Getting started in content marketing may seem a daunting task. Indeed, many marketers simply skip it because they feel they just don’t have the time it takes.
Good news: you’ve got time! This blog post will give you the essential definition of content marketing and show you two quick and easy ways to get started. You’ll be content marketing in no time.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is publishing and promoting original blog posts, articles, white papers, eBooks and infographics, created by you and your team, which provide useful information to your customers, without directly selling your product or service.
Why do it?
Two easy ways to get started
with Content Marketing
1. Curation: Daily.
Start by curating interesting posts from other sources and sharing or reposting them on your own pages on a daily basis. As people discover what you are reposting and see that it is interesting and useful to them, they’ll follow you so they can keep getting more such posts from you.
You don’t have to write a thesis paper to put out a blog post. Pick a specific topic you feel comfortable writing about, and just start writing. Your company is the expert in providing its product or service, so who better to give your target market advice relating to the needs you solve?
Example: I provide marketing services. The topic of the blog post you are reading right now came up in a client discussion recently. I know this is a relevant topic for many marketers who are new to content marketing, so I decided to write this post. (I hope you find it useful!)
Promote: every time you publish a blog post on your website, create a short teaser headline to promote it, and post the headline and a link back to your post on your company’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn company pages.
No place to publish your blog??? If you can’t yet easily add blog posts to your website, then at a minimum, publish your own original content on a blogging platform like Medium, and/or on your LinkedIn and Facebook company pages (they can be posted right in your feed, or as downloadable PDFs).
Ideally, you’ll migrate your site to a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, which will allow you to easily publish new blog pages whenever you like (WordPress happens to be our preferred CMS). We’ll talk about CMSs in a subsequent blog post.
If you simply curate interesting social media posts and publish your own blog posts at the frequency suggested above, you’ll quickly increase brand awareness, credibility and traffic to your website.
The web is full of great articles and resources to help you grow into an expert content marketer (many published by content marketers themselves). And of course, if you ever want to talk content marketing with us, we’re always happy to chat about one of our favorite subjects.
Here’s to the brander’s journey. See you at the next junction.
What you'll get from this blog entry:
Let's start with a story:
The year was 2001. I was spending a week in Barcelona. For the first few days, I gorged myself on local cuisine — mainly tapas, tapas, and more tapas...until I couldn't stand tapas anymore.
As luck would have it, my hotel was across the street from a McDonald's restaurant.
I know what you're thinking: “Sacrilege! How could you even consider eating at an American fast food joint while traveling in Europe?”
Trust me, I would have thought the same thing, but after eating tapas to wretched excess, I was craving comfort food. And there it was, under the all-too-familiar Golden Arches. It was the symbol of so many cherished childhood memories, of wrapping my little mouth around a juicy Big Mac — “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun!” — yes, I still know that commercial jingle by heart.
So I walked right into the Barcelona McDonald's. And to my delight, there it was: that familiar menu, with hamburgers, quarter pounders, fries, and yes, Big Macs. The chairs and tables were all the same style I'd experienced at U.S. locations. I had truly come home, if only for a few minutes, to escape the terrible tapas!
McDonald's had made good on its promise to me: that the experience of visiting and eating at McDonald's would be exactly the same, regardless of time or place. I could faithfully trust this. I could faithfully trust McDonald's.
This is a great example of the power of brand consistency. By keeping its brand 100% consistent across the decades and across the globe, McDonald's had retained my loyalty. I knew exactly what I'd be getting and I knew that I would like it.
Now, what if there had been five different Spanish burger joints on the same street, all with fancy graphics, nice decor and smiling staff beckoning me to try their European burgers instead of my cherished, trusted McDonald's?
In that moment of seeking comfort, McDonald's brand consistency would have won this American's business. The Spanish competition wouldn't have stood a chance.
Be a stickler for sameness.
Let's review why you have a brand: so people can tell your product and services from the competition, form a relationship with your company, and become loyal to your company because of that relationship. Product/service benefits become secondary. First and foremost, people continue to buy from you because they have a happy relationship with your brand.
But, you'll have no brand if it isn't consistent.
