Also known as native advertising, content marketing is a marriage of traditional advertising and news. The result is information-driven content that captures the attention of audiences, while building a sense of loyalty and trust through helpful information and thought leadership that eventually translates into sales.
Though the concept may seem simple, the shift from traditional advertising into this new form of marketing has given rise to many misunderstandings about what content marketing is, how it is created and what it aims to accomplish.
There are several key misunderstandings that are holding companies, especially startups, back in content marketing efforts.
Misconception #1: It’s all about you
If traditional advertising were an object, it would be a megaphone, with amplified sound moving one way, toward the audience. The goal of traditional advertising is to put your product and the problem it solves for the consumer front and center, to force them to pay attention to what you are selling and why they should want it. Don’t underestimate the media savvy of your audience. We’ve entered an age in which almost everyone who is online experiences direct sales pitches at a constant rate. They have learned to tune out the hard sell.
Successful content marketing looks at it from another angle, from the perspective of the end user. What kind of information is useful to them? What can your company offer in terms of data or expertise that would benefit them most? This is where content marketing resembles traditional news content, in which the aim is to inform.
Misconception #2: It’s only articles
Paid placements and sponsored articles will definitely have a place in a well-rounded content marketing calendar, but they are only one piece of what can be a very large pie. Infographics, video content, podcasts, newsletter content blasts, influencer campaigns and data-driven analyses of demographic-relevant issues and topics all fall under the content marketing umbrella.
When creating a content calendar, consider the ways that you can mix-and-match content pieces for best effect. Perhaps a thought leadership blog post also includes an illustrative infographic. Maybe a company representative gives a presentation on a webcast that includes images, graphs and slides. Perhaps a sponsored column includes information and stats culled from a company study. The options are limitless. Get your team together to brainstorm the best ways to present your expertise to your audience.
Misconception #3: Content quality doesn’t matter
There are a number of content writing farms that have sprung up over the past several years to fill the growing demand for content creation, and the quality of the writing varies greatly. It may seem like a great deal to spend peanuts on a writer to pump out content, but if the content isn’t of a high quality, this defeats the purpose of even putting it out there in the first place.
In order to be effective, content needs to be informative, well-written and well-presented. If you can’t afford to hire a professional writer who produces good copy, then consider looking within your team for someone with the talent and drive to build up this part of their portfolio. Depending on the amount of content you want to generate, in-house writers may be more, or less, expensive than spreading the work among freelancers or content creation companies. Bear in mind that most freelancers and content creation companies are willing to offer discounts for bulk orders or regular work.
Misconception #4: Content marketing is expensive
While it’s definitely possible to spend incredible amounts of money with content marketing, it’s also possible to do it on a budget. Not every company needs to place content in top-tier publications or work with nationally-recognized influencers. Take a look at your target demographic, and localize from there. Look for opportunities with smaller, more niche publications, who are more likely to offer affordable rates or be open to in-kind exchanges. Search for influencers who have small, but highly-engaged audiences. Cut down on costs by looking in-house for competent writers or content creators. Consider building content creation and writing into the job description of a new hire. By looking for the right opportunities, a content marketing plan can be affordable and effective.
Content marketing is not going anywhere, and can be an effective way for startups to reach audiences and engage with potential customers. By keeping the realities of content marketing top-of-mind when sketching out a content calendar, businesses can take advantage of this trend to drive interest and growth.