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Content Marketing Basics

A crash course in content marketing

Content marketing may seem like a buzz term to some, but companies around the world have been making the most of good content for decades now. As the focus of business has shifted online, it’s become easier than ever to benefit from producing good content.

 

Many business owners are still wary of the internet and prefer to stick to traditional – or outbound – marketing techniques. Combining the two methods, however, can have even better results for a business.

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing is the traditional way of doing things, and can generally be seen as an interruptive practise. It reaches out to potential customers (whether that’s through mailbox drops, cold calls or advertising) and hopes that they become customers.

 

These methods generally interrupt what someone is doing (whether that’s a phone call while they’re busy or an ad during a TV show they’re watching) and it’s becoming easier for people to avoid. Caller ID lets people screen calls, TV viewers can record shows and skip the ads (or sign up for something like Netflix to avoid them completely) and ad blockers let people browse online without seeing any advertisements.

 

While outbound marketing may be becoming less effective, it can still be a great way to get your name out there and to let people know about a new product or an upcoming sale.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing – sometimes referred to as inbound marketing – works by having potential customers come to you (generally through search engines, social media sites or because they’ve heard about you elsewhere) rather than you going out to them.

 

You do this by creating content for your site that people want to read, watch or interact with. While entertaining content can be a huge draw, generally the most successful campaigns provide helpful information for customers (and potential customers).

 

You can do this by creating tutorials, writing reviews, maintaining a blog, making videos or anything you can think of as a way to give information to visitors. As well as helping keep people on your site, great content can also help you rank better in search engines.

Why is content marketing important?

Firstly, with so many ads prominently displaying a website address, it makes sense to engage in content marketing. Otherwise, what are people going to find once they get to your site? They may be able to book an appointment or buy a product, but often people want more.

 

Almost everyone researches a product or service online these days, so the more information you can provide them, and the more reasons you can give them to come back to your site or to share a link with someone they know, the more likely you are to increase your sales.

 

Every business in every industry can benefit from content marketing.

 

Take a cinema for example. As a rule, people will go to a cinema’s website when they want to buy tickets or to check what films are showing at the moment. By adding a blog – with movie reviews, interviews with directors, opinion pieces etc – you’ll give people a reason to go to the site more often. Once they’re there they might see a film that catches their eye, learn about something they might not have thought about going to see or share an article with a friend.

 

A hardware store might want to go a different route. Instead of entertaining pieces about the industry, it would be more likely to focus on handyman tips – how tos, tutorials and guides. Written well, these will have people coming back to you every time they have a job on and when they don’t realise they have the right tools, it’s likely you’ll stick in their mind for that too.

 

Not only does inbound marketing let you help someone (and shape their opinion of you positively), it also helps you position yourself as an expert in the field.

How do you get started?

Before every content marketing campaign comes the content strategy. Just creating content can be effective, but it can often miss the mark without you knowing why.

 

To make your campaign more successful, you need to do a bit of research. Do this by working out who your target market is and what problems they might be having.

 

There are plenty of ways to do this. Think about the questions you get asked most often (if you have a customer service team, they’re often a gold mine of information), ask customers what problems they have or have a look online to see what people are asking about.

 

Your content should cover every step of the buyer’s journey – from making someone aware of a product or service and comparing their options to solving their problems and making sure everything goes smoothly in the future.

 

As you start creating content you’ll be able to see what’s most popular with your audience. Use this to work out what you need to write more about – and use social media discussions, blog comments and your analytics data to round out the picture – and you’ll soon notice an increase in traffic and, hopefully, sales.

 

Image: “Math teacher” by Blondinrikard Fröberg is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

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