Content Marketing: 7 New Tricks for Old Marketing Dogs
by ANNETTE MATTERN, on Jan 8, 2015 10:09:00 PM
It’s a dog-eat-dog world.
For those of us in marketing, that's never been more true than it is today.
Seemingly overnight, content marketing burst onto the scene, challenging prevailing marketing practices that were honed over a century of professional skill, thought and discipline.
Along with the change came new tools, new data and new technical skills.
It can be intimidating. After all, they say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” implying that only Millennials who possess these skills can succeed in today’s world.
Which is total bull.
In truth, marketing hasn’t changed as much as you may think. You still need to understand your audience, and you still need to solve their problems.
What's new are the platforms (blogs and social media), and media types (online video and infographics). And lots of innovation about new ways to reach your audience.
The good news? Learning how to adapt your skills for digital marketing isn’t as formidable as you might think. All you need is some guidance, a buzz-word decoder, and a plan.
But first, how did we get here?
Originally coined the “Galactic Network” by MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider in 1962, the Internet was envisioned as a “globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site.”
But today, the Internet surpasses what the early pioneers ever dreamed of. With brilliant applications, from government to business and to the consumer, the Internet now influences every corner of the world. What started out as a platform for information sharing quickly evolved into a universal communication platform that has spawned a truly global community.
That's why it's so critical to your marketing goals.
But if you finished college in the last millennium, you might be wondering how social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter evolved from something your kids were using into essential marketing channels for your business.
Equally perplexing: how to catch this runaway train of digital marketing, with its own lingo and new rules.
Where do you even start?
Don’t worry. With a few insights into these new digital platforms, along with a few rules for how to use them, you can jump over the 21st century’s version of the “Digital Divide” and steer your company into the fast lane.
The eCommerce explosion
Although the underlying technologies were in development for some time, it was the arrival of Amazon and eBay in 1995 that catapulted consumers into a new online marketplace.
Amazon and eBay essentially lifted the barriers of entry to the e-commerce game. Suddenly, anyone and everyone could play.
And they did.
Once Amazon and eBay paved the way, there’s been a virtual gold rush spurred on by the rigorous deployment of search engines and mobile access to the Internet. Ultimately, these changes fueled consumers’ voracious appetites and rapidly evolving expectations.
The next catalyst occurred in 2005, when a video service called YouTube began storing and retrieving videos, adding a new level of storytelling and transparency to a digital world that already had 8 billion web pages.
By the end of 2005, YouTube was delivering 8 million video views per day. By July 2006, views were up to 100 million each day.
And the growth never stopped.
Just look at the YouTube stats for 2014:
- Over 1 billion visits by unique users every month
- Over 6 billion hours of video watched monthly (That’s one hour per person, per month!)
- Over 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute
All these dramatic changes (think of them as opportunities) have affected how marketers perform their craft:
- Consumer expectations have changed, forcing us to rethink how we connect with potential customers
- Content became king and content marketing suddenly challenged the self-promotional approach to marketing communications
- New platforms, apps and channels have transformed the very structure of marketing in every sense
With all of these changes, of course, come new rules.
So let's get to it. Let's look closer at some of these changes and how to make them work for you.
I’ve compiled a list of 7 new marketing tips or "tricks" for us "old dog" marketers; a short list that will help you get your bearings in an industry evolving at a frenetic pace.
New Trick #1: Get Social
Social media is essential in today’s marketplace. Whether you pay for ads or get visibility for your content via sharing, marketing in the digital age means you must prioritize social media in your marketing plans. It’s not a secondary tactic anymore.
Consider these social media stats from 2014:
- 85% of the world’s population has access to the Internet
- 75% of Internet users spend time on one or more social media sites
- The most popular social networks are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ (Yes, YouTube is a social network)
- The U.S. has nearly 200 million social media users, as does Western Europe, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe. Asia has more than 900 million users by itself
- Large retailers have begun using television advertising to drive interest to their Twitter and Facebook sites
- Millions of people have “friended” a brand on Facebook
- There are over 1 million paid advertisers using Google Ad platforms on YouTube
Every form of marketing will involve digital marketing strategies and tactics. And we need to adapt our business practices to the realities of today's digital marketplace.
The genie is out of the bottle.
New Trick #2: Ramp Up Fast
With some exceptions, few companies are truly exploiting all the opportunities digital marketing can provide, so there’s still time to take the lead in your market.
But the window of opportunity won't be open long. More and more companies are flexing their digital muscles by embracing multiple digital platforms and integrating them into a strategic plan.
These may involve any or all of the following:
- Blogging to draw viewers to their website
- Creating email campaigns for prospective client outreach
- Nurturing existing customers with email marketing programs
- Reposting content strategically, also known as “adaptive content”
- Upgrading websites to host digital content that works interactively across various devices
- Producing videos strategically to build relationships and enhance user experiences, either on YouTube or your website.
- Sharing content on social networks
It’s a lot to think about, but the key is to avoid trying everything at once. It’s not only daunting, but you'll end up spreading yourself too thin, which will only hurt your quality and consistency.
But nothing will slow your progress faster than skimping on quality.
So to get started, pick a few platforms you plan to master. I recommend starting with a blog, since you’ll need a “home base” where you can refer traffic and convert those visitors into email subscribers. After all, email continues to provide the highest ROI of any marketing activity.
But after that, it’s your choice. Go where your audience is. That could be YouTube, social media, or even paid advertising (if you have the budget.)
The key is to keep it tight in the beginning so you can provide high-quality experiences for your audience.
Even after selecting your platforms, the task before you may feel discouraging. Sometimes you need a little help, which brings me to Trick #3.
