There’s no denying that a website is the most essential component for marketing any business today.
Yet, according to a report issued by the University of Maryland and Network Solutions, almost half of small US business still lack this essential marketing vehicle.
For those small businesses that have made the commitment and invested in developing a modern website, hopefully they’ve done it under one domain. And if they’ve incorporated a blog, optimized the site for search and have integrated all of their related social channels, the reality is that these organizations have only reached first base in the long game of online marketing.
Why? Because when it comes to achieving a truly successful online presence, their website now must now continually deliver both perceived and monetary value to the business through the process of content marketing.
What’s Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a way of engaging and attracting existing and potential customers through content creation and online distribution. In short order, this now mainstream discipline is defining which businesses will succeed with online marketing and how they’ll do it.
As I’ve come to introduce this idea to senior management and decision makers in different kinds of businesses, the reaction has been everything from interesting to dismissive. For those not yet up to speed, I offer this summary to those who question why every business must now become a publisher of content that will provide ongoing value to customers and prospects.
After the effort, expense, and resources required to actually develop and deploy a new website, many small businesses are challenged to accept the idea that this was not a one time event. Because it almost always takes more time and money than they planned for, few are willing to step up for round two of a consultant’s invoices shortly after a site launch.
But guess what? Things have changed. The train left. And it’s no longer 1999. Content Marketing is the new fuel that will drive visitors to your site, engage them when they arrive and keep them coming back. So how much attention will this new kind of online marketing take?
For old schooler’s longing for a more simple time, consider the ways of traditional advertising. Way back then, agencies forever tried to get clients to invest in “ad spend” for the long term to generate awareness and develop recall and recognition for a brand. The result was usually that a brand “tried” it for a quarter, allocated the media budget with great resistance, watched the response and/or leads and falsely declared, it (advertising, marketing or brand building) didn’t work.
The good news for these folks is that the media budget may no longer be required. The bad news is that the campaign flight for content marketing is now a “forever” event.
Does a forever engagement or expenditures for continual investment align with your expectation? If not, get over it because it’s now the reality of marketing online today. And if you choose to deny this simple fact, then flee as fast as you can because your new site or online marketing will just turn into another “failed” initiative.
The classic business to business ad created for McGraw-Hill in 1958 provides an appropriate reflection for today’s dramatically changed marketing environment. The ad message identifies the need for a brand to do much more than just present their product or service alone. It highlights the compelling need to create a positive perception and define the value that will be delivered before a business can attempt to make a sale.
Over 50 years later, the essential concept of laying a door mat before a sales person arrives by creating awareness and trust through informative, relevant and engaging content that addresses a target’s pain still makes a lot of sense. Maybe even more so today.
If anything, it’s become even more difficult and complicated in today’s highly competitive environment. So the old methods that you may have comfort in may actually be doing more damage than help with your marketing. The difference between the old school marketing and today’s world of content marketing is that, you can fulfill the complete role of a traditional business-to-business publication. That is, you can deliver both the editorial and the advertising components on your website.
For those who can’t step up, the familiar decision of no decision at all can be costly. Why? Because the longer you wait to get engaged in content marketing the more advantage you give to your competitor who will be meeting this new business requirement.
For Content Marketing is the essential fuel that drives successful search engine optimization, inbound lead generation and social media marketing. And because prospects and customers have become more advanced and demanding, it’s now up to brands to quench their expectations with relevant, entertaining and useful content.
So why should your business do this as soon as possible? Recognized inbound and content marketing authority, HubSpot, has compiled some compelling data including:
- 46% of daily Internet searches are user initiated for research on products or services
- 75% of web users never go further than page 1 of the search results
- Site visitors are 3-5X less likely to click on the paid links returned in search results
- The more pages you have, the better chance of getting found and ranking high in search results
- B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those that don’t
- Companies that blog (just by doing it) have 97% more inbound links than those that don’t
- Creating great content is the key to getting inbound links and there’s just no substitute for this effort
- Delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable content to prospects and customers drives action and ultimately revenue
What’s more, recent research on B2B content marketing by CMI underscores the fact that professional services—and many other business types—have the highest adoption rate for content marketing. Bottom line, this is not going away any time soon.
If your site has integrated a blog and someone has shown you how to add content to it, this content marketing thing is something that you can probably do ad hoc on your own. Right?
Wrong. Success in anything requires a process, a plan and metrics to evaluate your performance along the way. So if you think you have the time and resources to define and document your target customer personas, document your selling cycle, create a structured and detailed content calendar, and engage a consistent and recurring process for creating all of the disparate content that will be required to succeed, have at it.
You’ll quickly learn that content marketing is anything but free or easy. And those that embark on this effort should have lots of energy, comfort with disparate technologies, persistence, and real budget resources before they begin. Adding the publisher title—and all of the addition requirements and responsibilities of this role—is not something that employees in an organization are going to willingly accept. Unless you would like them to stop doing the jobs that they currently have.
Doing nothing is always an option. Pretending that there is not an imperative to meet this new business requirement with your head in the sand submits your and your company to imminent danger.
This inherent risks of this strategy include:
- Having your domain of expertise be adopted, promoted and potentially owned by competitors
- Allowing your competitors to revise and improve their online presence while your static site languishes
- Putting your nascent search ranking (if you have them) at risk of decline
- Sacrificing your tech platform and site technologies to become outdated, incompatible or worse, inoperable
- Virtually guaranteeing your perceived and monetary value will not increase
As people make more personal choices about the messages that they receive and how they want to receive them, it makes sense to engage your customers and prospects in an ongoing conversation about their needs, interests and passions and how you can help them with their unique challenge. An aspirational goal should be to have your customers and prospects turn to you as the trusted resource to help guide them to making better decisions.
Simply by the fact that you are actively showing interest in listening and creating an opportunity for people to provide their individual insights, feelings and attitudes demonstrates a meaningful commitment to continually improve your relationship with your prospects and customers.
It’s time to take a longer view and forget the old days of a campaign burst or a 3 month flight. Consider a 12 month implementation plan and start modestly. You can scale as budget and resources allow. But most of all, have realistic expectations.
If it’s not obvious, there are no silver bullets in marketing anymore. Quality and consistency of effort matter more than ever because everything you do online becomes a reflection of your brand and how you’re perceived. So get in the pool, experiment, review, refine and repeat.
Has your organization begun to address how they are going to meet the new requirement of content marketing? Shout out and share your experience.