Today's consumers live up to their name. When it comes to content, customers across industries are consuming all types of media in their quest for information. From articles, to images, to video, content comes in all shapes and sizes-and so do content marketing strategies.
"The increase in customer content consumption is a self-perpetuating cycle, where availability and access are driving further demand," says Daphne Kwon, CEO of EXPO. "As the number of content channels has increased, the consumer expectation for fresh, high-quality, relevant content delivered across their preferred screens means brands or manufacturers have to keep up in order to attract, and then maintain, consumer attention."
For SMBs, this drive for content promises to be an exceptionally difficult challenge, as many small and mid-size companies lack the manpower required to meet this newfound demand for content and establish their presence across popular social sharing and networking sites. Increased content consumption opens up the opportunity to encourage interaction, enabling brands to generate dialogue and provide information that deepens the customer relationship. But, for many SMBs, launching an efficient content marketing strategy may present the greatest challenge of all.
As Tom Gerace, founder and CEO of Skyword, emphasizes, content marketing must be at the center of any company's digital marketing strategy. SMBs must recognize that content has to be at the core of their marketing strategy, not simply an add-on tactic, for content now reigns as the primary avenue for extending brand reach. The content of yesteryear, often pushed to audiences through TV, radio, and newspapers, once guaranteed that the company's message would reach audiences, generating brand awareness. But now that consumers have the authority to choose the channels from which they receive their information, they also have the power to avoid intrusive advertising completely, making it even more difficult for brands to insert their message and have it be seen.
When it comes to conquering the content consumption conundrum, SMBs (and companies of all sizes, for that matter) must surmount two main hurdles: determining their target audience and developing useful content that adds value to the customer's everyday life. Marilyn E. Cox, director of marketing communications at Cincom Systems, Inc., notes that, while companies typically recognize the need to enact a content marketing strategy, most people have no idea where to begin. They understand the underlying importance, but they fail to understand what types of content they should be developing and for whom.
"SMBs need to figure out what they're really good at, what they're uniquely positioned to create to give them that competitive advantage," says Shafqat Islam, CEO of NewsCred. "Whether companies look for help with content creation by outsourcing to an agency, or hiring part-time writers, outside help also adds an element of authenticity that builds trust. Companies that create all their own content do so with an underlying bias toward their product that often comes through in their writing. However, by employing outside writers, businesses reemphasize the fact that they are not solely trying to push their products or services."
In this pursuit of brand awareness, trust, and reliability, relevance affords SMBs the opportunity to set themselves apart from their competition and position themselves as a thought leader in their particular space. When it comes to creating the right kind of content, SMBs must determine ways in which they can offer advice or information that connects with their product or service, but does not come across as overly promotional, for such underlying motives deter today's highly aware, intelligent customer. Instead, by helping customers identify solutions to various problems that arise, SMBs have the chance to clear up the conundrum that plagues so many smaller businesses on their journey toward content creation. They must create content that strengthens relationships and makes the customer smarter by providing high-quality, educational content that also boosts the brand's chance of having such content shared throughout the customer's networks. Thought leadership also positions brands as experts, putting them at the top of the customer's mind when it does come time to invest in the given product or service-another advantage over their competitors.
Lessons from the Leaders
Though large companies have more manpower driving their content marketing strategies, their focus on helping customers solve problems presents a great model for companies of all sizes. Sears, for example, has quietly become the largest retailer of fitness equipment by creating FitStudio, an online fitness community. By offering content created by well-known fitness experts, Sears has extended its reach, moving beyond the traditional customer relationship by putting value behind the products sold. Sears then uses every online platform-Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube-to leverage its entire library of content.
"Sears is obviously a huge retailer that has the deep pockets to pay for significant content marketing programs like FitStudio, but the principles are the same," says Craig Fitzgerald, editorial director at IMN. "Help your customers solve their problems, leverage, and optimize your content library across multiple channels."
Puffs Facial Tissue has also created an entire campaign that positions the company as an expert in an area related to, but not solely revolving around, its product specifically. To generate site traffic and increase brand awareness and reliability, Puffs began offering tutorials on how to spice up one's makeup routine, create flawless hairstyles, and boost one's workout habits. While some tutorials clearly incorporate the brand's facial tissue product, others support Puff's effort to engage in conversations and become a trusted source in the health and beauty space.
TV One, a cable network that delivers programming about African American life, history, and culture, recently turned its focus on engaging its audience across a range of channels, including on its website and mobile.
With the help of Adobe Experience Manager, employees with no technical knowledge can quickly create and upload content and videos, as well as enable responsive design across consumers' various mobile devices.
Allison Rand, vice president of digital media at TV One, says, the solution helps her team dynamically create content and enhances the network's digital presence. "It's how we're merchandising the pages," she says.
Since implementing the solution in November, Rand says traffic on the site has doubled month over month, time spent on the site has increased, bounce rates have decreased, and feedback from the audience has been positive.