Category Archives: Content Development

Branded Content: It’s Not Just for Big Brands or Big Budgets: Small businesses can leverage branded content to great advantage

The idea of “branded content” often conjures up images of expensive marketing campaigns with Hollywood-style treatments. So to a smaller business, the concept may feel daunting. But the reality is that branded content can run the gamut of scale and budget; the most important thing is to do it well. And for a small business, a well-thought campaign can utilize branded content to great effect.

In this post, you’ll learn:

-What’s the big deal about branded content?

-Where to begin your own branded content efforts

Why all the fuss about branded content?

As defined by the Branded Content Marketing Association through commissioned research, branded content is “any content that can be associated with a brand in the eye of the beholder.” In that light, branded content is obviously of the utmost importance as it encompasses the entirety of your marketing efforts, and beyond.

More specifically, “branded content” often refers to something purposefully created by a brand in order to entertain or educate its target audience. It is intended to create positive feelings about a company, product, or service without going in for the hard sell—and it is often designed to encourage and facilitate sharing. It may use images, characters, and storylines that are clever, surprising, or touching, which aim to win over the viewer or reader.Forrester-Branded-Content-1

This more nuanced type of branded content may seem less traditional than a straightforward campaign with a “buy now!” punch line, or one that aims to tout a product’s superior attributes. But it still relies on age-old tenets of marketing and holds distinct powers of persuasion. By leveraging branded content’s softer-sell approach, a smaller company can build awareness, goodwill, and its customer base.

Where do I begin?

Myth: branded content has to be complicated. Not true; in fact, simpler is often better. Before you even start to think about what should be written, filmed, designed, or produced—take a minute to put yourself in the shoes of your customer or potential customer.

Ask: what type of information and education would be useful to your target audience? (Some answers may seem beyond the scope of your company’s knowledge base or expertise—but don’t discount these ideas off the bat; there may be something to them.)

Next, figure out your goal for the branded content campaign. Do you seek increased visitors to your homepage or social media pages? Increased awareness of your brand in the marketplace? More leads? Sign-ups for a free download or trial?

Once you determine the type of content that makes the most sense, and what you’d like readers/viewers to do as a result, think about what channel(s) would be most logical (keeping your budget in mind, of course). For instance, maybe your company has some relevant and compelling data that would lend itself to an infograph treatment. Or maybe a short video would help bring your customer’s needs to life.

Then, execute. And if you don’t have internal resources that can help to produce the branded content you want, look to outside firms who can work within your budget to provide something new and fresh that resonates with your target audience.

You may even want to partner with an organization or association to bring their content to your audience. Here’s a secret: you don’t have to create all of your branded content from scratch; instead, find clever, visual ways to repurpose existing information or leverage your company’s relationships to solicit shareable, relevant content.

Once you’ve launched your campaign, monitor and measure its results—and have a strategy in place to ensure that your campaign doesn’t get stale. If you get in the habit of regularly offering topical, helpful content to customers and prospects, your brand will start to become a trusted and ongoing resource for them.

Also, make sure you get the word out so your branded content can work best by linking other marketing functions to your content. You can push out teasers from social media, email campaigns, and other digital outlets that can then point back to your site or wherever the content lives. At times, you can push people to a landing page that is more targeted to the audience you are reaching, making your campaign more successful.chris-post-infographic

Tips and reminders

Forrestor Research reminds us that branded content “is designed to build brand consideration and affinity, not sell a product or service.” The good news is that customers generally trust and respond well to this type of content. Recent research from Vibrant Media showed that advertorials ranked higher as a useful source of information than journalist-written articles. And one in three respondents rated an advertiser’s own website as the most useful source of information about a product, with particular receptivity to content delivered in an image-based format.

As noted by Joe Palazzo, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, in 2012: “The future of the marketing department is half content and half publishing.”   That future is now. The key is thinking smart about your branded-content campaign and leveraging resources beyond the four walls of your own company. And never lose sight of your audience and what sorts of information they need and want. So, start small, and you’ll go far! Smaller businesses can have just as much—or more—success with branded content as their larger peers. Good luck!

by Amy Zucchi-Justice, Co-Founder & Head of Marketing and Strategy, The Karlyn Group.

Amy Zucchi-Justice is an experienced marketer and sales professional specializing in media, events, product creation and launches—as well as creating successful growth-oriented branding campaigns.

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Social Media: Everyone Else Is Doing It…So Can You!

Social-Media-Amy

It is no secret that companies across all industry segments are adopting social media into their marketing plans. Yet, social media remains an undeveloped territory for a large portion of the construction industry. By increasing your social media efforts, you can effectively get the word out, build brand recognition, and connect with customers for less than traditional marketing.

New to Social Media?

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feed, Blogging, and other forms of social media enable companies to share a vast amount of information on a frequent basis and to generate discussion among a larger community. You have a website; and you may have even set up a Facebook or Twitter page. But, do you really understand the capabilities of these tools?

The Numbers Have It

In a survey done by the Construction Marketing Association this year, 97 percent of the construction companies polled said that, “Yes,” they do participate in social media. Of the firms that do use it, only 7 percent of companies said that they get nothing out of it. However, the remaining 93 percent agreed that it is valuable. The top four perceived benefits are:

    • Brand awareness
    • Increased website traffic
    • Higher search ranking
    • Sales leads

Your company’s reputation is important. Having an active and positive social media presence can give you “social proof.” Simply put, social proof means that when a person visits your Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn page and sees that you have a substantial following of highly engaged fans, you will be perceived more favorably. That person is, in turn, more likely to participate as well.

Through social media, you are also able to learn about the key players, as well as ideas and trends of the industry. You can then utilize that knowledge into not only your own social media campaigns, but your other business efforts and operations.

