How to Leverage Content Marketing to Boost Reputation and Sales

Content marketing is a critical component of digital marketing given its effectiveness in increasing brand awareness, engaging online communities, generating new leads, and increasing sales.

Simona David
Content Marketing Class for the Greater Roxbury Business Association

What makes content marketing effective is that people trust editorials more than they trust advertorials. In essence, content marketing is a form of marketing that focuses on creating, publishing and distributing creative content for a targeted audience to generate leads and sales while informing and entertaining. Traditional marketing focuses on pitching products and services, while content marketing focuses on publishing engaging content.

Although content marketing gained traction during the digital age, the practice is nothing new. In 1895 John Deere founded The Furrow, a magazine designed to educate farmers about the latest advancement in the field, and help them find solutions to their problems. The magazine continues to exist today, not just in print but in digital format as well; it has a large social media platform, and is published in several languages around the world. The magazine helped crystallize the John Deere brand, and grow its market.

Forms of content marketing include: how to guides, white papers, newsletters, presentations, blog posts, social media posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, product descriptions, reviews, testimonials, and others.

#GEInstaWalk is a clever example of content marketing which allows the company’s Instagram followers to take a peek into GE’s facilities where cutting-edge technology is being manufactured. Amazon’s Building Your Book for Kindle free e-book is another clever example designed as a free guide to creating and publishing e-books. This is a great tutorial during the consideration phase when aspiring authors are weighing in their options. An example you might be familiar with is the Phyllo Shells recipes on the back of the package – the recipe itself might be enticing enough to make one buy the product, or vice versa. This isn’t something unique to Phyllo Shells however; there are plenty of food brands that offer recipes on the back of their package. It’s an ingenious form of content marketing.

The Roxbury Motel
Breakfast at Tiffany’s Room at The Roxbury Motel (Source: Facebook)

Two local examples that stand out are the Catskill Dream Team’s real estate blog, and The Roxbury Motel’s whimsical themed rooms as featured on social media. How to Buy a Home in One Year: A Step-by-Step Guide, for instance, educates prospective buyers, but it also builds expectations of a lifestyle, and that’s exactly what a real estate blog is about. The Roxbury Motel’s internationally renowned themed rooms also have stories to tell. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for instance, designed as a tribute to Audrey Hepburn, has the walls stained to match Tiffany’s flagship store on 5th Avenue. The chandelier that hangs above the bed matches the mini chandelier in the Tiffany window at the opening of the movie when Audrey is eating a croissant and staring in the window. The owners of the motel confess that in their twenties they would go around Manhattan re-enacting scenes from the movie. The following Audrey/Truman Capote quote guided the design of the room: “Tiffany’s! Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.” These fun facts shared on social media are bold examples of clever content marketing.

Moz identified four phases of content marketing, which one of them carrying out distinctive goals and types of content to pursue:

I. DISCOVERY PHASE

Goals: educate, increase brand awareness, generate interest

Type of Content (educational): blog posts, webinars, guides, videos, newsletters, presentations, tours

II. CONSIDERATION PHASE

Goals: direct customer acquisition

Type of Content (solutions): case studies, how to guides, demo videos, product descriptions, data sheets, recipes

III. CONVERSION PHASE

Goals: customer transactions

Type of Content (unique value proposition): product descriptions, reviews, testimonials, comparison charts, direct sales pitch, streamlined sales process

IV. RETENTION PHASE

Goals: retention of existing customers

Type of Content (help, support, advocacy): customer support, help documentation, insider tutorials, special offers, follow-ups

 

Here are a few steps to help you design your content strategy:

  1. Clarify your vision (three – five year plan)
  2. Define your audience (i.e., demographics, media consumption preferences, channels, what are they looking for, who do they follow, what are their wants and needs, etc.)
  3. Audit existing content (inventory, metrics, patterns, etc.)
  4. Set goals (meaningful, measurable, reasonable)
  5. Align your content style, tone and voice with your brand’s personality (set up guidelines)
  6. Documentation (governance rules and workflow)
  7. Content ideation, creation, promotion and distribution (team, tools and infrastructure)
  8. Analytics (metrics to evaluate success)

 

Depending on the size of your project, building an adequate infrastructure will help carry out the tactics and the execution of your content strategy, both creation and distribution. Often enough the work is outsourced to content strategists, writers, editors, and coordinators equipped with tools to designing and implementing an effective strategy.

