I have not always been a digital marketing native. I started in marketing and advertising in the early 2000s and eventually became in charge of creating print advertisements, printable brochures and flyers as well as printed newsletters. But I did have one big advantage over my print-friendly colleagues – for the purpose of maintaining her privacy, I will call her Elyse.
Elyse was our company’s webmaster, and my good friend. We shared a passion for content creation and marketing and would sometimes sit for hours, not only brainstorming effective print content, but also web content. It is from Elyse that I first heard about Google Analytics and metadata as well as the importance of SEO. Through those talks, and later through its implementation, I quickly came to realize that digital media had a distinct advantage over print. If there was a need for a change to the content, you didn’t have to make a frantic run to the print shop, it was easy enough to make the change on the fly and simply re-upload it. Digital media had another excellent advantage – big data. Using big data allowed the limited marketing crew at my small company to not only understand what our customers were doing, but to provide targeted messaging to them based on that activity. But as it became more prevalent, consumers saw big data as Big Brother. Knowing when someone was looking up a product, and then giving them a hard sell, could easily send them running the other way. Stalker much?
Today’s consumers don’t like being sold to. We are constantly bombarded by targeted ads so much so that we immediately put up our guard. We don’t trust what we are told and typically ignore the barrage of sales messages we get every day. So, what is a marketer to do?
The solution is content marketing, which with a little effort and some creativity can effectively attract, nurture and retain customers without breaking the bank.
Become a “Go To” Resource for Customers
I have been an AAA member for nearly my entire driving career, and they have gotten me out of more vehicular scrapes than I care to share, so when I get their monthly newsletter, I usually pay attention to the articles. I mean, its AAA, so they must know which B&Bs in New England are best for fall foliage peeping, right? The marketing part of my brain says that this short list is likely advertising dollar driven, but the AAA fan in me doesn’t care. I trust them to provide me with reliable information because they have always come through for me.
When done correctly, content marketing can be a powerful tool to either promote trust or keep the trust that has already been earned. It works like this. You create content that your prospects will find interesting or useful by focusing on educating your audience rather than selling to them. After you get this content in front of your prospects on a regular basis, they see you as an authority on the topic. They may even share your content with their audiences.
For example, after printing out a flyer about how to clean your copier and tacking it up on the wall, watching a video on how managed print services can save them money and reading a blog about the benefits of leasing, all from their local dealer, XYZ prospect is going to think of that dealer first when looking for a reliable copier/printer dealer in their area.
It is important to remember however, that this is not just about getting prospects in the door. When I visited one of the AAA recommended B&Bs, my experience was great, as promised. Delivering a good experience will not only keep your customers coming back but will ensure they spread the word to other businesses as well.
Use a Variety of Media
I’m a big reader. If I need to look up how to do something or why it’s important, I will pick an article before a video any day. Being a visual person, I tend to lean towards nicely laid out information vs. just words. Give me a well-drawn infographic and I will print it out and refer to it repeatedly. The rest of my family, however, are video learners and will watch a video demo over reading or even a graphic, every time. It’s no wonder that YouTube is the #2 search engine after Google.
Whether it’s a blog, infographic, flyer, case study, video or white paper, content marketing can take many forms. Because each person consumes content differently, it is smart to diversify and use a variety of media when trying to reach prospects. You can essentially say the same thing in a variety of ways. For instance, my team does a lot of customer case studies, and whenever possible, we try to do a written case study as well as a video case study. The written version allows us to focus on the customer’s challenges and tell in detail how we provided a solution, while the video case study allows for footage that shows how those challenges were solved and how happy it made the customer. Both can be for the same customer but tell the story differently.
Speaking of video, you don’t need a professional production crew to create one — just a mobile phone, a well-thought-out script and some editing software. Make sure you use the highest setting on your phone and a mobile stand or tripod so that the camera does not shake. And pay attention to angles and lighting. Importantly, keep it short. Keeping your video under a minute will help you keep your viewers’ attention throughout the video and will allow you to embed it on most social media channels.
Another great medium is a regular blog. This is where you truly get to show prospects and existing customers how much of an industry expert you really are. It is important to remember that a blog should be used to inform, not advertise. Choose topics that your company is an expert on, then write about it. Your customers will appreciate it, especially if it is on a topic that is difficult to understand. Having worked for office equipment manufacturers for the past 10 years, I have found that topics such as copier leasing, managed print and cybersecurity all resonate with our audiences. In fact, at my current company, we have seen direct correlations between someone coming to our website, reading a blog and then filling out a form to request a demo.
Promote Your Content
If you are on a budget, content promotion is best done by posting it to your website and then promoting through social media. When using social media, you can choose to do this organically or set a budget and target specific demographics. Whichever route you pick, it is important to remember to treat the content differently depending on your social media channel.
For instance, when promoting that leasing blog on Twitter or Instagram, create a graphic with bullets of your most important tips and keep your supporting copy short and concise. This can be a nicely designed infographic or a quick graphic you put together that gets the idea across. On LinkedIn and Facebook, you can include a summary of your post along with the graphic. And on YouTube, you can show a quick informative video on leasing with a link back to the blog post.
When posting, make sure to tag any relevant content creators, especially if their name has some cache in the industry. Tagging allows them to see your post and promote it to their channels, which gets it out to an even broader audience.
Finally, join groups that are relevant to the industry and that you can participate in and lend your expertise (Did you know there is a copier salesman club on LinkedIn?). Posting content to your website and then sharing it with these group members is a great way to also ensure that your content goes much further than your followers.
The bottom line is when you post informative content on your website, that content will be picked up by search engines like Google. But beware. The quality of your information will be considered by the search engines’ algorithms, so make sure your content is original and of good quality. Also, if your content has a high bounce rate, that means that people are landing on your content and leaving quickly, and your site will be demoted to a lower ranking.
Content marketing can provide distinct competitive advantages, such as building brand awareness, improving your site’s rank on search engines, driving traffic to your website and generating leads. It can also help you retain existing customers, strengthen their loyalty, and position your company as an industry authority. If those benefits are appealing to you, now is a good time to start developing your company’s content marketing strategy. Need a place to start? Many industry manufacturers provide current and relevant content that can help you get started.
Naeran Rubio is the associate director of content and communications for Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America. She has extensive experience in technology marketing and has been marketing for the imaging industry for nearly 10 years. In her current role, she leads Sharp’s content and communications team that creates and promotes helpful industry content.