Last year, I wrote about the basics of content marketing. The concept of using content to attract and engage customers was just starting to catch on among small businesses. Big brands have very sophisticated content marketing programs in place and ways to track their impact on sales. Small business can borrow some of their recipes for success and develop integrated content marketing strategies that really work.
A great content strategy will help you build a solid long-term relationship with customers and prospects. They will pay attention to what you have to say and look forward to getting news and updates from you.
What is Content? Why Should You Care?
The Content Marketing Institute has a great definition on their site. Pay special attention to the words they bolded. “Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.”
Are you looking to boost traffic to your bar or nightclub on slow nights? Attract a new segment of the market? Build awareness of your new spirits brand? Secure investors or spark the attention of the media?
Content marketing can be the answer. According to Jim D’Arcangelo, long-time marketing executive and consultant to small businesses, “You need to start with a clear objective (like those outlined above) and a specific definition of who the market is that you’re trying to reach. Attempting content marketing without that is like opening a bar without knowing anything about your neighborhood and potential patrons.”
Whereas many businesses have been focused on social media over the past few years (the media), the emphasis is now on the unique messages…and those messages can be spread across a variety of channels, such as:
- Blog and vlog posts
- Your social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, SnapChat, YouTube, Vimeo
- Contributed articles for local media outlets and blogs
- e-newsletters and e-blasts
The last one is especially important. Over time, you should attempt to build so much loyalty among customers and prospects that they actually WANT to hear from you and will willingly share their contact information. Once they do that, you’ll know you’ve delivered “content nirvana.” “Offer meaningful incentives too,” advises D’Arcangelo. “Like special invitations to events or drink specials.”
Ironically, one of the oldest whiskey brands is utilizing new media to tell its integrated story. Jack Daniel’s is a 150-year old company that’s all about tradition. Their imagery, messages, and promotions all reinforce the role of history and “romance” that legacy to a new generation. Stories and films throughout their website and social media help tell their stories. Rather than a reader clicking on a link to a coupon, he or she is drawn into the “family” and engaging with the brand.
Most bars and nightclubs don’t have Jack’s marketing budget. So how do you apply these principles to your own marketing efforts? Rather than just focusing on your location and your product offering, think about your venue’s unique stories and values. Are you a great date spot? Post tips on the best (and worst) ways to ask someone out or involve your social media followers in telling their own stories. Are you a gathering place for alumni groups on game night? Post stories and pictures about great sports moments. Soon, your visitors and prospects will be thinking of you as a source of fun and interesting information – not just a business that’s trying to sell them food and beverages. The personality of your brand will start to shine.
Where Does Content Come From?
Content can be original (you write or design it or take photos and videos) or it can be curated (re-posted or referenced) from other sources. Be sure to give credit where credit is due. For example, if you serve the best fries in town, post some facts about the origins of French fries on National French Fry Day (July 13th), put photos of your own recipe up on Instagram, shoot a video of your chef making them, and encourage readers to post their favorite ways to dip their fries.
You can create a calendar in advance of seasonal themes, topics, and holidays and make sure that that content is shared across all your social media. Great content goes way beyond words. Visuals and dynamic graphics (animations, videos, and GIFs) can make your content come alive for the reader.
Make sure your content is relevant to the audience you want to reach. What does that mean? Here’s a great test of relevance. Knowing who your target is and what they find interesting, entertaining, or useful is critically important.
“Wait a second! I signed up to run a bar…not be a writer/producer!” you may say. If you decide to incorporate content marketing in your strategy for business-building, you can either find someone within your current team who has a penchant for storytelling and writing/photography or you can outsource it. If done well, content marketing can pay off in the long run and you’ll make back your investment.
How Do I Know if My Content Strategy is Working?
Remember this part of the definition of content marketing: “It’s an ongoing process,” Notes D’Arcangelo. “You need to be willing to measure results over a six month period in order to assess which of your activities are drawing the most engagement. Every social media channel and blogging platform has its own built-in analytics. You should review the data with your team each month and pay close attention to which types of content generated the most engagement (comments, shares, and other forms of interaction).”
The term “funnel” is often used in describing the content marketing process. It doesn’t refer to a bar accessory, but the principle is similar. You pour a lot in at the top with the intention of having high quality emerge at the end. At the top of the funnel you’re providing content to generate awareness. Over time, people engage with your brand and evolve from prospects to frequent customers. But you need to watch what you’re doing if you don’t want to wind up with a sloppy, wet counter. If you pour too quickly or dump bad content into the funnel, you’ll just make a mess. Says D’Arcangelo, "Managing the funnel for your business really boils down to finding a steady, reliable process or approach to making people aware of you, getting them in the door or sampling your product, getting them to have the great experience you told them they would have, and getting them to come back. Having a tight content plan is proving an effective way to do that."
More sophisticated content platforms (used by restaurant/bar chains and big brands) offer sophisticated forms of tracking. But simple tools like e-mail marketing tracking, social media insights, blog dashboards, and Google Analytics can also provide insights.
Of course, you should pay attention to anecdotal data too. If a bar patron casually says, “I love your newsletter!” you know you’ve broken through the content clutter.
Content marketing is still in its infancy in many ways and, like most forms of marketing, is growing quickly – in new and interesting directions. Watch this space (and come hear me speak at the 2017 Show) for the latest about the state of content!