Our Senior Content Writer Michelle Miron wrote this post with the perspective that comes from being a longtime Brandpoint contributor. She shares our philosophy on how we create our MAT releases and marketing content and how this tactic fits into an overall marketing strategy.
If you’re relatively new to content marketing and finding yourself baffled by some of its key strategies, you’re far from alone.
At Brandpoint, it’s not uncommon for clients to initially question recommendations that don’t seem to directly promote their companies or products. “Why am I paying for marketing that barely even mentions me?” you may wonder. “What’s with this blog that reads more like a news article than a promo? And why oh why are you quoting anyone besides our corporate experts?”
We get it. Content marketing may be entirely different from the marketing vehicles you’ve used before. Bottom line? That’s a good thing.
The (sometimes) hidden strategy behind content marketing
Because it avoids shameless self-promotion and provides real, objective news and information readers can use, content marketing is worlds away from the constant claptrap of commercial messaging that tends to annoy today’s beleaguered consumers.
Rather than clobbering them over the head with self-serving ads and begging them to buy, content marketing programs offer copy and images aimed at helping people in their own endeavors. And because the promotional messaging is subtly blended in or withheld til the end, the consumer often comes to view the vendor as a credible and trustworthy source of information.
The system works. Dollar-for-dollar, content marketing reels in three times the leads of paid search, generates more than three times the lead of outbound marketing and produces six times the conversion rates of other marketing methods, reports the Content Marketing Institute.
“Content marketing has been moving at the speed of light in recent years,” writes Julia McCoy on the institute’s website. “Consumers are fed up with in-your-face advertising and sales tactics that feel cheap, slimy or underhanded. Instead, they’re attracted to authenticity, transparency and friendliness in a brand. Hence, the fundamentals behind content marketing — relationship-building, focusing on the customer versus the brand — were born in response.”
Remember your worst date ever?
Put another way, a marketing promotion is kind of like a first date. If all you do is rattle on about how wonderful you are without discussing topics of interest to your companion, you probably won’t get a second date. That’s because consumers today simply don’t have the time, energy or emotion to waste on anything (or anyone) they view as irrelevant. For example, how many of us want to hear more after being exposed to this cringe-worthy ad?
Conversely, well-conceived content marketing is helpful and informative instead of in-your-face pushy. “(It’s) the only part of a marketing strategy that’s solely about customers’ own pain points, questions and needs instead of what companies want to publicize about their products and services,” explains Heike Young on Medium.com. “Customers actually love content marketing when done right.”
Working the system on your behalf
So what can you expect to see with a well-thought-out, highly personalized content marketing plan? Here are some strategies you can expect Brandpoint to follow.
We will recommend a variety of topics based on your objectives
Depending on your brand and your industry, some subjects we advise for your whitepapers, e-books, blogs, social media posts and email campaigns may directly mention and promote your products. Other pieces will discuss issues, tips, news and trends that will be highly relevant to your target audience but won’t acknowledge your brand until the end. The idea is to make clear to readers who you are — and how they can follow up with your company — without making that the primary focus of the article.
“The common thread for product-centric content is that the information consumers are choosing to spend their time with is ultimately more enjoyable and or useful than promotional,” explains Adam Weinroth in Martech Advisor.
As such, one of your blogs may read like this first one, which explains the benefits of a key feature of accounting software. Another may read like the second one, offering helpful tips to beleaguered accountants while only subtly mentioning the product.
We may mention facts that don’t directly favor your brand or industry
Gaining the trust of your audience may call for admitting outright that everything isn’t always rainbows and unicorns in your corner of the world. When you acknowledge issues, you boost your transparency and make your company seem more human while positioning yourself on the side of those trying to offer solutions. For example, a smartphone company might run a piece on the astronomical amount of time teens spend on their phones, then offer 10 tips for countering some of the effects. A retailer might acknowledge the national rate of holiday gift returns, then follow up with 10 tips for making such returns easier.
In this blog series for a company that cares for people with disabilities, for example, employees freely discuss the challenges of their work. But they also share how they overcome those challenges and focus on the rewards to create meaningful careers for themselves.
We may include live links to other information sources
You may notice select facts and quotes cited within your blog are backlinked so readers can easily find the sources. Why would we encourage readers to check out other websites? One reason is that your willingness to share relevant facts with readers through other sources boosts your credibility as an objective information source — not just a sideshow barker. The other is that incorporating authoritative links into your content improves its SEO value by showing Google it’s valuable content — not spam.
We may quote sources from outside your organization
For similar reasons, we may include quotes from authoritative sources that lend credibility to the points we’re making in a given piece, especially if the statements are particularly well phrased. That adds SEO value and proves the piece isn’t based only on the opinions of your PR department. In this example, a nationwide photography business effectively uses quotes from other industry experts to support key points in the article.
We may mention your competitors
Some clients are flummoxed when we suggest occasionally mentioning competitors in their content. In fact, that can be an important strategic move. In niche markets that lack a broad range of research, competitors can be a vital source of the data you need to back up your claims. And showing readers you’re unconcerned about mentioning competitors boosts your transparency and positions you as an objective informative source that’s working hard to present key facts to consumers.
We will recommend a variety of different “calls to action”
Best practices call for not asking readers to buy in every piece of content. To reinforce that idea that you’re not all about pushing your product, some conclusions should request that the reader check out your website, download another piece of content, sign up for your social media sites, send feedback or take some other action that doesn’t necessarily involve their wallets. Instead of directly promoting our services, for example, this Brandpoint blog issues a friendly invitation to readers to stop by our booth at an upcoming event.
We will build in key words aimed at boosting SEO
You may occasionally notice that the words we use to explain different concepts in your content aren’t always the obvious choices. That’s because we’ve done our homework to determine what phrases entered by consumers into search engines are most likely to get your content noticed. If we can smoothly replace words in your content with those search words without changing the meaning of your copy, we’ll do so on your behalf — particularly in headlines and subheads. This blog from building contractor Titus smoothly incorporates several key phrases historically used by those searching online for information, including “window replacement” and “best windows for Minnesota climate.”
We may recycle your old content
If you’ve posted a piece of content in the past and it was well-read, we’d consider it somewhat wasteful not to update the copy, the search words and the formatting and run it again sometime in the future. “Quality content truly has no expiration date if it’s aligned with consumer interests,” notes Weinroth. Here’s an example of an older blog that was refreshed and SEO-optimized (with updated keywords, headers and formatting) to have even greater impact when it was republished.
Ready to dive in?
In conclusion, content marketing may be unlike the marketing methods you’ve used before. At some point it may even seem counter-intuitive to everything you thought you knew about marketing practices. Nevertheless, effective content marketing is a tried-and-true method of breaking through the indifference of the modern consumer and creating true trust and engagement with your audiences.
“Content marketing is important, not just because it works for building trust, generating leads, and cultivating customer loyalty, but because it has become the new normal from the consumer side,” advises Michael Brenner of Marketing Insider Group. “Through offering value and meaning, and through giving people an entire ecosystem to tap into for information, guidance and human connection, content marketing has formed a bridge that consumers want to walk across in order to connect with the brands they like.”