The quality (and quantity) of your online content matters, both to shoppers and search engines alike.
But it goes deeper than just online.
Having high standards for content should be pervasive across all of your customer touch points.
What is “content” anyway?
“Content” is simply that, the content of an email, a letter, a web page, etc. It’s what makes up a message or piece of information (digital or not); it is said to be “consumable” by a viewer.
With the high propensity to research, buy, and accomplish many other tasks all within the online environment, it’s your content that will often have the only meaningful interaction with your customers (or at least during various key stages of the purchase funnel).
Heed the following: What you don’t want to do is get caught in the notion that you are “just throwing your ‘stuff’ out there into the ether” and hoping for the best! Every time you create a piece of content you have an opportunity (of varying degrees) to build a brand that people will remember, for good or for ill.
So how do you make it “stack up”?
Consider the following actions and decisions:
- Making a commitment to deliver repeated, sustained excellence across all available channels;
- It may be worth hiring-in a “content manager,” and/or studying some more advanced topics such as buyer personas (as well as other marketing and advertising frameworks and concepts);
- It will usually involve learning (or re-learning) how to tell your own brand story with consistency, integrity and “heart”;
- Having a high standard of attractive and cohesive visual design can set your company apart in an instant (“a picture says a thousand words”) – this may mean hiring a gifted visual artist;
- Being willing to boldly engage in new media (AKA channels) with:
A) A real strategy, and
B) A unique offering to bring to the spaces you enter.
Note: You are likely to be naturally stronger at creating excellent content within certain channels, and less so for others – this is normal. That’s why it’s important to build the right team so that your organization can be well rounded across as many channels as possible. After all, what may seem impossibly difficult to you can come easily to someone who has talent in that area, and vice versa. Have you ever noticed how effortless it seems for a gifted photographer to create an excellent and compelling composition? TL;DR? Don’t try and be what you aren’t, but procure those talents which you lack, as far as it is within your means to do so.
What are “channels”? Context!
To keep us all on the same page, channels are the different media or methods that people can use engage with your brand and your content. Or, we could think of the channels as the context in which the content is presented. If the content is the juice, then the channel is the cup.
We’ll try and least fill in “the box” with what primarily constitutes context, and if we get a chance we can even think outside of it a little bit, and in the process get excited about delivering excellence across these channels.
Let’s go for a tweet-sized view of some “cups”. All of the following channels are hugely utilized by millions and millions of people every day by the way:
Unpaid search engine traffic; anything not labelled “sponsored” in Google or Bing.
AKA “PPC” or “CPC” advertising, creating and bidding on these ads is a bit of an art form in and of itself! For those who are skilled in PPC advertising, it can be an important and valuable channel.
…and the many forms it may take, which include service reminders, promotions, feedback requests (i.e., surveys), newsletters, “thank yous”, etc. To make your way into someone’s email inbox is a sign of trust and relevance in their lives, and is not to be taken lightly by sharing poor content with them!
Referrals are of course valuable. They come in many forms including visits to your website from other websites, word of mouth referrals, social media referrals, etc., etc. If you didn’t create the original “content” that lead to the referral, then you might not have as much control over what people originally see or hear regarding your brand. As such, good referrals are supported by your other activities and content.
Third party publishers such as classified websites
This medium can generate sales leads directly, but is also a referral source that generates telephone, website, and walk-in traffic. These websites can bring lots of relevant content together in one place and garner large visitor traffic as a result. This is an opportunity for your content to shine in the form of excellent photos, high quality videos, clear calls to action, engaging and thorough descriptions, and a highly compelling brand story. Remember, you want them to “stop” at your listing and get on the phone, fill out that email inquiry form or get on over to your website! Here is the time and place to “pull out all the stops” and attract these valuable new visitors and prospects.
This is similar to email, in that having the privilege of being linked to others via their personal social media profiles is meaningful, and puts you in a very special position to build brand affinity at will!
This is an online term that basically means there was no referring source to your website or your third party classified listings. The traffic from this channel can be identified in web analytics tools and is indicative of someone having typed your website URL directly into their browser’s address bar (or via a browser bookmark). Sometimes this can also be email traffic in disguise (hint: you need to manually “tag” your emails accordingly to tell that they aren’t really “direct” visits! I’ll do a follow up post on this practice next month). “Direct” continues to be a large source of website traffic, and underscores the importance of building a brand and having content that’s worth bookmarking and is memorable.
This could constitute paid commercials or news press coverage. Unless you start or sponsor your own TV show!
Radio is of course unique with it’s funny voices, whacky sounds and catchy jingles; I must confess, I’m no DJ!
While print has diminished, it is of course still a legitimate channel, and billboards, one of it’s largest forms can effectively drive telephone calls and build brand awareness locally.
Do you think of this as a channel? Is it consistent with the branding and experience that you portray through your other channels?
So, What is Content, Really?
Now that we’ve walked through the concept and some of the main channels, let’s stretch the box a little bit…
- There is the content of the conversation you had with someone who was interested in your store hours.
- Then there is the content of the loan application process that took place with the customer,
- and the content of the time they spent sharing their family story and hopes for their new or used RV adventures;
- to bring it back to the beginning, there’s even the content of the cup free coffee you may offer to them, what’s the quality like? And maybe they would prefer tea, or a smoothie!
Content can be a unifying concept that all departments can embrace, and you as the marketing and advertising arm of your organization can champion this exciting, pervasive, culture-shifting pursuit of delivering content that is unilaterally sky-high in quality and consistency across all channels (even the not so obvious ones)!
Isn’t that more exciting than thinking of content as strictly an online concept that no one else needs or wants to hear about in your company? It is to me.