Content marketing is dead – long live content marketing

What we learned about content marketing at #OiConf in Bristol on 20th October 2016

A couple of weeks ago, on 20th October to be precise, we headed east to the bright lights of Bristol for #OiConf Social and Mobile Innovation Conference. It’s the sort of thing that makes us unfeasibly excited – which is why we do what we do and you do what you do, but in any field of expertise, it’s always good to get together with others working with the same issues. One of the key ideas that we brought back to our little corner of Pembrokeshire was the need for a shift in how we’re all doing our content marketing. What we’re doing, why – and crucially how – we’re doing it.

A quick content marketing recap

‘Content Marketing’ has been a ‘buzzphrase’ of recent years. It’s about creating and using ‘content’ in a way that attracts, engages and retains customers, ultimately encouraging them to buy your products or services over those offered by other similar businesses. ‘Content’ could mean any sort of content, but it’s most commonly used to refer to online material – blogs, images, video, that sort of thing.

Why do we need ‘content marketing’

Brand values

Firstly, as consumers, people want to identify with the brands they are buying from. People don’t simply want to buy widgets – they want to buy widgets from a business that reflect their values, their lifestyle, their aspirations. So ‘content’ is a means of communicating all that. Get it right and you’re on to a winner (or so the theory goes). ‘Content marketing’ done well goes way beyond the basics of ‘what type of widgets’ and ‘whether they do the job or not’ – this is almost a given – or some would say irrelevant – in the battle for customers’ cash.

Search engine optimisation

Secondly, search engines look for websites that are being updated with fresh, relevant content. It acts as a signal that the websites – and so the businesses behind the websites – are active and worthy of being indexed higher up than a website where nothing changes from month to month. By creating new content and adding it to your website, you will satisfy this particular piece of the algorithm as far as your search engine optimisation goes.

So what’s been happening in the content marketing world – and what’s the future?

The content marketing band wagon

Ever since the idea of content marketing has been propounded as a ‘thing’, it’s become more and more popular. ‘Content is King’ has been embraced – to the extent that everyone is doing it, and not very well. People blogging for blogging’s sake, re-hashing material that ‘does the job’ – and which perhaps ticks the search engine optimisation box at a basic level – but is poorly written and doesn’t actually add any value for the consumer. The discussion at #OiConf focused on the fact that there is now so much ‘noise’ online from websites and social media, that for content marketing to be effective and deliver for a business, the emphasis needs to shift.

Refining content marketing strategies

Where will that shift come from? Content is still a hugely valuable tool for digital marketing, but content marketing strategies need to be refined. Freddie Ossberg summed up where we’re going wrong with content marketing pretty succinctly:

So how do we change? How do we make sure our content marketing will deliver? After all, even poor quality content involves time and effort, so if we’re investing in content marketing, we need to see return on that investment.

Getting content marketing right for the 21st Century

Customer experience is everything

Ultimately, content marketing comes down to the customer experience. Your content should be considered and top quality. Less is definitely more as long as it is done well and with the customer in mind.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and ask yourself what they’d like to read or watch. Once you’ve written it or filmed it, look back over it. What does your content deliver? How does it deliver it?

Think about how to make your content work for your customers. The recipe websites (the good ones) get this right – pushing soups, casseroles and crumbles in the Autumn and Winter, light salads in the summer. You may not be selling seasonal vegetables, but you should spend time working out what problems you’re solving for your customers, and then cast your net wider into what’s going on at any particular time to create focused, helpful content. It’s not about the hard sell.

The word is that you content has 8 seconds to draw the user in. If you haven’t got them within 8 seconds, you’ve lost and the content – and all the effort that has gone into it – is worthless.

So although the customer – the user of the content – has to be your priority when creating content, you still need to make sure it’s properly reflecting your business. If not, people may feel they’ve been sold a dud.

Putting our money where our mouth is

We’ve been looking to improve our own content marketing over the last few months, producing fewer articles but trying to make them more helpful. For example, there’s been a huge amount of publicity recently about high profile hacking incidents – so we wrote a blog that was intended to remind people that cyber security is an issue for any business with an online presence – and was designed to explain the steps businesses should take to stay secure online. We’re trying to focus more on the types of questions customers and potential customers ask us, making our blogs more relevant and helpful. We’re also trying to make sure our content is well written, and easy to absorb – bullet points, longer explanations where necessary, providing examples or case studies.
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