Storytelling as a form of marketing has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. But it’s only in the last ten years or so that “content marketing” in its current form — focusing on the production and delivery of useful, informative content to a specific audience that genuinely wants to hear it — has taken off.
Now, content marketing is marketing. Every brand in the world is trying to use storytelling and emotional connection to find common ground with their customers. Car companies talk about love and family. Beverage makers appeal to your nostalgia. Shoe companies encourage you to pursue your best self.
How are you supposed to stand out in this new world of marketing? And can you really go it alone?
Multi-Channel Marketing is Old News
It wasn’t long ago that marketing your business and brand on a variety of social and traditional channels put you ahead of the curve. Now, the curve has caught up.
Since January of 2018, the share of marketing budgets spent on content alone has increased from 23 percent to nearly half. Almost nine out of ten marketers feel that their content marketing strategy is an integral part of their business. And 77 percent of marketers surveyed said that written content was their top focus for 2019.
The same goes for the use of social media. According to Hubspot, more than three quarters of marketers use Facebook and Twitter to market their brands, with LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube not far behind. In fact, another survey indicated that nearly 90 percent of digital marketers are using Instagram for marketing purposes.
Websites are no longer a novelty — they’re a necessity. Most customers start the purchase process online, and often on their phones — more than half of website visits come from a mobile phone. Businesses small and large have come to realize that if they don’t have a website or a social presence, they simply won’t get noticed any more.
Why Content Marketing is the Answer
Content marketing isn’t just a flashy trend that’s going to fall by the wayside in a few years — it’s a fundamental philosophy about the way brands should interact with their customers, and we’re confident it’ll inform marketing efforts for years to come. Here’s how we know.
Firstly, content marketing establishes you as an authority in your space. Consumers are spoiled for choice — they can easily find the best price, the most features, or the nearest storefront in seconds. In order to stand out and retain customers over the long term, you need to establish a bond of trust with your customers.
That means knowing what you’re talking about. It’s not enough to simply create a product that fits a need — you have to prove that you know what you’re doing. Take Patagonia, for example. If you click through to Patagonia’s front page, you’ll see mentions of capilene t-shirts, waterproof backpacks, and their new all-natural line of hemp clothing.
But Patagonia doesn’t just show you a picture of a capilene t-shirt and a technical explanation of the benefits of this particular type of synthetic fiber — they show you. With photos, videos, and articles about the professional adventure athletes that use this kind of clothing in the real world, Patagonia convinces you that this shirt was created by adventurers, not marketers.
Content marketing allows you the same opportunity. By creating content that establishes you as an authority not just on your product but on the industry and space in which you operate, you can stand above other brands who only talk about themselves.
Another of the major benefits to content marketing is the ability to bring in a focused audience. The downside of the proliferation of social media networks is that it’s very difficult to be everywhere that your audience lives online. In the inbound content marketing philosophy, you don’t have to.
Instead, you focus your efforts on putting out the most relevant, useful, timely, and informative content that you can for the customers that you’re trying to win over. Most people do research online before they buy anything these days — content marketing allows you to be the source they turn to in order to conduct that research.
This way, you’re not bending over backward trying to spread your message in front of people who may not even care about what you’re selling, and you know that everyone you draw in is genuinely interested in what you’re doing.
Taking Content Marketing to the Next Level
In order to elevate your content marketing above the competition, it’s no longer enough to make sure that your logo matches on all your social media networks and write a few blog posts. You need a strategy that covers everything your company does. Here’s how to get started.
Focus On the Angle, Not Just the Story
Telling a story is one thing. Getting people to read it is another step entirely. That’s why you need to be focused not just on creating good content, but on marketing the content itself. In fact, a lot of marketers operate on the 80/20 rule — spend 20 percent of your time creating content and the other 80 percent promoting it.
The way that a story is presented — the title, tags, imagery, email subject lines, and which social networks you spread it on — is just as important to the content’s success as the content itself. That’s why you need a professional marketing agency to unify your strategy, voice, and direction.
Picking a photo or graphic to go with your content isn’t as simple as just finding a stock photo that literally matches the subject matter of a blog post — a picture of a smartphone for an article about mobile websites, for example.
An image is a visceral thing — it’s not just about what’s in the picture, it’s about how the picture is presented and whether that image lines up with your brand. When you promote a brand, you have certain characteristics in mind. Is your brand fun and carefree? Or formal and austere?
Establishing a consistent brand isn’t easy, and there may be more factors than you think. The layout of your website, the fonts and colors you choose, the photos you put inline and on the covers of your blogs, and the graphics you use on your site will all inform the way people think about you. Being consistent and on-target is vital.
The Importance of Marketing Professionals
The bottom line is that for your business to make it out of the garage phase and into the spotlight, you’ll need marketing. There’s too much content, too many websites, and too many social media posts out there to get noticed organically — the only way to get the right eyes on your content is with a unified strategy.
With a marketing team on your side, you can spread exactly the right impression of your brand to exactly the people that most want to hear it, carefully picking out your audience among all the noise. And you can do it all without pouring money into ineffectual channels.