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Content marketing: king of the road to marketing success

By Edwina van der Burg

If you want to improve your brand’s visibility and promote your products or services, don’t make them the centrepiece of your marketing strategy.

That’s right, the time for traditional, product or service-focused marketing is over. It has, in fact, been a no-go zone for a long time. Content marketing, where information is disseminated without making a brand or its products and services the centre point, has consistently been shown to outperform traditional marketing.

First, the numbers

A survey by marketing intelligence company Aberdeen Strategy & Research shows that companies that prioritise content marketing experience 7.8-times higher year-on-year growth in unique site traffic compared with those that don’t. Even better, Aberdeen reports that conversion rates are six times higher when marketers use content marketing to promote their brand, products or services.

So what is it, exactly?

The Interactive Advertising Bureau South Africa, an independent, voluntary, non-profit association, defines content marketing as: “A strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing relevant, consistent content targeted at defined audiences … without using the brand or its product as the hero.”

Why does it work?

It’s no secret that ours is a digital world. Even the most reluctant of us use the internet to find information on everything from politics to pot plants. It’s where we go to verify facts, find information and inform our decisions.

What that means is that if you make sure your brand is consistently putting out information that is informative, relevant and trustworthy, it will be valuable to people.

Take the example of John Deere. Yes, the tractor guys. Back in 1895 the American farming equipment company started a magazine, The Furrow. This farming journal, still running today, speaks to farmers about farming, without mentioning John Deere’s products or services.

The upshot? Farmers have, over more than a century, learned to trust the John Deere brand as one that is knowledgeable about farming and understands their trials and triumphs. This has been achieved in the famous “show, don’t tell” way, and when farmers think of buying a new tractor or combine harvester, which brand do you think comes to their mind as intimately involved in the business of farming, and being trustworthy?

Other examples of effective content marketing include in-house magazines such as Pick n Pay’s Fresh Living, and the wildly successful The Lego Movie, which has, since its 2014 inception, led to the release of several licensed video games, a theme park attraction, and several sequels and spin-off films.

The reason all these examples work is that, while people have become far more aware of how marketing works, and are resistant to its wiles, good content marketing offers us the information that we need or want, or entertainment that captures our imagination, and we cannot resist spending some time with you!

How to do it – tips from our team at Flow Communications

That’s all well and good, but how do you produce good content marketing? Well, first you take the time to understand your audience, and especially what drives them.

Once you have done this market research, there is a list of steps that can be followed on the path to content marketing success:

  • With knowledge of exactly who it is you are targeting in hand, you need to decide what format you will use to reach this special group of people. Is it a video, or an opinion piece, an animated GIF or a social media poll?
  • With your format decided, the next step is to decide what type of content you will convey via that format – an interview with an expert, or an infographic that shows people how to do something
  • Next comes the platform – where will you place this information? On your website? Or would social media be better, and which social media platform would be best? If you are targeting teenagers, Facebook is not the social media platform for you, although Instagram or TikTok might suit
  • As you roll out your content marketing strategy you will begin to see what works, and the fastest way of learning this is to set measurement tools as you begin. From these tools you will gather metrics that can be used to discover your best-performing content
  • Of course, to measure you must know what you want to gain from disseminating content – you must set goals. Do you want engagement on social media, or position yourself as an industry leader through opinion pieces in selected and respected media sites, such as national newspapers?
  • The metrics you gather will also help you identify what triggers engagement with your content. We already know that humorous or inspirational content often works well. You do need to consider, for example, whether using humour works for your overall brand message, however. At Flow Communications we use metrics to continually assess and reassess, and adapt our content strategy as we go along, learning from our successes and from what does not work
  • And then, to finish off this list, there is quality control. This is key. The content you put out needs to be free of typos and grammatical errors, the images need to be neat and professional, the facts need to be verifiable. Think of the content as your shop window

Go on, get going

And, there it is: content marketing in a nutshell. Produce good quality, informative and inspirational content, using metrics to refine your work as you go along (we advise you do this at least once a month) and, over time, you will produce a winning formula. What’s more, you will benefit your target market as much as yourself. What’s not to like?

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