Content isn’t a new thing. It’s been around since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. What’s changed? How it’s consumed. How much is consumed. How often it’s consumed. Just look at your inbox. Or your social feed. Whether it’s your Outlook, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feed—you’re likely to find content from a business adjacent to content from your mom.
What does this mean? It means we’re fed information—from all sides—at all times. It’s almost like a buffet of things we can, can’t—and often times, would rather not—digest all at once, all the time.
How do we, as small business owners, on meager marketing budgets, figure out a way to stick out in a world where you’re competing against the big guy, the other little guy, and your own mothers for attention?
It’s not easy. But it’s not hard, either. It’s a science. Just like your business. To be successful, there’s quite a bit of biology-meets-chemistry you’ve put in to it. Time + effort = inertia that goes behind creating that success. A successful marketing plan in today’s fast-moving world is no different. Today, we’re going to talk about rising beyond the clutter using content to tell a story-and leveraging your new best friend, Google (and its smaller counterparts).
Don’t Shout. Don’t Whisper. Tell.
There was a time where you could simply buy an ad on TV, in the paper, or on the radio and that was that. You had three options. For the fortunate few, you could do all three. Those who did that were dominant. The more you spent, the more likely you’d return on that that.
Or would you?
According to a Harvard Business School Faculty paper titled “The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention” by Thales Teixeira, the percentage of ads fully viewed on TV has decreased from 97 percent in the early 1990’s to less than 20 percent in 2012. Why is this happening? It’s simple, according to Teixeira. The clutter has always been there, as far back as Gutenberg’s printing press. What is often missing is the information and entertainment component. Storytelling.
To tell a story effectively, this has to be done over time. And Google has built their search engine algorithm for success or “rank” as they call it specifically with this in mind. Google, Bing, and Yahoo all base who ranks at the top of the search results by the time they spend on creating high-quality, relevant content that speaks to their potential customers and new audience as well as the frequency with which they create it. Essentially, they want you to educate people on what you sell. In my years of creating digital marketing strategy, which ranges from pitching $10 gym memberships to million-dollar IT contracts—this method has worked gangbusters. The only thing that pivots your approach is the audience. That’s the inertia part of our scientific equation.
Content is King (and Queen)
Content marketing isn’t a new concept, as businesses have been utilizing this strategy for years with here-and-there blogs, a spattering of video, and a little social media when they feel compelled. But a tepid approach, just like anything, isn’t much of an approach at all.
Instead, a focus on creating useful, high-quality, unique, and completely authentic content that’s by the brand, for the consumer is what will get you the crown. From an active blog, to ongoing video and imagery to a vibrant social channel, make sure it’s shareable, relevant, and most importantly, authentic. Telling the story of your product or service through your own unique, educated voice creates credibility. And over time that credibility fosters a personal relationship between you and your potential customers. And it was all done using technology as the matchmaker.
Good content encourages users to engage—and over time, become a brand advocate. I was talking with Reggie Rucker, principal at Engage with Reggie Rucker, and he believes that the key to an effective social media presence is curating content that starts conversations that, in turn, build brand loyalty. He also believes that posting daily for the sake of posting is a mistake that many small businesses fall victim to and that the important thing is ensuring that your content is high-quality and consistent with your brand’s ideals and values. If the content is engaging, people will share the content and, thus, help to create a new audience of eyes for your brand.
Remember—one viewing of one piece of content is just the beginning.
I Don’t Want to Write Moby Dick. But I Want to Make Harry Potter Money.
Me too! And good content is what makes that happen. Good content creates brand awareness and, over time, it creates authority. Your faces, places, and products become known to the eyes and ears of your potential customer base. Good content tells a story. It’s not “selling you,” it’s “telling you.” It’s easy to lose sight of that truth but imperative that we keep our focus on telling our story.
“It evokes emotion” states Sally Gerbo, owner of Sally Gerbo Design, a Modesto-based design agency. “It should stretch to all aspects of your company’s messaging consistently and cohesively.”
An important piece of the storytelling puzzle is the look. Books are often purchased because of their covers. A good cover doesn’t make a good book, but if you’ve written a good book, it can only hurt you to not have a commensurately good cover. The look and feel of your brand as part of this process. Let’s bind your book with the best glue possible. And to keep that book bound tight, make sure the look, feel, and tone of your content is consistent. David Boring, President and Creative Director at Never Boring, echoes that belief.
“An organization’s visual identity must be clean, memorable, and reflect the uniqueness of that entity. Keeping it consistent across all digital and media platforms is key to success. Never underestimate creativity in both your identity and messaging.”
At the end of the day, what does focusing your businesses valuable dollars on digitally-focused content marketing ultimately do? It increases traffic to your website and keeps folks there longer. And they spend that time getting to know your products or services. A strong digital marketing program covers all content bases; from text to video and imagery to infographics, surveys, webinars, podcasts, and social. And it’s all tied to a great website focused on generating leads.
And the best part? You have access to data that measures effectiveness in real time. Ultimately, it’s a small investment in effort, time, and focus —with the potential for big return if done in a way that pleases your new friends at Google. Something Gutenberg could have never dreamed of all those years ago.
Science has come a long way, hasn’t it, Mr. G?
Time to write this piece: five uninspiring business emails, and a meme sent by my brother.
By Mike Daniel, Final Cut Media