Kath Walters explains the benefits to business when directors stay on top of an evolving marketing strategy.

    Today if you are in business, you are a publisher. The opportunities that were once the privilege of media companies alone are now available to us all. Social media, email marketing and content marketing have transformed the way companies find and keep customers.

    This is the era of “permission marketing” – a term devised by legendary blogger and author, Seth Godin. Unlike “interruption marketing” such as ads that interrupt our TV viewing or pop up to distract us from web searching, permission marketing is based on a mutual agreement for an exchange of value.

    All companies can – and must – create content for their customers and potential customers to attract them, keep them engaged and loyal, and to generate new leads, sales and profits.

    With this power and opportunity come responsibilities and the need for directors to understand fully the obligations, restrictions and potential of publishing content for marketing purposes. For directors having to get across yet another new area of responsibility however, there is good news: the key to mastering the new world of marketing is the same as the key to mastering any aspect of business – strategy.

    Driving profitable action
    According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), an American leading light in this new field, content marketing is a technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

    The popularity of this technique is hard to dispute. Ninety-three per cent of Australian companies – micro, small, medium-sized and large – used content marketing in 2014, according to a recent study by CMI and the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA), and 81 per cent of respondents are producing more content than they did a year ago.

    The kinds of content companies use to attract and acquire customers include e-newsletters, research reports, ebooks, white papers, videos, case studies, blogs, podcasts, games, microsites, social media content, mobile content, articles on their company website and articles on other companies websites.

    Unfortunately, only 33 per cent of Australian marketers say their efforts are effective. A deeper look at the results suggests the reasons for that are pretty clear. Only half (51 per cent) of the companies surveyed had a documented strategy for their content marketing program.

    Insist on strategy
    For directors, this is the “ah-ha” moment. There is a clear correlation between lack of strategy and lack of effectiveness and return on investment for content marketing with its associated disciplines of social media marketing and email marketing. Directors can help their executive team implement modern marketing techniques by understanding this correlation, and insisting that a strategy underpin a content marketing program.

    The purpose of content marketing is to generate leads and increase sales, yet 58 per cent of Australian marketers saw an increase in website traffic as the most important metric of success. This is quite absurd.

    The primary metric for success in content marketing must be increasing subscriptions to a regular email. This is the basis of permission marketing – these emails are the leads that sales and marketing can legitimately follow up with offers for paid products and services.

    Yes, your company will increase awareness of its brand, boost its website traffic, improve its organic search ranking, and increase customer loyalty, but unless your content marketing program is primarily focused on gathering email addresses and following up these leads, it will not be successful.Many companies are making simple mistakes as they enter the new world of marketing, somewhat inevitably. But directors can help reset the course.

    The final question is, of course, whether directors should participate in social media themselves – a course that most directors have been reticent to take. There are risks associated with this form of marketing – that someone in the organisation will make a very public faux pas. Nevertheless, a content marketing program, based on a well-considered strategy, reduces this risk to zero.

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