The Small Business Administration talks about it, marketing associations talk about it.
Business owners and executives throw it out in conversation.
If you’ve been involved in marketing a business at any point in the past ten years, you’ve probably heard the term: content marketing. It’s definitely become a buzzword.
And big brands like John Deere, P&G, and Netflix use it. Should you be using content marketing to promote your 3D printing services?
Build a Relationship that Leads to Sales
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
But Copyblogger’s definition does a better job of getting to the heart of why and how
content marketing works:
“Content marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.”
The content you create to market your 3D printing services is not supposed to sell directly. Instead, it’s job is to move your potential customers closer to a purchase by showing them that they’ll enjoy working with you and, most importantly, you know what you’re doing.
Unfortunately, because it doesn’t sell directly, most companies give up on it too easily. Content marketing is a long game – each piece of content you create needs to have a purpose in your overall marketing strategy and a clear way to move your customers along your funnel.
Content Marketing Has the Potential to Do a LOT for Your Business
Let’s say you’ve spent six months adding blog posts, videos, infographics, or whatever you choose to create for your company’s content. What benefits could you expect to see from all of this effort?
Improved Ranking for Long-Tail Keywords
If you’re trying to compete on Google for the term “3D printing” or even “3D printing
service,” you’ll sadly find yourself somewhere on page 16 (maybe).
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The key for the past several years has been to compete for the long-tail keywords that people who are closer to a buying decision are more likely to use. For example, the person who searches for “3D printing” and gets Wikipedia as the first result will probably narrow down their search.
By covering the topics your customers are interested in, content marketing helps them find your 3D printing service bureau through these long-tail keywords.
Help Your Potential Customers Choose You
3D printing is a relatively new industry right now, but your 3D printing service bureau still has plenty of competition. People don’t need to purchase 3D-printed goods locally; they can submit their 3D files to any website and have the finished product shipped to them. When customers think there’s no real difference between service providers, they shop on price or convenience. By showing off your process and knowledge to your customers, they become more likely to buy from you (especially if your competition isn’t publishing content or they publish bad content).
Note I said “bad content” above. If your content covers the same topics as everyone else (without your own unique perspective) or doesn’t address what people actually want to know about 3D printing, your content won’t work. And, as Moz points out, there are many other reasons to add content marketing to your marketing mix.
But Doesn’t All Marketing Do That?
Not necessarily. Sometimes brand awareness initiatives like field marketing focus entirely on that: getting the brand name out there. Good social media marketing often utilizes content marketing to get people engaged with your account. Other marketing efforts like email marketing or trade shows either focus entirely on sales (without really considering how to get people onto the email list) or utilize content as much as social media marketing does.
When you combine content marketing with other types of marketing, you create a far more effective funnel that brings in more potential customers without alienating people who feel all you do is sell to them.
Types of Content You Can Use in Your Content Marketing Strategy
There’s no easy way to answer this. You can make almost anything content as long as it’s something your customers want and helps you build that relationship with them. For some companies, it’s video. Others prefer written content. Many companies like to re-purpose content: one video becomes a podcast episode and a blog post that gets distributed through email and social media.
At ZVerse, we use both blog posts and case studies to demonstrate our know-how and awareness of the 3D printing industry as a whole. To see more examples of content marketing, check out this epic blog post with 15 examples of content used both online and offline by various companies written by Neil Patel.
Know Not Just What to Publish, but Why and How
Most companies (3D printing and otherwise) do a great job with the first part of their content marketing strategy. They decide what they’re going to publish and when.
But that’s about it.
Instead, your content marketing strategy needs to focus on a lot more.
1. Find out what your customers want to see.
If your competitors are all doing videos of how 3D printers operate, it might be because videos are getting a lot of views. Or they may be doing video because they think they should be and the videos aren’t doing anything for their businesses at all.
Spend some time researching what your customers want. You can do this by simply asking them. But you can also spend some time reading through your social media comments (and check out your analytics to find out what people are liking and commenting on) and web forums for ideas.
2. Find a format you like, learn the best practices, and do it consistently.
There are many resources on the internet for learning best practices for any type of content. You’ll probably find later on that something else works better for your audience, but at least the best practices will give you a starting point. You may not need to publish once a day or even once a week, but consistency is key. If you go months without putting out new content, that audience you were building up might go elsewhere.
3. When you publish, you need to promote it.
And, yes, this might mean you need to put a little bit of money into it.
You can start out by sending an email to your list and sharing the content to your social media accounts (share it several times over at least a few days to get the best results).
But organic reach on social media has become increasingly less reliable. You’ll probably need to create an ad at some point. The good news? You don’t need to create ads for everything – only put out ads for the content people are showing the most organic interest in. If a piece of content flops, let it die – your customers probably aren’t interested.
4. Tell viewers where to go from there.
A lot of content marketing efforts fail because the publisher can’t prove that it’s working. And the only way to do that is by giving the people viewing the content a clear call to action.
What that call to action is depends on your marketing funnel as a whole, your business, and your customers. It might be an email sign-up box. It might be a request for a consultation. It might be going to another piece of content.
If you have people signing up for email, or requesting consultations, or looking at that next piece of content, you know your content marketing works.
If they’re still not buying from you, then it’s a different piece of your funnel that has failed. Maybe your sales people doing the consultations don’t know how to close. Maybe your emails don’t ask for the right next step.
Making Content Marketing Work for Your Business
Content marketing does require a lot of effort. But when it’s done correctly, it brings in new customers you may not have gotten otherwise, including people who might have chosen your competitors over you.