Content is king, and nowhere is that more true than in content marketing. Content marketing, which bridges the divide between marketing and storytelling, is vital to attracting and keeping e-commerce customers.
“Content marketing is the practice of sharing information your target audience will find helpful and valuable with the intention of creating a profitable customer relationship,” said Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions.
Sharing valuable information — in the form of blog posts, videos, articles and other formats — is at the heart of content marketing, which isn’t so much about selling products as it is about building trust.
“Content marketing isn’t always used to sell items,” noted Shelby Hartin, a project manager with Pulse Marketing Agency.
“It’s often used to increase brand awareness by building a base of shareable content that the target audience finds useful,” she told the E-Commerce Times.
With all of that in mind, following are some tips from experts for boosting the effectiveness of your business’s content marketing strategy.
1. Tell a Story
Content marketing is all about storytelling, and it often uses narrative elements like plot and character in order to engage its audience. Stories, after all, draw people in, engaging them with your content and encouraging them to come back for more.
“Storytelling will always be at the core of every brand’s content marketing strategy,” said Moses Velasco, chief product evangelist at Socialbakers.
“Marketers use storytelling to create brand awareness, engage their audiences, and drive customers to a purchase,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
Evolving social media formats are creating a wealth of opportunities to tell stories, and it makes sense to take advantage of these platforms in the creation and dissemination of story-based content marketing.
“The rise of the new Stories format on Snapchat, and now Instagram and Facebook, has opened a new opportunity for brands to take their storytelling to the next level and reach customers at their fingertips,” said Velasco.
“Stories are already engaging on an organic level, and they are a key advertising opportunity for today’s brands. The ability to leverage the authentic format as an advertising platform is a chance for marketers to create content that feels a lot less like traditional marketing.”
Ultimately, content marketing humanizes the e-commerce experience by inviting an audience into a story.
“Don’t be robotic in treating e-commerce as a simple exchange,” cautioned Jake Athey, VP of marketing at Widen.
“Offer an immersive marketing experience to invite customers into a story, a journey, and a never-ending relationship,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
2. Make It About the Customer
Content marketing can’t primarily be about your business. Instead, it must be tailored for the customer, offering useful information, insights or tips.
“It’s not about you,” stressed Lee Frederiksen, managing partner at Hinge Marketing.
“Be sure you stay focused on the issues your client is facing and that you can be of assistance with,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Don’t start talking about what you do and how you do it, [because] then you are slipping into promotional marketing.”
In other words, that old advertising question — “What’s in it for me?” — is just as applicable to content marketing. Always be thinking about that audience, and strive to offer the kind of information it wants.
“Content marketing is simple if you keep your audience in mind,” said Pulse Marketing’s Hartin. “What are they looking for when they come to you? What can you provide that will assist them in some way? How do you establish yourself as a resource for them? By answering those questions, you can effectively determine the topics and mediums through which you can initiate a content marketing strategy.”
3. Solve Problems
Customers have problems they’re trying to solve, and your content marketing can help fill that need.
“Focus content on what your product or solution enables or provides to your audience that they couldn’t do or didn’t have before,” said Marketing Interactions’ Albee.
“Help them visualize the impact of success or of avoiding loss by not acting,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “Show your audience how to solve a problem or gain an outcome that’s important to them and is something you can help them achieve.”
4. Listen to the Data
Though content marketing is a highly creative activity, it often works best when it’s created in response to actual data about what an audience is looking for.
“While I consider myself to be a creative person, I also have a background in SEO,” said Greg Faucher, director of integrated media at Amp Agency.
“I believe the creation of content should always be based in data,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “I truly believe that before creating content, people should figure out what topics they want to be known for, and then use trend and keyword data to understand what people are actually searching for.”
5. Be Consistent
Another key to an effective content marketing strategy is consistency, both in frequency of posting and in overall branding.
“Be consistent,” said Marketing Interactions’ Albee. “This applies to publishing frequency, messaging style, and brand positioning across all the channels you use to share content with your audience. You want them to be able to recognize your brand, even if your logo isn’t present.”
Remember, too, that a steady supply of fresh, new material is at the heart of any successful content marketing strategy.
“Regularity of content is more important than depth,” said Hinge Marketing’s Frederiksen. “For example, it’s better to publish one blog post a week than to publish three in one week and then nothing for a month.”
6. Develop a Voice
Developing a recognizable voice is key to good content marketing, since your voice is a major component of the material.
“Know your audience and find a voice,” said Amp Agency’s Faucher.
“If you’re going to be known for travel, people might not appreciate content that is overly humorous. It might lessen the credibility of the content and decrease effectiveness,” he said.
“However, if you’re a movie reviewer, people might really appreciate a unique brand of content that your website could become known for. Your ‘content voice’ will become more clear once you discover what is truly resonating with the public.”
7. Use Employee Content
Finally, keep in mind that your employees have a lot of valuable content to share, and giving them the opportunity to do so can strengthen your content marketing efforts.
“Employees are viewed as trusted source of information when others are seeking information about a brand or a product,” said Michael Brito, head of U.S. digital at Lewis.
“When internal thought leaders and subject matter experts can be mobilized and activated to participate in industry conversations, the result will include another layer of trusted content surround-sounding your audience,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
Remember, above all, that good content marketing has something valuable to offer your audience.
“The criteria for good content marketing is that the content is useful and valuable to your target audience,” said Hinge Marketing’s Frederiksen. “Anything else misses the point.”