2014 is a pretty big year for the internet marketing world, because marketing is finally becoming noticeably web-literate. A year or two ago marketing blogs and advice columns were still largely filled with ineffective, largely spam-based marketing techniques that were basically just electronic versions of older pre-internet marketing tactics. In the past few years, truly effective content marketing was limited mostly to the viral kind like this safety announcement by Metro Trains Melbourne. Now, finally, it’s branching out and what used to be relatively terrible alternatives are being refined and improved. So, how do we hop on the content marketing train?
Dumb Ways to Die Video – 70 Million Views and Counting
Content marketing has been preached as the future of marketing for a long time, but the answers to what makes content marketing good (and effective) have not been particularly forthcoming. It’s really a very broad idea; you’re basically giving away something for free in exchange for attention (and, ideally, sales). If we step back from the internet, those free samples at the supermarket are essentially the physical version of content marketing. What businesses didn’t understand until recently is that the return for this kind of marketing is going to be proportional to the value that their content has to the user.
Understanding Low Value Content
The first thing that most businesses did, and often still do, think of when introduced to the idea of content marketing is “Great! I can make a video/write an article/design an infographic explaining why people should buy my product”. While, technically, you’re producing content, and allowing people to access it, it has no value to the user on its own. It’s basically an expression of the same thought as that guy at the bar that thinks he’s God’s gift to women, and ends up confused when his overt attentions are ill-received. If your content has no purpose other than to sell a product, then it can only interest people who are already interested in buying your product, which defeats the purpose of producing any content at all.
Something that tends to rankle businesses is the idea of giving something away for free, but that’s exactly what needs to happen if you want your content strategy to be successful. Content marketing is about generating interest in your company (rather than your product) and getting attention from your target audience, not closing a sale. Attempting to close a sale through content marketing is effectively flipping your marketing funnel upside down, which will dramatically limit the impact that it’ll have. Here are a few examples of excellent content that gives value to users, raises awareness of a company, and reflects well on a business’s reputation, all while tacitly driving sales.
Skills and Training Materials – Webinars like these help to develop users’ skills for free. We think this is dangerous because it looks like they’re giving potential customers the tools to walk away and do their own work instead of buying their services. What Appnovation has figured out is that explaining some of their work more thoroughly helps potential customers appreciate the work that goes into the services that they buy, and builds their confidence in that company’s competence.
Tools – Some businesses offer free tools that might be related or complementary to their services. New Retirement’s retirement calculator is one of those. Their product is retirement planning, but the hook is the free consultation tools on the site. If you wanted to do it on your own, that’s the place you’d go to for the tools to help you. When the time comes that you decide to get some professional help you’ve already got that site in your head, and you’ve already formed a positive opinion about their services.
Good Infographics – The mediocre, low budget Infographics that cluttered much of the 2012-2013 blogosphere are not what I’m talking about. An effective infographic like this one from Australia’s insurance giant Suncorp is more than just visually appealing, it gives the reader something to take away while reinforcing the authority of the brand. It doesn’t try to sell anything while still generating interest in its product.