To have a brand, customers must know what they can expect from your company every time they encounter you. You tell them by making a brand promise. The brand promise looks something like this:
Your brand is the sum total of all experiences a customer has with your company and offerings. You've got to make sure all of those experiences are the same. No exceptions.
As soon as a customer's experience starts to deviate from the expectations you've created with your brand promise, that customer will start trusting you less.
Do this enough times, and that customer will start to seek a competing brand that can win and keep his or her trust.
That's why you have to be a stickler for sameness.
Brand consistency hot spots
Here's a basic list of the areas of customer experience where you must keep it the same.
Clearly brand consistency deals with so much more than merely corporate identity and graphic design. Indeed, brand consistency involves practically every facet of a business (or nonprofit), at every level. Businesses succeed or fail based on their ability to provide a consistent brand experience to their customers. That elevates brand consistency to one of the highest-level strategic concerns for your company.
Consistent doesn't have to be boring!
Nike has had the same swoosh and the same mission for decades...and is never boring.
Southwest Airlines is consistently friendly, helpful and irreverent... and never boring.
Mini is consistent in its identity, voice and brashness...and never boring. Ditto Virgin.
Victoria's Secret...need we say more?
See? Consistency can be sexy — no matter what you're selling. If it appeals to your target market, be brash, be funny, be silly — just be consistent about it. And while you're at it, be consistently helpful, friendly and supportive too. Your customers will never get bored with being treated well.
How to get consistent:
Start with a Brand Audit. The Brand Audit will help you get crystal clear on what your brand stands for — your brand promise — and how to make good on that promise. The end result will be a brand book — a guide to help your team present your brand consistently at every customer touch point. It's your blueprint for delivering a consistent customer brand experience. Every. Single. Time. You can read more about the Brand Audit here »
Here's to the Brander's Journey. See you at the next junction.
What you'll get from this blog entry:
If you’ve never done a Brand Audit for your organization, now is the time to do it. And if it’s been a year or more since your last one, now is the time to revisit it.
Keeping your Brand Audit current is essential for the health of your brand, and your organization. Why? Because your brand is one of your business assets that is most critical to your organization’s success.
Why is your brand so critical?
To answer this, we must first revisit the definition of brand: it’s everything that customers associate with your organization. Your brand is your organization’s soul. It defines what your organization stands for, its values, its character and its personality as an organization.
These are the reasons customers will choose your company over competitors, even if competitors charge less for their offerings or produce arguably better offerings.
Customers choose which organizations to support and buy from based on:
The importance of delivering this “feel good” experience cannot be overestimated. Done right, your brand can be your organization’s biggest differentiator and its secret weapon. All other things being equal among competitors, the stronger brand will always win.
That’s why its so important that you build and maintain a spectacular brand for your organization. That's also why you must frequently revisit your brand to make sure it's keeping customers feeling good and keeping your organization differentiated from the competition. That's the purpose of the Brand Audit.
What is a Brand Audit?
Your Brand Audit is a strategic review of your organization’s mission, offerings, ability to deliver on its promises, and customers' perceptions of your organization. The process involves a questionnaire or guide to follow, which will help you assess:
Your Whole-Company Strategy
As you can see, your Brand Audit takes a look at a whole lot more than what is traditionally considered the elements of brand – logo, colors, typefaces, etc. Those are merely branding elements (think of these as just the “clothes and makeup” of your brand). Your Brand Audit takes a look at your entire company strategy in support of delivering a great experience to customers (and doing so profitably!). Everything is considered, from whom you are serving to what you’re offering them and how well you can deliver.
We like to think of a company’s brand as one of the legs of a three-legged stool for your whole company strategy: Operations, Finance and Brand. Without any one of these legs, the stool will tumble. Brand is that important, and that all-encompassing.
How to get started with your first Brand Audit
Step 1: Invite your key stakeholders
These are the people in your organization who are most invested in your brand — your CMO or VP/Director(s) of marketing, your CEO, your VP of Sales, your VP of Customer Service, and perhaps your COO and CFO. This isn't a rigid list; your organization may be structured any number of ways. Just be sure to invite those who have the most responsibility and accountability for defining and maintaining your winning brand strategy, and who will represent this to the rest of the company (that's why at some point, you should involve your CEO or company owner).
