Content Marketing for Promo Businesses: Questions and Answers to Get You Started
With so many marketing channels to choose from, it can be difficult to decide where you should allocate your marketing budget. Direct mail, email, social media, paid search—all are great options to get your name top-of-mind with prospective clients, but there’s another option that can make a huge difference in your brand power. Content marketing has been around for a while now, but it seems to finally be gaining traction with promo businesses. And it’s an inexpensive way to gain exposure. In fact, according to Demand Metric, content marketing costs 62 percent less than outbound marketing, but generates three times as many leads. You don’t even need to be a huge corporation to reap the benefits. According to IMPACT, small businesses that blog get 126 percent more lead growth than small businesses that don’t. And that’s only part of the content marketing mix.
Now that we have your attention, we asked our supplier and distributor marketing experts for answers to some common content marketing questions. Hopefully, you can use them to get started (or get better) at content marketing for your own business.
1. What is content marketing?
Content marketing differs greatly from traditional marketing, so it’s important that promotional companies understand its main objectives and strategies. “All content marketing starts as a written message that is reworked into various formats,” said Lisa Denham, marketing director, Executive Apparel, Philadelphia. “It differs from traditional marketing because there is no selling element in the message. It is strictly informative subject matter, and therefore, interesting to your target buyer. The purpose of the message, once it is developed into one of the various types of content, is to position the company who owns it as an expert in their industry.”
Kirby Hasseman, CEO of Hasseman Marketing, Coshocton, Ohio, gave some real-life examples. “Traditional marketing is often company- and product-focused, and it’s often also very interruptive,” he said. “You’re going to watch the show ‘Friends,’ but in order to do that, you have to be marketed to on the breaks. Whereas content marketing is the piece that you’re going to look for—whether it’s for fun, entertainment or education. So, if you’re getting ready to install a pool in your home, you might Google ‘How to install pools,’ or something that allows you to get ready for that. That is content marketing. It’s the thing you’re actually going to look for, and it totally flips the script.”
Abby Alling, marketing coordinator for iClick, Seattle, pointed out that content marketing can take many different forms, including articles, blog posts, videos, photos, case studies and any infographics that add value.
2. Why is content marketing valuable to promo businesses?
It might be difficult to see the payoff in going the content marketing route over traditional channels, but it has some big advantages, especially in the promo industry, where there is a lot of technical information to absorb and understand. “Content marketing gives businesses the opportunity to become a resource for their clients in a different way,” said Alling. “Flyers with facts and features are great, but why’s it worth mentioning the mAh of a power bank if the reader has no idea what mAh means? Content marketing lets marketers dive deeper and tell a story that can leave a lasting impression.”
Brian O’Gara, marketing specialist for Polyconcept North America (PCNA), Pittsburgh, explained that content marketing revolves around relationship-building, which can lead to new clients and increased sales. “If you consistently deliver content that resonates with your audience, and helps them achieve success, you’re going to establish trust, gain credibility and, ultimately, drive them to do business with you,” he said. “Regardless of format, good content lets you tell your story and control the message. And if your content provides real value, customers will keep coming back.”
3. What makes a content marketing strategy successful?
Deciding to implement content marketing into your workflow is a big step that requires time and resources, so there’s no doubt you’d rather do it the right way from the start. Because, yes, there is a right and a wrong way to craft your content marketing. “At the end of the day, you want to make content that is interesting to your customer, to your prospect, to your end-user, and if you do that, it will be successful,” said Hasseman. “Maybe your customer is getting ready to set up a trade show, and they want to make sure that not only do they get a return on their investment, but quite frankly, they don’t look stupid in front of their boss. So, if you create a piece of content that shows them step-by-step how to do a trade show right, then you become a front end to that conversation.”
Hasseman also explained that you want to pick a content format that you will enjoy creating on a consistent basis, because consistency is a huge factor in whether or not a content strategy will be effective. “I see people who do two pieces of content marketing, and say, ‘Oh, it didn’t work,’ and that’s not how content works,” he said. “You have to show up consistently. Take the lane that you’re most comfortable in, keep the customer at the forefront of your mind as you’re creating it, do it consistently over and over, and think long-term.”
