Content Marketing: Increase Sales By Selling Character
You’ve heard the old saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Bear with me, but I want you to visualize this old saying in the context of content marketing.
What is Content Marketing?
For the sake of this analogy, the fish is the product or service that you’re pushing to sell, the fisherman is the consumer. If you give a person an advertisement for your product and they buy, you’ve made a single transaction. You’ve given a person a fish; they will enjoy it, maybe even come back one or two more times, but there’s also a large chance that they’ll move on and take their business for metaphorical “fish” elsewhere.
However, let’s push further than the fish. Your singular product is the fish, but a fishing experience is so much more than that: there’s the flowing water, the trees, the dock, the boat, the weather. Your brand is all of these things. The brand is more than just the product. And it’s how you portray the brand and how you relate to its audience and consumers that reels people in to stay. Think: What makes the fisherman keep coming back to that fishing spot in particular? It’s not just the fish.
Think of the ambiance of the stream. Think about how the fishing spot makes them feel. What makes a person bring their friends there? What makes a person make a tradition of bringing their children and grandchildren to that specific spot? Catching a fish is the goal, but there is pleasure in the experience of just being in there. What makes a person loyal?
Content marketing deals with loyalty above all else, loyalty earned by building a relationship with an audience. The goal is to sell a personable brand first and increased product sales will come as a result. It is about building an environment that people want to spend their time in, a place that they, alongside catching a fish or two, enjoy on a fundamental level.
Traditional Advertising vs. Content Marketing
Traditional advertising and content marketing are siblings, but not twins. Traditional advertising emphasizes the transaction above all else; it is about getting your product in front of people’s faces and calling them to desired action. Both traditional and content marketing use similar media, and share a similar end goal of increased sales, but have different effects on the audience.
Content marketing transcends the transaction; it is about selling character and nurturing a relationship with the audience by creating content with the intention of building rapport. This can be done by putting out quality content that is not necessarily a call to action, but, rather, engaging the audience in a way that will eventually lead to them feeling called to act. There is no immediate pressure put on the audience to do anything other than enjoy the content. But, good content marketing will inevitably lead to sales.
Why Any Brand Can Benefit from Content Marketing:
If you’re going fishing, isn’t your first thought to go to the place that you’ve been to? A place where you know what to expect. A place where you always enjoy yourself and can always count on catching a few good fish.
The benefits of using content marketing strategies can be summarized in the easy-to-remember three C’s of content marketing:
- Cost Saving
- Customer Loyalty
- Conversions in the Long Term
Each of these C’s are closely intertwined and have the theme of long term pay off in common, each helps to lay a foundation that each new piece of content can build upon.
Cost Saving is two-fold. First, creating and paying for advertisements is not exactly cheap, whereas content marketing can use less expensive means of advertising and content release to engage with consumers, like social media apps. Second, using content marketing as a marketing strategy, as mentioned earlier, builds trust in the brand, which segways into Customer Loyalty. This trust can turn to loyalty which translates into transactions, or Conversions, which are site visitors that turn into paying customers. People who like the brand tend to stick around and continue buying from them, oftentimes disregarding competition.
How to Get Started:
Content marketing is an investment, each piece of consistent, engaging, and well-thought out content that resonates with your audience adds stock to the investment and increases the long-term payout.
The quickest way to begin content marketing is to build a platform on social media. Doing this will allow you to reach your audience(s) as a collective while still maintaining a personalized feel. The platform should reflect your audience’s desires. For example, a younger audience may engage more on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube, whereas an older audience may engage more on LinkedIn, Facebook, or blogs. It may be best to have multiple platforms at the same time and to pay attention to the one(s) that your audience engages with the most. These platforms allow you to reach your audience through a variety of ways: videos, emails, writing, pictures, comments, podcasts, and advertisements.
Media that are particularly useful to reaching your audience as a collective are:
- Email lists
- Social media platforms
- Website or blog
How to Keep it Going:
Now, you have to get your posted or advertised content in front of people’s eyes on one or more platforms. Above all else, consistency is key. Successful content marketing strategies will fall flat if they are not consistent in what, when, and how content is released.
Advertisements can be paid for and placed purposefully, but you can try to maximize the amount of views and engagements that your content receives through using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and paying attention to content timeliness.
Most people don’t go further than the first or second page of results when using search engines, which is where SEO is useful. SEO helps to get your content to come up when keywords related to your content are searched, and it helps to get it on the pages that will be seen and interacted with. You can use SEO to your advantage by including “buzz” words or phrases that people generally search, or consistently using certain words or phrases that will show up as “most relevant” in a search for those key words/phrases.
Within the realms of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, to optimize SEO alongside key words, you can also include hashtags. You can use either unique hashtags or trending/popular ones. Other users can use the same hashtag and the platforms will group all of those posts together when people search the hashtag, using them can increase views, engagement, and followers.
Content timeliness can be split into two categories: Seasonal Content and Evergreen Content. Seasonal, as the name implies, deals with content that is either time-based or relevant only in specific seasons. An example for time-based would be posting about Breast Cancer Awareness in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and an example of seasonal would be posting Christmas or Hanukkah themed content in the late fall, early winter.
Evergreen Content, like plants are always in bloom, is content that is always relevant. An example of this would be topics such as self-care or weight loss.
