Most marketers will have heard the phrase ‘content marketing’ cropping up time and again recently, but behind the buzz, what does content marketing actually mean and what results can it deliver for engineering and industrial technology companies?
The term has sparked much debate within the marketing industry. There are some sceptics who say “isn’t everything ‘content’?” and who see content marketing as little more than a rebranding of something that already exists. Others though acknowledge it as a separate discipline within the marketing arena, with its own specific approach and goals.
As for an authoritative definition of what content marketing is, the Content Marketing Institute, an online information resource, defines it as “a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience, with the objective of driving profitable consumer action”.
To understand what that really means, you must first consider why marketers are looking for a new approach. It’s because traditional marketing methods have become less effective. Today’s consumers can flick past magazine advertisements, click away or ignore website banners or buttons, and skip through television advertisements. A subtler approach is needed to attract people towards your company and its products, and that’s where content marketing comes in.
Whereas the kinds of advertising listed above are all about trying to make an instant impression, content marketing is about playing the long game. Its aim is not to try to sell you a certain product there and then. Its purpose is rather to deliver materials that people are actively searching for, such as solutions to their business pains, or ways of improving work practices and ultimately saving money and increasing profitability.
The idea is that by delivering high-quality, valuable content such as technical articles, or white papers, those who read these materials will come to trust the author, the company and your brand and, at some point in the future, give you their business. In other words, it’s about engaging an audience and teaching them something rather than being overtly commercial.
For industrial technology vendors, content marketing is an excellent means of reaching out to an audience that doesn’t want to be preached to about products, but instead wants to learn something that can prove beneficial to their business. At HHC Lewis, one of our key roles is to help companies develop this kind of content.
For example, we have recently been producing a series of technical articles and white papers about specific aspects of level measurement and tank gauging on behalf of a global industrial automation company. These materials will ultimately be published in independent trade and technical journals, magazines and websites, forming a rich resource of detailed information that will benefit end users by informing them about measures they can take to improve their operation. They will also provide valuable content that can be promoted via a range of media, including social media.
The use of content marketing within a broader marketing strategy can produce effective results, and sometimes those results might even be immediate. If an engineer is looking for the best way of measuring level in small vessels, then finding a white paper on that very subject may encourage him to make contact with the author for further advice. However, content marketing should also be seen as a way of improving reputation and confidence in your brand.
The great thing about content marketing is that materials like white papers have a long shelf life and a Google search looking for a way of solving a problem can bring your potential customers straight to your door.