There's a lot of talk about content marketing, but how does it actually work? And how can advisers and planners get involved?

    First, a bit of history. 

    Back in 1672, brothers Jan and Nicolaes van der Heyden invented a fire hose that wouldn’t explode under pumping pressure - a big problem at the time.

    They did this by reinforcing the hose with iron rings. This meant larger fires, and fires further away from water sources, could be extinguished.

    But the inventors didn’t stop there. They wrote white papers on how to use the new hoses. They wrote a book describing their newly patented invention. They drew diagrams, ran demos and shared their knowledge with the masses. In other words, they developed a content marketing strategy.

    Consumer-driven content has since gone from strength to strength. The 19th century saw large brands commit to this strategy. Perhaps the most famous of all was John Deere’s ‘The Furrow’ magazine, which launched in 1885 and by 1912 boasted 4 million readers, a figure even modern brands in the digital age will be envious of.

    How content marketing works

    Essentially, it’s about creating loyalty to your brand by creating educational, rather than promotional, content.

    By producing articles, newsletters, infographics, apps, videos, quizzes or even full-blown films, you begin to build a relationship with your customer base.

    That’s exactly what American Girl did for its product, a simple doll. Their content strategy focused on the many ways a child can interact with the doll. They even offer in-store experiences, where a child can take a doll to the store café to enjoy lunch together. 

    The BabyCentre takes a different view on content, by delivering an online resource answering questions relating to pregnancy, raising children and even guides on finding the perfect baby name. And who owns the BabyCentre? Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s largest baby product retailers.

    Consumers don’t have to buy a doll or baby clothes after reading content from American Girl and the BabyCentre, but we can all appreciate the commitment to delivering real advice that engages with people.

    The content doesn’t force us to remember their brands and products, but instead creates an emotional connection through storytelling, which in turn creates trust. So if someone who has read this content ever needs a doll or baby clothes, they are then more likely to buy from those brands.

    Research backs this up too. One study found that year-on-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8 times higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (19.7 per cent versus 2.5 per cent).

    How you can make the most of content marketing

    The Greentarget and Zeughauser Group law marketing survey revealed that only 26 per cent of firms have a documented content strategy.

    That’s less than B2B marketers (37 per cent) and B2C marketers (40 per cent), according to research from the Content Marketing Institute carried out in 2017. Compare that with reports that 63 per cent of professional service firms have a company blog, and it’s clear that there is still a knowledge gap to be filled in the advice profession.

    To fill that gap, it’s crucial to understand what you want from content marketing. Goals could be to:

    • Position your firm’s services and differentiate from your competitors
    • Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise
    • Create authority and show yourself as a thought leader in your sector
    • Build trust and reassurance
    • Generate valuable website traffic from people you want to do business with
    • Generate social engagement from clients and prospects
    • Support the sales process with valuable materials

    You will then need to think about who your audience is - we covered this in our last article here.

    Once you’ve identified your audience, you’ll need to discover what questions they ask and how you can answer those questions. Remember to say something original and valuable, to promote your content, and to do so regularly.

    Do you have a successful content strategy? We’d love to hear more in the comments below.

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