The logic and illogic of content marketing

There are some base logical assumptions in the field of marketing, and perhaps chief among them is the axiom that creating greater awareness about your product and services will ultimately lead to greater demand for it. After all, people don’t very often purchase what they have not heard of. Have you had those moments perusing the drug store or supermarket shelves when you come across a product you think might be worth buying, only to choose something else because you had never heard of it? 

Google search may have disrupted that age-old paradigm. If you’re like me, you purchase things that appear in online search results, but if you’re smart, that also is accompanied by summoning up independent user reviews. I’ve learned lessons the hard way on that score.

Be that as it may, marketing is built on the premise that raising the visibility of a product or service and conveying (either emotionally or intellectually) its essential benefits will drive sales. That core assumption is why companies spend millions of dollars on advertising on television and radio, why roadsides are populated with billboards, why your mailbox is stuffed with circulars and why you occasionally find a flyer for Chinese food under your windshield wiper. It’s the same reason companies retain PR firms so that earned media stories about that new product or some other achievement find their way into the morning paper or in some trade publication serving that company’s industry.

Beyond the core logic about increasing awareness, there also is a great deal of logic associated with undertaking content marketing campaigns. Here are a few…

What’s Logical

Efficiency

A great many marketing campaigns, especially very pricey ones, are incredibly inefficient when it comes to targeting prospective clients. That inefficiency stems mostly from traditional advertising’s inability to more precisely segment targets. Not so in content marketing where you can use social media advertising to home in on the specific demographics that you know are most likely to buy what you are selling. And platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are exponentially cheaper as a whole and an even better deal when you calculate cost-per-lead.

Expertise

Content marketing programs provide an ideal platform for showcasing your expertise. You can leverage the know-how of your product team, demonstrate how well your sales force understands industry challenges and convey key insights that show that you have your finger on the pulse of the marketplace. And, of course, your online content can highlight case studies on how you solved the exact problems that prospective customers are facing.

Buying cycle.

Let’s face it, no matter how great your product or service is, chances are new clients are not going to pull the trigger from the get-go. Research shows that consumers undertake what’s called the “buyer’s journey,” a progression that takes them from first hearing about you, then getting a bit curious to learn more, followed by keener interest and perhaps even contact with you, until ultimately they make a purchasing decision. Logical, right? Content marketing is the perfect way to take prospects through that buyer’s journey.

Flexibility

In addition to its efficiency, content marketing also gives you the flexibility to tweak your approach based on the ongoing data that the strategy can generate. Marketers can assess the kind of content that audiences are best responding to. They can adjust ad spends and targeting profiles. We often make assumptions as to the platform where we think we’ll get the best response, only to find that another platform is better. And so, before we’ve spent a lot of money, we can redirect our strategy.

“Highly Illogical, Captain”

Notwithstanding all the sensible, logical aspects about content marketing, there are elements of that are inherently illogical.  And those are worth mentioning here…

Selling.

It seems intuitively logical that you should turn up the volume on just how loud you pat yourself on the back. Perhaps a brag here and a boast there, often using the kind of tone that is best reserved for used car salesmen. Superlatives are bandied about, awards are trotted out and impressive sales figures get italicized in bold. After all, if you’re going to talk about yourself, why not go full bore? The problem, this kind of selling is antithetical to digital marketing where there is more of a sense of community than a marketplace. So, while it might seem illogical, you need to frame your posts in a way that puts an emphasis on sharing expertise and not overtly selling.

Budgeting.

Chances are, one of the first questions you’ll get from an ad agency when you sit down to talk is, “what’s your budget?” And no matter what your answer is, the agency will have an advertising program that costs exactly that. Never any less, and rarely on anything other than advertising. (Yes, the age-old lament of PR folks.) But content marketing doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, the best way to approach this strategy is to begin small test to determine what is most effective and then grow your budget incrementally to align with your ultimate goals. So, while it might seem logical that bigger is better, that is not always the case here.

If you haven’t considered a content marketing program yet, that may be the most illogical thing of all.

Josh Dare

Josh’s career in communications spans more than four decades. In addition to providing strategic counsel and crisis communications direction to clients, he is the resident Writer-In-Chief, regularly writing op-eds and bylines on behalf of clients that have been published in The Washington Post, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Huffington Post, among others.

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