For your business to grow and succeed, you must market your business.
However, before this can happen, you have to know what marketing really is. Marketing isn’t what most people think it is (ads), and it has changed dramatically in the digital era.
Marketing today no longer revolves around outbound techniques. It’s no longer one-dimensional, consisting of just ads on TV, the radio, or newspaper. Most of us tune that stuff out. We’ve been trained (by marketers of course) that brand messages consist largely of selfish promotion and even propaganda.
The secret to effective marketing is putting your customers first. Today’s marketing has many facets, one of the most important being digital content marketing and the use of thought leadership content to gain your audience’s trust.
To set you up for success, you’ll need to understand what marketing really is and how it’s changed in the past decade. With this information, you’ll be able to market your business properly to grow by attracting new buyers.
While you may not be an expert in marketing, you certainly are familiar with it. You see it every day across many mediums. At the heart of marketing is what you say and how you say it. It’s not simply about the promotion of your product or service.
Marketing, in many ways, is like a story you tell your target audience one they’ll respond to. While selling is often used simultaneously, that’s not what marketing really is. Yes, marketing’s goal is to entice people to want your product, but marketing actually starts with understanding the need you solve, more than your solution.
The secret to understanding what marketing is today lies in being truly customer-centric, not brand-centric. It’s about understanding your customer so well that the message they hear seems like it was created just for them. You have to get inside their head and understand what motivates them and what their biggest pain points are.
Marketing starts by asking questions about your target audience. It’s the beginning of a conversation. At first, your brand and customer don’t know each other well, but your brand’s job is to find out who they are. The brands that are the most successful at marketing welcome the conversation and the answers they receive. They are never caught up in just making a sale.
The best marketers understand that education and information supersede promotional material. They have a desire to share knowledge with their audience. This is true for marketing for B2B and B2C companies.
How do marketers do this? With content marketing, which is a discipline of marketing wherein brands use content to attract buyers. We’ll dive into that topic soon, but first a look back at what marketing used to be.
Marketing was initially something that consumer-facing companies invested in and it was typically handled by an outside agency.
Marketing as we know it saw a heyday during the “madmen” days of the 1960s when mass media was all looking for advertisers. And brands were happy to pay good money to reach engaged audiences on three TV channels.
During its early stages, marketing was all about a catchy jingle or a great tagline. This type of marketing still exists today. Think of all the commercials you see in one day. From banner ads on a website to the billboard you see on your commute, it’s a very crowded space.
The amount of media competing for attention is larger than ever. Plus, many people have become immune to ads. We dismiss them immediately. Instead, buyers now want to do their own research. They crave information to help them solve their challenges.
This change in buyer behavior was ushered in with the age of the internet. In a few clicks, you can find everything you need to know about a problem. Buyers want to consume information now, and they look at and judge a brand by its content.
Marketing has gone through a real transformation since the beginning of the digital era. This evolution brought about inbound marketing. It’s the exact opposite of an ad, which is created on a channel that the masses see, not a target audience.
Inbound marketing is a strategy that attracts customers with relevant content and experiences personalized for them. Outbound marketing (ads) disrupts an audience with content they didn’t ask for, whereas inbound marketing does not. Users are already looking for answers and with the right content, you can deliver them.
|TIP: Understand the differences between inbound and outbound marketing to help clarify the distinction.|
Most brands still employ both outbound and inbound marketing. And while they are both parts of marketing, they are very different. So there’s definitely tension between the two disciplines.
The inbound and outbound marketing dichotomy centers on the age-old tension between push marketing and pull marketing. Inbound marketing uses pull marketing tactics, and outbound marketing uses push marketing tactics. In this sense, a pull is an action that the customer takes. With the push, it’s the brand making the first move. Inbound marketing also is two-way communication. Outbound is one-way and static.
Outbound strategies seek to engage audiences by being loud and off the wall. Inbound has a different take on engagement. It’s done with compelling content, not simply a shout out about how awesome the brand is. Let’s look at the power of content marketing.
Today, almost every brand is currently using content marketing in some way. Even consumer brands have realized the value of content marketing and how it can increase revenue, reduce marketing spend, and deliver better and more loyal customers.
G2 defines content marketing as:
“A type of marketing that includes creating, producing, and sharing content (such as social posts, blog articles, videos, experiences, online courses, or events) that doesn’t serve to advertise the brand, but to invoke an interest in its product or services.”
In today’s marketing ecosystem, a brand cannot compete or survive without producing great content. It’s connected to every modern marketing principle. You can’t have social media without content. Social media has become a key channel for marketers to meet and nurture prospects, and it’s one of the leading ways to distribute content. It’s an excellent place to start a conversation — one that begins when you post relevant content that your target market will find valuable.
You also can’t have SEO, organic or paid, without content. What if you went to Google, typed in a query, and no results came back? That would be pretty unbelievable. Each day buyers are pursuing answers to their problems, and they do so with a search. With the right content, you’ll be a top choice.
So, what is the blueprint for great content marketing? You can find exceptional examples of content marketing all around you. There are certain key ingredients that when combined absolutely work.
First, the content itself needs to be relevant and interesting to the audience. It must share insights and ideas, not just regurgitate facts. The content should have a point of view and not be a plug for your brand. It also has to have a clean and inviting design.
Some other attributes of great content marketing include:
|Content based on the needs of an audience|
|Empowering and inspiring viewers|
|Having a spirit of fun|
|Offering sound and expert advice|
Another key aspect of content marketing is thought leadership. It’s become a bit of a buzzword, but it’s important to your content marketing. Thought leadership is a type of content marketing that taps into the talent and expertise within your business or from your community to resolve some of the most prominent questions of your audience.
In old school marketing, endorsements were essential to get consumers to pay attention. Those endorsers weren’t subject matter experts but were popular. Endorsements from celebrities and professional athletes are still big business, but they don’t have the same impact as thought leadership.
Thought leadership, when executed well, guides an audience to a higher level of understanding and offers great credibility to your brand. If a buyer thinks your business is run by a bunch of experts, of course, they are going to come to you to solve their challenges.
What’s important in thought leadership is conveying a depth of knowledge that your competitors don’t have. It’s not an opportunity to promote. It’s a time to educate. And both B2B and B2C brands can use this strategy to forge deeper connections with their audience.
Thought leadership is a long-term investment in content marketing. You won’t be recognized as an authority right away. It’s something you have to build. It requires marketers to get inside the head of their subject matter experts, conduct a lot of research, and know their audience. But it can reap significant dividends for your business. You’ll want to develop a thought leadership strategy, which will enable you to market your business in a whole new way.
Marketing your business isn’t easy. And you’ll probably make mistakes along the way. What’s important is to keep your focus on how your brand will tell its story and engage audiences. Once you have a grasp on what marketing is and how it can help you grow, it’s time to develop compelling content that will transform the way in which you connect with your audience.
Michael Brenner is author of 3 books including Mean People Suck, The Content Formula, and Digital Marketing Growth Hacks. He is a Forbes top CMO influencer, was named a Top Business Keynote Speaker by the Huffington Post, and a Top Motivational Speaker by Entrepreneur Magazine. He is CEO of Marketing Insider group, where he works with Fortune 500 brands and startups to build effective marketing programs.
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