An introduction to content marketing and why it matters to you

Paul Boag

Whatever type of business you run marketing is an essential component. But marketing is changing and we need to update our thinking.

Do you run a web design business or are responsible for your organisation’s digital direction? If so there will inevitably be a marketing component to your job.

A freelancer has to build his personal brand and an agency owner needs to keep work coming through the door. Even those running a companies digital presence have to gain more followers and drive more traffic. This all requires a basic understanding of marketing.

You may not like the idea of marketing, but it is a reality. We all must do it and done the right way it doesn’t have to make you feel dirty!

Marketing is changing. Are you?

Marketing has changed because of digital. Unfortunately often our thinking has not adapted. I still see web design business owners taking out Yellow Pages ads or Google ads (their digital counterpart). I see large organisations spending enormous amounts of money on banner advertising campaigns. These are just the online version of a traditional billboard ad.

All these approaches boil down to the same thing. The person who can spend the most money, shouts the loudest and gets the most attention.

But this approach is becoming ineffective. Users are ever more savvy and discover ways to block out the increasing chatter they encounter.

The modern marketeers solution to this problem is something called content marketing. It is a subject you need to pay attention to if you wish to reach your audience. But it is also something that is easy to get wrong.

What is content marketing?

Like so many buzzwords content marketing is vague. But for the purposes of this article it refers to marketing that seeks to engage and provide value to the user.

This article is in itself an example of content marketing. It provides value to you the reader, but exists to prove my credibility in the hopes that you may hire me for my advice.

It seeks to move beyond blatant advertising. It looks to shift into the realms of building a relationship with the potential customer.

This manifests itself as blog posts, social media updates, Youtube videos and the like.

Are you missing the point?

Unfortunately many adopt content marketing channels without embracing the underlying philosophy. They start a blog, create social media channels and produce video content. But the focus is still on promoting their services rather than providing value to the user.

Their blog promotes product features and their videos are just veiled advertisements. Even their social media channels focus on driving traffic rather than helping their audience.

Done right content marketing is far more effective than traditional broadcast approaches. It enables you to build a reputation, prove your capabilities and create real relationships. But to achieve this you must be willing to invest significant time. Unlike traditional marketing you cannot just throw money at the problem. And that is the challenge for many organisations.

Are you willing to pay the price?

Companies are quick to spend money on advertising campaigns but slow to pay for new members of staff. The truth is that to do content marketing right, you need to dedicate significant amounts of time to it. If you’re a freelancer that means carving out a few hours a week. If you are an agency or part of an in-house digital team, it may involve a permanent member of staff.

Take for example my previous role at Headscape. Although we were only 13 members of staff strong at least 70% of my time was dedicated to content marketing. This blog, the podcast, social media and writing for other publications. Not to mention speaking and writing books.

Need help establishing an effective content marketing strategy? Then checkout my consultancy services or sign-up to my digital mentorship program.

Yes the investment is high but the returns are higher. My investment in content marketing ensured a continual revenue stream to Headscape for over 12 years. It enabled us to build an international reputation and win prestigious clients. This is not something that could have been achieved with a few Google ads.

The secret of success

So what is the secret to successful content marketing? As I’ve already said the key is to focus on providing value to your audience. Rarely should you be thinking too much about promoting your product or service.

But beyond that I would suggest one of the most important factors is regularity. If your product or service is only an occasional sale, it is important that the potential customer remembers you when they comes to buy. They need to hear from you often and you must have contacted them recently when they decide to buy.

That means having a blog where you only write every few months is going to do you no good. In fact it is going to damage your business. It looks like you cannot maintain your own website. It also wastes precious time on something that is going to never generate any leads.

If you cannot hire someone dedicated to this role, set aside time every week. Time where you sit down and release something valuable to your followers. Whether it be a blog post, WordPress plug-in or tutorial video. You need to be putting something out every week.

When it comes to social media that needs to be daily. Share snippets of information, useful links and inspiring quotes. Make your audience laugh, educate them and inspire them. Be there so that when they make a purchasing decision you are in the front of their minds.

Finally look to make your content engaging. Engagement is a misunderstood phrase. Making content engaging is not about making it gimmicky or even attention grabbing.

Engagement is about connecting with people. It’s about sincerity and showing that you value their time. It’s about taking interest in them, their problems and their opinions.

At the end of the day people buy from people they like. If they like you they trust you and if they trust you they will hire you. They will only like you if you show a genuine interest in them and in helping them.

When it comes to marketing many are looking for a quick fix solution. I’m not sure such a thing exists or if it ever did. Marketing today is about putting in the hours, being consistent and showing genuine interest. Is that something you are willing to do.