10 Ways to Make Content Marketing Pay Off

 - June 10, 2013, 3:00 PM

“Content marketing,” which refers to creation and sharing of  content in order to acquire customers, is a hot new term in marketing circles for good reason: The technique can pay big dividends—but only if you create great content and know how to deliver it to your target audience. To help you do that, let’s look at 10 powerful content-marketing tools:

1. Blogs

A “weblog” can be a great place to state your company’s stances on a variety of topics through your website. Don’t blog sporadically, though. You need a consistent stream of content to bring customers back regularly. Partly because blogs tend to be opinionated, they can foster a dialogue among your social media followers. Make sure your blog conveys a point of view and does not directly promote your products or services. If readers suspect a marketing pitch, they might leave and never come back.

2. Videos

With websites like YouTube and Vimeo, it has become easy to upload and distribute any video to your target audience. Have fun and create videos people want to watch. A small blender company named Blendtec once created a YouTube channel called Will It Blend? (www.youtube.com/user/Blendtec?feature=watch) where it blends everything from iPhones to plungers. These videos became viral and Blendtec’s market share immediately saw significant improvements.

3. Pictures

Want to relay a message to your audience that is both simple and aesthetically pleasing? If you have a striking photo, upload it to your website, put it in your blog or infographic and share it with your social media communities. Provide a brief caption, or don’t. Let your audience enjoy the visual wonders of your world.

4. Infographics

Infographics convey information through visuals like charts, graphs and illustrations. The beauty of an infographic is its ability to visually stimulate while it informs and to show the relationships between different pieces of information. You can distribute an infographic through your website, social media or e-newsletter.

5. Podcasts

Podcasts can be an effective way to educate your audience and to help position your company as a thought leader in its field. A podcast is simply an audio file you can listen to on your computer or MP3 player. It can be anywhere from a few minutes to two hours and can cover topics like current events and new products or services. With a defined theme, a direct relation to your blog topics and a consistent podcast schedule, you can significantly grow your audience.

6. Mobile Applications

If you provide a product or service that might need instructions or customer support, a smartphone or tablet application is the perfect way to offer it. Try to determine exactly what your audience might need. Is it weather information? Is it flight information? Make these services available through your app. This is customer service on the go. Also, frequently offer news updates and information on your new products. Give people a reason to return regularly to the app and turn them into loyal, informed customers.

7. Forums

Do you want to create an ongoing dialogue with your target audience? Give them outlet. An online forum or message board can be a great way to keep your ear to the ground and hear customer feedback or opinions. You can provide incentives for participants to return by using a forum to announce news or products and then listen to immediate feedback. Grow a thick skin and don’t delete negative comments immediately. The forum community might hash out the negativity or you can respond with facts and courtesy.

8. Virtual Events

Virtual events can help you get your name out to prospective customers and develop sales leads. You can do webinars, teleseminars or even create your own virtual tradeshow. Yes, virtual tradeshow! No longer do you have to sit in airport terminals to get in front of your target audience. Create virtual booths and schedule online speakers and events. Make sure your virtual tradeshow is not too self-promotional and focuses on educating and providing value for attendees.

9. White Papers

This is the first promotional piece marketers think of when considering content marketing. White papers are topical reports, typically six to 12 pages long, on issues that require a lot of explanation. Do you want to be the thought leader in green products? Is your company celebrating its 50th anniversary? Tell the world your story with a print or digital white paper. Just be sure not to overtly push your products or services. If the audience senses aggressive self-promotion you’ll lose credibility.

10. E-Newsletters

An e-newsletter offers a great vehicle to distribute all the content listed above. It might seem like a daunting task to create and distribute an e-newsletter on a regular basis, but it needn’t be. Simply place your blog and any other promotional items in an e-mail once a week or month. This can keep you in touch with past, present and future customers. You can gauge what works best by analyzing which stories and e-mail subject lines produce the highest open rates.