By Stacey Piper
Some friends of mine are avid fishermen who enjoy offshore fishing for red snapper and grouper in the Gulf of Mexico. They invited me to spend a day on their boat when I was in Florida for a conference. Having only fished with worms from shorelines and docks on rivers and lakes, I wasn’t aware of the distance, time, and complexity involved in luring anything other than a perch or catfish. Thinking I was in for a relaxing morning soaking up some sun, I instead got an education in the habits of sea creatures, from feeding hours to types of bait and depth. I would drop my line of squid or shrimp at depths of more than a hundred feet, only to spend several minutes reeling in an empty hook, time and time again, as minutes became hours and eventually a full day.
How many times as marketers do we post content on our website or blog, only to come up empty-handed with no new leads? Just like fishing, there’s more to developing interest than simply baiting the hook and dropping your line. If you want to make a catch—in this case, the interest of a prospective client—you need the tactics to set the hook and bring the fish back to the boat. And just as one fishing hole is unlikely to yield a full catch, one piece of content does not constitute a campaign.
A Vocation, Not a Pastime
Many marketers invest in content development: videos, blogs, case studies, white papers, press releases. But if you only post content on your owned media—your website and social platforms—it’s like dropping a line into the depths of the ocean. Someone may run across it, maybe through a search engine result, but he or she is apt to consume it and swim along to the next enticement.
Too many times clients invest in content generation but neglect to invest in content dissemination. To start a relationship that can be nurtured through the sales funnel, you need to invest in distribution on channels that the customer frequents. Not only can it take patience, but it can cost 2-3 times more than the cost of content development.
Think of push or outbound marketing as the candy display in the grocery store, not the aisle itself but the stands at the checkout. You’re being funneled through the checkout line and it’s in your face—direct marketing—a hook to remind you that you forgot the M&Ms, or maybe you didn’t forget but you really do want them. And thanks to this display, you just learned that Mars has come out with not only caramel but pretzel flavors too.
Social media ads, signage, and other paid advertising are the push to lead you to the candy aisle, the hook to the meatier content on the website or the blog. You might only want a snack, or you might be ready for a meal.
Pull or inbound marketing is like luring the fish to the hook, and ultimately to the boat. There’s still potential to lose it on the way, but hopefully you’ve set the hook well with your tactics. Now it’s time to develop the relationship. For the poor fish, the relationship is nothing more than your dinner recipe, but in marketing, you’re now in the education and influence stage. This is the point where you establish brand recognition and visibility, build customer loyalty, promote your industry expertise, and engage with customers organically, socially, and through referrals.
Inbound marketing works when the customer is actively looking for information or services. Your job is to make the bait (content) available where your customer is looking, be in the right place at the right time with search engine results through SEO, blogs, tip sheets, infographics, white papers, and other meaningful, relevant content.
The PEO Model for Content Dissemination
Content is only structured letters on a page until your customers engage with it. You can leverage one piece of content, such as a white paper, by restructuring it across the Paid-Earned-Owned (PEO) Model.
- Paid Media: This is media you pay for—ads on Facebook or Google, placements, partnerships, signage, etc.—to drive traffic or sales to your owned media.
- Earned Media: This is like digital word of mouth, free but not in your control, such as reviews, organic search engine rankings, and other shared content engagement.
- Owned Media: This is media that is owned and controlled by your brand, such as your website, blog, LinkedIn, and social media channels. In creating content, look at how you can transform a thought leadership piece into smaller pieces to be consumed in different ways. A bulleted list in a comprehensive white paper might work as an infographic or tip sheet to share on LinkedIn or Instagram, while a case study could be recreated as a three-minute success story for your YouTube channel. In this way, you can share the same message in a multitude of ways to suit your audience’s location, attention span, and interest.
In marketing as in fishing, it’s important to cast your line early and often. Do your research to identify the most effective bait. Casting a big net can be a waste of time and effort. In the sea of opportunities, aligning your tactics with your targets will yield the best catch.