“Content” is any web-based tool, resource, or information that the public will find useful, informative, or entertaining. “Content marketing” is just what it sounds like – using the content the public loves to market your business. In the 1990’s, before the Internet took off, the most common form of “content marketing” was a phone book.
The phone book was hundreds of pages of useful content (addresses and phone numbers), and that content was leveraged to promote business. So, another way to think of content marketing might be to compare it to publishing a phone book. If you make something that’s really useful, people will spend a lot of time with it.
Content Marketing Starts With Trust
In many respects, content marketing has never been simpler than it is today. If you want to get the attention of a potential consumer, you can:
- Write an article that a potential customer would find interesting or useful
- Create a video that a potential customer might enjoy watching and/or find helpful
- Create a how-to guide or graphic that a potential customer might reference later
- Take some great photos that a potential customer might want to see before they buy a part or accessory
- Create a blog, a Pinterest board, a Twitter profile, etc., and then “curate” content around a specific topic that potential customers might want to see, making your blog, board, or profile into a “hub” of great content
Of course, in order for any of these tactics to work, your content has to be good. Good content breeds trust. Trust leads to influence. When you have influence, you can suggest a specific brand or type of part or accessory. You can advise consumers on where to buy their parts. You can even sell consumers your parts. Etc.
Good content = part sales, plain and simple.
Content Marketing Doesn’t Work Without Promotion
Once you’ve created or curated your content, you need to promote it. Otherwise, your content will drown in a sea of content that’s constantly being churned out by rival marketers. If you write an article telling customers “how to save gas,” for example, your article is going to compete with about 800 million other articles on roughly the same topic.
Unfortunately, content promotion is challenging:
- You need to make sure your content is easy to read (or watch or look at), so people will actually read/watch/look at it when they find it. This is deceptively difficult.
- You need to make sure your content is optimized for search engines, so that it generates search traffic.
- You want to advertise your content using social media ad platforms, AdWords, etc.
- You want to encourage people who find your content to share it on social media.
- You want to promote your content to journalists and influencers in your industry, one person at a time.
But before you start creating and promoting content, you have one last question to answer: What’s your strategy?
A Content Strategy Is Kind Of A Big Deal
While we’ve listed strategy last, defining a strategy is always the first thing a content marketer should do.
- Who are you trying to reach? Who is the audience for your content?
- What types of content are you going to prioritize? What topics should you address first, second, fifth, etc?
- What kind of budget do you have? Should you invest your budget into one big video that consumers are sure to love, or use smaller chunks of your budget to pay for weekly blog posts that might help you build a following?
- What are your content strengths and weaknesses in-house? What kind of content creation can your company outsource? Etc.
While there’s no right or wrong way to setup your content marketing strategy, there are a couple of best practices.
First, don’t get ahead of yourself. As the content pyramid graphic shows, auto parts retailers should start by focusing on basic types of content before trying to create “superstar” content like eBooks, infographics, etc. A well-written ‘About’ page, for example, is a higher priority than any blog post.
Second, don’t assign content creation to people that don’t have the time to create good content. A lot of businesses ask an already busy employee to write product descriptions or blog posts. While this is an expedient solution to the “Who’s going to create content?” problem, it never lasts. Most busy employees will stop writing at some point.
Third, be targeted. A lot of content marketing strategies are broad and overly ambitious. Marketers want to become the #1 source of auto repair information online, for example. While this is a great goal, it’s going to be very difficult to reach due to all the competition.
But, if the goal is narrower – say, becoming the #1 source of auto repair information online for the Plymouth Duster – the odds of success are much higher. Once your site reaches that goal and becomes the #1 website for Duster repair info, you can always revise your goal and expand your focus.
Last But Not Least – Content Marketing ROI Is Excellent
It’s true that creating and promoting good content is hard. But the numbers say that the investment is very worthwhile. According to KaPost, content marketing is 30-40% more cost effective than PPC advertising…and this assumes that PPC ads convert twice as well as content (an assumption that we would argue).
Hubspot’s State of Inbound Marketing report argues that content raises overall website conversion rates (perhaps because good content engenders trust). A survey by Roper found that 60% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company with a blog, etc.
But set aside all the stats and consider this: Every article, video, image, ebook, etc. that you create and publish on your website will basically last forever. If you write a great product description that helps you sell one additional $50 part every month, that description will earn you $600 this year, $3,000 over the next five years, etc.
If you think about content marketing as a snowball rolling down a mountain, every piece of content you add makes the ball roll a little faster. If your company pursues content marketing – and does so consistently – it won’t take long before your lonely little snowball becomes a significant part of your marketing success.
Content marketing isn’t complicated. Create good, useful, helpful, and/or interesting content. Promote it like it’s your job, and don’t let up. After a few months of effort, odds are good your website will have links and mentions on social media. These links and mentions will lead to more traffic and more sales. In a couple of years, your content will become a key component of your site’s success.
Of course, it’s often the “simple” tasks that are the hardest to accomplish. While some companies find success doing their own content marketing in-house, many outsource content creation and promotion to a marketing company. If your company is serious about content, hiring an agency to help you is probably a good idea.