Step 2: Download your free Strategic Brand Audit Guide from Shindy Media
This isn't the only place you can find such a guide, but it is conveniently located right here and ready for you to use. Download »
Step 3: Get a skilled and unbiased facilitator
Ideally, you'll want an impartial third party from the outside, who is not saddled with institutional legacy, and who is also skilled at guiding and facilitating organizations through a brand audit, to lead you through this process. (This is one of the services Shindy Media provides.
Please contact us if you're interested to learn more.)
Step 4: ban “sacred cows”
Let go of your cherished beliefs. Nothing is off the table when it comes to this process. You need to take an unfiltered, hyper-critical eye to how you're doing things today so you can brainstorm how you should be doing it instead.
Step 5: make the time
If this is your first ever Brand Audit, you'll need to set aside time to conduct four-to-six meetings, each two-to-three hours in length, to allow for deep discussion that leads to breakthrough discovery. Anything less is shortchanging the process and wasting time.
If you are revisiting a past Brand Audit, you can probably accomplish this in one or two meetings. We'll talk more about this in a moment.
Your Brand Audit will deliver the following actionable results:
This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road — when you'll accomplish your Brand Audit Action Items and steward your brand for complete consistency of experience at all times, across all customer touch-points. This is critical! The only way to build and keep customer trust in your brand is to look, act and message the same way, everywhere, all the time.
The yearly Brand Audit revisit
The results of your first Brand Audit will be based on the assumptions you made and conclusions you reached at the culmination of that process, which you'll then act upon in your implementation of the brand. Periodically, you'll want to stop and check to see if your conclusions have been on target or if they need adjusting. That's when you'll revisit your Brand Audit for a sanity check. We recommend doing this at least once a year, and ideally every six months. It may also be a good idea to bring your facilitator back in to help you with this.
As mentioned above, the revisit should only take one or two meetings — unless, your conclusions were so off target, or, the market has changed so much, that a new Brand Audit is needed. Your business results will help you determine that. Many companies have implemented brand and product strategies only to do a massive pivot a year or two in after realizing that a different strategy was required, and perhaps, even a different mission!
Get a jumpstart. Download your free Brand Audit Guide. Shindy Media has prepared this guide to help you perform a complete Brand Audit. Feel free to download it and share it with your colleagues.
By Ron Marcus, Marketing Cheerleader
Greetings fellow marketers. As 2015 draws to a close, now is a great time to refocus on the core activities we’ll all need to perform in 2016 to strengthen our brands, attract more qualified leads, and increase revenue for our businesses. Think of the following as a simple action check list for the coming year.
Brand Audit: Once a year, you should perform a brand audit and reassess:
Download the Shindy Media Brand Audit Questionnaire »
Brand Consistency: How will you ensure that your brand looks and feels exactly the same to all customers at all touch points? This is critical to maintaining trust in your brand.
Search — Organic and Paid
What will you offer in 2016 that will inform, educate and entertain customers?
Content Marketing provides these benefits:
Types of content:
(A.k.a. “inbound marketing,” powered by marketing automation)
When prospects first start to visit your website for content, they’ll likely not be sales-ready for some time (if at all). Instead of turning them away with an intrusive sales call, nurture these leads. Capture their contact information by offering helpful, stimulating content (see above), then periodically “drip” an offer of new content to them via email. Track lead activity and automate communications to them with marketing automation software. When leads have accumulated enough “activity points” on your website and proven to be a good demographic fit for your offering, you can safely engage them with a sales conversation.
More about Lead Nurturing »
If you aren’t already posting links to your own content as well as curating links to content from complimentary providers and pundits, what are you waiting for? This is a low-cost and effective way to build brand awareness and credibility as an expert in your space. It will also boost your search engine rankings. Make sure to constantly update your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ pages.
Additional Marketing Tactics
Budget allowing, you can should consider engaging in the following tactics to increase brand awareness and lead flow:
Action Precedes Motivation
The foregoing may seem obvious, but it's a challenge to get it all done. However, these are the top priorities. Put aside the other interruptions and distractions and get these done first. Do them routinely. Make them your daily mantra. And watch your sales grow in 2016.
