I have an old Jack Russell Terrier named Roxy. She's a finicky eater, with a grain intolerance, so she requires a special diet. Roxy's hungry, and I need to buy her some grain-free dog food. And so, the online product search begins.
Back in the Day
Ten or so years ago I might pop-open my Netscape browser, select my bookmarked Alta Vista tab, search for "grain-free dog food," and buy from one of the top advertisers. But back then I didn't know where to go for reviews or recommendations on anything, and had few online friends. I was just so excited to have my new dial-up service that I didn't really care. And didn't mind if an advertisement popped up on my screen that had some cool animations of cute puppies. In fact, I kinda' liked it.
That Was Then
These days, animated gifs no longer impress me, and I find pop-up ads or unwanted emails quite annoying. It just cries "desperation," and is no longer as appealing as it once was. Roxy is older now, and so am I. I've become a finicky buyer, well versed with the latest web and social tools, and particular about whom I trust, and where I buy. So armed with my new tastes, new social tools, and new definition of value, I now take a very different approach to my online shopping.
New, Smarter Buying
To begin, I want to know the benefits of grain-free dog food, to remind myself why I'm making Roxy eat this stuff in the first place. I'll use Bing or Google and search something like: "Grain-free dog food benefits." Getting past the first three paid listings, because savvy buyers avoid them, and my results will look something like this:
Now this looks interesting to me. I'm data and review driven, and I don't have a lot of time to spend researching this stuff. Besides, Roxy wants to walk down the streets of San Francisco for a little hind-leg workout. In the interest of time and my good judgement, I'm going to click this link before the others.
Why research and compare a whole lot of different types of dog food when someone's already done it for me in what (appears to be) an objective source?
In another example, let's say I change my search to "Grain-free dog food benefits." This, then, becomes the link I choose:
A wholesome looking blog with "tips" and "advice?" I'm all over it. Besides, I consider myself to be a responsible pet owner. Certainly, I belong here. And if the blog is well designed and well written, it is going to heavily influence my decision. Never mind who sponsors it.
Come to find out, I'm not unique in my evolved buying habits. In fact, studies show that lots people have shifted in the way they by things, just like me. Mashable highlighted some data on marketing trends and found:
- 44% of direct mail is never opened; a waste of time and money for the organisations
- 86% of people skip through television adverts
- 84% of 25-34 y.o.'s have clicked out of a website because of an "irrelevant or intrusive ad"
With all this evolution in buying behavior, smart marketers have taken notice and have shifted gear into content marketing (also called inbound marketing). Like many Americans, and in the above examples, Roxy and I will begin our purchasing experience by doing online research to compare prices, quality and the reviews of other shoppers and our social media peers. We want information that's valuable.
Give us a great article on pet behavior, throw in the opportunity to review a new chew toy by completing a call-to-action sign-up with no more than a few fields, and Roxy and I are totally willing to give you our email address. We're satisfied with our time together on your site, so we order a bag of salmon and sweet potato grain-free dog food and throw you a Facebook "like." Then we're off to the park with the freshly printed free dog tricks manual we've downloaded from your "Pet Friends" page. Roxy and I leave with the satisfaction of having ordered some new pet food from someone we like. And that's paired with a whole lot of determination to master trick #12 in your manual.
This is effective content marketing at its core.
The takeaway on content marketing is this--consumers want valuable, interesting and timely information. If you're there to provide it, you'll get noticed by both those potential clients as well as search engines. Because, of course, ranking well on search engines is extremely valuable, and around 70% of search clicks are organic. Business owners who understand this (like Canidae Natural Pet Foods in the real-life example above) are producing business blogs filled with stimulating content. For the consumer, content marketing is as equally appealing. No longer are we being pandered to, or pressured--we're above all that now. We have the fortitude and ability to avoid it.
Good content marketing, therefore, is now a win-win proposition, and we like it that way. As far as free pet content goes, busy websites offer an abundance! Facebook like Roxy below...