As I work with many different organizations across a wide range of industries to develop engaging, informative content, I’m often taken aback at the truly unlimited possibilities the concept of “content marketing” provides to virtually all types of businesses. The barrier to entry in attracting a wide audience to your brand is lower than ever—and much more cost effective.
To be brief, content marketing leverages the expertise you already have in your field and makes it available to your target audience. If you own an auto body shop, for example, you might develop articles or blog content giving readers advice on how to fix common mechanical problems, how to perform regular maintenance and which brand of tires to choose for different types of vehicles. In this way, you give people the information they seek at exactly the time they need it.
Great content is worth a lot
You might be thinking: “Why should I give this information away for free?” After all, if you give potential customers all the answers, doesn’t that eliminate the need for them to buy from you in the first place?
The answer is a resounding no. While many business owners are apprehensive about providing too much information, the fact of the matter is that the benefits far outweigh the very limited risks. When you provide great content, you’re doing more than giving away valuable information. You’re also positioning yourself as a thought leader and building trust with a potential customer in way that’s virtually impossible with traditional advertising.
The difference between a marketing strategy based on content and more traditional forms of marketing comes down to the basic way in which you communicate with clients. Visual.ly offers this great infographic illustrating this difference:
The power is in your hands
The Internet has drastically changed the way businesses and organizations promote themselves and reach out to customers. In the past, the only real way to gain exposure for your brand was to buy TV, radio, newspaper, trade magazine or billboard advertising. Or, you could send out a press release and hope that a reporter wrote a story about you. These options left a lot of businesses out of the picture, particularly those that couldn’t afford big advertising budgets or didn’t have anything newsworthy to share (nor the connections with journalists to secure coverage).
Today, you don’t need the news media to share your story and you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy advertising campaign. Instead, you can focus on creating strong article or blog content, supplemented by social media, online press releases, white papers and regularly updated website copy. For a fairly limited cost, you can be your own publisher, pushing out engaging content through your website and blog, and writing guest articles for other blogs or more traditional media.
I’ve worked with many companies—mostly small or medium-sized businesses—that have implemented content marketing strategies with much success. With their permission, here are a few highlights:
- A law office in Fort Worth, Texas was tired of spending money on TV ads that weren’t generating any measurable results. Instead, the firm decided to pull back its more traditional ads and focus on twice-weekly blog posts. The result is that many new and existing clients compliment the firm on its blog content, and its site visitors spend the most time reading the firm’s posts.
- A niche software developer in California was struggling with getting Google AdWords to drive enough traffic to its site, so the company decided to try a more organic approach. Working with us to develop regular blog posts, social media updates, press releases and several white papers, the firm is steadily increasing the number of qualified leads that visit its website.
- An accountant in Madison, Wisconsin had been advertising regularly in a local newspaper and sending out press releases to local reporters, with limited success. She decided to change course and focus on writing regular blog content and guest articles on another CPA’s popular blog, while distributing her press releases online through PRWeb. The increased exposure has not only earned her more clients, but has also made her an expert source for both bloggers and a local print journalist.
By no means is content marketing silver bullet, and a good strategy takes time to get results. But the power is truly in your hands. With a little time investment and creativity, developing rich content for your readers and potential customers is entirely possible—and can be a lot of fun!
Steve Bailey is president of ProPRcopy, a company that delivers a range of content creation services for businesses and organizations across nearly all industries.