How to Generate a Return with Content Marketing

Content marketing is a critical component of any marketing strategy. The first goal of marketing is awareness, and the second is to create engaging content that educates prospective customers on your products and services. It also establishes your company as an expert in your field and a go-to resource for information. All of these activities lead you to your ultimate, big-picture marketing goal: sales – driving consumers to purchase your product or service.

This especially is true for niche companies without “big brand” names. People certainly won’t buy your product or service if they aren’t aware of what your company actually does, and more importantly, what problem you can solve for them.

You can find out by starting with a simple task: ask them. What information do current customers want to see from you? Why did they choose your company in the first place? What data did they need to make their buying decision? Place yourself in their shoes and use this valuable information when creating content for your website, whether it’s a blog, infographic, whitepaper, video, etc.

Creating timely, relevant content also improves SEO – search engines favor sites with keyword-rich content. Consider adding a blog to your website if you don’t have one already. Potential customers crave information that helps them make the right decision – make their lives easier by providing informative content on your blog. Optimize it with relevant keywords to increase your ranking on search engines, and update it frequently. Google is an advocate for fresh content, and prefers when it’s shared in multiple places, such as your website and social media channels.

When asking yourself what to blog about, consider writing about the latest developments in your industry, commentary on legislative or regulatory changes that affect your customers, as well as exciting announcements for your business. Cultural content that humanizes your organization is also helpful – let your customers get to know the people behind your brand.

Blogs also serve as great social media posts, increasing engagement and exposure of your content, generating awareness (that crucial first step). With a small budget, posts can be promoted across social channels and targeted to a specific audience, ensuring you are reaching the right people with your message. Staying active on social media lends credibility to your organization, showing that you are plugged in and attuned with your industry.

Keep in mind that social media isn’t a one-way street, though. Instead of posting and only hoping that your content will reach the right people and resonate with them, use social media to learn about and connect with your customers and prospects. Engage with users and start a dialogue. What are they talking about online? What issues are important to them? Listen and communicate that you understand their unique needs. Consider this: a survey by LinkedIn found that 64 percent of B2B decision makers say they won’t engage with a salesperson if the communication isn’t personalized. Social media is a powerful tool to establish a rapport with your target audience.

You might be thinking, how is a blog or social media post going to generate a return? It’s true that potential customers may read a blog or two and not act at that particular moment, but that’s okay. Keep them coming back to your website and social channels by posting content that they want to read. Play the long game and continue to provide interesting, educational content, and you’ll reap the rewards.

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Disruptive products are born at the intersection of design and development

Over the last several years, we’ve seen a boom in well-designed products and technologies focused on creating powerful brand experiences. Not only has thoughtful, engaging design trickled into mainstream business thinking, it’s also become a serious competitive advantage.

Design can influence and impact the entire journey a consumer has with a brand and, subsequently, its product(s). Industry disruption is not created solely by the hands of first-rate developers – it is born when design and development intersect during the ideation phase.

Startups and tech companies are primed with opportunity to create this experience from the get-go, and the only way to do so is to live, breathe and infuse design thinking throughout your organization. At its core, design thinking is a human-focused strategy toward development that draws from UI and UX designers’ expertise to integrate the needs of the user(s), the potential of the technology and the requirements for business success.

Tech giants readily are embracing this mentality, moving from a features-first to user-first product-development strategy. IBM has grown its designer-to-developer hiring target from 1:72 to 1:8. Uber’s design team has grown 70x since 2012. Facebook has even bought out entire design firms to help create world-class experiences for its users.

Obviously, most startups don’t have the liquid capital to make such dramatic organizational changes or acquisitions (if only it were that easy, right?). For companies lacking the resources to employ an internal design arm, it makes more sense to outsource this function to a strategic design partner with rich experience and a deeper bench. In some cases, a hybrid model may work best. Regardless, it’s critical to adopt a design-thinking culture that will inspire, captivate and motivate end-users to engage with new products or technologies and become brand ambassadors. At this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise that several of the world’s most successful startups, including Airbnb and Pinterest, were founded by designers.

Design is not only inherently tied to successful market penetration, but also recapturing – over and over again – the attention and imagination of consumers who quickly grow fatigued of yesterday’s latest, greatest innovation. Remember when Apple completely revamped their icon displays? That did not happen because an engineering wizard in Silicon Valley thought it was a good idea. The interaction was a marriage of functionality that worked, a fresh design that resonated, and details that were tested and proven. Apple’s icons still opened apps the same way, but the user experience changed completely—and THAT was revolutionary.

Integrating a design-thinking mentality during the startup phase – when the core focus typically is on providing the fastest or easiest solution to a real-world problem – can be counterintuitive. The challenge lies in moving beyond simply considering the utility of your entrepreneurial solution, which delivers only a functional value proposition. For example, if you buy a Mercedes, the auto manufacturer promises you will receive a high-performance, safe and comfortable vehicle. Design thinking will empower you to deliver the more necessary element of the equation – an emotional value proposition, which delivers the promise of a feeling. In this scenario, the Mercedes automaker promises you will ride in luxury and feel prosperous, pampered and unencumbered – the reason people spend upwards of $50,000 or more on a car.

The combination of a functional solution and an emotional experience creates a customer-brand connection – today’s battleground for success. Design can no longer exist as an add-on or extemporaneous initiative – it must be a core competency. It should live within your organization at all levels and influence development decisions, from system architectures to front-end interactions to visual identities. Adopting design thinking goes beyond strategic hiring – no one designer has the capacity, ingenuity or skill set to help you achieve greatness amidst today’s insanely heavy market saturation. It’s a team sport. Find or develop the right team, and take a giant leap toward putting your product or technology on the map in a very real way.

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