Ask a hundred business owners whether they think having an online presence is important for your marketing strategy, and you’ll get a hundred identical replies saying yes. But ask those same people how you should present yourself online, and the answer becomes a bit more complicated. Some will say that the most important thing is to keep your company website running and up to date, while others will sing praises for placing banner adverts around the web to bring in more traffic.
While these ideas definitely help, there’s one other thing you can do to grow your business to something far bigger than it is today – something that can cover a range of platforms and remains relevant at every stage of the buying process, from that initial spark of interest to the moment the customer’s cursor hovers over the ‘pay now’ button. If you read the title of this blog, then you might have deduced that the secret ingredient for a successful business is content marketing.
What is content marketing, and why is it important?
Content marketing involves creating and posting content of any kind with the intention of attracting potential customers to your business. While we’ll get into the different types of content later, there are a few universal benefits that every form of content marketing provides.
Firstly, content marketing improves your business’s SEO. Search engines consider a range of different factors when they decide what to recommend to the user, and quite a few of them are improved by including content on your website. Pages containing multiple links, relevant keywords to user searches, and frequent website updates are all factors that make it more likely for your business to appear near the front pages of a google search. As a side note, increasing the amount of total pages also increases the probability of developing more organic backlinks to your website from elsewhere, thus upping brand visibility.
One of the great things about content marketing is that it gives you more opportunities to promote your business to the people you know are already interested in what you do. When a customer discovers your content, it will be from either having already landed on your website, or from making a related query that naturally seeks out your content like a YouTube search. Unlike your typical ads, content is designed in a way that doesn’t just increase general brand awareness, but places your business in front of the people that are most likely to become potential customers, and even allows you to show off your credibility/expertise in your industry while they’re there. What could be more convenient?
Another advantage of content marketing is that as an inbound marketing method, it appears more natural to the consumer than traditional outbound marketing advertising methods. For those that aren’t already aware of the difference, inbound marketing refers to creating valuable, specialised content that is tailored to solve the problems of a particular audience, while outbound marketing employs a more broad sweep approach designed to appeal to many different people in a wider audience through force of numbers.
The reason why this distinction is so important is that most people don’t like knowing that a company is trying to sell them a product, which typically becomes obvious when observing the corporate style of television or billboard ads that frequent day to day life. On the other hand, content marketing allows business to choose a brand voice and presentation style that’s more in line with their target audience, and because the customer themselves is generally the one seeking out the content, this type of marketing avoids feeling performative.
The types of content and their uses
Now we know why content marketing is important, the next step is choosing the type of content best suited to your marketing needs. Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to evaluate things like subject matter, target audience, industry and available resources to ensure you pick the right one. Let’s look at a few examples.
While blogs used to be more of a personal journal, many businesses have taken to using this informal style of communication to connect with their audience and grow their brand.
There are a few instances where blogs are recommended. For one, they’re great as establishing your business as an authority in your industry, making you an obvious choice for readers who suffer from the problems you discuss. A lot of blogs are made with the intention of answering a specific question, which makes for great SEO as they’ll naturally show up as the first results for queries entered into a search engine.
They can also shine in comparing different solutions for a specific problem against each other, or even just informing your audience about something you’re more knowledgeable on. Some people choose to return to the blog’s roots and talk about their own successes or failures, and framed in a way where readers can learn something from your experiences, this style can work remarkably well, giving your business a more human touch.
One thing that sets podcasts apart from any other type of content is that they can be consumed at the user’s convenience, even when the listener is multitasking or on the go. They can be very long, sometimes running for a few hours or more. Because of this, they’re perfect for discussing broad ideas or difficult topics that would otherwise be impossible for the average person to digest. Then you have the added perspective of multiple people sharing their view on the same subject, which can be very useful if the focus of the podcast hasn’t been completely figured out yet and is open to theorycrafting. Add in the opportunity for everyone to tell personal anecdotes, and podcasts can be a fascinating combination of free flowing conversation and debate.
Be wary however, that not everyone has the time to consume a regular lengthy podcast, and being an interesting and engaging host is sometimes more important than the actual knowledge you bring to the table. Because they take so much planning, podcasts aren’t recommended for discussing temporary trends either, as many people tend to discover and listen to old podcasts years after they’ve been released.
Yet podcasts can still be very successful if done well. They are especially useful for personal brands, because of how intimate of a relationship they create between content creator and audience. As your audience continues to listen to a podcast series, you’ll have more time to introduce yourself as more than just a business owner, and your personality and quirks can really shine through in a way that other more structured forms of content struggle to achieve.
Combining the power of visuals and audio is an excellent way to quickly grab your customers attention and achieve what other content forms cannot. In particular, videos are great for teaching your audience about anything that is difficult for them to visualise. You could, for example, combine a live demonstration or animation with an easy to understand narrative that walks the viewer through what’s happening on screen, while explaining new terms with real life examples they’ll already be familiar with. Just think of the sheer volume of how-to videos on youtube as a testament to their usefulness.
