What do IBM, Best Buy, John Deere, Coca-Cola, the United Way, and many other distinguished organizations all have in common?
They all publish their own online magazines as a way to market their companies, their products, and their services. And, these publications are totally separate from their company Web site.
It actually all began with The Furrow, started by John Deere about 110 years ago. It was America’s first publication specifically designed to address the needs of farmers…and, of course, tactfully promote John Deere products as well.
Content marketing, which I defined in a previous post, is a marketing strategy based on the sharing of quality, credible, and pertinent information – often on a separate online platform – that generates traffic to your Web site and, along with it, interest in your company and its products.
It goes by other names, such as “branded Web site” or “brand journalism,” which was coined by former McDonald’s marketing director Larry Light, who said in a speech that McDonald’s too was getting into the content marketing business.
These companies and scores more, especially in the B2B world, including some in the professional cleaning industry, have decided to start their own publications in an attempt to educate their readers and provide valuable, credible, and consistent information to the industry.
They are becoming thought-leaders and influencers—all while helping to promote their brand.
Companies do this with news items, blogs, posts, charts, newsletters, videos, webinars, etc., using these content marketing sites. Does this mean the end of traditional trade publications? No, the “trades” will adjust to changing times and many may come out even stronger in the future.
As to starting your own branded Web site to begin a content marketing program, organizations have two options: hire writers in-house or turn to an outside vendor, typically a PR/communications firm that specializes in content marketing.
Either way, here is what you have to do to begin content marketing and make your branded Web site work:
- Know how to tell a story using words as well as images, charts, etc., that address your audience.
- Put your audience first. This can be tough for some manufacturers that want to promote their products first and foremost. However, as soon as the reader realizes this is an advertisement, they move on. Create content that educates.
- Keep it short and simple. We are not discussing novels here; short articles about 500 to 600 words long would suffice.
- Be consistent. To keep your publication alive and attract more visitors, it has to be updated daily.
- Handle writer’s block. The time may come when you believe there is nothing more to write about. Simply pull out a trade publication, look into regulations now impacting the professional cleaning industry and write about current events and their impact on the industry. These steps help overcome writer’s block.
- Tell the truth at all times; enough said.
- If you use a source for your information in your branded content, it can actually add power and credibility. Just be sure to note the source.