Content marketing – the new normal
Over the past 6-8 years, companies have put aside traditional marketing activities like print, TV, radio and media advertising in favour of producing their own digital content. And many businesses, B2B and B2C, now use content as the basis of their marketing strategy.
However, the rise of content marketing doesn’t mean that we’ve all become experts overnight. In fact, the opposite is true and there’s more to learn than ever. If you’re unsure what the term content marketing means, you’re not alone.
Let me quickly explain…
Content marketing is the practice of creating and sharing relevant, useful content that attracts and engages your target audience. It’s about delivering the content your audience needs, in the places they are likely to be searching for it.
Content is shared online and comes in many different forms; blogs; video; audio; visual content (e.g. infographics); social media posts; e-guides and downloadable resources. Regularly publishing fresh content such as this helps to bring visitors to your website, making them more aware of your company in the process.
In terms of why it works, this is a good way to think about content marketing…
‘Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.’
[Via. Content Marketing Institute]
Basically, content marketing grabs the attention of your audience by appealing to their interests, needs or imagination.
A good example is the Red Bull stunt back in 2012 where Felix Baumgartner completed a record-breaking 39,045m jump from space. This had no direct connect to Red Bull (the drink), but created a spectacle that was watched by millions across the globe. It appealed to their energy-seeking target audience, as well as many others, and became an internet sensation that’s still talked about today.
Now, the discerning among you will be thinking ‘but Red Bull is a consumer brand… We’re here to talk about B2B content marketing!’ and you’d be absolutely right. But, bear with me one second, because here’s the point I’m going to make.
Many consumer brands have to work harder to create original content for their audience than their B2B counterparts. Why? Because, often, we don’t necessarily need their products. Or, if we do need them, there are 100 other similar products also readily available. To be noticed, consumer brands need to be daring and creative. They need to throw a man from space.
For B2B brands, creating engaging content for your target audience is somewhat simpler. We’re talking to people who work as a part of a wider company – people who are part of an industry. These people have a job to do and elements of their job might not always be easy. We can help them find ways of making their jobs easier – through our content.
B2B Content marketing taps into your unique expertise as a business – Expertise that is valuable to your potential customers
While it might not always have the ‘fun factor,’ B2B content can help your prospects do their job better. It can even help them make more money. And this creates a stronger incentive for them to engage with it – there’s something in it for them.
Let’s look at an example.
Sages provide payment solutions for businesses of all sizes. Part of their target audience is new businesses and start-ups who will, at some point, need payments software. However, if you look at much of Sage’s marketing content, it barely even mentions payments solutions.
Instead, Sage created an advice centre (their blog) dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and SME owners with the many questions and challenges associated with starting and running a business. The blogs, videos and ebooks you can find in this advice centre cover everything from business plans and invoicing, to hiring virtual teams and robot workers.
So, how does this help them make sales?
Well, Sage had the valuable realisation that people don’t really care about payment software. It’s a dull, minor detail. A small box to be ticked. What they do care about is starting up a business and all the worries, joys and new experiences that come with this. And this is what Sage’s content taps into.
When a potential customer searches something like ‘business plan template’ or ‘how to raise finance for a start-up,’ they come across Sage, answering their question with useful, free advice. The customer comes to view Sage as helpful and knowledgeable – experts in their field – so, when they eventually do need payments software, who are they likely to turn to?
That right there is the value of B2B content marketing – the affinity it builds. By providing your prospects with no-strings-attached, free advice, you have their attention. More than that, you can win their trust.
What’s the catch?
At this point, you’re probably thinking ‘well that sounds good and all, but how do I produce content? What does my business have to say that’s even worth publishing?!’
But don’t be fooled, because ‘boring’ B2B content is actually easier to produce. This is because the subject matter is simply your expertise; it’s the practical knowledge you live and breathe each day. It doesn’t have to be flashy, or sexy, or ground-breaking. No one has to jump from space. It just has to be useful.
Share your expertise and people will listen
Your business has information that can solve problems for your target audience. Make it accessible to them, and they will find you. It’s really that simple.
The part that you might need to spend some extra time and effort on is creating and preparing the content for your website. This is where a little expertise does come in useful. Your content needs to be professionally written, edited and published. And it needs to be part of a wider strategy that specifies who you’re talking to, and why. In a world of online competitors, slap-dash won’t cut it.
Talking to marketing professionals about your long and short-term goals will give you an idea of what type of content you should be producing, as well as how frequently you should be posting it. They will be able to provide you with some practical advice on getting started with a content strategy and what kind of results to expect.