% of marketers say using social media has helped raise awareness of their brand (Social Media Examiner, 2016).
- Email marketing remains the most cost-effective form of marketing, with an estimated $38 ROI for every $1 spent (Venture Beat, 2016). Also, research suggests email is 40x more effective at gaining new customers than Facebook and Twitter combined (McKinsey, 2014).
- 71% of Australian businesses recognise the value of investing in high quality, targeted content while 77% of Australian businesses recognise the importance of building long-term relationships with their customers – and the role content marketing plays in this (Content Marketing Institute, 2017).
It’s clear that a one-platform-only approach to marketing, or a singular focus on advertising, is no longer enough to meet customer expectations. Businesses of all sizes – and nonprofit organisations for that matter as well – are turning to content marketing to build ongoing relationships with their customers through the provision of relevant, tailored content across a variety of media and digital platforms.
So, what is ‘content marketing’?
Industry leader, Copyblogger.com, describes content marketing as the process of:
“… creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words you’re educating people so that they know, like and trust you enough to do business with you.”
Like other forms of strategic marketing, content marketing ultimately aims to help organisations achieve business goals, be that increased profits or, in the case of nonprofits, a strong donor base. But, it’s persuasive power comes from consistently providing information, value and solutions to an audience.
How does content marketing persuade people to take action?
Decades of research into the psychology of persuasion – most notably by psychology and marketing professor, Robert Cialdini (1984, 2016) – have shown people are influenced by:
- Those they like
- Those they trust
- Those they see others liking
- A desire to belong and feel part of something
- A desire to ‘pay back’ or reciprocate when you receive something
Content marketing draws on each of these principles. For example:
- By consistently providing valuable, useful information on your website you build trust, by being seen as authority in your area of expertise.
- By aligning your goals and values with those of your audience, you encourage the persuasive principle of ‘liking’. Put simply, people like to do business with those they like and respect.
- A strong social media presence provides social proof of others liking and trusting your brand, as well as an online space for followers to interact in a shared experience.
- A well-planned email marketing campaign builds an ongoing relationship between the business and email recipient and done well, aids in creating likeability and trust. In addition, a well-chosen lead magnet, that is genuinely useful to the intended audience, creates a subconscious feeling of indebtedness – we’ve received something, therefore we owe something.
How content marketing can benefit your business
Even smaller businesses or organisations can benefit from the principles of content marketing.
- It’s cost effective
So how cost effective is content marketing? Content expert, Julia McCoy, suggests content marketing is typically cheaper than other forms of marketing and can have a high-value return on investment, with significantly higher conversion rates compared to more traditional marketing methods.
There are also a number of free or low-cost tools that organisations can use to put in place a content marketing communications strategy. And, much of your content can be repurposed and recycled. Applying a content marketing mindset to your business doesn’t have to be expensive.
- It builds long-term, profitable relationships with your audience
Knowing your audience – their needs, interests and problems – is central to an effective content marketing strategy. All of your content should be created with a clear picture in your mind of who your audience is and how what you do can benefit them. Creating and sharing high-quality, relevant information – and much of it for free – will have a number of positive pay offs. For example:
- You’ll be seen as an authority and therefore to be relied upon and trusted
- It will help to filter leads so you are more likely to attract those who are ready to do business with you.
- You’ll be able to respond proactively to customer issues as they arise. Doing so will lead to a more positive customer experience and, in turn, more positive word-of-mouth advertising.
In short, by regularly publishing content across a variety of channels, including your website, social media and email, you’ll benefit from increased brand awareness and consumer trust.
- Google likes content
There are clear SEO advantages to regularly publishing authoritative content on your website. Google search responds well to a site that is well-populated with useful information that is regularly updated and quoted elsewhere. Content published offsite can – and should – also attract new visitors.
The benefits of implementing a content marketing strategy are many and it doesn’t have to be something only big-budget companies can afford to do. How are you using content marketing to foster relationships with your customers? What methods have you had the most success with?