Industry figures share their views on the latest issues. If you have an idea for a guest column, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Three in every four British brands are planning on investing more of their marketing budget in content marketing in 2014. But why is this, and what can they see that others can’t? Michael Hewitt, content marketing manager at Stickyeyes, gives 10 reasons why they’ve have got it right.
The Econsultancy Marketing Budgets Report for 2014 revealed some interesting data. Amongst which was the revelation that 74 per cent of brands surveyed would be increasing spend in content marketing activity in 2014 – the single biggest area of increased spend.
This compares to the 70 per cent that answered positively to the same question 12 months ago, with only mobile marketing and lead generation also proving to be a stronger focus this year.
The term “content marketing” has undoubtedly become more prominent, but what are the reasons why it is the big focus for brands in 2014 – and what are the other 25 per cent of brands missing out on?
Here are 10 reasons why brands are investing more in content marketing this year.
1. Google demands content
Let’s get this one out of the way from the off. Google craves quality, relevant content. But Google isn’t the reason for investing content marketing, Google is the effect of investing in content marketing.
If you create remarkable content that gets people talking, search engines will take notice. Google wants its search results to be as useful as possible for users and, if the content you produce is earning recommendations and applause, that is as strong an indication as possible that what you have to offer is meeting the needs of those users.
2. Consumers avoid ads, but actively seek content
Consumers actively seek out content. They use content to increase their knowledge of a subject, measure the credentials of a brand and vindicate their purchasing decision. Particularly in competitive B2C markets, users are looking for content that helps them to make an informed purchasing decision.
Conversely, it has never been easier for those consumers to avoid your advertising messages. Attention spans are small and in a world of DVRs, on-demand media and a world of content merely a click away, the effectiveness of paid media is diminishing by the day.
Content allows brands to engage with consumers in a way that they actively want to be engaged with.
3. Content engages consumers at every stage of the buying process
Content marketing is a long-term strategy that engages users at every stage in the buying process.
Content marketing is much more than simply inbound marketing activity, which is focused on establishing initial brand awareness. Instead, content marketing encompasses inbound marketing and then nurtures leads, converts those leads into sales, ensures that those consumers are retained and facilitates additional sales.
4. You’re no longer relying on publishers. You are the publisher.
Content marketing puts brands in complete control over the content and the prominence of their brand message.
Marketers no longer have to worry about forward features lists, about ensuring that their copy is tailored to the needs of the publisher, whilst at the same time worrying that a major incident is going to know their story to the back pages. The middle man has been cut out of the picture and now, it is the marketers who are in complete control.
5. It is tried, tested and has been around for longer than you think
One of the most irritating things that people involved in content marketing hear is it is “the next big thing”, as if it is some sort of fad that has just burst onto the scene, or the “flavour of the month”, before the next one comes along. Let’s be clear, content marketing has been around for centuries and it will continue to be for many more.
The Furrow, a magazine published by agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere, has been in production since 1895. Five years later, the Michelin Guide was first published – to help the 3,000 motorists in France at that time find shelter and sustenance whilst they waited for their car to be repaired. Today that guide, produced by a company that makes tyres, is regarded around the world as the last word in fine dining.
Content marketing isn’t new. Brands have just changed how they view its effectiveness.
6. Content can make a real difference to your customer service, which builds loyalty
So you’ve closed the sale and turned that lead into a customer; now what?
Content that engages with consumers after they have bought the product is where brands can really earn that most rare of commodities – customer loyalty. It is what turns a one-time purchaser into someone who reads your blog, signs up to your email newsletter and connects with you on social media.
By producing considered copy that helps your customer get the most out of their product or shows them how they can make your service really work for them, you can build loyalty, retain customers and improve upsell rates. If you really get this right, those customers will actually start producing content for you, influencing others on your behalf.
7. That means that increasing the lifetime value of every customer is easier
When a customer is engaged with your content, they’re going to spend more time listening to what you have to say, rather than being dismissive about what they perceive as another “ad” that’s trying to divert their attention.
Brands want to drive more value out of every customer and content, when deployed correctly, is incredibly effective at engaging with those audiences to drive additional value.
8. Content is a fantastic recruitment tool and it’s great for staff morale
Content isn’t something that your customers will consume, it is also something that your prospective employees will judge you on.
As you compete to attract the best talent in your market, your content reflects the personality and ethos of your brand, giving prospective employees a taste of the environment that they could be working in. If your content reflects a brand that is full of happy people who are passionate about what they do, that could prove to be the difference in attracting those sought-after candidates.
Getting your existing staff involved in your content marketing is also great for morale.
It doesn’t matter what level or department they are from – everyone has an idea, a question or an opinion. If you can harness that, you’ll have both a wealth of content ideas and a business culture that encourages people to put those ideas forward. You’ll also find that your employees love seeing their name and their picture in the by-line of a blog.
9. It positions your brand as a market leader – and gets you involved in the debate
Many brands shy away from debate. They are reluctant to stick their head above the parapet, speak out and say something that could be seen, no matter how tenuously, as controversial.
Debate is good. Debate means that people care about your industry, they care about your product and they are willing to dedicate their own valuable time to talk about it. By getting involved in that debate, you’re establishing your brand as one that not only shares that passion, but also one that is prepared to lead the thought and opinion on that subject.
Market leaders speak up, they speak out and they lead the way in their sector. Content is an extremely effective way to reflect and reinforce that position.
10. Content marketing delivers a strong ROI
“That’s all well and good, but we can’t prove the ROI.” We hear that one a lot.
The reality is that you can measure the return on your investment in ROI and, in many cases, it is much stronger than many other channels. A study by Kapost and Eloqua in the US found that over a 24 month period, content marketing was more than three times more effective than paid search.
And this is compared to paid search, a temporary channel that requires constant investment. The effects of content are long-term – your content will stay there for as long as you are prepared to keep the servers running.
Throw the many other benefits into the mix and you have a very compelling argument to take to your CEO.
Do you have a strong opinion on a topical industry issue? To submit a comment piece, please send a short summary of your idea to email@example.com. Views of writers are not necessarily those of The Drum.