As Zig Ziglar famously said, “money isn’t everything… but it ranks right up there with oxygen.”
And I totally agree.
Nothing, absolutely nothing kills a business faster than a lack of “oxygen” (money).
But why is any of this important? Well, there are very few business problems I can think of that can’t be solved by simply throwing more money at them, and if you didn’t get into business to make money then you’re either lying or you have a hobby and not a business.
In Anthony Greenbank’s book “the book of survival” he makes an interesting point: “to live through an impossible situation, you don’t need to have the reflexes of a Grand Prix driver, the muscles of Hercules, the mind of an Einstein, you simply need to know what do.”
So, in the world of business and marketing, the same thing is true. In very much the same way you would not board a plane if you thought the pilot was not following the flight plan, you should not launch a business or any marketing tactic if you do not have a clear content marketing plan.
The way we make our buying decisions has changed
When it comes to building any successful business, the reason you want to focus so much on marketing is because that’s where the money is.
No matter how good your product or service is, if no one knows about it, it might as well not exist.
Over the past decade, but more so over the past 12 months, the way we make our buying decisions have changed.
Our mobile phone has become the most powerful information centre, even more so than a sales department. And as a business, we should be taking advantage of this.
By way of example, I was recently forced into purchasing a new car as my old one broke down on me in the middle of the motorway and my mechanic told me that there was really no point in repairing it.
That night, I arrived home and I must have consumed a total of 5 hours of content investigating what type of car would be right for me. I watched video test drives, read comments, blogs, reviews, specs. You name it, I read it or watched it.
And do you know who took my business?
The store with the best reviews, content Experience, videos and vlogs.
By morning I was on the phone to my ‘localish’ dealer. I had chosen him from the reviews and content experience provided. He had gained my trust I was willing to confide in him and most importantly, part with my hard-earned cash. I had felt that his content was tailored to my needs and that had helped me feel identified with the brand.
All this in a couple of hours, and all from my mobile.
Of course, this all seems very logical now, but I’m sure the owner must have thought their marketing team were crazy when they came up with the idea of implementing a content strategy.
So what exactly is content marketing and how does it differ from everything else?
Some people think that marketing is advertising or branding or some other vague concept, and despite it all being associated with marketing, it is not one and the same.
The following example will help distinguish the parts:
Have you ever been to the circus?
Visualise the impressive poster with huge exciting font saying “The circus is coming to town on Saturday”. That’s advertising.
Now imagine that you decide to put that very sign on the back of an elephant and walk it through town. You watch look at the expression on peoples faces as you walk past. Kids comment, parents smile and everyone shares looks of surprise. That’s promotion.
Suddenly your elephant gets a burst of energy and stomps through the gardens at your town hall. Your local newspaper gets word and come rushing in to write a story about it, but more importantly about your circus.
The rest of the crowd are taking photographs with their cameras and mobile phones and sharing the pictures of the day’s events. This is publicity.
The mayor comes out and sees everything that’s going on. He sees how embarrassed you are and starts laughing about it all by your side. That’s public relations.
Now, Saturday’s finally arrived… From the moment your audience get in line until they leave a few hours later you totally immerse them in your world, guiding them from one experience to another. You hit them with nonstop magical moments that keep them entertained- Cast members, animals, magic tricks, acrobatics, parades, fireworks…
Even when your audience leaves their seat the experience continues into the gift shop where you monetize whatever high families may be experiencing from the show. This is sales.
And if you planned everything, that’s marketing.
It’s really as simple as that. It’s the strategy you use to get your ideal customer to know you, trust you and hopefully become your customer.
And now we have content marketing that allows us to do all this online and in various formats (written, audio, visual,…) answering customer questions before they even know to ask them.
What is a content strategy?
5 years ago the sale teams held the power of any purchasing decision. You wanted to buy anything and you had two options:
- You buy a specialized magazine
- You talk to a dealer or specialist
Now we have the power. As consumers, we are the ones with all the purchasing power in all consumer-brand relationship.
- We choose who educates us;
- We choose where we get our information from;
- We choose which brands to trust;
- We choose who not to buy from.
Put simply, your content strategy is the whole reasoning process behind your content creation process:
- What’s your goal?
- What content will you create to achieve that goal?
- And how are you going to promote it to be found?
The interesting thing is that a company can adopt 3 types of strategies.