New Trick #3: Get a Decoder Ring
Just because you have a YouTube account or post on social media doesn’t necessarily mean you will grow your revenue. You may need some help "decoding" the special rules and inside tracks to get you started on the right foot.
No one person could possibly master all the marketing platforms available to you today. The massive array of digital marketing tactics requires specialized skill-sets. Trying to "go it alone" or "learn as you go" is a recipe for frustration and failure, not to mention an immense waste of time.
Digital marketing has gatekeepers, like Google (which also owns YouTube) and Facebook, which have designed algorithms that evaluate your content to determine how visible it should be.
It’s imperative you understand that these algorithms are designed to benefit their goals, not yours. If you want to play in their backyard, it’s essential that you align your strategy with their objectives.
These algorithms are complicated but, with a little insider information, they can be used to your advantage. And while uncovering and applying these “insider tips” can feel intimidating, you don’t have to learn it all yourself. You can hire or outsource the expertise you need to help jump-start your strategy.
You can also look for free resources from experts who understand and study these techniques regularly, because the landscape is changing at an astonishing rate.
Some ranking elements involve the wording, structure, definitions, translations, timing and categorization of your posts. Others relate to how your audience responds to that content. In both cases, gatekeepers are continually refining and redesigning their formulas. That means you need someone in your corner who can keep up with all the changes.
Investing in expert guidance when developing and managing your marketing plan can make all the difference in your plan’s success...or failure.
New Trick #4: Seek Corporate Buy-In
To manage a successful digital marketing campaign, you need buy-in from your leadership team.
In my experience, the best way to get a commitment is to clearly articulate how your marketing plan helps achieve your corporate goals.
Moving your business from traditional marketing into the more dynamic digital marketing ecosystem requires re-thinking how you go to market. So, you’ll need to get your corporate leadership involved in order to realign your strategies, budgets, and objectives.
Once you get approval to start, set up metrics to track your progress. Management loves metrics. And thanks to digital marketing, it’s never been easier to prove ROI.
Determine which metrics are most relevant to your performance goals, such as:
- New clients
- Increased customer retention
...Or any other measures of your performance.
The next step is tracking your progress and connecting your results back to those marketing activities that impacted it. That’s how to transform corporate interest into corporate support.
In most cases, analytics are available within your marketing platforms and on your website. Use them!
But if you’re not sure how to track your digital marketing ROI, refer to Rule #3 and seek expert guidance. A little expense up front can save you a lot down the road.
New Trick #5: Invest In Your Infrastructure
Look at your corporate website. Does it need an overhaul to support the platforms you plan to use?
A few common issues I’ve discovered with some of our corporate clients include:
- Non-responsive websites: Your site must be responsive to mobile devices if you expect visitors to enjoy your content. By 2013, there were about 6.8 billion cell phone subscriptions; not bad in a world of 7 billion inhabitants.
- Mobile: In 2014, nearly half of all Internet traffic came from mobile devices. If your site isn’t compatible with cell phone and tablets, you’re losing half of your potential customers, who aren’t as forgiving as they once were.
- Tired, outdated website: Your website is the face of your brand. Refresh your site with interesting, engaging and friendly content. And keep it current. Visitor expectations of corporate websites have changed and they will make snap decisions about your corporate credibility within two seconds of landing on your site
- Poorly-structured websites: Have you navigated all over your website and tested the links? Is the navigation user-hostile? Do you maintain a blog? If you frustrate your visitors by making them try too hard, they will leave and go to your competitor’s user-friendly website.
Websites were once a way to direct people to your storefront. Now, they are your storefront. It is the hub for all your digital marketing activities. If you fall short here, you'll sub-optimize your investment in digital marketing.
New Trick #6: Create a Video Marketing Plan
Why video? Well, the statistics speak for themselves.
Invodo.com compiles a summary of industry statistics on digital marketing. In their 2014 research, they make a strong case for video as an essential part of your marketing strategy.
Here’s what they found:
- Shoppers who watch videos are 1.81x more likely to purchase than non-viewers
- Information retention for visual information can reach 65% vs. 10% for text-based information
- 74% of all Internet traffic in 2017 will be video
- 51.9% of marketing professionals worldwide cite video as the type of content with the best ROI
- Retailers have seen 40% increases in purchases as a result of video
- Online video reaches 60% of the US population.
- 65% of video viewers watch more than ¾ of a video.
To start building your video plan:
- Begin with an inventory, both yours and any competitors
- Get help evaluating what you find using both qualitative and quantitative measures
- Determine what is performing well in your industry and attempt to discern why it’s getting results
- Assess the gaps in your video plan based on what you've found
- Produce new, high-quality video content that fills the gaps and aligns with your corporate goals
Video provides too many benefits not to be a priority for your business. Again, if you’re not sure where to start, get expert help.
New Trick # 7: Don’t be Intimidated
Okay, maybe this isn't a "trick" per se, but it's still important if you want to succeed at digital marketing.
It’s an exciting time to be a marketer. The balance of power has shifted. Once dominated by immense advertising budgets, buyer attention is now accessible to anyone and everyone thanks to the Internet.
You don’t need to be rich; you can stand out by being innovative and resourceful.
Combining good marketing instincts with the explosive new digital marketing tactics can improve the position of your brand in both new and existing markets.
Remember: successful digital strategy requires sound marketing principles and a willingness to embrace new technologies with a mindset of limitless possibility.
One of the biggest advantages of digital marketing is that you can continually refine your approach by adopting an optimization mindset. Try not to fixate on perfection; the important thing is making a plan and getting started.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Not me. My experience tells me that by following sound marketing principles and asking for help when it’s needed, you can set your brand apart and take your business to new and exciting heights.
Not sure where or how to start? Leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to set you on the right track.