In recent years the buying process for consumers has changed. For decades potential customers were presented with a range of options and reasons to purchase an item and the focus was on continually producing a menu of appetising ways for the product to be consumed by clients across all channels. With the growth of the internet, the world has changed from one of information scarcity to one of information abundance. In fact, according to Google chairman Eric Schmidt “there was 5 Exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization and 2003, but that much information is now created every two days and the pace is rapidly increasing”. The problem is with information abundance is that it creates attention scarcity.
Whilst email blasts and mass advertising still has its place, the focus of the market in the digital age has switched to being found by consumers through all the advertising white noise currently on the internet, and then being able to build continuous relationships with the buyers. If your marketing strategy does not revolve around these two principles it will fail. With the era of the internet being the number resource to go to for … well, just about everything, consumers, whether B2B or B2C, do not want to be sold to. They want to be shown. For the most part, consumers attitudes are, ‘Engage me, communicate with me, add value to my business, solve my problems, create opportunity for me, educate me, inform me, but don’t try and sell me – it won’t work.’ They don’t just want to know the price, features or what it looks like, they can get that from an instant Google search, they want to be shown what the product can do for them and they want a friend to take them there. Maybe there’s a new kind of consumer/provider relationship emerging, H2H marketing – Human to Human – or content marketing.
Content marketing has become a buzz word recently, but you need to understand it is the term given to the way that you engage your customers and take them on their buying journey. It is more than a well written web page. Any marketing device can be used as content – videos, checklists, articles, blogs, white papers and webinars are all providing information to educate your customer and show them why your product relieves their problems and makes their life/business more efficient, but also showcases how you are going to help them to get there. With an excellent content marketing campaign you draw people in to your company, then use your sales people to guide them through the sales funnel with more excellent content, until the sale is concluded.
There is a debate surfacing in marketing circles about the phrase, ‘Content is King’ and whether the information that companies and experts write is really worth the time it takes to read it. Some argue that SEO and web design are just as, or even more important than, mind boggling content is no use unless it’s found, and they are right – and wrong – in the same breath. Content will always be King. Period. If it’s boring, regurgative or exceedingly tedious, even if it’s found… no one will read it. After a few pages of death by boredom it will be hard for you to shake that image for many years with users, and it’s an opinion that will be widely shared on social media and work against you. And if your page is a popular page found by many people, you might as well change your name to, ‘BoreYouIntoAComa.com’ as that’s the way people will remember you.
The debates are going on about these differences in opinion, and are valid, if you have a problem. Let me explain; your content needs to be top notch, whatever else is happening in your ‘online marketing machine’. If people are not reading your content, don’t automatically assume that it’s bad content – it could be that it’s not getting found. Or that your link is broken. Or that it’s in the wrong place on the site. Or a host of other things. With the advent of the digital era, things have become so complicated there is no ‘one size fits all’ for marketing, actually, for anything at all, so an article that comments on anything other than content being king are talking about a small part of a huge machine that could possibly be a problem, not what is guaranteed to be the problem.
Let me put it this way, in the 18th century if you had a problem travelling to the next town, it was either a problem with the horse – or the cart. Similarly, if you had a problem with your advertising, it was either your medium – or your content. Today, if you have a problem getting into the next town it could be the bus is late/full/broken down, your bike has a flat tire/brakes sticking/or bad weather, your shoes are too tight and you can’t walk, your car is out of gas/taken by your kids/in the garage/stolen, the road was flooded/had construction/was closed for environmentalists staging a protest, the next town? Pfft! Short sighted! Why stay so local when we can go global? – And the list goes on. Online marketing opens up a whole new world of opportunity to sell your products but to be competitive in that market, you have to navigate it and become master of every aspect of a now highly complex media. But in this great morass of noise going on in the online marketing arena, content will always be king.
The reason ‘content is King’ is that it is the hook that we engage people with and then the attachment to the process and keep them on the journey. Good content makes people want to know more, after all judgements are made on the quality of information amassed, so if you provide educational, relevant content consumers have all they need to make an informed decision. So why doesn’t it work every time?
Buyers are overwhelmed with all the noise and they are getting better and better at ignoring the messages they don’t want to hear and researching what they do want to learn about on their own. 97% of businesses do not have a content development process. There is no plan for who develops the content or what that content needs to achieve, so the content does not tune into what the buyers are looking for. Essentially, 97% of businesses do not understand the needs of the consumer by neglecting content marketing and not developing content pathways. Like any other marketing campaign, content marketing needs to relevant and focussed; it’s not a case of throwing mud against a wall hoping some of it will stick. You need to develop a specific pathway for that particular content to lead to a sale. Each piece of content must build on the last and have a purpose, or there is no progression.
