Content Marketing is now becoming conventional wisdom amongst the marketing fraternity. Of course you have to use content marketing to ensure your communications are effective these days; right? Well almost…….
To have effective marketing today, it has to provide customers with value. This is because, in a digital world, your greatest marketer is no longer you. Rather, it is the ‘community’ of customers, prospects, suppliers, partners and industry experts etc., who engage with your business. In so doing, they will share links, give you mentions and, in turn, this will lead to others engaging with your business.
In other words, marketing today is no longer a means to an end, it is an end in itself. Effective marketing provides value in its own right, regardless of whether someone purchases from you or not. So where does this leave content?
Content is a major mechanism for providing that value for prospects and customers. It can come in all sorts of guises, for example; competitions, top tips, games, insights, white papers, videos, interesting articles, podcasts etc. However, the common theme is that it should provide value for the audience regardless of whether they make a purchase or not.
Of course, this is fine in principle. Ultimately though, a commercial business requires marketing to lead to purchasing somewhere down the line. The logic is simple. The more people who are engaged with your business, the more ‘attention’ you will have in the market place. Therefore, when people are looking to purchase, this ‘attention’ should lead to your company being one of the suppliers considered.
If your value proposition and the other aspects of your offering are attractive, this should lead to business. Moreover, in the digital world, if it is clickable it is trackable. Therefore, businesses can be tracking all the data to ascertain what marketing is effective and what is not. In this way, an organisation can be constantly striving to improve results.
So far so good; but is there more a company should be doing? The short answer is… yes.
In most markets, prospects use information for insight and to learn about the different products and services available, latest trends, the experience of others etc. Your organisation should be providing content of real value which is not overtly promotional but rather insightful, educational and, therefore, material with which prospects will be prone to engage and share.
The point is that a company can use this material to create competitive advantage when the moment to choose a supplier occurs. By stressing the importance of certain criteria of purchase over others, content will influence how a buyer thinks about a product or service. Therefore, your content should emphasise the importance of the particular criteria your organisation uses in order to differentiate itself.
This, of course, should be authentic. Any business that ‘hangs its hat’ on a particular criteria must believe that the specific aspect of the service it emphasises is important; otherwise, why bother! Of course, different criteria will appeal to different buyers which is why there is often room for a number of suppliers in any particular market.
For example, there are many aspects that are important when flying. Everyone wants to be ‘safe’. Some people are driven by getting the ‘lowest cost’ provider, while others want something more ‘luxurious’. Everybody would like to be ‘on time’ and not experience any delays. For many holiday makers, the flight is part of the holiday and so the ‘fun’ and ‘entertainment’ aspects are also important.
Qantas has never had a major accident since the widespread adoption of the jet engine in civil aviation. Therefore, it has often positioned itself as the world’s ‘safest‘ airline. If Qantas wanted to create a ‘top ten tips’ sheet of how to pick a carrier when flying to Australia it would, therefore, emphasise the importance of safety within this list. It is not that anybody feels their life is in imminent danger by choosing British Airways which also has a good safety record, however, if ‘safety‘ becomes the main purchasing criteria one is more likely to choose Qantas over British Airways in a flight from the UK to Australia.
Virgin Atlantic would obviously regard themselves as a ‘safe’ airline and indeed that is the case. However, its market positioning is about providing superior customer experience and making long haul travel ‘glamorous’. Therefore, if Virgin Atlantic was going to produce a ‘top ten tips’ on how to pick a carrier to Australia, while safety may feature, it may be presented as more of a given. Fun and luxury, however, will be emphasised as being more important on such a long flight. If these criteria become the most important to a customer they may be more likely to choose Virgin Atlantic.
Criteria of purchase is vital in deciding the supplier a customer will eventually choose. It is the ability to influence the criteria of purchase, while at the same time providing real insight and value, which gives every business an opportunity to tip the scales in its favour when a buyer is making a purchasing decision. This is an aspect of content marketing that is too often ignored by organisations. So, ask yourself, how effective is your content marketing? Could you start to make it better?