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We're always thinking, discovering and sharing our knowledge of how to connect with customers in the digital age. Here we share some of those thoughts.

Is Content Marketing the Missing Piece to Your Marketing Puzzle?

Is Content Marketing the Missing Piece to Your Marketing Puzzle?

With so many businesses creating original content, can content marketing really be that effective for yours? The answer, of course, is yes. By adding a solid content marketing strategy to your marketing mix, you can reach your best audience and engage them with information they want and find helpful.

Not convinced? Here's a look at how content marketing works, and how you can make it work for you.

What Is Content Marketing?

Before we dive into how it works, let's start by defining what it is we are talking about. More than just blogging, content marketing is the creation of new and unique materials such as videos, articles, social media updates and blogs that are not designed to directly promote a brand or product. Instead, these materials are intended to drum up excitement, interest and engagement of your audience or to educate them about how products and services will make life better — all without a direct sales pitch.

The purpose of content marketing is to deliver information that consumers want rather than telling them what you think they should buy. People want to be entertained, learn new things, make their jobs easier, impress the board of directors and trust the companies with which they do business. This is a tall order for a commercial or banner ad, but not too tall for a long-term content marketing strategy.

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What Content Marketing Can and Can't Do

Of course, content marketing is no magic bullet, and it will not deliver results on its own. To find success, you must have the full support of your sales and marketing team along with a well-planned strategy. Simply dropping a weekly blog post or sharing cool videos on your Facebook page won't drive in customers. Instead, you must define your audience, identify measurable goals and check in often to see if your strategy needs tweaking along the way.

Here's what content marketing can do:

  • Turbo Charge Your SEO. Search Engine Optimization depends on a healthy amount of content to deliver the keywords, links, backlinks and consistent updates to get your name to the top of the search engine results. Content marketing meets all of those demands.
  • Make Emotional Connections. When you create quality content that is meant to connect with people, you'll have the opportunity to make an emotional connection that lasts. Emotional connections build trust, create interest and inspire action.
  • Make You an Industry Leader. When you consistently deliver entertaining, useful and engaging content, you will start to establish yourself as a leader in the industry — someone people can turn to when they need help. That might not get you a sale today, but it will keep you at the top of the list for when you are needed.
  • Gently Lead to Sales. If content didn't, nobody would use it. One bit of content might not directly produce a sale, but a trail of content designed to hook a customer, build trust, provide value and open the door to the showroom will generate real dollars.

Why Content Marketing Requires Long-term Planning to Be Effective

Content marketing cannot be a magic bullet because bullets work fast. Content marketing takes time and it takes a long-term strategy to be effective. This can be a little unsettling for marketers who are used to seeing a spike in sales following an email blast or an ad campaign. However, the long-term results of a content marketing strategy will produce better results in the long run.

Consider that the average internet user is shown more than 1,700 banner ads every month, but only half of them are ever viewed. Only one in a thousand ads gets a click. Also consider that only 31 percent of ad responses are clicks. The rest are brand searches, direct website visits and researching for more information — all of which require content to keep the customer on the line.

When content is not backing up your other marketing methods and is standing on its own, the path to a sale is a process, not an event. Your target market must first discover the content and find it valuable. They must build trust for your brand, products and services and have enough interest to keep reading and researching. They must not become disengaged and move along before making a purchase.

Is one sale the reward for this investment of time and resources? Of course not. The reward is the Holy Grail of content marketing: The Brand Advocate. Someone who has walked the path you set down and wants their friends, associates, coworkers and family to know about it so they, also, share your content. Then, your entire content marketing strategy beings to bloom. Luckily, content has a very long shelf life so it will be there for you whenever the next consumer comes along.

Why You Still Need Content Marketing as Part of Your Marketing Strategy

Without the consumer we have nothing, and a successful content marketing strategy revolves entirely around your current and potential consumers. That's why it works.

People are the happiest and most engaged when they are thinking and talking about themselves. They want to read articles and blogs that talk about their lives and problems, watch videos that demonstrate real solutions and look at photos that tug at the heartstrings. And when people are ready to talk, they want to begin the sentence with "I."

Think of it like a cocktail party. Your guests will be polite and enjoy a quick tour of your home and listen to you describe the features of your bathroom renovation, but they'll be a little more sincere when you ask them about that new job or an upcoming vacation. Your kitchen may be lovely, but your guests will be truly engaged when you show them what's on the buffet or offer to mix a drink. Everyone may be friendly, but the two dads with four-year-old boys will probably hit it off because they can each talk about their mini-tornadoes at home. When you focus on the needs of your guests, your parties will gain a reputation for being welcoming, fun and worthy of the attendance of others.

Bringing It all Together

In short, your content is what's on the buffet. It's the handmade drink. It's the guy at the party who shares the same frustrations. Don't bore your party guests right away with a detailed tour and list of all the things in your home; make them feel welcome by giving them what they want and only give the tour if someone seems interested. Don't bore your website visitors right away with a long video of a factory tour and a lengthy interview with the founder.

Instead, engage your website visitors and social media followers by answering their most important question: "What's in it for me?" Use your content to show you can not only identify with their problems but also that you can solve them. Use content to build trust and show people why your company is better than the competition. Let content give people a quick break with something entertaining and engaging or informative and educational. When you hit all the right content marketing notes, your readers and viewers will help build your reputation as a welcoming business that's worthy of the attention (and spending) of others.

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