4. What are the initial steps to implementing a content strategy?
Once you’ve committed to giving content a try and putting a consistent, long-term effort behind it, there are some strategies you can implement to get the most bang for your marketing dollars. Both O’Gara and Denham pointed out that the benefit of content is that it can be repurposed into several different elements.
“Content messages can be translated into various formats for use on multiple platforms, such as print, audio and video,” said Denham. “The channel where the content will reside dictates how it will be formatted. For instance, a long written message can be used in a print article or repurposed for a video on social media or television. The same message can also be formatted into a script for a web video or an audiobook. Excerpts from long blog articles can be pull quotes for social media posts with images.”
As for the content-creation process itself, Denham gave a breakdown of the platforms she uses. “A program like Microsoft Word for writing is all you need to start,” she said. “For images, I use Adobe Photoshop and Canva, a free app that helps you size your graphics perfectly for any platform every time. I also use my smartphone all the time for photography and film-making.”
After you’ve created some initial pieces of content, Alling suggested that you should build upon the results of those pieces to evolve your content strategy moving forward. “There is a lot of content out there about content marketing that will tell you what headlines to use, where you can get free stock video footage, and how to create a pop-up form asking blog visitors to subscribe to your newsletter,” she said. “But the reality is, for our industry (and so many others), where you should focus your content marketing will be based on the results of your content marketing. Try different things, monitor your audience’s response—whether it’s click-through rate, video plays, form submissions, shares or genuine feedback—and go from there.”
And, if all else fails, you can always hire an in-house expert to take your content marketing to the next level. “In-house content experts are beneficial because they live and breathe the business on a daily basis,” O’Gara explained. “Being a part of the organization, they have direct access to company experts and information sources that can become the foundation of really good content.”
Denham agreed that there are advantages to hiring in-house content experts. “There are plenty of resources within the office for him or her to draw on,” she said. “Interviews with members of each department will provide plenty of inspiration, as well as insight into the company history and culture. Building an in-house marketing team as the company grows allows for content writers to focus on writing while delegating creative tasks to artists and programmers. This allows for speedy campaign development. The ability to capitalize on news, cultural or sports events in real time, and, ultimately profit from the buzz is priceless.”
If all of this seems overwhelming and not feasible for your current team, fear not. Our experts had a simple, inexpensive and quick way to implement a content strategy. If there are existing pieces of content from other sources and organizations (like Promo Marketing, for example), you can host that content on your site with permission from the organization. That way, you’re including relevant content on your website’s blog channel, but you don’t necessarily have to be the writer.
5. How do you track your content marketing?
Like Alling mentioned above, your content strategy needs to adapt to the successes and failures of previous pieces of content. So, you need to be able to track whether or not your content is working. There are a few ways to do that.
“Google Analytics provides web traffic and conversion data for tracked campaigns,” said Denham. “A surge in sales of a particular item or service can indicate success of a piece of content designed to highlight that product. Tracking email opens and click-through traffic shows which recipients are following certain types of content. There are plenty of marketing automation programs that can track every detail of content communication once it reaches the target audience.”
Hasseman also stressed that there’s more to tracking content than analytics. For him, engagement is a major indicator of successful content. People commenting on social media or directly on your YouTube and blog channels suggests you’ve created content that resonates. Above all, however, the most important part of a content strategy for Hasseman is to move past your fear and just do it.
“Most of us know we should be doing something like this,” he said. “I think people who are being held back think they are unique with that [negative] voice in their head. We all have that voice. You’re not crazy—it’s just a matter of overcoming that voice and putting [the content] out there anyway. I still have that slight hesitation when I go to hit publish. We all have that voice, but don’t let that hold you back. Put it out there, and learn from whatever you put out there. People will be glad you did.”