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What is Content Marketing?

Forget everything you knew about marketing. There’s a new trend sweeping the world and shaking the foundation of what we all know works. It’s called content marketing, and it is for real.

Content marketing differs from traditional marketing in its customer communication approach. Traditional marketing relied on disruption and attention-grabbing tactics. Content marketing focuses on providing benefit to the consumer during his or her time of research and helping the customer make a good buying decision.

Companies that understand content marketing start by changing the structure of their business. They no longer have one department for sales and another department for marketing. In order to deliver excellent UX, or user experience, these departments and positions are being combined into a new trend called “smarketing.” Smarketing departments and smarketing managers ensure that the company’s message is unified through all channels at all customer contact points. Let’s look at specific ways smarketers are using content marketing to succeed.

Traditional vs. Content Marketing

Quantity of leads vs. quality of leads. It used to be all about the number of leads marketing was able to drive into the company. It was then up to the sales team to work its magic and pressure the customer into a decision. Well, not any more. Today’s customers do 63 percent of their large-purchase research prior to engaging with a company. Content marketing provides customer the information they are looking for, thus focusing on only those who are actually about to buy.

Marketing budget increase vs. competition score. Considered fact, it is a wide-held view that increasing the amount of money spent in marketing directly increases the company’s sales. Not true. There are market limits. An easy example would be trying to increase sales in your service and repair department. If it’s not raining, roofs aren’t leaking. It doesn’t matter how much money you dump into marketing. If there isn’t a need, sales will not increase. Content marketing focuses on winning every one of those customers who do have a leak, when they have them. Save your money and increase your win rate by directly targeting those customers at a time of need with helpful information that the customer will find truly beneficial.

Volume vs. targeted user. Not a week goes by where we don’t receive a spam email from some SEO expert promising to increase our website’s performance. Given the opportunity, they really can make it look as though your site is better, bigger and generating more traffic. But, is traffic really leads? Or, better yet, does increased traffic directly equate to an increased number for jobs won? Not in this case, no. So, when you review your KPIs, or key performance indicators, with your marketing team, don’t get excited when you see traffic increasing. Content marketers would look at only one metric: did it help us win more jobs? The key isn’t to blindly rank higher or increase Web size. The key is to target specific customer types so that they find exactly what they are looking for. To do this well, you’ll need to become the customer and test your entire smarketing system.

Keywords vs. big data. Google and Bing would hope that you don’t know how to use big data to corner customer interactions. I wrote an entire article explaining big data and how to mine it, which is available in the August 2014 issue and online at Make money off of the sale of keywords that place ads in those search results. Keywords can cost hundreds of dollars each. The bad thing about keywords isn’t just their cost. The bad part is the lack of opportunity. Just because a customer clicks on a keyword ad doesn’t mean they won’t “bounce” right back off if they don’t see exactly what they are looking for. Your entire customer opportunity could be lost in seconds if the UX doesn’t match customer expectation. Buying the word “roof” is too general. There are too many variables a customer could be looking for. Try being more specific. Try “shingle roof leak” and design a dedicated landing page that only speaks about shingle roof leaks. You’ll find the conversion rate improve drastically and save money by buying a much less expensive keyword string.

Sales revenue vs. specific revenue streams. Traditional business philosophy would create a company’s marketing budget and operating budget based on top line sales revenue. There is one major flaw in this thought process: product mix. Each type of work has its own gross profit margin. Repairs have a lower volume but typically a higher gross profit. Instead of focusing on a single sales revenue number, break that down into specific revenue streams. Create goals for each type of work your company performs. Our company has 13 different revenue streams, and each is responsible for its own part of the budget. This is a critical step in developing a content marketing program. Not only does this help focus on delivering quality content to specific customers, it also helps the company start focusing on more profitable systems. In economics 101, we were taught to grow a business to employee as many people as possible. Today’s economics is all about being lean. The goal is now to make as much profit with as little liability as possible.

Amount of content vs. quality of content. I used to think it was important to provide customers all the information they could possibly need on our website. The concept was simple; if they have everything they are looking for, the customers won’t need to go elsewhere. However, it didn’t take long for my own consumer behavior to change my opinion on this. We are all busy and time is an increasingly more valuable resource. Consumers don’t want to go looking for things. They want it served up in a way that is easily digestible and actionable. Essentially, less is more. Content marketing is all about being concise and giving customers exactly what they will find useful. This concept doesn’t stop at websites either. Make sure your entire marketing message is concise and easy for the customer to benefit from.

Social activity vs. social media demographics. If you’re like many people trying to use social media for promotion, there is an air of confusion where to invest resources. Mastering social media is all about knowing your client’s demographics. Women tend to enjoy Pinterest. Google+ has an active user base of 73 percent males. Business owners focus their time on LinkedIn. Each of these social media streams has a different style of communication. To create a content marketing strategy, target your potential customers by creating specific campaigns that speak directly to each of their needs in the area they spend time. Don’t link the same blast to all social media outlets. Be creative. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

Testimonials vs. reviews. Customer testimonials are powerful, but not as powerful as they used to be. Customers know websites only post the good ones. Customers value reviews made on public sites that aren’t easily manipulated. Sites such as Google+, Yelp, Houzz, Home Advisor and Angie’s List are more valuable in the eyes of consumers. In fact, they hold about as much weight as referrals. Content marketing principles would target good customers and encourage review posting. One thing to keep in mind is some sites are walled gardens and can’t be read by search engines. That’s not to say sites like Angie’s List aren’t important. Just make sure you’re gaining reviews on multiple sites so that your smarketing targets each persona type.

Specifications vs. A/B testing. A high-quality content marketing strategy ignores jargon, specifications and promotional brochures. Content marketing focuses on quality original content, good design, frequent updates, and concise, omni-channel, responsive and truly beneficial deliverables that customers use to educate themselves on the path to good decision making.

Contact us vs. strong call to action (CTA). Every site has a “contact us” page, and it should. This is reserved for more general communications. Smarketing managers are using content marketing principles and making it easy for the customer to do business with their companies. One simple way is by creating strong CTAs. Each piece of content should have a link to gain more information or to enlist help. There is an entire science behind consumer behavior that goes into creating great CTAs. Everything from color, font, typeset, wording, images, layout, placement and size should be studied and considered when creating CTAs. It’s also important to realize that call to actions are not just for digital media. Print, promotions, vehicle signs and just about anything should have a CTA. Buttons are out; previews are in. Flash is out; contrast is in. Titles need to engage, but not overstate. An example of a great CTA is “download.” It’s not too in your face, but asks the customer to engage. Content marketing is all about providing useful tools for your customers. CTAs start the process, so spend some time researching A/B testing before widespread launch.

Number of estimates vs. number of jobs. Sales managers have taught us for years that sales is nothing but a numbers game. The more estimates given, the more jobs won. At a 20 percent win rate, giving 100 estimates results in 20 jobs. While this is still the case to an extent, customers are changing the theory. They are making their decisions before contacting companies for estimates. Today’s content marketing program focuses on specific potential clients and offers them a set of tools that will help them early in their research process. The goal is to win the customer over before the estimate is even given. This increases win rates to more than 50 percent on average. Now that same company can run 50 estimates and win 25 jobs. Imagine the cost savings associated with running half the leads. Now imagine the profit increase with winning more jobs at the same time.

This month’s homework is to detail your company’s specific revenue streams. Copy and modify your operating budget based on the product mix from each of these streams. Analyze how profits could change if the more profitable streams were targeted. If you would like to chat about anything written here or have questions about how to implement content marketing in your business, please feel free to contact me.