Why Content is Key to Marketing Success

I read with interest Patrick Hanlon’s Forbes article on the “3 Ps” of marketing: Push, Pull and Portal. It’s a good and important read for anyone who makes, or who hopes to make, their living in marketing. And ultimately, Hanlon writes, the key to all three is content:

Push media is still needed to create brand awareness and purchase intent—but media agencies are finding it harder to achieve reach from one program (or even one platform) alone. Pull media like advertising is still critical to tell your brand story the way you want it told. Becoming a portal through owned media is also not a standalone solution. So all the tubes must be open to provide push and pull andportal. Media drives social, and social drives media…

…It doesn’t take Aristotle to understand that dialogue offers the opportunity to persuade. And the way in, is content. Done smartly, brand communications are no longer an interruption. Instead, your brand becomes the content. [Bolding mine.]

In this post, I take Hanlon’s excellent idea and zero in on the concept of content. Of course, as a social media marketer, my goal is to make my clients’ media drive sociality around its brand, both online and in offline word-of-mouth environments, in order to drive sales. However, none of that can happen without good, strong, proprietary content. If you want people to engage with something, it has to be worth engaging. If you want people to share something, it has to be worth sharing. This is the lesson of “your brand becomes the content”. Instead of an interruption, your brand becomes seamlessly integrated into the daily lives of your customers. Instead of an imposition, it becomes a desire.

Strong proprietary content is the best search engine optimization for your website… and the best way to get people to stay once they’ve found it.

SEO is a lot more complicated than it used to be, especially after the introduction by Google of targeted search, which means that its search engine rankings change based on things like your location, search history and other variables. Eli Pariser’s book The Filter Bubble – and his associated TED talk, if you have 10 minutes – is an interesting study of the increasing personalization of the Internet, a trend that poses interesting challenges for online marketers who are looking to capture particular segments.

Although it’s tempting for those of us who spend much of their days on social media to think of search as somehow obsolete – after all, we get most of our information via Twitter, right? And our artistic inspiration via Pinterest? – for the vast majority of potential customers and clients out there, Google is still the primary gateway to information. And search position matters. You can have the best content in the world, but if no one sees it, it’s useless.

On the other hand, you can optimize your website all you want, calculating keyword densities and pushing it to the top of the Google rankings for your desired keywords, but if a visitor gets to your site and doesn’t find something to keep them there, they’re going to head right back out the virtual door.

I’m going to repeat my message above: if you want people to read, engage with and share something, it has to be worthwhile. Creating strong content that is both SEO-friendly and reader-friendly is the single best thing you can do for your online presence.

Make yourself useful and people will use you. (In a good way. And pay for for it.)

It seems at first couterintuitive that the more good content you provide for free, the more people will pay you for it. The thing is, though, it’s often true. Hanlon uses the example of foods giant Kraft, who create great recipes using their products andpublish them for free online (and on packaging). They also have an online space for customers to share their own Kraft-based recipes. This is the perfect use of content: the time, effort and investment that goes into recipe development is more than paid back in increased sales of Kraft products, and the community message boards allow for sharing of content – and amplification of message, and of desire for product.

Another example is former hiring manager Alison Green‘s popular Ask A Manager blog (to which I will admit a small addiction!). Green updates the blog fairly religiously, providing free expert advice to readers in solving their work-related issues. Green also blogs professionally for various high-profile corporate sites, like the Intuit QuickBase Blog, and consults with various organizations around management issues. Using the content of her website to establish her expertise – and she is truly expert – around workplace issues has helped her to build a successful business around providing similar services for a fee.

Write as you’d like others to write for you.

This is a common piece of advice given to writers of fiction – “write the book you’d want to read” – but it’s just as useful for content and social media marketers. When you’re writing content for a client, think about what you’d want to see on a website or blog or in a tweet or a Facebook post if you were looking for a product they’re selling or a service they’re providing. What questions would you want answered? Do the research and answer them. What (true) story about the product or service would captivate you? Tell that story.

The upshot? Your online presence is often your first impression, so make it count. Strong proprietary content is one of the best ways to attract new business online, and to establish and present your company to potential clients or customers as an expert, competent source of the product or service you’re selling.