Content marketing — it’s definitely a buzzword right now and though the term may be overused, the concept shouldn’t be overlooked. At the heart of it, content marketers are recognizing that the buying journey has changed, and they are responding to those changes. Prospects no longer sit back and wait for companies and brands to tell them what they need. With the onslaught of information and access these days, they will tell us what they need and when they need it.
According to retailingtoday.com, eighty-one percent of shoppers conduct online research before they make a purchase. Sixty percent begin by using a search engine to find what they want (eConsultancy.com), and sixty-one percent will read product reviews before making any purchase.
Content marketing plays a crucial role in this shift. If our customers and potential customers are researching everything independently before we even know that they are prospects, then we need to make absolutely sure we are easy for them to find and that we are providing relevant, timely and accurate content to help them along the journey. That’s what content marketing is — creating and sharing information to retain customers; it is not taking a sales pitch or advertisement and redressing it to look like something different.
Begin With A Plan In Mind
As with any good strategy, a solid content marketing strategy will start with a plan. Your content marketing plan doesn’t have to be a fancy presentation that takes forever to put together. It needs to be something that organizes ideas in a format that you will use.
In your plan, you should:
1. Define your audience (you might have more than one; create parallel plans to address each audience segment), include in this what your audience is interested in. Are they the decision makers that want more cost analysis, or are they the ones who will use your product or service and need more training and how-to type information?
2. Brainstorm topic ideas and compile them in a list that is easy to reference.
3. Determine how to best produce and share your content (e.g, article, how-to, white paper, video) Visit Hubspot for 44 different types of content ideas. How can the original content format be repurposed? Don’t let a webinar die at sending out the slides. Tweet the best questions, take each topic and pull it out into separate blog posts, turn a key discussion into an infographic — and the list goes on.
5. Create an editorial that takes all of your ideas and puts a timeline to it. There are numerous examples of these from HubSpot, Vertical Measures, Marketo and even Evernote, that can help to organize your schedule and keep you on track.
Utilize Your Team To Develop Great Content
It’s easy to feel like all of this content should just live within the marketing department. Sure, someone at your company needs to take ownership of the process, but don’t let that keep you from tapping in to all of the other great resources you have at your company, in all departments. Get the whole team involved in brainstorming content topics. When it is time to create, if someone isn’t a confident writer but they have a great expertise to share, pair them with someone who can help take that expertise and put it into a piece that will help others.
You’ll be amazed at how quickly your library of valuable content starts to build. Another outstanding way to develop great content is to partner with other complementary companies and co-create something.
Evaluate Content For Effectiveness
After your content marketing machine gets moving, don’t forget to analyze what is working and what isn’t. Take a look at my earlier article, “Use Your Data To Make Smarter Marketing Decisions” for some tips and tricks on how to best track and analyze your campaigns.
Use Varieties And Culture Information For Content
The floriculture industry is ripe with content, and customers are hungry for more detailed information to be successful with all of the products out there. When you are ready to kick off your brainstorming session, here are a few ideas to help you get the creative juices flowing.
Catalog: Your catalog no doubt takes a lot of time and resources to complete. It is an endless source of content on what matters in our industry — varieties and culture information. Keep referencing back to your catalog throughout the season and repurpose it with series highlights on social media, program specific landing pages on your site or eMail campaigns that dive deeper into the varieties you carry.
Culture tips: First and foremost, get your culture information online in a searchable format so it can be found easily and referenced often.
Marketing tips: Provide your retail customers with better ways to market plants, tips for the consumers and timelines on when it is best to sell what. With better information throughout the supply chain, everybody wins.
Pictures: They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and we are certainly in the right industry for that. Create a process that ensures you get pictures of all of the products you carry, and tell the story of your products with images.
Turn Expertise Into Education
If you aren’t convinced that content marketing is anything more than a buzzword, consider the last big purchase you made (or even small one for that matter). Did you “Google it,” look up reviews on it or read articles that convinced you which purchase was right for you? If so, then you have proven the case for good content marketing.
The key is that it is relevant, valuable and accurate. Bad content is worse than no content at all. Focus on what you are truly knowledgeable in and be authentic. It’s not about creating content; it is about cultivating the expertise at your company and sharing that to educate your customers. It’s a shift in thinking, from just pushing a sales message to providing valuable information, which of course we hope will lead to educated purchases and a trust built between company and customer that will in turn result in a long-term relationship that is equally beneficial.