Content marketing is about putting your customer, not yourselves, at the heart of your marketing communications strategy and integrating this editorialised approach across all your marketing communications. This means that you need to have a content strategy that will help you create compelling stories that your customers will be interested in.
A simplistic example would be that if you are a bank selling mortgages then your current approach to content will revolve around how clear and compelling the sales message is around your existing products. However, if you were to take a customer-centric content marketing approach, you would seek to understand what you and your target audience have in common that your target audience might like to read about or watch; one obvious example might be property (instead of mortgages). So rather than broadcasting at your target audience about how wonderful your latest mortgage products are, what you could be talking about is planning law, how to choose a good builder, what sort of insulation is best for a 1970s property and so on and so forth. This is because a content marketing strategy that provides genuinely useful content for that property buyer and, for the long-term, property owner is likely to lead to a fruitful engagement and relationship which will see brand loyalty and customer insight increase, and opportunities to sell, retain, and cross-sell dramatically increase.
It may or may not be obvious for you to see how that could apply to your brand and your audience. However, whether you are a B2C or B2B company, the opportunity to create and tell a compelling and engaging story always exists.
Types of content marketing
However, when it comes to defining content marketing it has to be said that it is a very loose school of thought. To be honest, what does or does not constitute content marketing is defined more about your company, what you do as a company and what your budget and resources are than anything else. Here are a few examples but note, this is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list of content marketing options:
Websites are, of course, the natural vehicles for content marketing programmes. After all, your existing website already acts as a sales channel whether as an eCommerce site or simply to promote your products or services. Many brands have developed standalone content hubs to facilitate their content marketing activities. These content ‘hubs’ act as a destination for promotional activity to send the target audience to and are a means of sustaining the engagement. This is regardless as to whether they are incorporated technically into the main site or built as a separate microsite attached to the main site or even as an entirely standalone website. We could list many examples of these from B2C and B2B companies (Red Bull, American Express, etc.) but perhaps the easiest reference point is the website you are already on. After all, our Intelligence Hub, where the article you are reading resides, is our own content marketing platform.
Of course there is absolutely no reason that a content hub could not actually be an app after all, the publishing industry has been delivering their content through apps for several years now. There are not that many examples of companies doing this to point to but it is only a matter of time before these become more prolific. Equally, if an ordinary website is mobile optimised, like this one is, then in essence you are fulfilling the same capability as an app in any case.
A big reason that content marketing has taken off is to fuel companies’ own social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and so on. It is pretty much universally accepted now that the only way to successfully run a social media channel is to use content marketing. Talking only about your company, products and services is highly unlikely to appeal to your target audience – not that this is stopping some companies from continuing to do this! Content marketing provides an approach for creating social media content that your audience will want to engage with. Of course, as many brands have found to their peril, if you stray too far from your brand essence then expect a backlash.
Video is a major form of content marketing that is only going to get more and more important as time goes on. We have written an entire chapter about the importance of video within our book for that very reason.
When it comes to video, Youtube is the tour de force. Many brands are enjoying considerable success through their Youtube channels and investing significantly in the platform. All of this falls under the banner of content marketing.
Magazines and newsletters
A bit old-school perhaps but still incredibly effective – the look of delight every time my six-year-old receives his free Lego magazine through the post says it all! Magazines and newsletters are arguably the oldest forms of content marketing that exist and many have caught up with the digital age to ensure they remain as effective as ever at engaging the target audience and, when done well, attracting them to your website.
Time to move on beyond the obvious forms of content marketing to areas that are often overlooked. E-mails and DM can be just as effective forms of content marketing but are often ignored. Typically such channels are used only for sales promotions and this is a massive oversight on behalf of modern marketers. They should be considered an engagement tool that can drive the target audience to your main content marketing vehicle – such as your website hub.
Finally a form of content marketing that few even consider: your contact centres. At the end of the day, whatever scripts your contact centre agents work to, they should not be restricted to sales and retention for example. Why not have your contact centre talking about the same subjects as your wider content marketing strategy? For example, if you are offering mortgages as a product then why not have your contact centre team let people know that you have a content hub or app that can help them with their move? From an expense point of view it will almost certainly be a step too far to have a contact centre that provides the same sort of information that you would provide through a content hub but your contact centre agents can certainly promote it and engage people about its existence.
We reference this not because any brand is doing this now but to show that content marketing is a fresh and evolving space. What brands are doing today with content marketing does not reflect the limits of possibilities by any means.