This blog post is by Annika Rautakoura, Content Manager at Smarp. Smarp provides an employee communication, advocacy and engagement tool for building influence and engaging employees through content.
With digital and social media mowing the content landscape, content marketing has become the core of building up brand awareness and an online presence that drives business. The importance of content marketing has not gone unnoticed. Currently, 73% of B2B marketers include a plan to operate content marketing as an ongoing business process. It is not simply a campaign (Content Marketing Institute). The focus of content marketing investments have shifted from just content production to content promotion. It’s a combination of these both that ultimately determines the success of content efforts.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a long-term strategy based on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high quality content relevant to them on a consistent basis. “Eventually, when customers make a purchase decision, their loyalty already lies with you. And they will purchase your product and prefer it over competitors’ products”, says Neil Patel. Why is this? Let’s look at some of the reasons.
Content is a way to increase brand awareness by building a voice and authority online. It’s about creating an image of honesty and expertise in your respective field. How does this happen? Certainly not overnight. It takes consistency; being accurate and not misleading your audience. Posting on a regular basis keeps you visible to your audience, and posting consistently helps your audience form habits around the consumption of your content. In other words, audiences can expect you to provide certain types of content in a timely fashion. Trust also calls for grabbing the attention of your audience in the right way. You can do this by encouraging employees to participate in content production, connecting with the right influencers and giving shout-outs to brands and people with engaged audiences. When audiences spot your content through familiar or influential people, they are more likely to take that next step towards purchasing.
Content marketing is a way to start discussions around topics that are important for your business and attract the interest of people and organisations tackling with issues your services can provide solutions to. Researching your audience and targeting this audience based on what they’re looking for is the key to get leads. By having the right lead qualification processes in place and having different types of content to provide for leads at different stages of the purchase funnel, you can turn your leads into business. A well-established content strategy means that you need to work less to find leads, when leads will find you through the content path that you have laid out.
You can measure and adjust
Not investing in the right technology and tracking system for managing and measuring the performance of your content marketing efforts is like trying to hit a moving target in the dark. There is little point in producing or sharing content with no means to adjust any setbacks or build on successes. Here are some tips on with content. Tip: focusing on conversions is valuable for witnessing the actual effects of your content, i.e. action taken after consuming it, whether this means subscribing to a newsletter or downloading an e-book.
Boosting thought leadership through content marketing
Investing in content marketing supports your efforts to get messages across to your target audience. You can also build up a brand image through stories that provide readers with something they can relate to. Content that showcases the company’s achievements. For instance, case studies and user testimonials focused on the client are valuable for highlighting the results of your business. Content that brands the company as an employer allows for more personal material, such as behind-the-scenes articles. If you’re not yet convinced on the importance of employer branding, remember that your current or former employees have as much power in sharing the word about your brand.
What type of content works?
Blogging – B2B marketers with using blogs generate 67% more leads (TechClient). The amount and intensity of blog posts is dependent on resources and strategy. More is more, but quality should always be kept in mind.
Social media – A foolproof way to drive traffic to your site and the content you produce. It’s also an easy way to showcase your industry by linking to relevant third-party content that you consider to be of value to your followers. Social media efforts should always be tied to your overall content strategy, so that they have a maximum impact for your marketing goals.
Visual content is gaining in importance. The use of visual content in articles published by marketers increased by 130% between 2015 and 2016. Social media tools like Instagram and Snapchat are alive and well, and increasingly investing in features for companies. Especially in the B2B industry, people wish to see products in practice.
What’s it all about?
Everything boils down to having a strategy and executing efforts with the goals in mind that they contribute to. It’s about experimenting and learning from your efforts, doing your best to educate and attract readers, and raising their interest with your expertise.
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I have a confession to make
I want people to like me. When I enter a room, I look for signs that the people in that room think I’m alright. These signs could include:
Smiling at me
Starting a conversation with me
Pulling me into a conversation by asking me questions
Making eye contact
Nodding in my direction
It’s a hard thing to admit in a society that tells us that caring about what people think is bad, a sign of insecurity. On the other hand, we work in business markets where we want to attract as many customers as possible. We study them, and we seem desperate to catch their attention. It is fair to say that we care what customers think. Are businesses therefore insecure?
Businesses have compromised their value proposition
Most people, like businesses, want to be liked. But I’ve found that if a room full people all like me, I’m probably not being true to myself. It’s likely that I’m going out of my way (with some of them) to say the things they want to hear. Consciously or unconsciously, I’ve compromised my real value. Do businesses do the same in a bid to secure new customers? I think so.