How do you get started? 

The best way to attract more engaged followers is to create posts that inspire readers to share your content and/or give a call to action.  To write successful and engaging posts, remember to keep your posts consistent, relevant, short, and eye-catching. Additionally, your content should offer your readers value through education, entertainment, or even offers and promotions.

If you are just stepping onto the social media scene, here are a few places to begin:

    • LinkedIn is a great resource to seek out connections that you can pursue for business opportunities.  Don’t be shy to connect.
    • Facebook is the best place to post photos and updates of projects.
    • Twitter makes it easy for you to quickly share information about your product, and get information and feedback from clients.

The Relationship Builder

An important aspect to recognize about social media is that it is a relationship builder. This is your firm’s opportunity to build relationships with individuals who may be potential clients and customers. Think about how you would approach building a face-to-face relationship with a client or customer – social media works in the same way.

Social Media is Not a Soliloquy

Social media also allows your construction company to inform others about its accomplishments and awards, and updates in the industry. It is a great place to highlight projects and showcase pictures from the jobsite. While this is a great marketing tool for your business, social media is most successful when used as a conversation, not a monologue. Making productive use of social media is about more than sharing information. Do not get trapped in the routine of writing posts, sending them out, and not asking for feedback.

Getting the word out about your products and services in a way that promotes online discussion has proven to be more beneficial than by standard, one-directional “shout marketing” alone. Some companies use it to drive sales, while others use it for recruitment or customer service. No matter the end-goal, social media is just that – social.

While there are countless creative ways to invite your followers to participate, these practices are the most standard place to get started:

    • Ask a simple question
    • Surveys and polls – learn more about your customers preferences, or use this to learn more about industry trends
    • Encourage submissions – photos and stories

There is no question that social media is a powerful and effective tool; the value that it can provide for you really depends on your business and what your end-goal is. We know that consumers buy from brands they know and trust. The more loyal fans you have that share your content, the more you increase your chances of being seen and heard inside Facebook or Twitter. When your exposure increases, your fan base increases. This is “word-of-mouth” marketing at its best.

Still stumped? Contact the Karlyn Group today to find out how we can help you get serious about social.

Strengthen Your Company’s Image through Branded Content

content

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: “Content is king!” The phrase may be overused, but its message rings true.

Much of your company’s success is driven by how people perceive your brand in the marketplace. It is a major factor in whether or not they want to buy your products and services. Nowadays, there are so many marketing outlets to consider that it is increasingly harder to stand out from competitors. A corporate Facebook page with thousands of “likes” is okay—but to truly elevate your visibility and brand image, content marketing is the answer (in fact, this blog post is an example of such…).

So what is content marketing, exactly?

Content marketing is all about creating and distributing relevant articles, information, videos, etc.—to attract and engage a clearly defined target audience. The end goal, in turn, is to drive profitable customer action.

In other words, the idea is to create interesting content that speaks to clients and prospects without trying to sell them anything overtly.  Packaging and disseminating useful content in a thoughtful way also positions your company as a thought leader and showcases your expertise.

Companies that have successfully used content marketing include P&G, John Deere, Xerox, Microsoft, and Cisco, as well as many smaller companies. And the trend is certainly on the rise–a recent survey from BtoB Magazine showed that 57% of marketers expect to be “very” or “fully” engaged in content marketing in 2014.

What’s the best way to get content in front of target clients and prospects?

here are many platforms that can help you reach your target audience—including social media, email, and web-based channels.  While you can get by using one or two of them, an integrated approach increases your footprint exponentially.

Social media

LinkedIn and Twitter are great tools for reaching the business-to-business market, and include useful features to help you connect with your intended audience.  Additionally, Facebook and YouTube are increasingly being used in the business-to-business world. It is important to post, interact, and contribute often—but not so much that you annoy your audience.

Your social media strategy should fold into your overall marketing strategy with content playing a major role throughout.  Your larger content efforts can include articles, blogging, white papers, webcasts, and more—woven into social channels but also distributed at events, meetings, etc. And the good news is that you don’t have to be a journalist to be a good content marketer. Relevant, valuable information—when packaged and distributed thoughtfully—speaks for itself.

Email isn’t dead

In some ways, email can almost feel antiquated in the current environment, but its usefulness should not be underestimated as part of your content marketing efforts.  Email communication remains a powerful direct line to customers and prospects, and offers an avenue for customized content.  Getting your most relevant articles, white papers, webcast invites, etc. directly into someone’s inbox is a proverbial “foot in the door” that can lead to conversion.  In fact, email-marketing conversion rates remain high—and, because of its direct nature, email is more likely to prompt customer follow-though than social media.

Video brings your content to life

When you are putting together a content-marketing plan, video and webcasting are worth consideration. The cost to record and distribute content is minimal—and the end product is easily shareable.

For complicated or in-depth topics, video may lend itself as an effective means of breaking down and deploying information.  It works equally well for simple content that you want to bring to life—and you can play around with formats including interviews, panel discussions, and slide presentations.

Where to Begin? 

A good place to start, before you dive into elaborate new campaigns, is with a content-marketing goal.  Are you trying to engage a particular portion of your audience?  Connect with new leads?  Generate buzz for a new product or service?  Then, once you know what you’re trying to do and whom you’re trying to reach, you can take an inventory of your existing assets—to see if you have what you need or whether you need to shift resources or hire an outside firm.

Always make sure your content is easily shareable and links back to your company’s website. And whatever format, method, and channels you decide to use, be sure to track how your content is performing.  You might find there is a particular topic your audience wants more of—or, if an article or video isn’t getting traction, you may need to change gears.  The bottom line: content marketing is here to stay—so I encourage you to jump in and make the most of it!