Gone are the days that advertising is a one-sided conversation. And also gone are the days that a brand could be all take and no give. These days people are looking for a more mutually beneficial relationship.

“You want my money? Give me something in return.”

Fair enough, really. There are gazillions of websites out there, with almost as many businesses competing for customers’ attention. Unless your product or service is something unique in nature and impossible to replicate, you’re going need something to help set you apart. And part of that could be some quality content marketing.

Well, what is it?

It’s simple, really. You know how your local mechanic can give you a few handy pointers or answer a question about your next oil change? Well now that businesses are online they need to be able to replicate that in the digital space. Content marketing is the creation and/or curating of valuable content for your customers, be it through blog articles, video or social media channels. It’s marketing without the hard sell. It’s ongoing and takes time. But it can really pay off and build remarkable customer loyalty.

Another benefit is that every quality, fresh piece of content you add to your site should help your search engine rankings. Oh, and if it’s really good people will share it, which helps your SEO even more and could bring in extra customers.

Well, hang on just a gosh-darn minute, I hear you say. I am a mechanic/baker/candlestick maker, and I don’t need any digital content. I can answer peoples’ questions when they call me.

Where’s the first place most people go with a question these days? Le Google, of course. And if your organisation’s website has information pertaining to that question, then they may visit it, and you will have a great lead-in to that person’s potential business. You could attract new customers as well as your existing ones. They’re more likely to trust your expertise, and are probably more likely to give you their money, too.

Some of the biggest and best brands in the world invest millions into content marketing; from providing how-to guides, to backstories of their products, to silly memes that people can laugh at while they’re enjoying their coffees.

Here are the four fundamental things to remember when planning and creating content:

#1. If it’s not useful and/or interesting to your audience, it’s not good content.

Would you walk up to a customer and start spamming them with sales messages? Probably not, because they would run for the hills. So make sure the content you post is useful and interesting to your audience. You want to become a tool that your customers will want to use over and over.
If you run a health food store, give them some awesome recipes. If you’re in real estate, try breaking down some of the terminology into everyday language. If you sell dog food, post some adorable puppy photos. Simple!


#2. Your customers are human.

A little while ago a client was hesitant to post instructional videos, because the person talking to camera wasn’t word-perfect. That’s actually OK! If they have a personality then they’re probably a lot more interesting than most of the instructional videos out there. Your content can have a bit of attitude and even a bit of humour if it suits your brand personality. Make it something worth sharing.

I find that this great comic by The Oatmeal sums this point up perfectly.

#3. You don’t need to create all that content yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have three hours every day to post a beautifully edited, well-researched post; after all, you have your business to run.

Content marketing is all about creating and/or curating quality information for your audience. If you can create a destination where customers can find useful external links to help answer their questions, that’s still helpful. You could even set up a forum or a competition and let the customers add their own content. One tweet a day (or even every two or three days) will still keep the conversation going and show off your knowledge. Do whatever you can afford to.

#4. Don’t give up.

It’s easy to think that no one is reading your content, and that there’s no point in continuing. Like anything worth doing, content marketing requires time, hard work and patience. Allocate a little time each week to it and you’ll soon build up a worthwhile knowledge base. If you have access to your Google Analytics, check out who’s looking at your content and what’s most popular, and build on that. If you would like some help creating strategies or great content for your organisation, feel free to get in touch.

There are other factors that matter with content marketing, such as Google Authorship and keywords, and I’ll elaborate on them in future posts.

So go on, start sharing your knowledge, and you might just find it pays off!

Image © Christine Bairstow Photography