In sum, content marketing works because:

  • It provides valuable information;
  • It provides entertainment;
  • It sparks conversations that bring people together;
  • It forms communities;
  • It converts potential customers into actual customers;
  • It creates loyalty;
  • It establishes authority.

End of Year in Publishing

Sophie McNeill from Penguin Random House summarized the five key trends in the book market in 2015, which reveal that:

books 2015

  • Print remains the most popular reading format with 63 percent of Americans reporting that they read a print book in the past year compared to 27 percent who reported they read an ebook in the past twelve months (data from the Pew Research Center).
  • Young adults are more likely than their elderly to have read a book in the past twelve months – McNeill points out that the range of successful movies based on young adult books may explain the age gap (which came as a surprise to me). Also, women are more likely to read books than men (the average woman reader reads fourteen books per year compared to nine books read by the average man reader).
  • In the first half of 2015 the trade book market when it comes to adult fiction, children’s and young adult literature, and religious presses was down 1.4% compared to the first half of 2014: $3 billion compared to $3.13. This statistic is from the American Association of Publishers, which only looks at traditional publishers, and does not include self-publishing. Children’s and young adult literature recorded the sharpest decline (12.3%).
  • According to the American Booksellers Association independent bookstores are coming back: according to the ABA the number of independent bookstores increased 20 percent from 2009 to 2014  (from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,094 in 2014).
  • 50 percent of Americans own a tablet or an ereader for reading digital content. It is expected that more and more Americans will shift from tablets to smartphones in the coming years. Read more about these findings here.

Mark Coker from Smashwords released his predictions for 2016, and these include:

  • Independent (in other words self-published) ebook authors will continue to gain market share at the expense of large publishers because indie titles are priced lower, and because indie authors move faster, and are creative when it comes to marketing and distributing their titles, among other reasons. According to Coker, “every year readers are spending more hours reading books from indie authors.” Also, according to Coker “more traditionally published authors will continue to experiment with self-publishing.”
  • Amazon Kindle Unlimited and KDP Select programs have trained readers to expect free ebook downloads, and this will have long-term ramifications not just for the self-published authors, but according to Coker for traditional publishers and traditionally published authors as well, and of course for the Amazon’s retail competitors.
  • According to Coker, the overall market for ebooks will shrink in terms of dollars, but will increase in terms of units.
  • Print won’t go away. Print books represent approximately 70 percent of the market today. Coker says that “for many readers, print is the gateway to digital.” He also writes about the importance of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and about Amazon’s plans to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle.
  • Preorder usage will dramatically increase in 2016, according to Coker. Read full article here.

As mentioned in Coker’s article, Amazon did indeed open its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle back in November. The store, called Amazon Books, is located in University Village. Read article here. Amazon Books plans to use its huge database to stock its shelves; it will look at reviews from millions of readers, but also at staff-favorites, among other sources. Thomas De Monchaux wrote about Amazon Books for the New Yorker.

Amazon is not only the world’s largest bookseller, it’s also an important publisher. Launched in 2009, Amazon Publishing owns 14 imprints, and publishes both fiction and non-fiction books. Through AmazonCrossing, launched in 2010, the company publishes translated books. AmazonCrossing committed $10 million over the next five years to works in translation. Read more about Amazon Publishing here. Read more about AmazonCrossing in this article published by Alex Shephard in the New Republic.

Happy New Year, and Happy Publishing!

Simona David