Before the onset of digital media (websites, blogs and social media), traditional media channels such as television, radio and newspapers were the primary places to reach large audiences with your message. These media outlets owned the platform, and as an advertiser, you paid to rent space there for your ads. Today, digital media channels for publishing content abound, and many of these channels are available for you to publish your content at relatively little or no cost. In fact, you can now own the platforms yourself by creating your own websites, microsites and blogs about your company, industry or customers.
Establish a Content Marketing Program
Content marketing takes advantage of this shift of power in media. As a result, firms can now become publishers, owning their own channels and lowering the cost of reaching new prospects. This changes the game for marketers, and impacts marketing outcomes in a number of areas:
• Lowering marketing costs
• Building a captive audience
• Connecting marketing and sales
• Communicating with customers and prospects
Buying ads works, at least in the short run. A content marketing program, however, can lead to sustainable demand generation at half the cost of advertising when measured on a longer time frame. Developing strong evergreen content for your website, blog, podcast or other platform helps you get found more frequently in search and leads to more organic (free) search discovery. Quite often SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay per click, also known as paid search) can be the largest portion of a company's digital marketing budget. Reducing the need for paid results in search can really make a positive impact on the bottom line.
Build Your Audience
Great content attracts an audience. By using storytelling and creating useful content for your industry, you can begin to build your own captive audience of followers. Marketing to this group can be as simple as making a blog post or sharing a tweet. You can grow this audience by creating useful, customer-focused content and encouraging your followers to share it with someone who might have a similar problem that your product can solve. This type of word-of-mouth marketing is exactly how social media can help amplify your content marketing campaigns.
As your audience grows, you can use some of your better content as an incentive for people to join your permissions-based prospect list. Typically, marketers are forced to buy a type of lead list. Your own personal email list, however, provides you with an audience of customers who have already opted in to receive your content. This creates a messaging channel for you with active prospects to whom you can send offers again and again. Email automation software that connects to your CRM system can update your sales team when new leads are found, helping to close the gap between sales and marketing teams.
One of my favorite outcomes of a winning content marketing strategy is the ability for a firm to stay connected with its customers and prospects. Customer advocacy programs, like those that encourage sharing user-generated content from satisfied clients, are a fantastic way to generate new testimonials, recommendations and positive experiences for prospects to see. If for some reason the time is not right for customers to purchase today, having content to share over time is perfect for nurturing relationships with prospects until they reach a buying decision.
With all these benefits, it seems crazy that some firms have yet to embrace a content strategy of their own. This is usually due to the fact that content marketing takes time to deliver on these opportunities. Smart firms can mitigate this by continuing their ad budgets until their content efforts begin to take hold. Most firms will continue to incorporate advertising in their content strategy as a way to amplify their content, rather than a primary channel for brand messaging.
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