What should content marketing for agencies and self-employed people look like to make it work? There is often confusion around the term content marketing. There are also many different definitions. In this article I will explain to you what this is all about. And which mechanisms perform best.
Definition and differentiation: What is content marketing
For content marketing to work, it needs the right basic attitude. And of course this is only true if you know what content marketing is meant for and what it is suitable for.
The problem starts with the term. Because the more precisely you deal with content marketing, the clearer it becomes: The word "martketing" is misleading here. It is mainly about content. And content is not supposed to advertise or even sell anything. Rather, it is supposed to do two things:
- Bringing the right target group to your site
- Achieve a positive change in the attitude of these people towards your company
This sounds quite harmless at first, but it is more difficult than it seems. We will take a closer look at these points in a moment. Before we do so, it is important to stress there are many different definitions of content marketing. Some people even say something like: "All marketing is content marketing".
From my point of view, that makes little sense. Because the fact that you also need content for marketing is not a new insight. Advertisements, catalogues, brochures: That existed even before the Internet. What's new, however, is that companies today create and distribute content that would have been available in the past, especially in trade publications and guidebooks.
Content and the Customer Journey
In other words, content marketing starts at the very beginning of the customer journey. Namely when future customers begin to understand that they have a problem. They have just started to look for a solution. And that's when they hopefully come across your content. They should find you competent and trustworthy enough to finally consider your offers.
This content is therefore planned and implemented with a journalistic perspective. The information needs of the readership are in the foreground. Your content should be useful, helpful and non-commercial. In all this, content marketing is often compared with corporate publishing, which means mainly customer magazines.
A big difference, however, is that the entry threshold for content marketing is much lower. Another is the much greater potential: outstanding content can reach considerably more people than a printed customer magazine. This is simply because such articles can still be found and recommended months and years later - depending on the topic. After all, this is not about filling pages of paper over and over again. It is about creating by far the best content for the respective topic.
This is then kept fresh and up-to-date over the years instead of creating new content again and again. What content marketing and corporate publishing have in common, however, is the fact that sales and distribution are not the main focus here - and success can therefore only be measured indirectly. Let's take a closer look at that in a moment.
Addressing the right target group
Users discover new content in two main ways:
- You can find it in a search offer (Google, YouTube, Pinterest...)
- You will be recommended (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, E-Mail, Messenger...)
You are dealing with SEO? Then of course you know that depending on the topic it can be difficult or impossible to get a top position in the search engines. But there are always alternative possibilities: For example, you concentrate on a more specific question, on a particular point of view or on a highly focused target group. As a simple example: Instead of generally focusing your website on the keyword "WordPress " to optimize, you're going to throw yourself "WordPress Websites for real estate agents in Cologne" - because this is one of your specialities.
SEO also ideally starts with research: You should be clear about the essential keywords and questions that your content should be about. If you optimize your content for search engines like Google afterwards, you will lose a lot of potential.
It is also important to research the competition: What do existing contents already cover? How well are they made? What is missing? How can you outperform these articles, videos or graphics in such a way that your content looks much better? Because only then do you have a chance to be noticed at all.
Last but not least it is important to keep an eye on the search intention. Because as explained before: Your content marketing should reach people right at the beginning of your customer journey. They may not yet have a clear idea of what they need, what is available on the market and how the individual offers differ from one another.
At the same time: Not every topic should be based mainly on SEO. Because here you will of course only be found for things your target group is already actively looking for. This is not always the case, especially with innovative solutions.
This is another reason why it is important to consider the "shareability" of your content at the same time: So you should meet all the requirements for them to spread well on the Social Web. Or so that they can be recommended through other channels such as email and messenger.
Mass production no longer works
One of these principles is that your content is appropriate, interesting and good enough to be recommended at all. The demands on content are constantly increasing. If only because the amount of content is growing and growing. Exchangeable articles and videos don't help much anymore. What everyone can do, everyone is already doing.
For example, your articles and posts need an appealing headline and a nice thumbnail. Because these are the two things a user sees on the Social Web. You should therefore avoid meaningless and random stock photos: They're better than nothing, but I really don't remember how many handshaking, smiling office workers I've seen in my life. More than enough, I would say!
