‘Write an essay on the inside of a ping pong ball’. Where I went to school (many, many years ago), there was a period when that was the punishment for various feats of indiscipline. I suppose it was better than getting a ‘hiding’ (ask an Irish friend to explain the term) but its status as a punishment was down to two things. Firstly there was nothing to write about and secondly it was utterly pointless and would achieve nothing – except maybe develop skills for a career as a copywriter (!). When the issue of content marketing arose with a client recently, this thought crept into my head. Why do some companies force content marketing where it simply doesn’t fit?
5 types of content marketing and when it works and when it doesn’t
# 1. Blogs
A safe bet. Blogs work well for most industries but they work very well in situations where you can give useful advice on areas of expertise. From subjects like gardening or cooking to running a business, business services, social media and so much more, well-written blogs work as an
# 2. Whitepapers
I love writing whitepapers. I get to build an argument slowly and thoughtfully until the sales pitch is so irresistible, prospective customers will want to hammer down the door demanding the product (that’s the theory anyway). But they clearly work best for certain industries. Typically, the more complicated propositions like software applications, scientific advances or technology innovations are the best subject matter for a whitepaper. Education is usually the main motive so if your product requires only a short, simplistic sales cycle or you find yourself struggling to come up with content (like say when you have to write an essay on the inside of a ball!) maybe a whitepaper is not for you.
# 3. How-to guides
Now this is where content marketing shines. How do you know if a how-to guide will work for you? Just listen to your customers, your sales team or customer service people and find out what are the most common questions they get. If you feel you can put together guides to answer these queries, you’re on to something. From looking for your first mortgage to learning how to play chess, how-to guides can be content marketing gold.
# 4. Video
When used correctly, video is hard to match for impact. Engaging, creative AV content which is well scripted can really bring your brand to life. Beware of the ‘old school’ talking-head-to-camera piece. It can come across as self indulgent and if you really feel you must do one, keep it well scripted, very customer focussed and try and move around a bit! Otherwise video works brilliantly for showcasing facilities, describing processes or presenting visually unique aspects of your product or service.
# 5. Podcasts
Ask yourself, are your customers truly mobile? So mobile that they would rather listen to what you have to say when on the move, instead of the radio, music or chatting to friends? There are obvious examples. If you run a foreign language school, podcasts on language tips could work really well. Self-help and advisory content works well in an audio format too.
Media companies are also in a position to provide unique, quality audio content. I would argue that quality podcasts are one of the toughest content marketing pieces to produce. You are competing with professional media providers and world class musical artists, not to mention good old conversation. Use with caution! Once you release one pointless podcast, the chances of people returning to download more will reduce significantly…
That’s only scraping the surface of content marketing and I have not even mentioned case studies, testimonials, e-books or info graphics. And here’s my overall disclaimer…this blog is about the value of quality content marketing and isolating the right types for your business. You may have successfully used every content marketing type to great success in an unusual industry. There’s no right or wrong!
Before you kick-start your content marketing drive, focus on your target audience. Will your content be useful or are you just coming up with content for the sake of it? And if you are wondering what the best content marketing options are for ping pong ball manufacturers, I’d go with video…what do you think?
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