Another great use for videos is using them for product reviews or demonstrations. It’s one thing to be told how good something is, but seeing it for yourself is a whole lot more convincing, and videos can include a real person to endorse the product themselves. Compared to reading some company advertisements in text, video endorsements are infinitely more trustworthy.
Much like podcasts though, the best videos require an engaging personality, and video editing can be quite tricky if you’re learning from scratch.
There are many different types of graphics that can be used to increase visual appeal. Infographics, for example, use different types of graphs or tables to make important information look better and be easier to digest, while enhancing the impact of what they show at a glance. Think of something like a bar graph to present different numbers, or a flowchart or a step by step process that can take a few different turns.
Other graphics can be used to enhance storytelling or tie a specific emotion to existing content. The only limit for the potential of graphics is your creativity; that, and your mastery over programs like Canva or Photoshop.
A lead magnet is something of value that is given away in return for the customer’s contact information (most commonly, an email address). The lead magnet itself can be a variety of things. Maybe it’s an e-book empathising with your audience on a common pain point in your industry, or a design template that can be adapted to fit your clients needs.
While it feels odd to let your hard work go without asking for the full compensation it deserves, lead magnets are a long-term strategy, not a short one. Free resources lure in customers that otherwise would have forgotten about your business, and when your freebie turns out to be useful, why would your customer turn to anyone else with their problems when you’ve already proven to them that you’re both generous and knowledgeable?
Plus, lead magnets secure the most important thing of all – the user’s contact information. With an email address comes countless opportunities to advertise your business’s latest developments as and when they’re released, and to people that have already expressed interest in your business, no less. If you can afford to do without the initial gain, lead magnets are a perfect tool for future growth.
Email marketing is typically designed to appeal to as much of your target audience as possible, and they inform recipients about new products, discounts and services. Because of how wide reaching email marketing is and how little investment it requires, it’s extremely cost effective, and is perfect for informing customers of your business’s new developments as and when they come out.
For email marketing to be effective, you’ll need to have generated a significant email list through other means to reach a significant amount of people. Once this audience is built, email marketing is incredibly efficient, but building up that audience still takes a significant investment.
Online courses are engaging for a few reasons. Not only do they allow students to learn on a schedule that suits them, they provide a relaxed and laid back environment for students to have their questions answered, on top of improving the learning process with interactive content and a variety of presentation methods. Once made, an online course will generate passive income, and can help form a community for both present and past students to stay in touch with your business.
Creating an online course can be long and draining though, requiring a whole host of different resources and skills to pull off effectively. Plus, it’ll be hard to convince customers to purchase your course if someone else is offering to address your topic for free, so finding a gap in the market is essential to get a worthwhile return on investment.
Given that over half of the global population uses at least one form of social media, mastering said space is important for any aspiring business. While social media can simply be used to promote any of the aforementioned types of content to a wider audience, it’s also a platform that has its own strength in content creation. For example, photo collections tend to perform incredibly well on social medias like Instagram and Facebook, and posts on these websites allow you and other businesses or influencers to tag each other in posts about collaborative content. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship where you’re both advertising one another within your respective audiences. Reels are also very popular on social media that frequently feature videos like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, as the short and snappy style of content is both easy for content creators to make and easy for users to digest.
Social media is great for increasing brand awareness in other ways too. As well as tagging other users, some social media sites like Twitter let users add additional tags (or in Twitter’s case, hashtags) to their posts that makes their content visible to users searching for that specific tag. Combined with the fact that social media allows for organic conversation to bloom – either between brand and customer or two customers/leads discussing your business – it becomes clear that social media is an essential part of any content creator’s campaign.
Content strategy: general preparation and specific tips
Though it may be tempting to jump headfirst into the production process and get those creative juices flowing, it’s a good idea to do some preparation before you put pen to paper. Taking the necessary steps to ensure your work is heading in the right direction will save a lot of time and effort in the long run, and although some of the planning stage will change depending on the type of content you’re creating, there are a few techniques that are helpful for most forms of content.
The first thing you should do is define your target audience. There are multiple ways to do this, whether it be creating customer personas for your ideal client, sending out questionnaires in the form of customer surveys, or analysing past consumer data to better understand the demographic of your existing audience. Having a picture of your target audience in mind is important because you’ll want to shape your content so that it appeals to the people who are most likely to be interested in what you’re selling. It also helps to decide what type of content you’ll create and where you’ll post it, as certain populations will be more likely to consume a specific type of media or frequent specific websites.
To further extend the importance of the first point, the best content will change its viewpoint to match that of the viewer they hope to develop into a lead. When you’re addressing pain points, you’re looking through the eyes of your audience. When you explain the solutions your brand provides, it’s not to show how great you are, but what you have to offer the viewer – that’s not to say you never want to speak to your good points, but it’s important to remember that there’s a time and place for boasting, and that’s usually once your customer knows they’re in the right place to solve their needs. Until then, content marketing serves as a way to give the customer something they didn’t have before, whether it be information, resources, or anything else they might need. If the content you’re making is worthwhile, then your viewers won’t need to be begged to do business with you. Sometimes it’s best to trust that they can make the right choice for themselves.