Finding a balance between each type of content is important; there should be a ratio determined based on each individual audience. A good ratio to start with is 50:50, keeping a close eye on and adjusting based on how each type performs. Never stop evaluating and readjusting your content, noting and recycling content that performs well.
Content Marketing in Action:
One of the simplest and most well-done examples of content marketing is Coca-Cola’s “Share A Coke” campaign. This is a seamless example of using content marketing in a visual format, both physically on their products and through advertisements. They removed their logo from the Coke bottle label and replaced it with hundreds of different names.
This campaign addresses consumers in a way that does not explicitly call them to action, but appeals to them in such a personal way that they feel called to action. Coke uses this campaign and gains free product marketing from the people moved to literally Share A Coke. They look for their name, their parents’ names, their kids’ names, their friends’ names. Coke made their content marketing personal to every individual, the campaign turned into a scavenger hunt for consumers.
Coca-Cola’s Share A Coke campaign is the perfect example that a content marketing strategy does not have to be complex. It is simply selling personality, and not even Coke’s own, but rather it put a mirror in front of its audience and allowed them to search for their own personality. Coke recognized the common occurrence of people investing in personalized products such as keychains, bags, etc., and expanded the options to beverage products, driving sales up.
Not every effort of content marketing is as grand or wildly successful as Coca-Cola’s, but it shares the same fundamental idea: give your audience a way to see their personality and interests reflected in the brand. A smaller scale example of content marketing in action could be something as simple as a social media post, a podcast, or a blog update.
Measuring Success in Content Marketing:
It is important to always be evaluating your content’s performance and adjusting your approach accordingly. To begin doing this, you can break down the approach into qualitative and quantitative assessments.
Qualitative assessments can be done by placing your content side by side with another brand’s, one that is similar in structure, goals, and size. This doesn’t mean copying their approach, but it allows you to gain insight on what type of content might perform well or poorly. With this information you can gain an idea of how your content might perform if you take a similar route, and also it allows you the opportunity to assess how you can diversify yourself from the competition. What can you do that will make your audience choose you and continue to choose you?
For qualitative measurements, you can use a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) which is centered around setting goals and measuring success based on how well your content was expected to perform and how well it actually performs. This can help you organize your ideas, nail down your priorities, set attainable goals, and maintain an understanding of how your audience engages with certain types of content. A major component of measuring content marketing success is engagement rate, which is how your audience interacts with your content: likes, comments, shares, follows, keeping up with new posts, email lists, purchases, and so on.
When setting a KPI in content marketing, try to start with your main metric and a time frame. For an example, let’s use the common question of: What is the desired engagement rate over the first day, week, and month?
Once this question, and its answer(s) have been established. It is important to consider follow-up questions that can help contribute to the long term success of the content and how it will be measured.
These questions, in this example, could be:
- What will this piece of content contribute to within this brand?
- Who will evaluate the performance?
- How does the brand’s audience respond to similar content?
- What does this content have that makes people want to like, comment, share, and come back for more?
- Is this goal attainable in this time frame?
You could even, and I would encourage you to, zoom out and use KPI to evaluate how integrating content marketing strategies has impacted your brand in the long term. Set an attainable goal, a realistic time frame, and use follow up questions to project and assess how content marketing strategies impact sales, marketing budgets, returning customers, social media presence and reach, along with any other goals you may have for it.
Influencers are Gold in Third Party Content Marketing:
A great place to look if you’re looking to start or improve your content marketing strategies are social media influencers. Influencers generally start their accounts with the goal to share their personalities, stories, views, and lives in their own respective niches. They begin with the sole purpose of selling their character to people and, as a result of consistent content, influencers tend to have extremely loyal and responsive followers. You can see examples of this across all social media platforms.
It is these relationships that make influencers not only a prime example for building personal connections in a large audience, but they also make influencer a gold mine for content marketing. Due to the fact that most influencer’s tend to focus on selling their character before anything else, this leaves them open to promote and partner with other brands. Brands can reach out to influencers and offer them some sort of compensation for advertising their product or service.
Using influencers to promote acts as a catalyst in content marketing. It takes the long term work out of building relationships with an audience or allows brands to reach an audience that would otherwise be difficult through their normal tactics. The trust and loyalty already exists between influencers and their followers, and through using those influencers to advertise or speak about a brand, the audience will require less convincing.
Brands can reach out to influencers as a content marketing strategy directly through direct messaging or email, or they can use third party companies such as InfluenceLogic to make the influencer finding and deal making process go more smoothly.
That was a ton of information, so let’s go over some of the bigger points one more time.
Remember the 3 C’s of Content Marketing: Cost saving, Customer loyalty, and Conversions in the long term. Each is closely connected and has a cause and effect relationship on one another.
The goal of content marketing is to build relationships with your customers in a way that transcends a transaction. By releasing consistent and considerate content that resonates with your audience, your audience will, in turn, begin to trust your brand and get excited for your content.
Content marketing focuses on selling your brand’s character and allowing consumers to find their own interests within the brand past the products offered. This creates a place that people will seek out, grow to trust, and continue to engage with.
Providing a steady stream of relevant information custom tailored to your audience and building rapport through content marketing is not as quick or direct as traditional advertising, but it will pay off in loyalty and sales.
I offer a content marketing centered, revised version of the old saying at the beginning: If you give a person a product advertisement, they’ll give you a single transaction. Give them a personable, resonating brand experience, and they’ll be a loyal customer for life.