We might love to hate those companies that seem to strike content marketing gold without even trying. But despite appearances, luck often has little to do with it.
Instead, some of the biggest brands in the world have shown that success comes from careful planning, research, and know-how. But you don’t have to be a multinational company to get it right. By following some basic principles of content marketing, any company of any size can nail it like a pro.
Be in it for the long haul like American Express
In many respects, content marketing is about doing old-fashioned things in a new way. American Express knows more than most since it began content marketing back in 1915.
Without a digital device in sight, the then travel company AmEx reached out to its customers with a series of informative guides designed to prepare travellers for their adventures rather than sell travel to them. It later contributed to a popular travel almanac (similar to the idea of sponsored content today), published its own travel guides, and launched a subscription-based magazine. More than one hundred years later, even with its eventual shift to the credit card business, the company continues to reach its customers through useful content, albeit in the digital age.
Just like the AmEx travel guides, the American Express OPEN Forum (launched in 2007) plays host to small business owners exchanging ideas, information and insights to help solve business challenges and ultimately promote success. The site’s content remains fresh and relevant because the company responds to research also conducted through the forum. What customers want and need is what they get. Not just from the brand, but from a community of business peers, experts and influencers. The benefit for American Express? Helping customers do more business means more business for them.
Do it like a pro: Just like American Express, your company can build long-standing customer relationships based on value that goes beyond products, services and sales. All by doing something any business of any size can do, online or offline – using content to help, inform and support customers rather than selling to them. In return, you’ll get their loyalty. You’ll be the brand they remember when they do need the product or service you offer. They’ll trust you, talk about you and recommend you. All it takes is some forward-thinking, knowing the support you give to your customers is an investment that will pay off in the long run.
Tap into new tech like Marriott
Virtual reality (VR) has come a long way in the last few years, becoming a more accessible and affordable digital medium. The release of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR in 2016 certainly helped. In fact, it’s proving so popular that revenue from the global VR market is projected to reach USD 21.5bn by 2020.
While many brands are still coming to grips with ways of leveraging this new technology, Marriott leapt ahead of the competition in 2014 when it partnered with Oculus to create the perfect content marketing machine.
Known as the Marriott Teleporter, this experience allowed consumers to be transported to a range of popular holiday destinations around the globe. Not only through the headset itself, but in combination with a series of other sense-triggers such as mists, breezes and exotic scents. Unsurprisingly, the campaign did so well that the hospitality chain later offered the VR experience as a room service option for guests staying in their hotels.
Do it like a pro: Marriott got ahead of the game by using new technology for their content delivery. There’s always some degree of risk in doing this, as fledgling technology may not end up delivering on what it often promises. But in this case the risk was worth taking as Marriott was able to offer consumers an experience they wouldn’t find anywhere else. By keeping an eye on emerging technologies and digital platforms, you too can harness novel ways of delivering content that will make you stand out from the competition – and give them a brand experience they’ll never forget.
Be relevant like IBM
The tech giant started riding the content marketing wave long before many companies even saw it coming. Not only to extend its reach, but to deepen its relationship with its customers. And it’s been paying dividends ever since.
But IBM, while huge, hasn’t done anything that any other company – of any size – couldn’t do. It simply identified a gap in the market, understood what its customers wanted and needed, and gave it to them in a way that was appealing to them.
In 2016, for example, IBM launched THINK Marketing – an online hub where marketers can research virtually any topic about marketing. It delivers videos, demos and daily thought leadership pieces from IBM as well as from third party experts. In the process, it’s taken relevance to a whole new level. The site uses a cognitive approach to scrutinise what users are reading, how they’re engaging with it, and serves up more of the same, along with recommendations of specific IBM products in-line with their interests. With the ability to learn complex information and digest huge amounts of data, IBM goes far beyond standard user-tracking algorithms. It uses IBM’s legendary ‘Watson’ (think of it as a cognitive computing engine) to tap into the things people want to know and learn about, and provides smart, relevant and helpful content. So much so, it’s been touted as changing the way marketers, entrepreneurs, developers and other professionals work.
Do it like a pro: Get to know your customers, understand their pain points, and reach out to them with relevant content. ‘Relevant’ is the keyword. Do some real research that gets under the skin of your audience, gather some insights and plan your content around them. Get it right and it’ll go a long way to building trust and a positive rapport with potential customers. All you need is a smart approach to nurturing your relationship with clients who are likely to become brand advocates and customers for years to come.
Look and learn You don’t have to look far to find more examples of brands doing content marketing well. The key is to learn from them and see how you can apply the same principles to your business. It doesn’t have to be hard: it simply comes down to knowing your audience, having a solid plan and executing it well.