So, how do you feel when you’re keen on playing a YouTube video, but first there’s that video ad? You really get into that ad, right? Kidding. You know the drill. You look to the bottom right, hoping against hope the old “Skip this ad” pops up, the faster the better. Oh, by the way, how do you feel about the business that just made you wait?
How about when you’re getting to that climactic scene in “Silence of the Lambs“—screen goes dark and up comes an ad for dishwashing detergent—or trying to take in some breaking news and a popup ad for CRM software blasts across your computer screen? You really love those companies, don’t you? Hold that thought.
People Hate Ads. Period.
Remember “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?” One of the things you learned is to treat people the way you want to be treated—and yet every day, marketers who hate the ads that take away their control and nag them with messages they don’t want to see (or don’t want to see until they’re done doing what they want to do) subject prospective customers to intrusive, mind-numbing ads that insult their intelligence, make them mad—and achieve a result the precise opposite of what they were trying to do—instead of engaging prospects, they turn them into staunch adversaries.
Inbound to The Rescue
Back in the ’70s, people saw on average about 500 ads a day. That’s a lot—now multiply it by 10, because about 5,000 is the number of ads consumers are subjected to today, every day.
Like it or not, that’s the marketing landscape into which you’re placing your company’s messaging.
A world in which consumers get TiVo to fast forward through TV commercials and by the millions register on do not call lists to escape annoying telemarketers.
Savvy marketers understand this. This is why when crafting effective content marketing strategies, they’re taking another content marketing approach. One which attempts to break through the noise and build trust with helpful, relevant content before talking sales.
It’s called inbound marketing.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Let’s say you’re searching for a new washing machine, so you type “buy washing machine” into Google.
The first result takes you to a professionally designed page with a whole bunch of glitzy dishwashers, plus the usual product descriptions, etc., etc.
The second takes you to an article, “Are You Paying Too Much for Your Dishwasher? 3 Features You Don’t Need and Will Never Use.”
Now that’s something that’s going to help you. You want to read it. You want to read it so much you have no problem giving the author your contact information in exchange for it. And, one more thing—if that article does what it promises to do (i.e., saves you some dough), you’ll be happy. You’ll be so happy you’ll want to thank whoever solved your problem (paying more than you need to). You might even buy your new dishwasher from the company that told you what you needed to know on the QT.
And that’s the essence (though not the totality) of inbound marketing, an approach that connects with consumers by answering their most pressing questions and solving their most protracted problems as a means of building trust, not to mention generating leads, boosting conversions, and ramping up sales.
This is HubSpot’s take on the gist of the inbound marketing approach:
“Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t want, inbound marketing forms connections they’re looking for and solves problems they already have.”
It’s Not About Content. It’s About The Right Content And The Right Mix
If you haven’t seen the stunning metrics the prove the effectiveness of content marketing (the heart of a solid inbound strategy for both B2B and B2C businesses), you should check out these 9 from Content Marketing Institute. Suffice it to say that, effectively leveraged, content marketing strategies will generate a dramatically larger number of quality leads and increase sales opportunities more—and do it less expensively—than traditional, outbound tactics. The operative word, of course, is “effectively.” To do content marketing “effectively,” you need to keep 2 thoughts in mind:
- You’re on a tightrope: on one side is your target audience; on the other side are profits. Stray too far to one side or the other, and you’re going to fall. Said differently, the content you create needs to give consumers the help they need—but it also needs to demonstrate (subtly) that your business is the one providing that help, and the one better equipped than your competitors to continue providing that help throughout your budding relationship.
- Different people like different kinds of content: people process information in different ways. Some are “visual learners:” they like things like infographics and charts. Then there are “auditory learners,” the ones who want to dive into a podcast, for example. The point is, to optimize your content marketing, you need to push a smart content mix that accommodates the maximum number of consumers.
Getting Your Content Marketing Mix Right
So, how do you ensure your content marketing strategies are effective and resonate with all segments of your target audience? You do it by creating multiple versions of your best content, each version appealing to a different buyer persona. You should also combine content types for maximum impact—for example, whereas videos, blogs, and podcasts are effective on their own, in combination they can be dominant.
That said, of the several content types you can create, the following 6 are arguably the most effective:
1. Video marketing:
Video marketing is powerful not only because it can collapse the essence of your brand message to 2 minutes or less, but also because it’s perhaps the most effective channel to create an emotional bond with your audience. That’s one of the reasons marketers who distribute video content increase revenues 50% faster than those who don’t.
Posting blogs on your website is perhaps the most effective way to generate and nurture quality leads. In fact, for many marketers, “lead generation” and “blogging” are almost interchangeable. To work, your blogs need to be more about your customers and less about your business—and they need to provide information consumers want and need. Of course, effective blogging is about more than lead generation—for example, businesses that blog regularly are about 13X more likely to see a positive return on investment (ROI) than those who don’t.
Although new to some marketers, podcasts—a group of audio files consumers can download and listen to—are rapidly gaining in popularity. The right podcast can increase traffic to your website and help you solidify your relationship with your audience. Since 27% of men and 24% of women now regularly listen to podcasts, including them in your content mix just makes good marketing sense.
4. White papers:
These are detailed, authoritative reports on topics about which your target audience cares. To be effective, a white paper should solve a specific problem for the consumers who read it. Said differently, white papers are problem-solving guides. Like blogs, white papers are especially effective in boosting lead generation.
Not all consumers like infographics, but the ones who do, like them a lot. This is because they summarize key data in an easily accessible format, and without what those consumers view as unnecessary textual content. To accommodate those consumers who want to see infographics—and those who don’t—it can be useful to deliver infographics alongside text which presents the same data with editorial commentary.
The fact that eBooks must be downloaded to consume makes them feel more authoritative and valuable (one might say “real”) to those who read them. eBooks, like blogs and white papers, will boost lead generation—they can also reinforce your brand and establish you as a thought leader in your industry.
Content Marketing Strategies in 2020
The inbound mantra that “content is king” is no less true today than it was 5 years ago. If anything, smart content marketing strategies are arguably more important now for your business than ever.
Designing and executing a sound strategy—one that effectively dovetails with other digital strategies, however, can be complicated and confusing. That’s where an experienced, competent digital marketing agency can help, giving you the guidance and advice you need to succeed.