Wes Bleed is Membership, Marketing & Communications Director for the Water Quality Association. Bleed can be reached at [email protected].
One of the benefits of the disruption economy is that just about anyone with a laptop and a smartphone has the capability to create and distribute content that would have cost tens of thousands of dollars just a few years ago. That key advantage now offers unique marketing opportunities for any small business owner, dealer or even a large company trying to cut costs.
The internet has restructured newspapers, television and radio and has leveled the playing field for the rest of us. No longer do you have to buy ink by the barrel or acquire a broadcast license from the Federal Communications Commission to have your message heard. That smartphone you might be reading this article on can shoot high-definition video and create compelling podcasts.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give everyone a voice, but it does not end with a single post. Pick up enough friends and followers and a post can be shared to an ever-expanding network of contacts.
With this tectonic shift has come a change in the way marketing messages are sent and received. While the “old” method of interrupting listeners and viewers with commercials aimed at a broad audience is still being used by large media organizations, new opportunities abound with inexpensive pay-per-click ads aimed at niche audiences.
One strategy to emerge over the past few years is content marketing. Many definitions of content marketing can be found, but in general it is the creation and sharing of various forms of content (e.g., video, text, audio or images) that can be found by people searching for what a business or organization has to offer.
You benefit from content marketing whenever you do a Google search. You want to know how to replace that part on your washing machine? There is a YouTube video for it. Want to know how to paint your baseboards? You will find plenty of people who have posted videos or helpful blog posts.
We all search for information. We all have unique needs and interests, and so do your customers. Think of content marketing as another way to reach someone who could use the service or product you provide but is not aware of you yet.
Let us look at the way it works at the Water Quality Assn. (WQA). One of the most popular pages on our website, www.wqa.org, is a page about scale deposits that comes up on Google when someone searches for water hardness. Consumers are searching for information related to hard and soft water. They see a link to our page. They click and, voila, they land on our website—in seconds.
Imagine if someone is doing that same kind of search at the local level, typing in your city or zip code. Would they find your company? If you have a video, blog or podcast with helpful information about that topic, your chances of being found just got a whole lot better.
Sure, you can put an ad in your local newspaper or advertise on your local television station. You’ll probably want to keep doing that. Content marketing is not meant to totally replace all other marketing strategies. It is really another arrow in your quiver.
What type of content works best? Anything that solves a problem, helps to explain a concept or shows or demonstrates a solution. What does that look like for a company in the water treatment industry? Content that offers answers to questions about emerging contaminants, how to remove lead, the difference between point of use and point of entry, or how to get your water tested. The list goes on and on.
Content marketing is not overtly promotional or salesy. It is not over the top with self-serving statements and promises. It is not a commercial. In fact, it may help if you do not think of it as marketing, but rather an extension of service you might offer to someone who called your store for help.
Content marketing works best when you talk about yourself the least. The focus is the customer, his problems, her needs. It is not about you.
But, you might say, if I am giving away all this information, people will not bother to call or come to my store. That might be true for some, but the advantages of being found in search results can bear fruit far down the road.
In a recent WQA webinar—“Using WQA Resources to Market Your Business”—we highlighted a variety of resources that can be used for content marketing. Looking for a way to get started without much heavy lifting? Just link to some of the WQA news releases or fact sheets on your website.
What is the best form of content? The answer depends on what works best for you. If you or someone on your staff is a good writer, you might start with a blog. If you are comfortable talking about your subject, consider producing a podcast. If you are ambitious, you might include some videos on your website. A screen capture video with voiceover is perfectly acceptable. You do not even have to appear on camera.
Where does social media factor into the discussion? As you create your content, you can amplify it on your Facebook or Twitter page. Always link back to your website when referring to an article or blog post. The additional traffic will help boost your page rank in subsequent search engine results.
The digital economy is presenting some amazing opportunities to reach consumers and new customers. As they begin to find you, you will become a trusted resource. You will boost your credibility. But, do not expect overnight results. This is a process that will take time. So, what are you waiting for?