Online marketing is a scary place, with ROI being increasingly elusive.
Even when a brand’s message sneaks past ad blockers and gets in front of the customer’s face, the numbers are troubling: Fifty-six percent of digital ads are never seen by a human being.
And even when people are looking, they’re not clicking.
The average click-through rate for display ads is an almost insignificant 0.06 percent.
It’s foolish to expect drastic increases in ROI just from tweaking things like ad placement and design.
Digital billboards simply don’t work.
Instead of shoving ads into the margins of the internet and hoping customers will click, brands should be creating a way to pull customers to them.
Which would you rather click: An ad that pops up and interrupts what you were doing or a link to something useful?
Content will win every time.
Marketing guru Seth Godin famously stated:
Content marketing is the only marketing left.
In a world of failed marketing experiments, Godin is one of the few people who has gotten things right.
But for brands to follow Godin’s advice and find true content marketing success, they must become power publishers and create content their audiences actually care about.
The New Marketing Department
Implementing a robust content marketing ethos within a marketing department or organization requires substantial shifts in structure.
The most successful content marketing teams will operate like modern-day newsrooms focused on delivering content and moving prospects through the sales funnel.
The traditional marketing functions will remain in some capacity and should support, or even lead, the efforts of content publishers.
Content marketing should not be cordoned off in its own completely separate silo; rather, it should become a critical component integrated into all marketing functions.
For companies making the switch, it might be necessary to restructure or shift existing departments.
Content should move fluidly within and between all sections of a marketing team.
Organizations also need to realize that content moves at the speed of culture.
To connect with the modern, 24/7 omnimedia consumer, an always-on approach to content creation, curation, and distribution is nonnegotiable.
Content Marketing: Shifting Strategy
A modern marketing strategy is not compatible with annual budgeting and planning.
The dynamic nature of tech and society these days means any effort to predict consumer behavior 12 months out will ultimately bear little fruit.
Brands need to do away with archaic strategic planning methodologies.
Instead, they should move in 30- or 60-day sprints, testing, learning, and repeating what’s working.
This new type of strategy requires a new type of data.
Social listening, an understanding of media consumption habits, and even just intellectual curiosity will help deliver the up-to-date insights companies need to make their content effective.
Let’s look at an example of a brand that is winning with its content marketing.
Enterprise Holdings, the rental car leader, is the archetype of a modern content marketing juggernaut.
Its chief marketing office, Pat Farrell, understands trust is crucial in the rental car business, where customers often rely on the same brand every time they take a vacation or book a business trip.
To build consumer trust, Enterprise has relied on content marketing.
Both online publications include high-quality multimedia and well-written articles that provide travelers with relevant, valuable, interesting information.
As Enterprise vice president Lee Broughton says:
Sure, we rent cars, but so do other companies. To stand out and stay on top, we’re placing a big bet—make that investment—on storytelling.
Doing Publishing Right
So how can you create content that draws customers to your brand?
Here are a few tips:
Allow your team the time and money to test and learn.
Start by trying out alternate headlines and subject lines.
Test both strong and passive calls to action, as well as both short and longer content.
At my company, for instance, we’re seeing a lot of success with longer-form content that positions us as the category expert on the subject.
Even though the number crunchers hate so-called failure, truly attractive content only comes from taking risks and learning from the results.
Initial failure could eventually lead to innovation, a unique appeal, and a greater share of the audience.
Hire Content Marketing Talent
Find talent with the journalistic skills to aggregate and help distribute compelling content.
These experts can help you streamline content curation and serve as the glue between the often dysfunctional groups in an organization.
Additional benefits to bringing aboard professionals with a journalism background include sensitivity to concise copywriting, awareness of and respect for deadlines, and a high tolerance for constant change.
Give it Time
Even in the most progressive organizations, integrating a new department and ethos will take at least a year before it’s comfortable.
But brands will be rewarded mightily should they view content marketing as a long-term strategy.
Audiences respect content that includes great storytelling and dependable tone and tenor.
Brands must have a true ethos that is both reliable and authentic.
Your audience members will show you love and respect if you show them the same.
Like any relationship, this will take time.
Fortunately, content can be evergreen and live on via SEO forever.
The bottom line: Great marketing and great content don’t happen overnight.
But the time that’s put into content marketing will be worth it.
After all, it’s the only marketing left.