As a social entrepreneur and innovator you are most likely interested in doing two things: creating positive impact and generating revenue to scale the impact of your business. In order to generate revenue you need customers and that is where content marketing can play a crucial role for your business. So let’s take a look at how content marketing can help grow your business.
What is content marketing?
Before outlining how content marketing can assist your business it is important to know what the term actually means.
According to copyblogger content marketing “means creating and sharing valuable content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.”
There is a popular belief that suggests the purpose of content marketing is to generate awareness at the top of the marketing funnel. But this is mistaken and neglects to take full advantage of the potential of content marketing. Good content marketing is full funnel. It plays a role in each of the stages from awareness generation to conversion and even to the advocacy stage of the customer relationship.
In the last two decades the importance of good content marketing has risen significantly. Due to the internets rise and it’s growing adoption around the world people have become accustomed to consuming content – be it reading news online, watching videos, listening to music and reading social media updates or blogs.
Yet people face a vast array of choices on the internet as to what to consume and attention spans are getting shorter. At the same time, when consuming content online marketing messages are often seen as an unpleasant distraction.
The New York Times recently reported that the use of ad-blocking software has risen by 30% globally. Ad-blocking is especially prevalent in emerging markets where many social businesses operate as people aim to save on costly data packages by removing video and other data intensive advertisements.
For social entrepreneurs this means that you need produce compelling ad experiences and content that consumers do not want to block. This is why content marketing is becoming so important, because it is content that is valuable. And valuable means it is entertaining, inspiring or helpful.
Now you might be asking how can content marketing scale your business?
Firstly, it can help you attract leads in form of customers, possible investors or even strategic partners. Through capturing important data such as contact information, what keywords brought them to your website and how often (or not) they visit and what pages you can learn a lot of important information about your visitors. This makes it easier to determine which leads are very interested in your social business.
Secondly, once you have acquired qualified leads you can deploy content marketing to guide those leads along in the sales funnels and turn them into customers. To do so you can use landing pages, email marketing and retargeting. As you nurture your leads along the sales funnel, they are much more likely to become paying customers.
Thirdly, by producing stellar and helpful content that is entertaining, inspiring or helps to solve real problems your company positions itself as an authority in your industry. An important benefit of being perceived as an authority is that chances of customers choosing your business over competitors will be much higher. It can also lead to some valuable strategic partnerships.
Finally, content marketing while not free is usually a cheaper alternative to many other options like pay-per-click advertising and other outbound marketing activities. In fact, content marketing also generates up to 3x as many leads compared to outbound marketing while the conversion rates are 6x higher for business that employ content marketing vs those who do not.
Doing content marketing right can really build your business which then allows you to scale your impact. One of the most well known companies that grew on the back of content marketing is Hubspot. In 2016 alone, they generated $271 million in revenue. Not a bad demonstration of the power of content marketing.
Determine your objectives
To truly leverage content marketing you need to have objectives. Without objectives there is no way to know whether you are getting any benefits for your social business.
That is why you should know whether:
- You want to grow your revenue?
- You want to generate more brand awareness?
- You want to generate more traffic to your website?
- You want to raise more donations?
It is best to focus on one objective at first and getting that right before moving on to other objectives. An unstructured approach is unlikely to get your social business the results it should. Therefore, it is vital to select a goal such as increasing brand awareness and then commit all your resources to achieving that goal.
Your audience can be your customers, strategic partners, potential investors and even beneficiaries of your social business. That is why it is important to not only define your audience upfront but to also truly understand the needs and pain points of your content marketing audience.
As you can imagine customers will require different content compared to beneficiaries or potential investors. The messaging needs to be different, the type of content you produce and perhaps even the channels you use to distribute your content. In order for your content marketing to be the success it deserves you really need to understand your audience very deeply.
The best way to understand your audience is to talk to them, conduct survey, read comments or reviews online, mine your analytics data and observe their behaviour patterns. Your objective should be to learn about pain points, general preferences they may have and their online consumption habits and their demographics. All this information should then form the foundation of your content marketing strategy.
The right format
There are many different types of format you can deploy as part of your content marketing and different businesses use different format depending on their objective and their target audience. Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular content formats:
Video has become the most popular content format. Not only is YouTube the 2nd biggest search engine in the world, but sometime in 2017 video is expected to represent 74% of all internet traffic. Therefore, video is a really powerful content marketing format. A well known social enterprise that does video well is Tom’s shoes with their own YouTube channel. If your business understands the power of storytelling and you have the resources producing videos as part of your content marketing strategy could be a wise choice.
Podcasts have become very popular in the last decade around the globe. Podcasts form part of audio content. Therefore, they are very different from videos or blogs. Great examples of podcasts for social innovators are the Stanford Social Innovation Review podcast as well as Inspiring Social Entrepreneurs. They produce podcasts aimed at supporting social innovators with useful answers, insights and strategies on how to navigate daily challenges that are part and parcel of the social business journey.
There are millions of blogs on all sorts of topics all over the internet. They are easy to start but very difficult to run professionally for your business with a return on investment. That’s why it is important to have a proper strategy in place for a blog to be successful with a clear purpose. An example of a blog on social innovation is the SEIF blog you are reading now where you can find valuable information related to social innovation and finance. You can use a blog to simply generate awareness for your social business or aim to build it into a revenue generating part of your business. It’s all up to you.
Email marketing is most profitable online channel there is. According to Campaign Monitor for every $1 invested in email marketing you can make up to $38 in return on investment. And Newsletters are integral to the power of email marketing . For example, e-commerce stores like to use newsletters to inform their subscribers about new collections, discounts and other promotions in order to entice subscribers back to their website. Perhaps you are reading this article, because you came to to the website as a result of the SEIF newsletter. Newsletters can be really powerful, because they allow you to get people who are not on your website to come back to your website. Newsletters are and should be used by all kinds of businesses and if done well it can really drive revenue for your business.
The brutal truth is that nobody will consume your content if you do not put at least as much effort into promoting it as you did in creating it. It’s sad but is the reality.
2 million and more blog post get published – every single day. People’s attention spans are short and they are spoilt for choice. It means you need to get some skin in the game.
Many different possibilities exist for promoting your content. Your options range from Social Media advertising, to Search Engine Optimization, Pay-per-Click advertising and sharing your content as part of your newsletter. While there are plenty of options, it is best to focus one or two channels initially for best results. Otherwise, you will be trying a bit of everything and the results will leave much to be desired.
Fortunately, there are many tools for entrepreneurs and innovators available that not only help promote your content but also build your business. You can use tools that assist you with keyword research, marketing automation and analyzing the performance of content in general.
A great strategy can be to include influencers with a big online following in your content and get them to share it with their own audience. This can give your content promotion efforts a big boost.
Promotion is a very important and big topic. One short section does not do it the justice it deserves. The main point to remember is that you need to invest at a minimum as much time in promoting your content as you did in creating it.
Content marketing is a powerful leverage to grow your social business and amplify your impact. In an increasingly digital economy, it’s importance will only grow larger. That is why it is the right time to start doing content marketing now.
Roy Morrison is passionate about emerging technologies, digital marketing and social innovation. He also runs a blog Rise Africa Rise focused on scaling (social) innovation across Africa and beyond using digital technologies. If you have enjoyed this post, you will find more thoroughly researched, in-depth and actionable insights on Rise Africa Rise.