Content marketing's Ten Commandments

Content marketing continues to rise in importance for marketers, with one recent piece of research by content marketing agency Seven claiming that 80% of senior marketers view owned media as either effective or very effective at delivering return on investment for their brands.

Indeed, for many brands, content is the holy grail of customer engagement: it builds reputation, get their consumer attention, keeps them coming back for more and sells products. So, working on that analogy here’s what we see as the 10 commandments of content marketing…

1. Know your audience

The customer should be at the heart of any content marketing strategy, after all they are the people you are trying to engage and build a dialogue with. So, any content you deliver needs to be relevant to them otherwise they will just dismiss it. Not only that but you need to talk to them in the right way, so establishing the right tone of voice is crucial.

This means you need to understand your consumer and what their interests are, you also need to know what analogue and digital channels they are using to ensure that you are communicating with them with the right content; in the right places.

2. Inspire don’t sell

Sadly, too many companies are still stuck in the mind set that creating content means placing the brand or the company at the centre of the conversation and simply employing a "sell, sell, sell" approach.

Too many companies are stuck in the mind set that creating content means simply employing a "sell, sell, sell" approach..

This is born out of years of one-way marketing where the brands that shouted loudest and longest were the ones that gained that all-important marketing cut through. Today there is no longer a place for that approach when you’re communicating directly with your target audience.

Creating content for your various online channels is about sparking people’s interest, encourages a two-way dialogue and giving them something that not only helps them, or gives them some direct benefits, but also gives you a chance to demonstrate your knowledge and experience.

3. Quality counts

One of the biggest challenges surrounding content marketing for most brand owners is understanding that content is not just "stuff", and that if you want to really engage your target audience, your focus has to be on quality.

Anyone can produce "stuff", but there is a world of difference between well thought-out, strategically developed content that absolutely tells a story about a brand, as opposed to material – written, video or audio – that is produced without a thought for quality, understanding or strategy.

4. Think strategically

Content for the sake of content is likely to be almost entirely worthless. You need to plan ahead and to do that effectively you need to understand what it is that you want your content to achieve, as this will have a huge effect the content that you produce.

Furthermore, it’s not something you can switch on and off. For example if you’re going to produce a company newsletter you need to have a long-term commitment otherwise your content will gain no traction, but also, and possibly worse, any traction you do gain from sending out newsletters will quickly disappear.

5. Measure it!

At it’s most simple this means setting objectives that you know you can measure, for example targeting a specific uplift in site traffic. The more intangible your objectives the harder they are to measure and the less likely you are to be able to tell how effective your content marketing is being.

While there are an increasing number of tools and methods to help you demonstrate the effectiveness of your content, simple processes like tracking things like the click-through rate, time spent on site, bounce rate and unique visitors are all good sales-focused metrics.

6. Multi-channel needs a strategy first approach

Managing customer-facing content has evolved into an extremely complex process, driven in no small part by the fact that consumer expectations have risen exponentially.

We now all want to be able to see the same content and have the same level of experience and engagement whether we are viewing a website or webshop on a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone.  To be able to cope with this, retailers and brands need to have a fully integrated approach to their content marketing, which covers all the channels they operate in, and ensures their story is told not only in an interactive way, but also a consistent way.

7. Keep it real

No matter what the temptation, don’t try to be something you’re not.

No matter what the temptation, don’t try to be something you’re not. Although the new rules of communication mean that marketers are able to talk directly to their consumers without having to go through a third-party media, they must still employ tried and trusted reporting and writing skills that make trade and consumer publications "must-reads" for prospective buyers.

Authenticity still counts for everything, and maybe even more so now the channels of communication have opened up. By combining genuine consumer understanding with good narrative skills, you can tell memorable and compelling stories that are meaningful to your customers.

8. Inspire your readers

Insight inspires ideas and engages people with what you are doing. It also shows that you know what you are talking about, you know your industry and you are an authoritative voice within that sector and that people should listen to you. Also, if you give something away to your existing and potential customers that is valued, they will respect you for it and return that compliment by frequenting your website or store and ultimately by buying your products

9. Think holistically

Marketers need to have a holistic vision of how the end-user experiences their brand and that means considering everything from tech to content to design solutions together and not getting overly focused on one channel or area.

10. Listen

Listen to what your customers want – don’t try to tell them what they want. Often it’s not always what you think it is. For example a recent statistic from research by fellow content marketing agency Seven found that 43% of marketers still think the public wants to be talked to. However, just 15% of consumers agreed with this. If you continue to think that you know best the chances are you’re going to come unstuck.

Julia Hutchison is head of content marketing at Group FMG.

The article was first published wallblog.co.uk.

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