Why Content is Critical
Prospective clients in most industries now rely on websites, web searches, e-mail, and social media more than any other source of information to evaluate companies. Success in marketing now requires that companies have a healthy digital presence and marketing strategy. People expect to be able to engage with companies and evaluate them on their own terms and they are likely to forget about a service provider or supplier if they are not continually engaged. To thrive in this environment, companies need to demonstrate a high-level of expertise and engage prospective and current clients pre- and post-purchase. Smart content supported by an effective digital content strategy and strong digital tools is often the most effective means of doing this.
Marketing through smart content is not a new concept. For decades, consultancies and other professional firms and businesses have built their reputation partly on this concept. Since its founding, McKinsey & Company avoided outright promotional initiatives. Starting in the mid 1900s, the firm began sending current and prospective CEOs informative pieces of content authored by the firm. These “thought-leadership” pieces, so coined because they led thinking in the field, positioned the firm as an authority that stood above other experts in its field. Content makes up the core of most consultancies’ outreach to this day, and it has become a key fixture of their digital marketing strategies.
Though any company seeking to build a strong digital presence would benefit from an effective content strategy, companies selling complex solutions that have long or involved sales processes do especially. These companies need to establish credibility and expertise. For them, brief, captivating messages or a bullet point list of features and benefits does not do enough to demonstrate the company’s credibility or build confidence with prospective buyers that the company can offer effective solutions to sophisticated business needs. If you operate in this space, content, such as blog posts, white papers, and presentations, is an excellent cornerstone.
Along with demonstrating expertise and establishing credibility, content also keeps prospective buyers and clients engaged over a long buying decision process and between projects. Content is an effective way of staying top of mind without being overtly promotional. It positions the company as a helpful advisor instead of one constantly seeking a sale.
How Can You Create and Leverage Effective Content?
To create effective content, you need to offer real value to your target audiences. You can subtly promote your services by writing about topics related to them and the industries you serve, but think about the questions and concerns of your customers. Don’t be pedantic or use too much professional jargon, instead speak in terms that resonate with your audience and really try to impart your knowledge to better equip the reader in his or her own professional career.
Once you have a strong piece of content and your data shows people are actually reading and sharing it, be sure to amplify its performance and distribute it through many channels and mediums: Begin sending out weekly, monthly, or quarterly e-newsletters that curate your best content, post it on your personal and company LinkedIn page, distribute it through Twitter and Facebook, and even use it in the real world. Talk to your customers about your content, turn high-performing content into talks for events, and package several as part of a magazine.
Content Alone Does Not Build a Strong Digital Presence
Content alone is not enough though. You should treat your content as one piece of your digital marketing strategy. Use small pieces of content to attract people to your main marketing asset, most often your website or mailing list, and give them so much value they want to subscribe to keep receiving more. This way you’ll be able to keep people engaged and will have built an audience you can stay in contact with at nearly no cost. You’ll often find that strong content is a much more cost effective tactic than more traditional display advertisements. If search traffic is an important source of leads for you, such as with a small business-focused law firm, content embedded with effective keywords will allow you to capture the interest of people searching key terms in your market.
Before you can benefit from your excellent content and tie it into the rest of your strategy, you have to ensure your other digital tools are in order, especially your website. Your strategy should be focused on building owned and earned media assets, which means you want to create assets that achieve your marketing objectives without you having to pay others for the attention. Your website is key in this regard. It is like your digital headquarters, and you never want to invite people over if your space isn’t in order. Doing so could lead others to lose confidence that you are a successful, credible organization. You don’t want an effective content strategy to drive traffic back to an ineffective website.
Strong content can—and often should be—the cornerstone of many businesses’ digital marketing strategy, but it must be tied into a larger digital marketing strategy and supported by strong digital tools, such as a website, e-newsletter, social media, and others depending on the organization. Are you using strong content backed by an effective strategy and even stronger tools to keep your customers engaged?