Content Marketing - It's More Than Just Selling By Stories
posted by Stuart Cumming ~ 15/04/14
Category: Marketing
We've made comment elsewhere in the Toolbox about who we see as one of Content Marketing's earliest great practitioners - Benjamin Franklin. 

Back in the 1700's he produced, over a 25-year period, "Poor Richard's Almanack" involving all manner of content (including maths exercises and demographics) essentially to promote his printing business.

The content became so successful in it's own right that it sold up to 10,000 copies a year.

There are a number of marketers out there who would use this story as evidence that not much has changed. All this "Content Marketing" baloney is just old ideas repackaged.

So, what's different to Benjamin Franklin's day?
Sure, the thought of selling by storytelling remains central to the idea. But apart from that much has changed.

From strategy to the content itself, to the content creation process and the contact points. And then there's the customer.

To get an idea of the sophistication in strategic thinking, Kevin Cain in his presentation at Content Marketing World Sydney at the beginning of this month, builds his strategies uses a Content Marketing Matrix embracing what he calls the Pillars of Content Marketing:

Context  

Think of your ideal customer and what their pain points are. Understand the "Buyer Journeys", the Funnel, if you may. They all involve the following steps:

- Unaware

- Aware

- Interest

- Research

- Purchase

The goal of content marketing is to remove "sticking points" which typically arise at the Aware and Research stages.

Conversion 

Cain refers to the content marketing process as "driving a series of conversions that ultimately lead to a sale" with each conversion being an action the audience takes as a result of consuming your content. I prefer to think of this as getting the customer to take the Next Step.

It's not just thinking about the end goal (though that provides focus) but all the Next Steps that take place along the buyer journey. 

It's certainly not a case of "Wham. Bang. Thank you, Ma'am." Just keep them moving until it's time for them to make the ultimate decision.

Contact 

The options we have at our disposal to have contact with a customer are obviously significantly more extensive than back in Franklin's day. 

Will it be outbound, inbound, or contact through others (ie sharing)? Always keep in mind what you want the customer to do. 

With that in mind, think particularly of what you might have on your blog (shorter, snappier) as against a white paper or other document of authority (long form discussion or the ubiquitous "Top Ten Tips"). What about Facebook (discussion/comment) or Instagram (image based)? Or offline content (print magalogue story, photography and QR code) driving to online (video and peer reviews) to instore?

And that just scratches the surface.

Content

Then we look at what the actual content might be that is most relevant to the audience, depending on where they are on their journey. 

For instance, it might be to raise awareness or to demonstrate the value of solving a problem. Or it might be to build an expert positioning to provide buyer confidence.

Depending on what it is you are selling, content that could involve story, video, photography and infographic will be sliced and diced to suit the forum of the message.

Ensure your content is set up to succeed. Make it:

1.Useful

2.Optimised for search

3.Customised for your buyers

4.Demonstrate your brand aspirations

5.Drive conversion

6.Promote engagement and virality ("shareability" for my thinking)

Looking past Cain's strict strategy analysis, you only need to think of how today's customer, their environment and expectations have changed to see that content marketing has also needed to change - and has.

The words "time poor" don't even scratch the surface of describing today's highly demanding, clinically cynical consumer, bombarded with so many messages they can't take any of them in, except when they are ready. Which is why you have to be there with something they want, when they want - the so-called Zero Moment of Truth, in Google's terminology.

Maybe to some the simplicity of Mr Franklin's time is attractive and a story has always been a story...but back then, "one horsepower" meant "one horse power." 

Give me the richness of content options and the ability to reach out to customers in a multitude of ways, thanks!
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