As this article is being written, we’re nearing the end of what can easily be called the craziest, most frustrating presidential election in recent U.S. history.
The Republican and Democratic party nominees are so unpopular, supporters spend most of their time talking about how terrible the opposition is while making excuses for the downfalls of their chosen candidate.
A lot of voters feel like they’re being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. They have to vote for the person they dislike the least instead of someone they truly believe in.
The worst part is, it seems like no matter what the election results are, we’ll still end up with a mess.
Sometimes your options for marketing feel that way, too. However, when it comes to choosing how to reach your target audience, there is a very viable alternative.
Let’s take a look at the marketing candidates …
Traditional Interruption Marketing
The way most of us experienced advertising and marketing over the years was as an interruption.
A commercial break during your favorite TV show …
A radio DJ shilling for a sponsor in-between songs …
A telemarketer who calls during family dinner …
A giant billboard obstructing your view on a road trip …
A pop-up ad in your face while you try to read an online article …
Is it any wonder so many people hate advertising? Everywhere we go, our lives are being interrupted by marketing messages, and most of the time these messages aren’t even ones we care to hear about.
Interruption marketing is “traditional” because for a long time, it was the only way to reach people. You had to go to the TV networks, radio stations, newspapers, and direct marketers to get your business in front of people.
But now, there’s so much noise and so many media options, it’s harder than ever to get attention. That’s why many companies rightly question the effectiveness of traditional advertising and whether they should invest in it at all.
Spammy Online Marketing
The internet has changed the way we advertise. Unfortunately, it hasn’t necessarily changed things for the better.
Not long after early web surfers started getting online with buzzing, whirring, screeching dial-up modems, people started looking for ways to use the Internet to make money. Selling advertising quickly became the easiest way to do that.
And so, named after a canned meat but twice as disgusting, spam was born.
Spam takes on many forms, from digital junk mail in your email inbox and deceptive links on social media to comment spam and search engine spam. It basically covers the majority of dirty online advertising tactics, and it has almost ruined the internet.
There are many other types of online advertising you could call legitimate but still leave people feeling a bit violated.
Let’s be honest, retargeting ads that follow you around the web after you shop online can feel kind of creepy. And, how many times have you somehow ended up on an email marketing list you never signed up for?
The internet gave us the chance to start over with something fresh, honest, and new … but we blew it.
But, maybe it’s not too late! Maybe there’s still a chance for something better … something we can believe in.
The good news is you do have another choice, and it’s called content marketing.
The promises this marketing candidate provide almost sound too good to be true.
Imagine a world where your potential customers not only enjoy your marketing materials, they actually search them out and share them with others.
How about the idea of building an email list full of contacts who signed up for your newsletter because they really do want to find out what you have to say?
What if instead of being forced to go to broadcasters and publishers when you want to reach people, you could build your own audience and you become the publisher or broadcaster instead?
That’s the kind of world content marketing is creating. However, it will only work when businesses that believe in responsible marketing team up with content creators and marketing strategists who know how to do it right.
Content marketing is the practice of brands creating different types of media designed to serve their audience’s best interests by providing real value. The content can be educational, inspirational, engaging, and entertaining. It could be articles, videos, graphics, photo galleries, special events, contests and games, community message boards, and a variety of other ways to reach people.
The goal is to build an audience that trusts you, identifies with your brand, wants to work with your company, and dare we say … even loves you.
Haters Gonna Hate!
Content marketing has plenty of critics, and many of them come from the world of advertising. There are some agencies chasing every digital trend imaginable and others that are so uncomfortable with challenging the status quo, content marketing actually makes them mad.
There are also people who doubt the effectiveness of content marketing with some good points.
In a recent opinion article for MarketingWeek.com, columnist Mark Riston asked whether “content marketing is a load of bollocks.”
Riston complains that content marketing doesn’t have a clear definition and he thinks it’s nothing new …
“It’s not that I don’t see the value of what content marketing does. I just don’t see how it’s any different from what we were already doing.”
He’s completely right in many ways. The idea of creating valuable content for an audience as a way to promote your business is at least as old as Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac. Franklin used the popular publication as a way to raise awareness about his printing business. Find out more in an article from the Content Marketing Institute.
One of the differences is the massive opportunities the digital world provides. Thanks to the Internet, you don’t need a printing press like Benjamin Franklin.
We didn’t always have search engines providing answers to tough questions in mere seconds. B2B and B2C prospects research much differently now. If your content does an excellent job answering questions and solving problems, it will rise to the top.
Today, a good (or bad) idea gets attention because the public uses social media like word of mouth on steroids. Thanks to platforms like Kickstarter, if enough people like an idea, it will become a reality.
Not too long ago, you had to flood airways and mailboxes with ads hoping to hit people who might be interested in your offer. Content marketing helps you target the people you want to reach like a laser instead of spraying buckshot into a crowd and hitting the wrong people.
Riston’s biggest concern is that some marketers are too caught up in the process of creating content and keeping track of metrics that don’t really matter.
“The problem appears to be content marketers who, in a modern version of marketing myopia, seem to think that their reason for existence is to create content, rather than communicate with clients and sell stuff.”
He’s right again, but not completely. Content definitely needs a goal, it needs standards to determine whether it was a success or not. However, a lot of content is designed for people who are in the beginning of their buyer’s journey. It’s for the top of the sales funnel.
Most content marketing best serves people who are in the Needs Awareness or Research phase of their path to purchase.
Direct response, retargeting, and other more aggressive strategies work better later in the sales funnel when someone is getting ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. Content marketing can prime your prospects, making them more likely to choose you over the competition. It can also make them aware of a need they never realized they had, or a solution they never knew existed.
The U.S. government would be a lot more efficient if opposing parties could find a way to work together. Likewise, your marketing efforts are going to be much more effective when you develop an integrated strategy to make different tactics work together.
That means you can build a strategy including traditional advertising, public relations, content creation, and other digital marketing approaches.
Casting a vote for content marketing is a good idea, but as Riston pointed out, we can’t forget that the ultimate goal is to “sell stuff.”
Ready to Dive Into Content Marketing?
At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, content marketing makes the web a better place and it even has the potential to make the world a better place.
It also has the capacity to get ruined and turn into a reboot of the kinds of marketing people find annoying.
The best way to keep that from happening is to understand your audience’s wants, needs, and fears before developing a strategy and showing them why your company is the answer to their problems.
Businesses that are the right fit for Element’s content marketing program get comprehensive strategy, including an analysis of your target audience, market research into your industry, and a closer look at the competition.
After that, the magic of content marketing can begin!