Take it from the inbound marketing experts: Consumer habits and expectations have changed, and most marketers are well-aware that the old-fashioned advertising techniques have become far less effective these days. Thanks to social media, smartphones, and growing connectivity and globalization, customers are becoming far more knowledgeable and savvy—which means that content marketing campaigns must also become more sophisticated to match.
In fact, according to a study published by Compete.com, 94% of shoppers hit the Internet before making a purchase. Consumers are more educated than they used to be—and that’s not a bad thing. Shoppers are doing instant price comparisons. Buyers are also reading reviews—lots of them. And, of course, they’re additionally checking out video demonstrations of products and discussing experiences and opinions with those they interact with online.
If you’re not marketing your business online via the process of content creation or curation, as inbound marketing experts will remind you, you’re missing out—and your competition loves you for it. Our online visibility now defines our ability to stand out and compete on tomorrow’s most crucial business battleground.
How buying decisions are made
Google has a theory called ZMOT or “Zero Moment of Truth.” It’s a new way to approach decision-making when it comes to marketing. (You can download the free eBook here.) In a nutshell, customers no longer buy solely from brick-and-mortar stores; they also make key purchase decisions, and choices to move forward with specific partners, as part of the online research and review cycle.
ZMOT offers a framework for what marketers keep in mind to keep up with ever-changing times—and do so online specifically, where much of this decision-making process and surrounding due diligence takes place. It also reminds organizations that they need to continuously approach marketing campaigns and outreach strategies with fresh eyes and new perspectives. Some companies are even using ZMOT as a basis for developing new business models.
What is most important here aren’t audience numbers or creative designs—rather, ZMOT is all about consumers. “There is a new group of consumers who are far more connected than everyone else, and they’re unlike the traditional consumers we’ve come to know over the past,” writes What’s the Future of Business author Brian Solis. “Your first guess might be that I’m talking about the Millennial. After all, I think they’re born with a smartphone and a Facebook account. But what I’m referring to is something altogether bigger than any demographic.”
Solis says that we’re witnessing the dawn of “Generation C,” a connected society that can be grouped based on shared interests and behavior—not age, but rather personal choices and lifestyles.
How you should market content, not why
If last year was a banner year for growth in the content marketing business, inbound marketing experts say this one will be the year that brands should no longer have been asking why they should be participating in content or inbound marketing efforts, but rather how? However, if you are still asking yourself why it’s important to engage in content/inbound marketing initiatives, the team at DM Confidential puts forth some compelling reasons as to why these practices are imperative:
You become easy to find. SEO (search engine optimization) isn’t just a buzzword. It’s an effective tool for online publishing—and one that creates vastly enhanced Internet visibility. You want customers to be able to find you and your products or services, right? By using search terms correctly and strategically in content marketing materials, you can rocket your way up online search engine rankings, and become far easier to locate in cyberspace. More people now more than ever are searching, preplanning, and making purchases straight from their mobile devices and Web browsers. If you’re invisible to them, it’s hard to close a sale.
You gain credibility. Sandra Zoratti, VP of marketing, executive briefings and education at Ricoh Production Print Solutions, says that providing value via relevant content is a great way to gain credibility, establish trust and build credibility in a helpful, authentic way. Jennifer Wong, marketing manager at Optify, agrees, explaining that the core purpose of content marketing is to add value so buyers can make a more intelligent buying decision.
You have more control. You know what you want to say and you know how to say it: In other words, you’re the one who best knows how to define your branding. Through content marketing, you can tell that story—and do so the way you’d like it to be told. When content comes straight from the horse’s mouth, it’s hard to get confused about the message that you are sending to customers unless, that is, your communications strategy could use an upgrade.
You can generate your own leads. Content marketing can be a huge time and money saver. Brendan Cournoyer, content marketing manager at Brainshark Inc., says that content marketing reduces the need to obtain lists of leads from external sources just to keep your sales funnel filled with prospects. If you create your own content, you can draw an audience to you more readily, and willing one at that, allowing you to generate your own leads and build lasting relationships—a win-win situation for all involved.
You can be an innovator. Want your product or service to be distinguishable from everyone else’s? Do something singular or different—and thereby differentiate. Many others are competing for a share of audience attention, as you’ll frequently hear inbound marketing experts say, and still more attempting to do so by leveraging content marketing—plot and strategize how to make your voice stand out above the din, and what would make audiences want to listen to whatever it’s saying. Like any successful marketing campaign, victory in the online space begins with careful research and planning. Nor should content marketing be the sole focus of outreach efforts: As Cournoyer also points out, content publishing shouldn’t replace your more traditional marketing practices: It should supplement and enhance them.
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