4 Brands That Are Leading the Way in Soft-Touch Content Marketing
“But how can content marketing improve my sales?”
Ah, the million-dollar question – and one that I am unable to answer clearly without a little help from some case studies. Unlike in other areas of search marketing such as pay per click (PPC), quantifying value from content marketing is no easy task and requires a rigorous approach that takes the full customer journey into account.
All these examples of inbound content marketing use content less as a direct selling tool and more as a means of building trust and authority. While this approach may not bring instant leads, sales and sign-ups, it can make for far greater profits in the long term.
Taking inbound content marketing to the next level
These case studies have been shamelessly filched from an excellent article written by Jon Hulme of B2B publisher Contentive. While they may all be about fashion brands, each one tells a story that all online marketers can learn from.
1. Net-a-Porter’s Porter magazine
An e-commerce blog and fashion magazine rolled into one, Porter is sold in both paper and digital formats, integrating the two through an innovative smartphone app. Much like a traditional fashion and lifestyle glossy, it covers everything from fashion and beauty to travel and culture. Notably, it features a wide range of different products and brands – many of which are not sold by Net-a-Porter.
- Do talk about products and services other than your own, as this will make the reader feel less like they’re being sold to and more like you’re trying to help them. This improves trust in your brand and gives your content more credibility.
- Don’t be afraid of print, so long as it’s carefully integrated with your online marketing strategy.
2. ASOS personal stylists
Having had their own magazine since 2007, ASOS has always been ahead of the game when it comes to inbound content marketing. However, a recent stroke of genius has taken their strategy to a whole new level: the introduction of a personal stylist section.
Nine personal stylists, each with their own unique personality and style, shares inspirational videos, product edits, quotes and more on a daily basis via a cornucopia of social media accounts. They even offer a live chat service six days a week to address users’ fashion conundrums.
I simply cannot convey the brilliance of this scheme to greater effect than Jon, who says: “the genius of this content is how well it communicates the ASOS brand identity – young, trendy, helpful, fun – while also making the customer increasingly reliant on all things ASOS.”
- Do spread your content marketing activities across several different channels to suit users’ needs. Carefully tailor your content to make the most of each format.
- Don’t forget traditional business values – but do bring them into the 21st Century by maximising engagement with users and offering a personal service online.
- Do convey a branded message, so long as it’s primarily aimed at helping people.
3. Whistles’ Inspiration page
Any businessperson worth their salt will tell you that success in sales is not necessarily defined by one’s ability to sell a product: it’s more about selling an idea. As oversimplified (and clichéd) as that may sound, there’s still a lot of truth to it even in this age of instant gratification.
A quick glance through Whistles’ ecommerce blog and a fleeting consideration of their remarkable brand turnaround over the past few years confirms this. By sharing real stories from real people – and not just ‘cool’ people but successful, respectable people – the content cleverly taps into the aspirations of the quintessential Whistles customer.
- Do use real people as brand ambassadors rather than models. This will enable people to connect and engage with your brand on a deeper, more meaningful level, in turn strengthening your brand identity.
- Don’t assume that aspirational marketing is dead. It’s very much alive and well – as Lord Sugar himself would have no hesitation in telling you.
4. Anthropologie’s blog
Anthropologie may be a clothing retailer primarily, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it looking at their blog. A heady mix of recipes, cocktails and all the other best things in life, the blog combines tantalising content with mouth-watering imagery to create a resource to which one cannot help but return in times of need (dinner parties, attempts to impress the in-laws and the like).
And that’s exactly what it is: a resource. At no point is there an obvious sales pitch but if you do fancy buying something, it’s right there in front of you. And I must confess that after a few minutes of exploring this treasure trove of content, I’m already struggling to tear myself away. (Clicks subscribe.)
- Do focus on adding value to the reader experience above all else.
- Don’t assume that your content always has to be about your products and your services. Instead, consider the interests, hopes and dreams that individuals within your target audience are likely to have.
What these case studies tell us
US-based content marketing specialist Bafton puts it best:
“If you went on a first date with a guy and he spent the entire night talking about all of his accomplishments and capabilities and didn’t ask you a single question, would you want a second date? Unless this guy is “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” you probably wouldn’t.”
These success stories tell us that, unless you want to be That Guy, inbound content marketing means building relationships with potential customers through genuinely interesting and helpful content. The rest will fall into place sooner or later – and it doesn’t matter which.
“Man crying” image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net