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It’s time to care about content

Why content matters

In my last post I wrote about the need to treat your website as a key part of your business, rather than merely a place to park your logo and a few hundred words about what you do.

At the same time, I touched on the importance of regular content updates, both for SEO and brand positioning purposes. It’s an important point that often gets overlooked or completely ignored.

The reason is that creating great content takes time, and because time is money, that approach can gobble up a significant portion of an organization’s marketing budget—especially if it’s developed and deployed in a strategic manner. The alternative is to create content in an ad hoc fashion, perhaps assigning topics to key management personnel or employees and hoping that what they produce has some relevance to the business. This content typically ends up on the company blog, most of which are poorly maintained due to, you guessed it, a lack of time.

I get it: your people have finite amounts of time, most of which should be spent on activities that help drive immediate revenue gains, such as sales. Makes sense, right?

But what if I told you that creating the right kind of content would eventually support—and even propel—those sales efforts?

Content marketing can no longer be an afterthought

There’s a reason why leading organizations from Fortune 500 corporations to small and medium-sized businesses have been focusing so much of their marketing spend on strategic content development in recent years: it works (at least when it’s done right).

That’s why there’s a very good chance that your competitors have already embraced content as a key marketing and sales tool.

Case in point: a 2013 survey by digital marketing organizations The Content Marketing Institute and Marketo, found that 46 per cent of business-to-business marketers in the enterprise realm (companies with more than 1,000 employees) planned to increase their content marketing budgets in the coming year. At the same time, 20 per cent struggled to produce content that engages their target audiences. Perhaps it’s not surprising that fully sixty-five percent have chosen to outsource content creation to a third-party agency.

In other words, it’s no longer sufficient to treat your organization’s content strategy as a nice-to-have afterthought  that gets maintained in a haphazard way—if at all. Content needs to be a key component of any comprehensive marketing strategy because your competitors are probably already using these tactics to set their brands apart. Now it’s time for yours to catch up.

Create great content, get found online

Messages emanating from the leaders of major search engines such as Google have been consistent in reminding major brands and business owners about the importance of using strong content to enhance search engine optimization (SEO). The old days when search was largely based around code-based tools such as meta tags are over. Nowadays, a website’s design, functionality and, yes, content are what the search engines will use to rank your website.Search engines such as Google prioritize high-quality, relevant content over virtually everything else. They also actively reduce the rankings of websites publishing poorer-quality content. Unless your business functions without using online search to acquire new customers—and I think we’d be hard-pressed to name a business nowadays that doesn’t rely on SEO to land at least some of its sales leads—then being visible online is critical to your organization’s growth and success.

Don’t forget social media

There are still a significant number of businesses across North America that ignore social media as a marketing tool. I could write more on that tactical oversight, but let’s focus instead on the role that strong content plays in creating a meaningful social media experience for your followers.

As the Brafton graphic reminds us, “Social is SEO and content is social.” That simply means that social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter are critical tools for driving website traffic. Many organizations that lack strong website metrics also lack a coherent social media program, hence their poor online visibility. The other key point is that content drives the social media experience. Without it, yours is just another business with a Twitter or Facebook account, and nothing to say.

A strong content strategy mitigates the risk of seeming vapid, disengaged or downright boring  to your social media followers. Strong content will make people want to follow your business and will keep you top of mind amongst your target clientele. Perhaps most importantly when determining where best to spend limited marketing dollars, you can rest assured that it’s a drastically cheaper and often more effective approach than relying on traditional advertising. Not to hate on advertising (although I will for just a moment), but when was the last time you derived truly worthwhile sales leads from pay-per-click advertising? You probably can’t remember because with the exception of major consumer retail brands, PPC is relatively ineffective, particularly for B2B-focused organizations.

Become your clients’ trusted advisor

Advice-driven content marketing, on the other hand, is the equivalent of giving free news and insights to an existing client or prospect. And who doesn’t need useful advice from time to time?

The major reason why so many organizations prioritize content marketing is because they want to offer their advice to clients on a regular basis, not inundate them with meaningless advertisements. That could mean simply aggregating articles that your clients might find interesting, or producing your own native content. Whatever the tactic, the goal is to ensure that your company is the one providing that information on an (ideally) daily basis.

I often help clients produce white papers or reports that are distributed directly to both their existing and prospective clients, for example. The subject matter is always timely, relevant, interesting and informative—more on this magic content recipe in my next post—and is designed to provide value. The goal is to not only have them read the document (or in some cases watch the video or view the infographic), but to leave them with a sense that the producer of that content has a strong grasp on the subject matter and developments in their respective industry, while also having the best interests of their client in mind.

In the case of that one client, a series of white papers opened doors to C-level executives and landed at least a few new clients. I say ‘at least’ because the documents live on their website forever, so they’re likely to continue reaping the rewards of that relatively modest investment for years to come.

It’s not just about online content marketing

Although I’ve focused solely on the benefits of content development in the online realm, the benefits aren’t solely digital.

Your content can be deployed across more traditional printed materials, in trade show displays, in speeches or presentations to live audiences, in outreach to media outlets and in advertising (both online and off). In short, the best marketing strategies are the ones that maximize the use of content across media and leverage it in ways that make the most sense for your business.

We live in an integrated marketing world. Deal with it

Briefly analyze how some of the world’s leading brands are marketing and you’ll notice a trend. They’re largely deploying integrated campaigns that utilize a range of tactics and strategies to achieve growth-driving results.

There are still many CEOs who might view a content development strategy as being separate from one for social media or search engine optimization, for example. These are some of the same people who still isolate their marketing and sales teams from each other, allowing minimal collaboration between the two camps. Thankfully, these leaders are shrinking in number as they either retire or find religion in marketing integration. That means overlapping various marketing strategies and tactics to ensure they co-exist symbiotically and deliver consistent marketing returns on investment.

Why content matters

The key takeaway from this post is to remember that content marketing is a relatively inexpensive, yet highly effective, way to market your organization. When it’s done right, a content development strategy can deliver game-changing business benefits. Not sure how to create great content? Stay tuned for my next post.

Until next time.

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Chris Atchison
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Chris Atchison

Chris Atchison is the founder of Shockwave Strategic Communications, a Toronto-based marketing-communications firm that collaborates frequently with Jackson Wynne.

@shockwavesc
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