Content marketing rocks, and it's official. Oglivy is calling 2013 the year of content marketing, Forbes say its "the next digital marketing revolution," and Econsultancy's latest research reports that 90 percent of in-house marketers think that content marketing will become more important this year.
Our own research shows it's popular with buyers too. The Valuable Content Online Habits of UK Business People survey showed 92 percent of people had bought products as a result of online research, compared to just 1 percent who'd made a purchase through a telemarketing call.
So it's popular with marketers and with buyers. Everyone's happy. Right?
Yes, up to a point. But there's a danger that in the stampede to join the content marketing gold rush, the quality slips. Buyers are looking for content, that much is true, but not just any old content. Only the valuable stuff will get picked up and acted upon. So how do you make yours pay?
1. Know your clients. Sounds obvious but it's the No. 1 reason we see for content that doesn't hit the mark. Clients are looking for answers to questions. They care about themselves and their problems, not you and your products. If you produce content that reads like a sales pitch, they'll skip it and keep looking for the piece of content that shows it understands and talks to them. Make your clients and prospects the stars of your content, not you.
2. Don't be dull. I'm busy, you're busy, we're all busy. If you want to grab attention and keep hold of it, your content can't be boring. You've got a split second for a potential buyer to decide whether your content is worth spending precious time on, so think strong headlines, eye catching visuals and design that makes it blindingly obvious that you have the answers they're searching for. Remember, too, that entertaining content gets shared on social networks, so there's a commercial benefit in making them smile.
3. Add a call to action. Content marketing works because its focus is on helping, and not selling, and that makes buyers happy. But you're not just doing it out of the kindness of your heart, you're doing it for a reason-to build trust in your business, to build a community around what you do, to increase sales. It's important to state your purpose-don't forget to include the action you want your reader to take. Whether it's "sign up for our newsletter" or "call me," make sure your call to action is clear and inviting.
4. Commit to quality. Poorly produced content won't do you or your business any good. When we talk about quality we mean well-written copy, intuitive design, high production values. High quality doesn't have to mean expensive, but it does have to mean thoughtful and relevant.
5. Keep it up. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint; you have to keep producing the valuable stuff if you want to be successful. Search engines love new relevant content, so the more carefully targeted and helpful your content it, the higher you'll rank, and the more people will find it, and like you, and share it, so you'll rank even higher. It's a powerful cycle, but you won't be part of it if you can only manage the occasional blog. Outline your goals, put together a content marketing plan for the year and stick at it for the long term.
Sharon Tanton is the creative director of Valuable Content, a Bristol, UK-based content marketing agency and co-author of "Valuable Content Marketing: How to Make Quality Content the Key to Your Business Success" Find her on Twitter @sjtanton.