A so-called content hub serves as an important contact point for your content - whether as a freelancer, agency or for other websites. This can be a simple landing page or an elaborate corporate magazine. See the Tips from Jan about the Content Hub.
Invest a few extra minutes here to find something that stands out positively from the usual monotony. Keep in mind that your content only has a few seconds (or fractions of seconds) to trigger the click you're hoping for. And: These thumbnails must still be effective even if you see them in stamp format on your smartphone.
More tips to increase the shareability of your content:
- Actively encourage people to share the content on yourssite . Share buttons can be implemented in compliance with data protection regulations, for example with the Shariff Plugin for WordPress.
- Put out interesting quotes and statements that can be sent directly as a tweet.
- Include graphics that you want to post and recommend on Pinterest.
This list could be continued. The important thing is: The first step is to get the right people on you, your social profiles and yourssite . To do this you need to
- Know your target group well
- Then develop the appropriate content
- Finally, implement these optimally as described
Once you've done that, it's time to move on to the next step in the content marketing process.
Creating a positive change
It sounds unspectacular, but your so laboriously created and distributed content should really "only" cause a positive change in the target group. This is how Robert Rose, among others, describes it in his provocative articles for the Content Marketing Institute. Provocative because it calls for an end to the measurement of success for content.
Which is only half the truth: Of course, we want to measure how successful the content is. But this is not done by typical measurement figures such as page impressions or clicks. After all, what does it mean for a company at the end of the day when its own newsletter has found 5,000 readers? At first nothing at all. Instead, the question is: To what extent do these newsletter subscribers behave differently from other users? What does the ideal-typical behaviour of a user actually look like?
In general, the following applies: Content marketing content is at the beginning of a hopefully longer sequence of actions and further changes in the target group. Content strategist Mirko Lange also sees it that way. He has his insights in this interesting presentation in summary. It's a long way from "We produce content" to "We make more sales and profits". Shortcuts are rare. Rather, patience is needed to create the desired changes in the thinking and behaviour of the target group.
First of all, the contact is established - and attention is created. The brand trust is to be strengthened. At the same time one wants to make sure that potential customers first think of their own company. Over time, they ideally develop a brand preference. And only this will ultimately contribute to the success of the company and be reflected in higher sales.
Keeping readers instead of just winning
What is also evident from this sequence: It is not enough to bring the target group to yours site once. When you've done that, you want to hold them. You can do this, for example, with the newsletter I mentioned earlier. This may be an old-fashioned tool, but it still works very well in many areas. And you have the big advantage that you own your own e-mail distribution list (which you have of course set up in compliance with data protection laws). There is no algorithm that interferes with your e-mails. Nobody tells you how, when and how often you can reach your interested parties.
But if e-mail does not fit because your target group prefers other communication channels, for example, then you will of course respond to it. The important thing is that your content at the beginning of the Customer Journey leads to you remaining in the consciousness of these people. This can also be achieved through useful downloads, or through a helpful e-mail series.
For many companies, agencies and freelancers it is initially a strange idea that they should invest resources in something that does not generate direct revenues. But this should not be completely unknown to you. Customer service has a similar status: its effects can often only be determined indirectly, for example through surveys.
A landing page or product page has it easier: it has a clear purpose, which you can measure comparatively easily. A useful, non-commercial advice article, on the other hand, has a different purpose. How many euros in sales does it generate in the end? When did you achieve the return on investment here? That is not so easy to say. In a separate article I will explain in more detail how the success of content can be measured.
How does your target group decide?
But that you reach your target group so early is really important. Otherwise, your potential customers may end up with your competitors first - and ultimately be convinced by the offers and products. Remember: Decisions are not made as rationally as we humans like to think.
- How well looked after does an interested party feel?
- How much does this person trust a company?
- How much does she feel understood?
All this plays into the decision.
Content marketing is similar to a first date: You get to know each other and maybe you arrange a second date. A marriage proposal usually doesn't come right after the first few minutes. But this is how some companies behave: I get on the website and I'm supposed to buy something. Especially with more complex products and offers this makes no sense.
Don't get me wrong: I am an entrepreneur myself. I know I have to make money at the end of the day. But it must also be clear that only a part of your own activities contribute directly to the turnover. Many others do not. They have other tasks that are at least as important.
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