CIO Irene Gomez speaks with Sean Worrall, Managing Director of content.sg
Consumers today are shutting off the traditional world of marketing. They rely on their DVR to skip television advertising, often ignore magazine advertising, and now have become so adept at online “surfing” that they can take in online information without a care for banners or buttons (making them irrelevant).
Smart marketers understand that traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute, and that there has to be a better way.
Enter Content Marketing!
Q: How would you define content marketing?
I don’t want to define it because I don’t see it as something new or special. Marketing is a business discipline that includes communication, but it’s also a strategic and financial role. What interests me is the evolution of communication media, and changing consumption habits. And what we currently find at the intersection of those two lines are opportunities to lower costs and raise revenue. The opportunities are new, but the principals of communication are not. Brands have been doing content marketing for a long time.
In 1891 Dr. August Oetker, a German pharmacist, developed a baking powder which he branded as Backin. Baking powder had been around for nearly 50 years before that point, but Oetker’s formula had a USP – a long shelf life that made it a more cost effective purchase than other baking powders. Naturally, he patented his formula to get a defensible competitive advantage. But he wasn’t content to simply offer a superior product. He thought long and hard about how he could get housewives to use more of his product. His solution was to pakage it in individual sachets – one sachet activated 500g of flour – and he printed recipe ideas on each one. Sales skyrocketed and he made a fortune (and, incidentally the Oetker-Gruppe is still around today with annual revenues of 11 billion euros).
I love this story because it very neatly encapsulates what I consider to be great content: it is helpful, actionable, strategic, and profit focused. Certainly he built brand loyalty and boosted sales, but he didn’t ostensibly achieve it by shouting about himself and his clever formula. He helped his target audience to fix a personal pain point – “What on earth will I cook for dinner tonight?”
Q: How is content marketing different from other forms of marketing?
It’s not different. A good salesman will share a lot of information about himself, his company, and his product. His aim is to make sure that you feel totally at ease with your decision to buy, and that you will come back and buy from him again. Changes in technology, media, and consumption now make it possible to have that kind of dialogue with all your customers, regardless of the business sector you operate in.
Q: Why is it important to businesses, big or small?
It’s a productivity thing. It offers the potential to reduce the cost of sales line in the P&L. Every business leader wants to raise marginal revenue and reduce marginal costs. Effective content marketing differentiates you from your competitors at the discovery phase, and drives your prospects more quickly down the purchase pathway. It’s a cost effective way to sell with confidence, and respect for your audience.
Q: What do you think is the biggest content marketing mistake?
Have you ever read or viewed branded content that makes you go: “So what?”
That’s the biggest mistake that some players are making today. Content should be relevant, sincere, and useful. I have no problem with content that is fun or quirky, but it has to be anchored to the goals of customer acquisition and retention. If your aim is to build brand affinity, then help me to understand what is distinctive and helpful about your brand. Pictures of cute kids and cats interacting with your logo don’t say anything useful. I’m exaggerating for effect there, but the key message is: don’t conflate the idea of content marketing with social media – one is a discipline, the other is a channel.
I think some B2B marketers are managing content very well, and they are getting better all the time. I feel that this is because they have a better foundation to build on. They already understand the complex jigsaw puzzle of information flow that’s needed to win a major client for (say) a multi-million dollar enterprise technology investment. B2C players can learn a lot from B2B.
Q: Creating and maintaining a successful content marketing strategy is hard work. Can you share some tips on creating an effective strategy?
I’m glad you acknowledged that it is hard work. My top tip would be to recognise that, and not to be tempted to simply throw money at the problem. It needs a collaborative commitment of time.
Next, draw a visual map of your customer’s journey and try to capture his state of mind at each step along the way. I find it helpful to do this as a role-play exercise because, if you verbalise the questions and answers, your content will be more specific and helpful. By comparison if you simply write down a generic topic like “trust”, you won’t get very far. If you’re an investment manager, I want to know how you think, and you’ll be around for the long term. If you’re selling curry puffs, I don’t care much about that – I want to know that your kitchen is clean and you use good ingredients!
Finally, encourage open collaboration from all around the organisation, and create a mechanism for people to submit suggestions. With my own clients, I’m evangelical about this. What I love most is when I get an email from a staff member I haven’t met before (e.g. from the customer call centre) and they say something like: “This could be stupid, but I’ve had an idea. I don’t know if you can use it, but…”, and they typically go on to describe a very interesting insight or experience. It is never stupid or a waste of time because that process often leads to great pieces of content.
Q: How do you see content marketing changing over the next 5 years?
Change is constant but I don’t think the next 5 years will be quite as disruptive as the previous 10 years. That’s not to say that there won’t be winners and losers – there will be. There are still agencies and clients who haven’t fully gotten to grips with digital media, and traditional media owners who haven’t figured out their response. But it’s not the same existential crisis as before.
There’s now a whole generation of tech-savvy marketers moving into senior positions, and many of the old old-timers have shifted up the learning curve too. There’s a foundation of knowledge and experience now, and that makes life-long learning and adaptation easier.
On the client side I think we’ll see some reconfiguring of marketing departments. We’ll obviously see a bigger role for writers, and there will be more in-house writers than we’ve seen before. But I tend to think they will come from the journalistic tradition, rather than the creative agency copywriting one: business-literate researchers, who know how to tell a story. PR and strategic comms people already have those skills, so I think they will take more of a leadership role. And we’ll see more B2B marketers crossing over into B2C (but I feel that will be a one-way street).
