If you've ever shared a story about your company's products or services, you've used "content marketing." This broad category of story-sharing tactics includes use of news tools such as Facebook or LinkedIn's new publishing platform, and traditional tools such as public relations and custom-published print pieces, like a magazine.
Have you seen Red Bull's Red Bulletin magazine, or almost anything done by GoPro? Both use stories to entertain and inform, and to excite an audience. This "content" helps raise interest in products and services, and in the brand. They're not pitching drinks or gizmos.
On the B2B side, look at Adobe's Create magazine for design professionals. Or check out one of my favorites, the Open Forum blog site from American Express. This content rich site informs business owners on all aspects of business operations. Its "content" is advice from business owners and leaders; it's not American Express sales pressure.
Any business - yes, any business - can do content marketing today. For Suzuki Motor of America, Inc., we publish On Suzuki magazine (you can preview this issue) twice annually and fill it with stories and photos that entertain and inform while celebrating the Suzuki brand for owners across America.
Before all this was called "content," writers relied on words alone. Sure, Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite writers, drew some stick figures and an asterisk to illustrate his novels. But no photos. Today, we need photos, love photos.
I shoot powersports color and action, health and fitness intensity, and I have fun with landscapes, too. Any and all of these support and enhance words on a page or screen.
Everyone hates spam email, but not all email marketing is spammy. Customers and fans of brands regularly sign up to receive email marketing messages. Did anyone ever sign up to receive a 30-second TV commercial? Do magazine readers sign up to see a full-page print ad while they're reading? No, and no. But they'll register so you can send an email directly to their desktop or mobile device.
They'll also quickly unsubscribe if you send them messages they don't want. Too sales-y? Unsubscribe. Too frequent? Unsubscribe. Too hard to read on a cell phone. They'll simply delete it.
Email marketing works when it delivers information, entertainment, and deals. And the best part of email marketing might be the response, the learning available to marketers who pay attention. Test different messages. Try some sales and coupon delivery. See what your fans like and dislike, and adjust accordingly. Email works.
Is it about design? If you're advertising for design services, sure. But mostly, advertising is communication. An advertisement need to tell a story, quickly and effectively. Whether in video or print, whether on social media or in direct mail, an ad needs to communicate your consistent message to a specific audience and with a desired goal.
Your brand identity and communication planning help dictate each ad's message. When your frequent communication has a consistent base, it will always serve your larger brand goals.
You probably know your target customer, but do you know if your ad is reaching that target? Is the magazine or website you're using reaching that same target audience? Your social media following, are you tracking it as it grows and changes?
What do you hope people will do when they see your ad? And does the advertisement ask them to do that, directly or indirectly?
See how I put "literature" in the header there, and made you think of something fancy? Sure, you can call these "brochures" and that's fine too. But know this, your brochure needs to tell a story - that's the literature part - and they need to have a goal - that's the sales part.
When we create sales literature, we focus on the audience first, creating a story that will educate and entertain a specific reader. Then we work to make it attractive. And we do it all on time and within budget. Otherwise, you can't do it.
Your brochure might be a small, multi-fold piece that is easy to display and transport - like the annual piece we do for STI Tire & Wheel. It shows the company's line of tires and wheels in a compact piece full or color, eye-catching product shots, and just enough info to make interested customers ask for more. Or the sales piece might need to include hundreds of photos plus part numbers and spec details - like the new 200-page Suzuki Parts & Accessories catalog.
Public Relations and Media Relations have merged as digital communication platforms have made everyone a publisher. But while technology continues to modify communication delivery (have you figured out Snapchat yet?), communication strategy and tactics remain mostly unchanged.
Businesses and business professionals can benefit greatly from a PR strategy that looks a lot like this scenic motorcycle photo.
Powerful Communication Platform
Creative Story Telling Ability
Control of Message Direction
Knowledge Base for Media Relationships
And it all needs to be ready to move anytime!
Video attracts attention, from eyeballs on your website to search action via Google, whether story-length pieces that gain views on YouTube, or 15-second spots that raise awareness on Instagram.
Like social media technology itself, our feelings for these platforms evolves. Perhaps you expected a highly positive outlook from us on the state of social media marketing. Well ...
Sure, Instagram can be a quick and efficient way to reach an audience. Facebook is easily measurable and allows fast and timely updates. YouTube gives you a simple platform for housing and sharing video stories. And newer tools like "unicorn" SnapChat are gaining users faster than nearly any other platform. The tool's video traffic exploded to more than 6 billion per day, according to a Financial Times report from late 2015.
Which one is a must for your business? None of them? maybe. Some, probably. All of them and Twitter, too? Definitely not. Yes, as little as three years ago, we said, "You must be on Facebook." Today, not true. Facebook has made it more and more difficult to reach your own "fans." Actually, it's not that difficult, but it does cost money. The same will soon be true of Facebook-owned Instagram.
So what's a marketer to do? Start with a plan, a complete communication plan. Know your audience; understand where they are, what they "consume" (media-wise) and when they do so. Most important, remember that social media (we're lumping them all together here) is simply another communication tool available to you.
HansenHouse Communication has a Facebook page. It's a good placeholder, and it was important for us to own that name on Facebook - and on other sites, too. But we don't update it often, because it's not an effective use of our time and money.