The often-quoted term, “content is king” could be translated for today’s marketplace as, “Content is central to your survival and, if done right, to your success.”
“The factors that drive buying behavior today rely on content,” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions. “A strong content strategy will be the distinguishing factor in companies that succeed in 2011 and beyond.”
Without it, adds Hourigan, your target audience will find another source for getting educated on the products or services you provide and, eventually, buy from them.
Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to develop and deploy the online content that will make and keep your business ‘king.’
What exactly is content?
Content is often mistakenly thought of as the words on website pages, brochures, articles, reports or white papers. Such a definition is dangerously short-sighted. In today’s marketplace, online content is anything presented to a visitor that shapes their impression of your business. This includes traditional written content (website messaging, case studies, blogs, articles, testimonials, marketing and e-mail campaigns) as well as visual content (videos, images and maps) and aural content (soundtracks, podcasts and audio clips). Equally important is the layout and design in which that content is presented.
A critical element of content is its syndication. Posting to your website is just the beginning. Distribute your content beyond your Web pages in as many variations, formats and places as are relevant to your prospective customers. Content syndication should include social media groups that feature reviews, helpful advice, interaction and problem solving engagement; video and photo sites such as YouTube, Flicker and Slideshare; bookmarking sites and other sharing portals.
What is so important about content?
When buyers realize a need and begin their research phase, the first place they go is online. An increasing amount of business-to-consumer buyers start and end their research, supplier identification and purchase processes online via eCommerce. Business-to-business buyers tend to engage personally with their ‘set of finalists’ in purchase considerations, but that set of finalists is most often whittled down online. You need to convince buyers that you are the obvious choice without ever having a personal conversation. The way to win their hearts, minds and trust is by delivering your content to them whenever they are searching for, thinking about, or debating your product or service.
Search engines deliver relevant results to searchers (your prospective customers). Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings and success pivots on content and its freshness, relevance and syndication. Therefore, the distribution and refreshment of your optimized content in as many avenues as is relevant and feasible will help your business come up again and again in front of your prospects at the best time possible: when they are looking for the products and services you sell.
This content approach will allow you to reach your prospects in the manner they prefer and relate to best. Some prefer video. Others detailed reports and articles. Even others prefer shorter, less formal blogs. Some are avid podcast and audio listeners. Many check you out in their peer circles online and read review websites, and some just want to easily find a phone number to call you.
Strategically offering your content everywhere that is relevant to your audience yields great SEO benefits through search results visibility, favorable rankings and link popularity. Your properly crafted and presented content positions your business as ‘always on’ and available to educate potential customers and bring them through their buying processes.
Where do I start?
Start with what you already have and build upon it. You can create and deliver fresh online content in many ways:
- Optimize press releases and distribute both on your site and in online PR avenues.
- Create articles and slideshows (PowerPoints) from your product or service FAQs and/or a glossary of terms relevant to your product, business or industry. Help your customer understand and cut through the jargon.
- Suggest how-to’s and checklists for solving a customer’s pain, problem or need related to your service or product.
- Compile short and on-point case studies, success stories and client testimonials.
- Start a corporate blog. Rotate authors among your key employees each week.
- Make short (two minutes maximum) videos of the topics, articles and blog entries above. You can accomplish this with a basic video camera and editing programs.
- Record those topics, articles and blog entries as podcasts or audio clips.
Matching ongoing content opportunities with your strategy and audience relevance will guide your best choices and initiatives.
How do I put it all together?
Do the homework to discover where your customers go online in relation to your product or service. What associated forums, social networks and subject matter sites can you add value to by contributing your content? Where do you encounter your competition (and mentions of them) online?
Evaluate each content opportunity alongside your strategy to build leads and sales. Ensure that your content is aligned with the influence or outcome you expect. Identify how you will track and measure it. Make sure it provides a link back to your website, offering a call to action or a way to make contact with you. Then share it liberally.
Content is not a ‘set it and forget it’ thing. It is an ongoing process that works best with testing, refinement and refreshment. Great content marketing is also the surest way in today’s marketplace to bring your brand to your prospects’ awareness, and turn clicks into customers.
For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, visit www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.
Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.