Overall, I think we’ll start to see brands communicating with more substance, and less fluff: a more sincere dialogue with customers that will redefine our notions of ‘image’.
Sean Worrall is a corporate storyteller and the founder of content.sg, a marketing services firm with a focus on customer purchase and retention pathways. A former business consultant and trainer, Sean was the MD of an international advertising agency before establishing his own practice. He is a naturalised Singapore citizen and has an MBA from Warwick Business School.
As marketers move more and more away from traditional marketing practices, companies are turning to content creation as a tactic to draw more leads and customers.
Content marketing is very important in today’s world, especially for small businesses. Those who embrace the changing world of marketing are the ones that go on to succeed. Your e-newsletters, social media campaigns, SEO and Public Relations activities are all based on creating and publishing high-quality original content. Having high-quality content associated with your name builds a professional reputation.
The idea is that you create quality content for a targeted audience. The content should educate, entertain, inform, amuse, or encourage interaction (where the social media side comes in). Basically you create content people are actually interested in. And in turn, they’re more likely to share that content, link to it, refer more traffic your way, become a customer, become a regular visitor or reader, become an active member of your network or community, or form some other intended relationship with you or your business.
Repeated and regular exposure builds a relevant relationship that provides multiple opportunities for conversion, rather than a “one-time” sales approach. However, in this tricky environment we live and work in, it takes more than “content is king” to work. You need to focus your attention on some key elements to make content marketing work for you, and we’re happy to share these with you.
1. Media pitching to journalists
Include content in personalized pitches to journalists. Here you get to showcase thought leadership and experience in a particular field or subject. This approach works well especially when pitching to trade publications. With a small editorial team, editors often appreciate prepared content — such as articles or case studies. The best way to go about this it to request editorial calendars and pitch your content accordingly, so that it aligns with that of the target publication. Most print publications also carry their stories online – so your story is likely to reach multiple audiences at the same time.
2. Creating compelling content
Compelling content can generate inbound traffic to your website. When creating compelling content for your site, think about creating content that holds up well over time, rather than news that tend to go out of date quickly. You can also rework content to suit the appropriate publishing medium to get more mileage. For example, content used in blogs can be reworked for facebook or RSS feeds.
3. Bear SEO in mind
If you want to rank high search engines, create content with SEO in mind. Study keywords that are most often used to find your site. Try a few different keyword suggestion tools to verify what keyword phrases people really look for, and use those words in your content.
4. Get on the speaking platform
Identify speaking platforms and offer to share your expertise. When building your speaking strategy and submitting applications, use content to showcase your credibility and value. Most speaking applications require a speaker bio and details about your expertise on the proposed topic. Beef your submission up with links to helpful, informative content you’ve written on the topic you want to present.
5. Stick out and get noticed
There are periods when every organization goes through a lull or quiet period. Use the opportunity to grab media attention with some newsworthy content. For e.g. you may want to comment on a hot topic through a popular community blog – don’t be afraid to share your opinion. You can also use the time to conduct an online survey to seek views for a revolutionary product from focus groups. In the process, you will get not only get noticed but also stay relevant, and this will drive traffic to your company website.
A final point to remember – when it comes to content marketing, use informative or entertaining content. This will not only help attract and retain customers, it will position your business as a trusted resource in your marketplace.
Mention public relations (or PR), in a conversation and you’ll get a range of responses – from the genuine, “Oh that’s interesting” to the rare eye roll of a sceptic. Everyone is familiar with the term but no one really knows what it means. Public relations is often misunderstood – seen as either too confusing or as a one-trick pony. Explaining its true value can be a daunting task.
The general public tends to associate public relations with the handling of rudimentary activities, such as issuing press releases and responding to the news media about a specific offering. Although they play a role, there are just two components of public relations.
Public relations is not just about generating publicity. It has to do with the art of communication. Used wisely and correctly, public relations provides a powerful tool for an organisation to effectively communicate its message, brand, and perspective to the public.
So, What is Public Relations?
Public relations can be defined as “cultivating favourable relations for companies with its key publics or target market base through the use of a variety of communication channels and tools.“
Traditionally public relations specialists would work with the various news media to build a favourable image by publicising the organisation or product through stories in print and broadcast media. But today the role of public relations has expanded. The importance of public relations is universal. Companies across a range of industries from all over the world use public relations to:
- Build awareness and communicate a favourable image for a company or client with stories and articles found in relevant media outlets;
- Closely monitor different media channels and news outlets for public comment or opinion about a company and its products;
- Manage crises that can threaten a company or product image; and
- Build goodwill among an organisation’s target market through community work, special programs and events.
Public relations professionals use many different techniques as part of their PR campaigns – from media relations and lobbying, to speaking at conferences, to online viral campaigns, to sponsorship and more. Public relations isn’t always about short-term campaigns, such as product launches or press releases. It can encompass longer-term strategic aims, such as brand building and working with local communities.
The Competitive Edge
Public relations can play a critical role in achieving a competitive advantage by, for example, opening new markets, attracting high-calibre employees, giving more access to funding and investors, creating a high value for products and services, and protecting businesses in times of crisis.
All organizations, whether local or international, big or small, can benefit from public relations – it is afterall, the simplest, yet most effective way to get the right message across to the right audience, at the right time.