In fact, if your value proposition is for all customers alike, I can tell you with a degree of certainty that your business isn’t being true to itself. It’s the old adage of trying to be all things to all men (and women).
My value proposition doesn’t resonate with everyone
As much as I want to be liked by everybody, I can’t achieve that without losing sight of my real focus. I have become comfortable with this.
In a room of ten people, for instance, it is not unusual for me to really hit it off with two or three people. It’s a kind of natural selection and I’ve learned to rejoice in this.
Therefore, focus on adding value in your unique way. Recognise who you should say, “No” to. You read that right. You will not add value to some customer groups. And the less time you spend on these groups, the better focus you give your business. Hence, it comes down to targeting and positioning, along with a clear value proposition.
What are your target customer groups and what is your specific value proposition to these groups?
Which customers are you chasing now that you should be saying, “No” to?
If you would like support in answering these questions for your business, get in touch with us today
On Sept 11th 2015, I hoped for an honest discussion about why some organisations appear to have a cultural advantage over their peers. The right corporate culture provides an edge in several areas of organisational performance such as innovation, employee engagement and digital adoption. I got an honest conversation when I interviewed Enda Logan, CEO of The Fifth Business and Visiting Professor at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. The interview forms one of four case studies in my book, The Smart Sceptic’s Guide to Social Media in Organisations (Rethink Press, 2016), launched on Feb 16th 2016. I based the book on real life case studies from multinational firms, It is especially relevant to corporate culture.
As part of Enda’s interview with me, he emphasises that change always starts at the top. This is true for all lkinds of change initiatives. These include the use of social media for business and regulatory changes in addition to other strategic initiatives. I couldn’t agree more. Culture eats strategy for breakfast any day. A 2014 Forbes article even concludes that your company culture is every bit as important as your pay cheque.
Here are 7 ways to ensure your corporate culture allows for sustainable change:
1. Cross-functional ownership
An organisational culture that supports effective change does not allow its business consequences and power to reside in one department. This can make it difficult to change quickly. Instead, smart corporate cultures ensure shared ownership across the organisation. They do this through aligned goals and cross-functional leadership.
2. Continuous improvement
Spend time reflecting on what’s working and what’s not, by observing and sharing lessons learnt and through tools such as root cause analysis. Identifying success and failure causes is not enough. When companies discover the causes, they must implement plans to replicate what is working. Then eradicate what is not working.
3. Honest feedback
Enda’s story of a man he once met with the job title, Corporate Jester fascinated me. This man’s job was to sit in his employer’s board meetings and say the unsay-able. He got paid to challenge ideas from senior executives. This was clearly an enlightened board that actively sought honest feedback. They consider different views to encourage a questioning mentality – starting at the very top.
4. Employee engagement
A corporate culture must enable employees to challenge and share ideas without fear of being penalised or fired. Engaging employees requires them to believe in your purpose and to share their knowledge, knowledge that they regard as power. If your employees don’t feel trusted and empowered by the organisation, you need to revive your company’s culture quickly.
5. Lead by example
It’s not lip-service. It is also not a matter of sending memos to announce new initiatives in the organisation. Senior leaders should be the first seen to live the values they want their employees to adopt. The traditional model of top-down is dead. Such models consisted of a manager telling his staff what to do and think without much responsibility for acting out those desired behaviours himself. It is crucial that change begins at the top to ensure lasting results.
6. Employee empowerment
The future of work is that employees will spend more and more time on social media, using their networks to share knowledge with colleagues, customers and stakeholders. Shama Hyder, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing notes in a recent Forbes article, “People are now media… how organisations leverage people as media in a smart way is here to stay.”
Companies can leverage the power derived from having their employees share content online that is beneficial to the business. As a result, companies could increase brand awareness, effective recruiting, more sales leads and enhanced customer engagement.
7. Future-proof strategies
Finally, a smart corporate culture allows change to occur repeatedly and rapidly to survive the marketplace. There is a delicate balance between sustainable change and being agile enough to change again. Companies must become good storytellers, internally and externally to ensure that people are aware of the good things happening as a result of the changes. At the same time, operational processes should help to monitor the progress of change and flag when things need to be reviewed, and changed again.
In conclusion, these seven tips can help companies develop an engaging corporate culture to support lasting change whether you are introducing social media, a new e-learning system or an HSE policy.
This article was first published on The Fifth Business blog on 19 April 2016