Using Content to Foster Relationships
Content strategy has been the topic du jour for marketing firms recently. Even we have written a few content strategy articles to keep our clients on top of the topic.
While drawing conclusions about content strategy’s importance for traditional content distributors such as newspapers, magazines and other publications is easy, applying it to the marketing of a product or service can be more difficult.
The key to content strategy planning can be broken down into three parts:
- to create and distribute relevant, valuable and usable content
- to attract and engage a defined audience
- to inspire profitable user action
Defining and following a strategy for content allows you to communicate with your current customers and prospects, creating a relationship built on trust. Instead of pitching products, you are delivering information that helps solve a problem.
People subscribe to and read content from sources that they trust. If we get news from The New York Times, we assume that sources have been vetted and they are providing us with up-to-date and accurate content. We trust them.
Like a trusted newspaper, your audience will return to learn more or solve another problem. This leads to more intelligent customers, who will make similarly intelligent buying decisions.
Lets look at an Electronic Heath Records (EHR) company as an example for planning an effective content strategy. The Wikipedia article on EHR gives us several key features we could use to market an EHR product:
- Reduction of cost
- Improve quality of care
- Promote evidence-based medicine
- Record keeping and mobility
The problem is that all EHR companies have these same basic features. While we could get into a battle of bullets, we know that every other company out there is doing the same. We also know the HITECH Act will start incentivizing doctors in 2011 to implement a certified EHR and show meaningful use. Most doctors realize the advantages and are certainly interested in incentives, but they may be confused by regulations, options and available products.
We now have several topics for content that answer or explain the following:
- What is a certified EHR?
- How do I show meaningful use?
- How do I qualify for and receive incentives?
- What are future penalties?
Content Governance and Maintenance
To ensure success, we need to understand who will generate all of this content. The communications department will have a large role, as will marketing and sales. Everyone within the organization will need to be on board to both contribute and share available content with prospects and existing customers.
The content will need to be maintained and updated as policies or laws change to stay relevant. Knowing key HITECH Act dates will aid in the creation of an editorial calendar to govern and maintain our content.
Content Types, Channels and Distribution
Now that we have a pool of topics and know who is generating it, we need to define the types of content to create. This can include:
- in depth articles
- white papers
- case studies
- multimedia, for example, photos, video and/or graphics
- blog posts
- social media messaging
The main channel to host this content will be your own website. Ensure that the product pages reflect the information contained in the articles and blog posts. Use social media to push out your content, interact with customers and link back to your website. A print campaign can distribute the content and drive traffic back to your site, and can be easily passed through the sales force and handed out at tradeshows. You can reach even more of your customer base by linking to relevant content in an email newsletter.
Tying it all Together
This is just the beginning of what an actual strategy document would define. Once you had determined all of the details, you could begin to generate content that answer questions and solves problems for your audience. You would know who was creating what, where it is being delivered and how to measure its effectiveness.
Well-crafted, effective content shares your message with customers and fosters a relationship built on trust. You are helping them–by delivering information about your product, service, company or industry. You are presenting information that helps them make better purchasing decisions. And in the end, this relationship will lead to sales.
James Dixson, Principal / CMO at Atomicdust, has experience in all aspects of marketing, with core knowledge in interactive marketing, the world wide web and all things Apple.