- A reactive strategy: which means you create content as a result of what’s happening in your environment;
- A passive strategy, which means you wait to see what your competitors do and follow their lead;
- A proactive strategy: which means you’ll be setting goals and planning how to achieve them. Based on these objectives you will plan a series of maneuvers that you will then carry out with very specific content. As in the above example of the circus.
Why have a content strategy?
Content experience. Yes, content experience. Lead less with your own agenda and focus on designing a journey around your audience’s specific interests. To do this you need to provide tailored moments, education and experiences.
I used to be ashamed to say this, but not anymore. I ask ‘my friend Google’ everything. From how long it takes to boil the perfect egg to my shoe size, and I expect an exact, spot-on, personalized and accurate answer.. every time. I definitely don’t expect it to give me random content or worse, a guess.
This brings me to your company’s marketing strategy.
What does your client see when it arrives at your website or blog?
Is it random or hyper personalized?
Is your blog organized by the latest (random chronological) or greatest (pain point specific/ vertical..) content?
The way our customers interact with our content, the structure it has, and the environment in which it lives is more important now than ever before.
How to develop a strategic approach to creating content
You need to find ways to convert future customers. Do this by:
- Structuring content so that it can be easily found by your audience (by topic, not by dates);
- Encouraging your audience to interact with your content.
But remember, as consumers, we don’t buy products and services, we buy aspirations, values and attitudes.
We don’t buy vacuum cleaners we buy a Dyson – we buy a supersonic elegant cordless (and bagless which is great for the environment ) helper that won’t wake the kids or annoying anyone that may be on a conference call!
A personalized customer experience begins when we are able, as professionals, to design a personalized journey for our customers. A journey based on their interests, values and aspirations.A. Cowen
At each stage of the buyer’s journey we have to ask ourselves:
- Can we do more to personalize the experience?
- How can we create a personalized customer experience that delivers the right content at the right time?
- How are we going to engage our reader to feel valued at every point of contact? (and this includes talking to them with the right tone of voice at the right time, it doesn’t make sense to be whimsical when their credit card hasn’t been accepted or serious when they subscribe to our newsletter).
- How are we going to create a “made for you” experience?
Don’t Sell Products – Sell Dreams and moments
It’s a bit like the last time you went on a trip.
What did you buy?
The destination or the characteristics of the Boeing 747?.
As customers we don’t care about the features, just tell us what we’re going to achieve with them.
Mercedes, Disney, Red Bull, Nike, Apple and Lego (to name a few) are pioneers in this philosophy. These companies sell a global package of dreams, personal experiences and status.
One of my personal favourite examples of selling moments is the Magic Castle Hotel in L.A.
Out of the hundreds of hotels in California, it triumphs over even the Ritz. Not in decor but in user-generated content and amazing comments left by fellow guests.
Magic Castle’s reviews are impressive.
Of TripAdvisor’s more than 3000 reviews, more than 93% of guests rate the hotel as excellent or very good.
However, if you were just to browse the photos, you’d never think it’s one of the best hotels in Los Angeles.
You’d find images of an interior patio with a smaller pool than the wide-angled photographs allow us to imagine. Outdated rooms with bare walls, and furniture that reminds me of my days back at Uni. In fact, for some, even the word “hotel” seems a little exaggerated as it’s really a refurbished two-storey apartment complex from the 1950s with prices comparable to that of the Hilton.
So how can it be one of the top hotels in Los Angeles?
They have a killer marketing strategy!
Let’s start with the cherry red phone mounted on a wall near the pool.
You pick it up someone immediately answers: “hello, ice cream hotline.” You place an order and within minutes a white-gloved employee hands you a variety of free popsicles by the pool on a silver platter. What a wonderful experience it that to go home with!
They also provide you with complimentary snack, board game and DVD menus, free laundry service as well as a magician three times a week at breakfast.
The fact is that the Magic Castle Hotel has discovered that to please customers you do not have to obsess about every detail. Guests will forgive the small pools and lack of decoration as long as some moments are magical, personalized and make them feel special.
Nothing will kill your business faster than a bad Content Strategy
As consumers, we are looking to be educated and entertained. We want hyper-personalized content by topic, pain, moments, experiences. We need honesty from brands and this may mean that perfection is not important, what we’re looking for is to be able to identify with and feel special. The only way to provide this is with a good content strategy.
Since the start of the pandemic, it’s amazing to see the explosion of online content. 85% of the CMOs I work with say that they have seen an increase in open rates, content interaction and digital experiences among their audience. So now’s a great time to be getting into your content marketing platform and start strategizing!