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Is content marketing  an effective tool to drive business or another way to waste budget and time? These days, without ‘live’ events and opportunities for sport sponsorships, content driven marketing is sometimes seen as the magic bullet for communication programs. It can be that – with the right preparation. 

Let me share with you the basic rule that applies when you are looking for return on investment from content marketing: “It is not about content marketing”. We see companies – clients and others – that invested significant amounts of money in content marketing. Yet, the way they approached content marketing was not unlike a hobby. Money was spent, effort expended but the result was just a lot of fun with no economic value. Better search rankings were achieved, but that in itself does not bring business. (It also can be accomplished for less money.). A forceful push in content marketing does not guarantee leads, conversion and financial results. 

I have three hacks that can help ensure content spend is worthwhile. 

Hack 1: Content does not need to be very long

When communication professionals think of business-to-business content marketing they lean towards white papers, reports and ‘case studies’. Yet, is this really necessary? Do you have to write something of the length of ‘War and Peace’ to attract the eyeballs you need to create business opportunities? The answer is: no.

Hack 2: Content does not need to be perfect

Banks, insurance firms and other financial services firms have the tendency to avoid risk. Everything needs to be completely ‘perfect’.

This does not fit with the actual objective of content marketing: “Get the attention of your client and convert that attention into an action”. The content only needs to be good enough. Repurpose old visuals or texts if they are still worthwhile. Don’t feel the need to completely re-invent the wheel if it won’t bring proportional returns from your audience.  Recycle, re-use and use material from others (mention your sources!). Publish!

Hack 3: Content does not need to be ‘on topic’ all the time

The downfall of many branded content projects in financial services is the enteral quest for relevance. This is misguided. Your audience doesn’t only want to consume information on the topic that is most popular today. They want ‘snackable content’ on a variety of topics. Short form communication – think Tik Tok and Instragram – is becoming increasingly popular for a reason. Go for emotion. 

A final tip on content – start by working backwards from the sale. You do not want to entertain, nor have your target audience ‘just’ consume your content, you want them to act, to order, to invest, to buy, to sell, to distribute. Make sure they can. Identify the professionals that interact with your content. Offer ample opportunities to be in touch with you and continue to reach out to those who have interacted with your content before; one contact is a ‘one night stand’, not a ‘meaningful relationship’! Start he content development with the ‘click to order’ in mind.

Focus on your audience and create an optimal funnel to channel them from attraction to activation and  conversion.

Richard Neve is the managing director of Cognito’s Amsterdam office