Columnist Jayson DeMers outlines the steps you can take to ensure your branding and content efforts are working hand in hand to help drive sales.
Content marketing has become a big, amorphous topic that different stakeholders in an organization like to attack from a variety of angles.
Writers and other content producers are concerned with creating content that goes viral and represents the business’ goals. Sales teams are concerned with content that generates leads who are primed to buy. Executive management is looking beneath the hood of any initiative to demonstrate ROI and make sure that money spent is ultimately driving sales.
One perspective that underlies the whole discussion is this: Where does the intersection of brand building and selling happen in content marketing? Do the two just happen naturally, with great content building your brand as it sells? Or do you sell and speak authoritatively, which in turn builds your brand?
Without this becoming a chicken-and-egg discussion, let’s take a closer look at how to successfully find the synergies between your brand alignment activities and your content marketing to help drive the sales that keep your company in business.
The Goals Of Inbound Marketing
The reasons why your company might engage in inbound marketing vary widely. Some of the most common boil down to the desire to create a distinct footprint that attracts people to your brand. It eliminates some of the barriers that are typically encountered in the selling process by helping people get to know and trust you — hopefully even to like and rely on you for information — before you try to sell them something.
The idea of inbound marketing is to create a body of content that speaks to your audience, representing your products and services. Since it’s out there in different avenues on the Web, it’s always working for you by drawing people in to learn more about your business, forging relationships, and ultimately making a sale.
While inbound marketing often requires a more significant investment up front, the payback over time is very high leverage. Many businesses can point to thousands of dollars in revenue and to the list of leads generated by a single white paper, case study or blog post.
It’s also important to note, however, that inbound marketing is content generation with a goal. The idea is to attract leads and build bigger brand awareness.
In that sense, it’s closer to direct marketing (that is, pieces of content with clear calls to action that are designed to sell products or otherwise get prospects to take action) than it is to advertising you might see on television or in a magazine.
The Realities Of Brand Building
Brand building often gets relegated to the idea of Madison Avenue marketing. You know, the glossy magazine articles that don’t really tell you much about a product, but help build name recognition.
Many of the brands that are household names have invested millions of dollars into building their brand name recognition. Subsequently, they’re banking on the idea that when you go to the store to make a purchase, you’ll choose their product since it’s a name that you know or recognize.
Building a powerful brand is no longer considered a separate marketing agenda from selling or search engine optimization (SEO); in fact, SEO now hinges on brand building.
There’s an inherent connection between a solid brand and a perception of authority. This is true both of how you’re perceived by search engines and how prospective customers see you.
As a result, the more you build content assets that tie to your brand, the more likely you are to achieve a wider set of business goals.
When Brand And Direct Marketing Intersect
If you imagine brand building and inbound marketing as two overlapping circles, one of the most crucial things that lies at the point of intersection is direct marketing.
Now, you’re likely thinking about direct marketing as infomercials, copywriting and those direct mail packages you receive in the mail with the crazy “They all laughed when I sat down at the piano” headlines. Yes, those media are all examples of direct marketing.
But direct marketing or performance marketing is also about imbuing the content you create with an intention. As applied to the ideas of inbound marketing and brand building, direct marketing offers helpful tools for maximizing your brand recognition while driving as much business as possible to your company.
4 Actionable Steps That Every Business Can Take
If you have a content marketing or inbound campaign currently underway, it’s essential to think about the steps that you can take to build your brand with the creation and dissemination of that content.
Here are four simple steps that every business can take today to ensure that your content is not only reaching your audience, but building your brand authority along the way.
1. Create a brand values statement to test all your content ideas against
Content that’s off message or doesn’t align with your overall brand and positioning can actually dilute your impact in the market. As a result, many of my clients find it helpful to craft a simple brand statement against which every content idea, brand partnership, visual decision and piece of content can be quickly gut-checked.
Examples of these brand statements might include “Our company offers 100% organic fashions to support healthy, conscious living” or “I offer affordable SEO services for small businesses in a way that makes digital marketing easy to understand and offers a clear return on investment.”
Try creating one for your own business. A useful framework is “I/we offer this service to this customer group to solve this problem or with these specific characteristics.”
2. Leverage author bios, bylines and photos
When you’re creating and publishing content, it’s important to get your brand name strategic exposure when you have opportunities. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to make sure that every piece of content you publish includes a short biography or company description, a link, and (where appropriate) a personal byline and photo.
Don’t underestimate the power of this exposure. As people read and enjoy your material, they’ll often seek out more information about you online. It also helps build clear name recognition as they begin to see you in multiple places.
3. Strategically guest post
One of the many benefits of guest posting is for brand-building purposes. While building links is usually a natural byproduct of this tactic, getting your message out in front of new audiences through guest posting can be a valuable strategy for building brand recognition. It also helps attract new readers to your content, and ultimately results in new customers.
4. Leverage branded promotional opportunities
While it’s natural to think about the role of branding when creating your content, it’s also key to use promotional strategies to tie together your branding and your content dissemination.
Have you shared your latest posts on your social media channels? Do you reach out in communities that share information about your niche to promote your best content — for example, in the appropriate sub-site on Reddit or on promotional sites such as BizSugar?
Creating a branded outreach campaign on the right platforms has a symbiotic effect of building your brand in front of the right audiences while also getting your content moving via social interaction and links.
Brand building and inbound marketing are no longer two streams of activity within a marketing plan that never meet. Instead, the two are more closely aligned than ever.
It’s important for business owners to explore how building their brands can catalyze their inbound marketing results, and how their content efforts can help achieve their brand goals. In the end, it’s possible to connect the two and find a synergy that sells.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.