Looking forward to sharing the journey with you,
By Ron Marcus, Marketing Cheerleader
(This post was originally published in the ZUZA Marketer’s Blog, authored for ZUZA. See the ZUZA post here. )
Service example #1:
I was recently in a toy store, purchasing gifts to give to
my niece at her birthday party.
The store clerk was friendly enough. And when she
finished ringing up the order, she smiled.
I said, “Thank you.”
She replied, “Your welcome.”
[customer service mistake #1]
Service Example #2:
I waited for her associate to finish the free gift wrapping (a nice touch, and a win-win, since the wrap carries the store’s brand on it). When she was finished, the first staff person brought it over to me.
Again, I said, “Thank you.”
She replied, “No problem.”
[customer service mistake #2]
Service example #3:
I’m a customer walking through a restaurant or retail store (doesn’t matter which). I end up crossing paths with a member of the staff. One of us has to stop and wait so the other can pass. We both stop. I wait. The staff person goes.
[customer service mistake #3]
WHAT WERE THE MISTAKES?
Service Example #1:
I said, “Thank you,” when the clerk completed my purchase. Sure, I was happy to be polite and say this. And I was genuinely grateful. But, the store clerk really should have thanked me. I’m the one who made the trip to visit the store, and chose to purchase items there, which benefits the store and ultimately her employment. As a customer, I could have chosen to bring my business elsewhere.
By not thanking me, the clerk squandered the opportunity to make me feel appreciated for choosing her store. Whether she realized it or not, the meta message she was sending was, “I don’t really care if you shop here or not.”
Service example #2:
When the clerk delivered my wrapped gifts, which I genuinely appreciated, I was sure to say, “Thank you” again. I’m sure she innocently thought that by saying the common, habitual response of “no problem” she was expressing to me that she was happy to help me. But, let’s look at what “no problem” literally means: “Don’t worry – I was not inconvenienced by assisting you.”
Well, I’m certainly glad I didn’t inconvenience the store clerk – who was just doing her job!
What could she have said to make me feel appreciated? You got it – “My pleasure!” Translation: she enjoyedmaking my day easier by wrapping my gifts for me.
Service Example #3:
I and the store staffer cross paths. One of us has to give way. We both stop. I linger just a little longer – and the staff person proceeds to cross my path.
If the staff person really wanted to make me feel like a guest in his place of employment, he would have insisted that I pass first. Instead, he was signaling to me that his desire to get where he was going to complete a work task (or go on break; I have no idea which) took precedence over a customer patronizing his place of business.
AM I MAKING A BIG DEAL ABOUT NOTHING?
These are all very simple things. In the normal course of the day, they may seem trifling.
But in fact, they speak volumes about the culture of the company whose staff do these things.
It would be just as easy for the store clerk to thank me first.
It would be just as easy for the store clerk to express her pleasure at having the opportunity to serve me, instead of simply reassuring me that I was not an inconvenience to her.
It would be just as easy for the staff person to let me pass first.
In each case, choosing the very simple alternative would make me feel appreciated, welcomed, and important.
Instead, I was made to feel marginalized.
Now, I have a thick skin, and normally, these types of trifles wouldn’t even register.
But when it’s a company’s brand were talking about, these things really rankle me.
At a time of intense business competition and so many products and services being essentially a commodity, the one surefire way you have to differentiate your business, delight your customers, keep them loyal, and turn them into evangelists for your brand, is great customer service.
And, as we saw in the previous three examples, it’s just as easy to give great service as it is to give cavalier service.
I don’t fault the employees, however. This goes right to the top. Culture is set from the top down. It’s up to the company owner(s) to set the example of providing good service, mandating it to employees, rewarding it, and only employing people who are happy to give it. (I wrote about this at length in the previous blog post, “Service = Brand.”)
From now on, as you go through your typical day of shopping and eating out, notice how staff interact with you. See if you can identify the opportunities for them to make you feel appreciated and welcomed, and if these are missed. Notice how this makes you feel. Now multiply this by the number of customers who come in once and never come back because they got better service elsewhere.
That’s why this is so important.
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.
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Ron Marcus, Marketing Cheerleader at Shindy Media, has been on the Brander's Journey for over 26 years.