If you fail to invest in the quality of the content and where that content leads to, then your content marketing will not work. Only 33% of marketing budgets are spent on content marketing but this is not enough to produce content pathways that will cut through the noise of the internet. Not only will it not cut through the noise of the internet, if you do not have a plan for your content or its pathway, you do not know where your customer is in the buying process when they come to you. According to research done by Forrester, buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they even reach the vendor. The reason this is happening more and more is because buyers have so much access to information that they can delay talking to sales until they are experts themselves.
So why aren’t more campaigns spending time getting to know about content pathways and content marketing?
TechValidate did research on this and the results were interesting.
The reasons for content marketing being underused centers around a lack of time and a lack of knowledge, but that can be easily changed. By learning about content marketing, its purpose and how it creates a solid pathway to sales, many of these pain points that are listed will be eliminated. Excellent content can be used in various marketing campaigns and gets your consumers talking. Creating content pathways reduces the time you take in creating effective sales funnels and produces the metrics to evaluate the success and how this can be used on further campaigns.
The most important factor in creating revenue and building brand equity is the client/customer/end-user. Content marketing makes sure that the customer is ‘King’ and keeps the customer engaged and active in the buying process. If you don’t engineer everything around the client with superior content, your client relationships will vanish before your very eyes.
Content marketing is the future of sales and the sooner that you can understand the process, the sooner you can compete with others who are already successfully applying a content pathway to their marketing. Don’t be just another vendor, become a trusted advisor and advocate – make ‘content king’ in your marketing strategy and let us help by using our content pathway guide that guides you through making a content pathway that works.
CREATING A CONTENT PATHWAY
The first element of creating an effective content pathway is to look at the marketing devices you have to leverage. Once you have made a list of those devices that you have to hand, put in some research and find others. The more media you use, the more successful your content pathway will be so don’t discount anything yet. Just because you haven’t used it before, or had a reason to use it before, doesn’t mean that it isn’t valuable to you or doesn’t suit the marketing for your company brand.
The one attribute your marketing devices must have in common is that they all interact with the potential lead, or in other words, be downloadable or will capture information before they can proceed. It doesn’t matter where they appear in your mixed media marketing pathway, but it does matter that they galvanize your readers into action.
Marketing devices or Calls to Action (CTA) can be:
Web Article, Web Page, Adverts, Video, Blog, White Paper, Webinar, Q&A’s, Peer to Peer Recommendation, Social Media, Case Study, Newsletter signup, Download, Worksheet, eBook, Research Summary, Report or Template downloads, etc.
Look at your current media and see what you can immediately use for a more economical approach, but consider writing in some budget for expanding your marketing media and to keep it coming. The more you can produce, the more exciting and readable your content is – so more you will be digested and shared. You can, of course, make your content pathway as a theory and fit the media to it, then go out and make the marketing devices to match. This is a more long term approach, but means you will be able to tailor your mixed media to the content pathway to your marketing persona and industry – which is usually much more effective.
Now you have your marketing devices, you need to organize them into pattern – or pathway. It’s almost like putting them in steps. You have a start and a finish, in this case: entry point to sale. Decide how many steps you want in your pathway then add marketing devices to the time line at each step, with each device having a specific purpose on what it leads to.
A simple time line may look like this:
Entry Point ===========I===========I============I===========I===========I=========== SALE
Entry Device: leads to ____ leads to _____ leads to _____ leads to _____ leads to _____ leads to
For instance, this content pathway has six steps. The entry point may be through a CTA from the blog; this leads to downloading a white paper from the CTA; which then directs them back to the web site to watch a video; which leads them to sign up for the newsletter; which leads to interacting with your social media; which leads to a webinar – which leads to a secured sale.
The pathway directs the lead through the media and gives the prospective customer a purpose. When you have a clear, defined content pathway the lead is always progressing, making your marketing more effective. Couple this with King Content and you have mixed media marketing that makes a difference.
Many small to medium businesses make the mistake of having no purpose to their marketing, or to make it of a poor quality. Don’t fall into this trap. Its’ easy, but it will disadvantage your online marketing to such a degree it will be lost amongst the morass of information already out there. Take the time to make a content pathway, great content and your inbound marketing will take giant leap until it’s out at the front leading the way for others to follow. Only then will you be King Content of the Content People, the person everyone wants to be.