Finally, if you find yourself stuck for ideas, there’s no harm in checking out the competition. You still shouldn’t copy somebody else’s ideas, because even if there was no danger of copyright infringement, that gap in the market has already been filled. What you can do, however, is observe whether there are certain trends in your industry that multiple businesses have agreed work well. What kind of voice does your competition use? What do they include in their content? How is it structured, and what platform do they use? These kinds of questions should give you a little helping hand in deciding what will work for your brand.
Once the planning is complete, it’s time to move on to the specifics of your content. Here are a few tips for all the different forms of content mentioned above, split into written, audio, and video content.
Written content (blogs, email marketing, lead magnets):
When in doubt, it’s best to keep things simple. Your content copy should be able to appeal to your least informed reader without making them look up definitions for a dozen words on the side, but it should still make any assumed knowledge known from the beginning. Plus, while we like to think that our audience is hanging off of our every word, the reality is that many people will skim read your emails and breeze past the carefully written prose you spent so long putting together. Unlike when writing a creative novel, a good marketer knows the importance of keeping to the point and using fewer words to say more.
Continuing along this line, formatting for written content is just as important as the content itself. Headings, subheadings, bullet points and frequent paragraph breaks make even the most complicated copy much easier on the eyes, and it’s significantly easier for your reader to track back for a specific point when they need a little recap. Not to mention that clear formatting makes editing your own content easier too. Also, don’t forget to use an active voice wherever possible, especially when making a call to action for your audience. Putting subject matter doing the action makes your messaging sound more powerful and direct.
The last thing to keep in mind is that your brand voice should stay consistent wherever possible. Your brand voice informs choices like the kind of vocabulary you use and the tone your writing takes, and will likely depend on your subject matter and the personality of your business. To avoid going too far either way, a good exercise would be to write down an adjective that describes what you want your brand voice to be like, followed by another adjective for a negative trait that comes from using your first adjective in excess. For example, you might want to sound confident in yourself, but avoid coming off as arrogant. Consistency will keep your messaging on track and work towards creating a recognisable business personality.
Audio content (podcasts, talk shows, debates):
Because audio content is typically quite long and not as rigidly structured as other forms of content, it’s more likely that there will be improvised sections in the finished product. For podcasts especially, being able to discern when to follow the flow of a conversation and when to track back to the original topic is an important skill to have. Tangents and new ideas are great, but if they don’t relate to the original title, then your listeners are going to be confused.
Another related point is to let your guests or other hosts talk, and show enthusiasm when you listen to them. It can be tempting as the host of an audio program to strongarm the conversation into what you think your listeners will want to hear or things that will make you look good, but constantly reading off interview questions without giving the discussion room to breathe and letting it bloom organically will come off more awkward than anything else, and might even make you seem self-absorbed or unlikeable. If you’ve chosen your guests well, you should be happy to hear them talk about something they think is interesting, as that’s what will make your content unique.
Lastly comes the cliche advice – be yourself. While the above points are a good jumping off point for beginners, everyone has a different style, and that’s something to be celebrated. Really. Maybe you like to take frequent breaks from the discussion to crack jokes and make your audience laugh. Maybe you prefer a more serious approach and to give yourself some space to really deep dive into the minute details. Maybe you don’t know what you like, and just want to give everything a try until you find something that works. There is no secret formula for successful content, so there’s no reason to pretend to be something you're not for the sake of sales when there’s no guarantee that fake persona will even be popular.
Video content (videos, online courses, lead magnets):
If you’ve settled on using video content for your brand, get ready for a hefty up front investment. Unless you're operating within a tiny niche, chances are your competition is adhering to an extremely high standard in terms of video and audio quality. This isn’t to say you need state of the art equipment to upload a single YouTube video, but things like low framerate or poor sound balancing are simply unacceptable this far into the digital age. If your videos don’t look or sound good, then what does that tell your audience about your products?
Once you have that initial investment, try to be flexible with your video content. There’s so many different things you can do to switch things up compared to other forms of content. Use a close facial shot for an important or emotional topic, and then minimise your webcam to a small corner while you narrate a live demonstration. Transition to an animation for a story with characters and environments to exemplify your teachings in a realistic scenario, or grab a bunch of props to insert a comedy skit. The best videos will use a range of different styles to truly capture their audience and appeal to their logical, ethical and emotional side at different parts of the video.
We’ve gone through the definition of content marketing, the many reasons it’s important for the success of your business, the different types of content and the best ways to prepare and structure your content. The only thing that’s left is for you to get out there and start making the content your brand deserves.
If the idea of an online course caught your eye, why not check out our blog on how to successfully launch an online course in three phases? Or maybe you’d prefer some more personalised advice on creating the perfect content for your brand, in which case, book a call with Loved Brands today and we’ll take your business to the next level!