Articles

Stop interrupting and make content marketing work for continuing education

Thu, Aug 22,2013 @ 02:05 PM
by Kathryn Lynch-Morin |

Michael Weiss is SuperStar speaker at this year's LERN Annual Conference. There’s a major shift taking place in the world of marketing but this time, it isn’t the marketers leading the charge.

Consumers, including consumers of continuing and community education programs, have taken the reigns and are now (sometimes without even knowing it) demanding less interruptive marketing, and more useful, engaging and inspirational substance — content marketing. Marketing without hard selling.

But what does content marketing consist of? At the core of the strategy is storytelling, says Michael Weiss, managing director of the California-based content marketing consulting company figure18.

Whether you’re Central New Mexico Community College, Coca Cola or the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department, you’ve got a story to share.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the average American was presented with maybe 65 marketing messages per day, Weiss said. Now, that number has risen to about 3,000. That’s 3,000 radio spots, Internet banners, targeted Facebook ads, TV commercials, billboards and pop-ups per day. We see so many ads that we’ve actually developed a thing called Banner Blindness, which makes us completely oblivious to banner ads on websites. A TV Guide Survey of 5,800 views found that 96 percent of people with a DVR watch no commercials at all. That’s a lot of money spent on selling to everyone and no one at once.

“We are overwhelmed with advertising,” Weiss said. “With so much clutter and noise, marketers are looking for ways to stand out.”

Standing out means creating a story that educates, inspires or engages specific audiences to make a transaction, whether that transaction be actually making a purchase, or downloading a whitepaper, signing up for a newsletter, or registering for a course. Standing out also means allowing, and helping, consumers to find you.

It’s important to broaden your definition of story, too. A community education program launching a new scrapbooking class, for example, could create a story in the form of a how-to-video or step-by-step photos with instructions on one thing students would learn in the class.

Weiss said there are several important reasons continuing education providers should adopt a content-marketing strategy. First of all, if the advertising budget is limited, content marketing can likely get you a lot more bang for your buck because it’s targeted to a specific audience, unlike traditional marketing which is shoved out to the general public with the hopes it will stick with the right people.

“Even if you do a little more (content marketing) than you’re doing now, with a strategy behind it, you’re going to move the needle and you’re not going to break the bank,” Weiss said.

People worry about paying an outsider to write blogs, take photos or create video, Weiss said, but it’s likely that someone in-house already has those skills.

It’s also important because most consumers or buyers are as far as 50 to 70 percent of the way through the buying process before they make contact with the person who will handle the transaction. And, according to a recent study from business marketing advisors BIA/Kelsey Group shows nearly all consumers — about 97 percent — now use online media when researching products or services.

Today, you’re going to find more success if consumers are able to find you organically, either through word-of-mouth (which started after someone saw your awesome blog) or an online search.

Thinking about this, and the buyer’s journey, can help you create interesting and engaging content related to your products or services.

While it can be a difficult transition, moving from traditional marketing to content marketing, more marketers are using these new techniques. A recent report from Technorati on Digital Influence shows about 86 percent of influential marketers are blogging consistently.

But, before your organization begins pumping out the content, some other things have to happen. Consider who and where your consumers are. Think about age, education level, interests and anything else that makes them tick. Once you’ve thought-out the different people you’re trying to reach, you have to determine where they’re spending time. Are they pinning on Pinterest, watching videos on YouTube or liking articles on Facebook? Knowing who and where the people you want to reach are will help you create and refine your killer content marketing strategy.

Weiss is one of the Superstar speakers at this year’s LERN Conference in San Francisco, Nov. 21-23. His presentations include "Content Marketing: Start with the Who,’ and ‘How Content Marketing Killed Don Draper.’ Those who attend his sessions will come away with practical applications for content marketing, know which platforms to use and better understand how to search in-house for content marketing creators.

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