aStore / Amazon

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Effective Content Marketing [SKIL] Who cares? How can you tell?

Tourists do not come to New York, London or Paris for the animals, they come to shop and see shows
When you get down to bottom line results, all the writing, editing, drawing, promoting and selling comes down to: who cares? What is all the effort yielding? Are you making sales? Are you informing or influencing people? Are people commenting, contributing, correcting or even criticizing? For the most part, most of the writing and graphics designed for the internet is not effective. In the marketing world, this is bad news. A big part of ineffective marketing is in the quality and relevance. Quality is not an easy problem to solve. For the most part, high quality marketing content is created by efforts from product developers, marketers, feedback from the market (real potential customers) and channels (reps, resellers, field sales). The internet gives us the benefit of reaching customers directly, this is what we can do where print and broadcast simply can not. We have the ability to evoke feedback quickly and directly. The difficulty does not lie simply in the writing and editing. It is a bigger problem of coordinating messages, testing relevancy and clarity, improving the content and eventually tracking it back to the customer's response. Closing the communication loop is what we need to do. If nobody cares and they don't understand, it's like talking to the wall.

Business Managers Care About Results

In my recent conversations and work with a dozen executives, it is still rare to see clear understanding of content marketing. Some executives in technology companies appreciate and understand marketing, advertising and social media use. The diffusion of new knowledge, especially new trends in internet marketing, is not as quick as insiders think. Internet marketing insiders tend to think in the way they see the world. Yet in businesses not working with the internet as a key business tool, even early adopters want to see results. Besides calibrating expectations, content marketers need to show results. This could be in the statistics of engagement (comments on blogs, mailing list subscriptions, e-book downloads) and actual bottom line results (orders, quotes, requests for contact). One advantage of content marketing has over other techniques is in the ability to plug into already available analytic tracking and reporting. Google AdWords and many similar services already developed analytics products, content marketers need to learn how to use them. Then show results, and improve statistics, which will lead to executive's respect and attention.

Our customers, th product managers and property owners (these are also site owners) need to show results. Today, having a nice product, well designed and even competitive in features is not enough. In most market sectors there are too many competing products chasing after a small number of customers. Each mall will sell the same number of shirts, shoes and bras year after year. If one shop sells more another will sell less. Unless some creative designer, a brand manager or us the marketers comes up with something brilliant, sales growth will only come from lower prices. This is not going to make the seller more profits. Creative branding (hey my product is for the cool and sexy people, like you), new designs (Crocks, Nike, Swatch) and end of season sales are hard work. They also require a great deal of time, money and planning. Content marketing helps both in marketing innovation and in everyday hum-drum marketing. The ability to give business managers a platform to solve real sales problems is key to showing content marketing's value. Content marketing is not simply to "look good". It is to solve real world business issues. 

Customers Care About Solutions and Results

Customers read blogs and learn through formal in informal information so they can solve their problems. They eventually make a decision to buy something, to vote for someone or to read and understand something (I write about real life in Israel: In the fashion industry that means keeping up with trends, finding out details on specific products (material, construction, value) tips on buying and maintaining better quality products (better can be more in fashion, better design, better materials or construction) and them make a decision based on the facts they gather. Customers know and they never expect to have all the facts. Every person has their need for information and eventually too much information is simply overload.
But consumers like solutions. In internet search and information gathering, that means a good source (i.e. reliable, truthful, honest, current, etc.) If you are interested in a field, either for business or for personal reason here is where content marketing will be relevant. You care also about what people think, trends, market pulse and other pieces of information that we call "water cooler conversation" or "I heard it through the grape vine" or "I would like to have been a fly on the wall" or "the whisper number" (from before the announcement of quarterly results in wall street investing). Either interaction with someone on an informal basis or information not publicly known but shared by insiders. Here is where virtual communities, private communication and deep non-key-word-only searches are important. This is what content marketing can give a consumer. Here is where content marketer can update interested consumers quickly (bloggers serve as the paparazzi of the internet age). Here is where you can read a long article explaining a highly technical technique or a an explanation which may belong in a book instead of a Twitter message or even a graphic drawing on Facebook. Informing communities and becoming a reliable source is one way to help people so they eventually become consumers. 
Finally come results. Out of all the writing, editing, linking and drawing, consumers eventually get the information they need and make a decision. This is what results looks like. Eventually someone buys something, votes for a cause or reads your book about a problem. When they need it or when they want it or when they have money... or when they want to show off... or for any other reason. This is where the advantage of content marketing comes to play. So if your product has already gone viral selling at the mall or playing on YouTube, content marketing is just going to make the diffusion faster. But if you have an abstract, complex or niche product, then you need to get information and convincing arguments (i.e. examples, demonstrations, statistical benefits) so someone would even take a look. So get writing and photographing, otherwise nothing will get sold out there... just kidding.

Content Marketing Results

In internet advertising the standard for spending and measuring for business. You advertise (using Google AdWords) or somehow get attention, Google Analytics records and tracks clicks onto your page. You know exactly how many people clicked on you advertisement and you know how many people came to the page. If the advertisement brought people to the page and no other traffic came from anywhere else, you know the advertising is working. If you want to sell more and there is competition for key word on AdWords, you spend more and hope it will be worth it. You can show spending and results to the company executives and make a case for more spending or change in strategy. But in content marketing the process and results are not refined to such granular steps. Yet we still need to measure results. If the final action (download e-book, request a quote, comment on an issue) are not moving fast enough, it may mean more exciting writing. It may need more facts or article placed in a popular blog to bring in more interested readers. It may mean more social media push (Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, YouTube). Essentially content is simply different granular elements than PPC or affiliate marketing. In the process of writing and promoting content there are many measurable variables. Some are easily visible, these are what we see in the Analytic reports. Some are less visible such as the quality and quantity of comments and the speed of linking (re-twitting, likes) growth and even SEO rank which is not only the work of SEO efforts. SEO can be simply organic, rank as it progresses due to good relevant content. Measure this parameter if you think it will help you understand and improve your content marketing work.