The industry has changed in the past few years, and the just-released results of the King Fish Media 2009 Study of Marketing, Media and Measurement prove it. Consumers, customers, and prospects (both B2C and B2B) now have complete control of what they watch, read, and listen to on a growing number of platforms, which means that marketers' efforts to reach and engage through traditional means are often unsuccessful.
But there's hope. Original and compelling custom content can cut through the noise and distraction to reach consumers.
King Fish's study found that the vast majority of marketers feel that the content they create is of equal or more value to the information produced by traditional media brands. The challenge, however, lies in getting consumers to feel the same. To make custom content an effective part of a sales growth plan, you must ensure that consumers view your content as relevant and see your outlet as a trusted source of information.
You can become a trusted source by capitalizing on existing research or by conducting your own research to identify what is most relevant and actionable for your customers' jobs or lives. These research findings then become the guide by which you can create your campaign, whether you do it in-house or in partnership with an experienced content creation professional or firm with a track record for producing strong, original content.
If you are a smaller business, you might even consider working with a freelancer. With all the changes, layoffs, and overhauls in media, many of the best editors and writers are working for themselves rather than inside a media property.
We also know that as the use of content marketing continues to rise, traditional advertising continues to decline. Even online advertising, perhaps the last great hope for the industry, did not garner much enthusiasm from the marketers who completed our study survey.
Yes, online advertising is still growing (albeit at a slower rate than in the past), but it does not pack the ROI punch of content-based marketing. As a result, marketers are looking to content-based tactics such as custom media, webcasts, podcasts, ebooks, white papers, social media, and their own websites to be the cornerstones of future campaigns.
Where should you direct your content?
Most content-based marketing campaigns rely on customers who have opted in to receive marketing content. As such, the engagement-focused campaigns yield higher returns than online advertising campaigns that simply interrupt customers or prospects. Additionally, relevant content offers substantive material to interested customers, so it can foster trust between your company and customers. Customer trust can lead to more sales for your company, which in turn boosts the ROI on your custom-content campaign.
The study also found that marketers are renewing their customer-retention efforts instead of simply focusing on lead acquisition. Nearly half of those surveyed said that they plan to increase the proportion of their budget that is allocated for retention efforts, while almost no one said that they plan to increase the proportion of their lead acquisition budget.
Though lead generation still commands nearly double the budget of retention efforts, the study points to a potential rebalancing of these efforts. One possible reason: In challenging economic times, sales generation from an existing customer base is smart business, because marketing efforts concentrated on current customers are likely to yield more sales. In lieu of more expensive advertising media, marketers most often use content-rich communications to reach their current customers.
Not surprisingly, along with content-based campaigns, social media campaigns are of high priority to marketers. Nearly 80 percent will be increasing expenditures for social media over the next 12 months, and that it is a leading tactic for speaking with both customers and prospects. For a social media strategy to be successful, however, it must not be used simply for the sake of being in the medium, but with a clear set of goals in mind. Successful social media strategies are content-based and offer fans, members, and/or followers relevant and valuable content that is then integrated into all aspects of a content marketing strategy. It is not, and should not be used as, a stand-alone tactic.
Marketers looking to launch successful integrated campaigns should take a page from Whole Foods' book. The company created a trusted media channel based on credible and original content about food and wellness, and its blog "The Whole Story" is the hub of its content-marketing strategy.
Whole Foods supplements the blog with Flickr and YouTube and hosts a library of video and audio podcasts on its own website. The brand also uses Twitter and Facebook to push out original content, like recipes and wellness tips, to consumers. Whole Foods' nearly 1.5 million Twitter followers and 150,000 Facebook fans are not only cyberspace supporters; they are engaged, loyal, and paying customers.
In summary, we can conclude that the structural changes in media are driving marketers to reengineer the business of reaching customers and prospects. Traditional advertising, once a foregone conclusion and a focal point of all marketing efforts, is falling to the wayside as companies now must revise old formulas and create new ones. Marketers are using new media channels to reach audiences directly and to measure the value of their response and interaction. More importantly, they are creating their own original channels and content instead of relying on the platforms of others.
As this decade comes to a close, it's time to examine your marketing strategy to customers and prospects. Are you creating original content or are you still relying on advertising to get the message out? Should you be renting your media channel when you can own your own and increase your return on investment?
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