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Today the consumers’ opinions about your brand are intimately related to the decision to buy or not from you! These opinions (given and shared) emerge regardless of you. It is therefore important to give them the right information. For this reason it is advisable to start a Content marketing plan, useful in particular for small business.

In my last post I suggested to do the followings:

  • Create a Web site
  • Blog
  • Get involved in social media
  • Get involved in your community
  • Guest blog on relevant sites
  • Solicit & manage online reviews

In the same post I explained how to build a plan for managing this effort. Ann Handley (one of the leading experts in content marketing) suggest that you should be able to support this model over time. Content marketing is a long-term commitment. It’s a bit like having a baby: the experience is rewarding, but it is a commitment that lasts a lifetime. But, what is Content Marketing?

Lucky to be in love with my best friend by calleecakesThe formal definition, given by the Content Marketing Institute is “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” Content marketing provides your audience with commercially-neutral information which is educational, tells a story and provides a solution to their problems. Unlike traditional marketing such as press releases or brochure copy, it is not self-promotional and, therefore, may seem a rather alien way of communicating with your prospects and customers.

The are several reasons why Content marketing is a smart move to be done. For sure the one we’ve mentioned before (it is better to deliver our content to our target audience rather than someone else who do not know us). Certainly Content marketing is cheaper (cost per lead is less than half of other traditional forms of marketing, source: HubSpot) and more effective (studies show that 57% of companies that write a corporate blog obtain new customers through it and also enjoy 55% more traffic and 97% more inbound links, which improves the search engines position of the web site, source Inblurbs). But Jeff Bullas (an internet marketing expert) lists ten good reasons “why” you should do Content Marketing:

  1. Positions you as a thought leader
  2. Positions you as an expert and leader in your field
  3. Improves search engine results – Google loves fresh, new content
  4. Creates an online asset
  5. Educates, informs and entertains
  6. Works 24/7 even while you sleep, year in, year out
  7. Provides content that can be shared easily and globally
  8. Creates loyal fans and followers
  9. Creates engagement and builds relationships with customers and potential customers
  10. Creates ‘Liquid’ content or online buzz and virality: content so contagious it cannot be controlled. This is the purpose of Content Excellence.

Starving CESARE (my nephew) by °EliObviously, the achievement of these 10 features is a goal and is linked to the quality of content. To build quality content, we have gathered some advices by leading experts:

  1. Create content that will help people (Joe Chernov), publish something interesting, useful and aimed at helping people (preferably related to your business activities) and something your target audience knows little about. The creation of valuable content is the most effective evidence of your competence. This content should be made from the point of view of people you want to attract. This will generate trust and reputation in your target audience.
  2. Stop over-commercializing your content when you publish (Scott Stratten). Minimize commercial messages and branding statements. This causes rejection in your target audience (it’s like getting a telemarketing call while you’re having dinner with your family! 78% of consumers believe the recommendations of other consumers and only 14% believe the advertising, Source: Socialnomics). Be more neutral and informative: it will help to be recognized as an experts and your content will be shared.
  3. Remember that pictures (and videos) worth more than words (Joe Chernov), an infographic, a video or high impact visual presentations require to your readers less time to read and more satisfaction to share.
  4. Be creative: you can produce interesting content on everything (Scott Stratten), your customers are interested in you and your product. So it’s up to you to produce something. Involve the whole company: build them as your team. It is the responsibility of all to produce quality content. The public love to talk to real people, not only with the marketing guys.
  5. Don’t shy away from being personal; it builds trust (Ann Handley). We all love stories. It tells more about who you are. Build unique stories about your business or your employees. For example, shows photos of company parties. This helps to build trust in you and your company. Learn how to build stories to tell, it is not difficult. There are a million stories in your company. Just bring them to life. There is always a story to tell. Start from what you are for your customers.
  6. Learn to tell a story bit by bit (Adam Singer). You need to build the story over time and still be agile with the publication on the Web. If you succeed, it resonates more and humanizes your brand. Whereas your competitors talk only when they have big news or are releasing a product, you’re positioning yourself differently.
  7. Facilitates your readers (Ann Handley). Don’t produce a superb piece of content and then invariably hide it behind a registration page. Build your relationship step by step always providing them good content. Publish your content freely then ask for just a little bit of information, and then a little bit more over time, as the reader becomes attached to the blog

Public Notices - Reepham by ell brown (Elliott Brown)In addition, two key recommendations on the architecture of communication channels:

  1. When choosing channels focus on “why” to determine “where” (Ann Handley). You have to think first about why you’re doing what you’re doing and then choose the tools (a blog, a Facebook page, Twitter stream, a YouTube channel).
  2. Use the blog as the center of your communication (Joe Chernov). Make your blog the starting point of all content, because that’s where you animate your content, it becomes the source of sharing, because it is your piece of the internet. Do not let your customers or potential customers spend most of their time on other platforms (Facebook or Twitter), these are not your platforms: platforms are operated by other companies.

The use of social networks is important because it is a powerful tool for multiplication. In fact, social networks not only help to inform the target audience, but also to:

  • involve those who may not be aware of company offers;
  • attract them on the website where they will use the additional content to turn them into customers.

In addition, social media boost a company’s search engine optimization (SEO). The dynamic among content quality, optimization of this content for search engines, dissemination and sharing on social networks will play a role in the success of a content marketing plan.

In a next post I’ll put into practice these Content Marketing tips & tricks. I’ll draw an example in order to make it clear that how easy is to implement a Content marketing plan.

What do you think? Are you afraid to spread content about you? Do you think you have quality content in your company? where do you find content relevant to your target audience? Tell me with a comment.

(Flickr photos thanks to ell brown “Elliott Brown”, °Eli, calleecakes “Callee MacAulay”) .

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