Content marketing for business

Content marketing is becoming ubiquitous, and with good reason: high-quality, well-tailored content is a terrific marketing tool and a way to engage consumers and bolster your brand.

As more and more businesses jump on board the content marketing wagon, however, it’s crucial the content you invest in helps your brand stand out from the pack.

And this doesn’t mean “spruiking your brand” through superlative-littered advertorial, says Nick Snelling, Head of Content at creative agency Edge. It means creating genuinely engaging, entertaining stories with consumers’ needs and interests top of mind.

What is content marketing?

“What’s content marketing? How long is a piece of string?” Snelling asks.

In a nutshell, he says, the content you create – which could range from your standard business information to articles, videos and more – “should speak to the proposition of what you’re selling, the service you’re providing”.

Edge follows a ‘hero’, ‘hub’ and ‘hygiene’ content marketing model.

“The least sophisticated level is ‘hygiene’ content,” Snelling explains. “That’s your staple meat-and-potatoes content: what people need to know about your business, brand, products or services and location; pretty much what you’d put on your website.”

Laced into that content needs to be appropriate keywords for SEO (search-engine optimisation) and SEM (search-engine marketing), so that your content comes up when people search online within your field. “So, if someone’s looking for haircuts in Bondi, they’ll find your barber-shop business,” Snelling says.

‘Hub’ content is further up the chain. ‘Hub’ content caters to the more sophisticated needs of your consumer; to create effective ‘hub’ content, you need to know what stories are relevant to both consumers and your brand.

“If you draw overlapping circles representing the interests of your consumer and your brand, the overlapping section is where we draw ‘hub’ content from,” Snelling explains. “That content might be listicles, case studies, blogs, articles, illustrations or graphics – anything to which people can attach value.

“Hub content is equally as important as hygiene content because brands need to be telling the story that revolves around them. That’s how you humanise a brand; how you create content that’s relevant and identifiable to consumers,” he says.

“The ‘Hero’ content is really the bigger flagship piece or pieces that really boost brand awareness,” Snelling says.

“For example, if a brand developed a piece of video content with a high production value and accompanied it with an appropriate spend to amplify it on social media, that might constitute the most obvious piece of ‘hero’ content,” he says.

Why is content marketing important?

“It’s important because people are online now – they don’t go to the Yellow Pages – so they’re searching for services and products online, and that’s the way they learn about you,” he says.

“If you go further up, it’s about developing a brand and finding those mutual values, the shared ideas between consumer and brand. And if, in doing so, a brand successfully imparts something of value to consumers, then – consciously or subconsciously – they feel closer to that brand. They have that positive memory and it drives consideration.”

How do you develop a content marketing strategy?

Other than developing your content under the ‘hero’, ‘hub’ and ‘hygiene’ model, building a comprehensive content marketing strategy entails breaking up your content into consumer segments then deciding how you can best deliver to each segment.

“Ask yourself: Are your consumers mainly on Facebook? Or on apps? Or are they likely to seek out your content on your brand’s hub?” Snelling asks. “Then, how are you going to amplify this content on the channels it lives on? Because everyone’s creating content, you need to ensure yours isn’t sinking to the bottom of the pond.”

Once you’ve created your content, Snelling notes, you need to ‘amplify’ it – which may require a paid media strategy. “It’s not just about coming up with the coolest story or the odd blog; content has to be a lot smarter than that.”

The strategy you deploy will depend on several factors, including: the size of your business and your market; your industry; and what you’re offering.

What sort of content will work for you?

Creating and sharing brand-related information is fine if it’s genuinely helpful, Snelling says, but use promotional ploys at your peril – 21st-century consumers are too media-savvy to be fooled by the old bait and switch.

Indeed, your target audience is unlikely to absorb your message, however artfully crafted, unless they engage with your content – which won’t happen unless that content genuinely entertains, inspires and fosters aspirations that become positively linked in people’s minds with your brand.

Remember those overlapping circles?

“It’s about identifying what you want to address that straddles those mutual ideals,” Snelling says, “and understanding that there’s not just one, but a range of consumer profiles. If you have the budget, you can develop content accordingly, targeting the interests and needs of those various consumer profiles.”

“There’s no one-fits-all content marketing strategy,” Snelling says. “So you come back to ‘How long is a piece of string?’”

Top three things to consider when content marketing

  1. Put the consumer first. You don’t want to be selling them stuff; you want to be offering them something of value that they can take away. Whether you inform, educate, entertain, or do all three, your content needs to empower them in some way.
  2. Content isn’t a soapbox for spruiking your brand – it’s about the value to the consumer of what the brand’s imparting.
  3. Keep in mind that there are several reasons people share content. Facebook did a massive study of this and found that 16 per cent of people shared content because they felt it would gain them approval among their peers (essentially, building their own personal ‘brand’), 18 per cent said their main motivation was because it had ‘pass-along’ value and 36 per cent said they shared content ‘because it tells a good story’ – it had an interesting hero, or an emotional element to it that drives empathy. Not all brands need to do that but, once you’ve reached a certain level, you need to be telling those kinds of stories because they’re the ones that make people feel closer to your brand.

Top four things to avoid when content marketing

  1. Don’t be too advertorial. Today’s sophisticated consumers see right through it.
  2. Create your own content and invest in it; don’t plagiarise other people’s, because that’s not going to do you any favours whatsoever, either with consumers, the other brand in question, or your long-term engagement needs.
  3. Do your research: don’t go off half-cocked. Know who you’re talking to and where they dwell most online.
  4. Don’t expect that just because you’ve built it, they will come. You need to make sure you amplify the content and that it’s properly optimised for SEO and SEM.

Words: Merran White

The articles represent the views of the authors and not necessarily that of the Bank. You should seek independent professional advice before acting on any matters set out in the articles.