If you are a marketer or business executive trying to connect with your target audience, you may want to join other early adaptors who are shifting resources from traditional forms of marketing and advertising to online content marketing. In doing so, your business goals don't have to change, but rather your approach. Instead of telling, you are listening. Once you know what your target audience is seeking, you can provide content that informs, entertains, or is otherwise valuable to them. With online content marketing, you're able to not only satisfy short-term sales goals, but also build long-term relationships based on mutual respect and benefit.
Here are what I consider to be the five core elements of online content marketing.
Most experienced marketers agree that blogging is an extremely useful tool to communicate with your audience, expand your online reach, generate leads, and acquire new customers. A recent survey conducted by Social Media Examiner found that 79% of marketers with over 3 years of experience use blogging as a social media marketing tool.³
Most effective business blogs follow a simple formula: clearly define your target audience, listen to them, and then communicate solutions that address their pain points in a simple, concise, and relevant way.
In an increasingly crowded Internet, a well-written business blog provides value to prospects and existing customers alike, driving more web traffic, leads, and sales to your organization.
eBooks and Whitepapers
An eBook or a whitepaper is a longer piece of content that users can download from your website or social media channels. They often contain detailed information and analysis tailored to a specific target audience. Online content marketers usually provide eBooks and whitepapers free of charge, as long as visitors complete a form on a landing page to download, which instantly converts them into a business lead.
Consumers are seeking this type information: 75% of people prefer to receive offers over any other form of call-to-action.²
Given the amount of time needed to research and produce effective eBooks and whitepapers, they are usually considered premium online content marketing offers.
What is the difference between a webinar and a webcast/podcast? A webinar is a live, interactive online meeting, whereas a webcast or podcast uses streaming media technologies to broadcast video and audio to large audiences over the Internet, often with little interactivity. These media are very useful online content marketing tools for generating actionable leads and for guiding existing prospects down the sales funnel.
The word is out: nearly half of small business owners plan on increasing webinar usage in 2012.³
One of the fastest growing elements of online content marketing, the proliferation of video-friendly mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, together with the popularity of social video sites such as YouTube and Hulu, have created an ever-greater demand for video marketing. In 2011, YouTube enjoyed more than one-trillion views, which equates to 140 views for every person on the planet.
As a form of online content marketing, video is still in the early stage of adoption. However, as consumers and marketers continue to familiarize themselves, the video marketing industry is expected to realize exponential growth. Early adapters of this unique marketing technology will likely receive the greatest benefit in the years ahead.
Even though it's been around for a while, eMail marketing is still the most popular online content marketing channel for most businesses. This is evidenced by new data from Hubspot that suggests investment in eMail marketing will grow from $1.3 billion in 2010 to $2 billion by 2014.²
Instead of using it primarily as a direct sales channel, many B2B and B2C marketers now view eMail marketing as an efficient and cost-effective way to provide valuable, relevant content to prospects and customers. Many online content marketers are now building sophisticated eMail marketing campaigns to nurture existing leads down the sales funnel. These campaigns offer a series of highly-coordinated emails that provide relevant content offers at the appropriate stage in the buying cycle.
As consumers become more heavily reliant on Internet, social, and mobile technologies for information and purchase decision, the demand for useful content will continue to grow apace. No company is immune to this online evolution.
To take full advantage of this emerging trend, you should incorporate the five core elements of online content marketing into your digital marketing strategy.
¹ Text Marketer, "Seven Deadly Sins of Mobile Marketing-Infographic"
² Hubspot, "120 Awesome Marketing Stats, Charts and Graphs"
³ Social Media Examiner, "2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report"