It’s a tough time to be a journalist covering the building and remodeling industry. Or just about any trade industry, for that matter. Which also presents an opportunity for you as a home & building materials marketer to fill a void…if you do it right.
Not long ago, trade magazines ruled the media landscape in the Architecture, Design and Construction categories. Staffed with a virtual “army” of top-notch journalists, writers and photographers, media provided their readers – contractors, channel leaders and even homeowners – with the latest information and news about the industry.
As a result, their pages were in higher demand by marketers. Their ad pages often commanded robust budgets and the ear of the editorial staff was in many ways even more valuable. Marketers’ success was tied to how often their brands were featured in trade magazine pages.
Times, it’s safe to say, have changed.
While many of the trade magazines are still viable, some of them are being produced as a shadow of their former selves… with drastically smaller editorial staff and fewer page counts. Others, as we have experienced together, have shuttered completely or entered into M&A consolidation models.
In their place, bloggers, social media influencers and e-newsletters are dominating the media landscape. Distributing news freely — with minimal advertising — the digital media has all but supplanted the traditional media business model.
But there is still a need for journalism. Maybe more so. As audiences maintain their seemingly insatiable desires to be served with high-quality, unbiased reporting. Who will give it to them?
Why not you?
Think Like a Journalist
The opportunity for Building Product brands is to fill the void that’s being left by the decline of traditional media. You can be the resource your customers so desperately want.
There are a few ways to do this — but in every case — it’s crucial that you think like a journalist.
Serve the needs of the audience… above all else. Provide them with information that they need and that will help them. Or, that they’ll find simply interesting.
With that in mind, here are a few ways brands can approach serving your audience’s needs through journalistic efforts:
Admittedly, it’s a bit of a misnomer to call this “advertising.” On one hand, it is, because you’re paying for space in a print or digital publication. But in spirit, this should be approached with purely journalistic intentions.
The idea is to create an article that will run in a third-party publication. It will be labeled as “sponsored” so you won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s breaking news. But you should resist the urge to simply promote your products or services. Readers will see right through that.
Instead, use it as an opportunity to educate your audiences… perhaps in the form of a “project profile” with a unique application of a proven product or service. Teach them something they need to know. Give them information which they can use in their daily lives.
Provide opportunities for interested readers to get to know your brand better by directing them to a specific destination on your website or to a campaign-driven landing page. If you do this well, you won’t have to push a hard sales message. Audiences will naturally be interested in your brand promise.
Where trade magazines have left off, bloggers and influencers have taken up the mantle. They’ve developed their own platforms to reach audiences in highly specific trade interest categories.
Some are former journalists — laid off from trade magazines — using the skills honed over a career to continue to serve their audiences. Others are current contractors or tradespeople who have developed unique perspectives and considerable credentials that they may offer for evaluating relevant home and building products or services.
With multiple integration-programs, brands have unique opportunities to leverage these bloggers and influencers to reach and motivate the communities they’ve built.
When these opportunities are pursued, it’s important to ensure that targeted bloggers approach their work as seriously as a journalist does. It may be tempting to seek out a “shill” who will say whatever you want.
But it’s better for all involved that you stick to influencers who are authentic. And who want to serve their audiences, as much as you do.
Build Out Your Own Model
When marketers use native advertising, or work with bloggers, they’re essentially hitch-hiking a ride with audiences. Even more lucrative, would be to develop an audience that one can truly own, for long-term value.
Just about every brand has in-house knowledge that can benefit its prospects and customers. Sales, marketing, engineering — and even accounting departments — have talented staff, who have been working in the industry for decades.
Your company has this knowledge. Why not share it? Why not be the resource and trusted advisor with whom your audiences are seeking?
In a time when great journalists are hard to find, brands can be that resource for their audiences. You can fill that void.
As with any type of sales and marketing alignment effort – remember that effective Content Marketing requires a strategic plan. And a commitment to continuously analyze each campaign’s effectiveness for developing best practice towards business goals. If your team is only interested instead, in randomly publishing blog posts… your brand is unlikely to recognize the potential for real results.
Consider these Four Content Marketing tips for “thinking” like a journalist:
WRITE FOR HUMANS. RATHER THAN FOR SEARCH ENGINES.
Yes, research and recognize what keywords your brand should be targeting, but don’t simply stuff them into content… which can lead to an “over optimization” penalty from Google. Instead, writing quality content should be your goal for a valuable, robust user-experience. Create content that is comprehensive, in both length and depth. Keywords and your brand’s intent will find their way in, authentically and quite naturally. And speaking of Google, it’s important to never post the same content across multiple social platforms… each post must be distinct in order to effectively rank.
USE A SINGLE VOICE.
Using a single brand voice creates consistency in the brand message as you shape perception. In this process, your brand will even better frame expectations. And when executed faithfully, the experience provided to your audiences will be both comfortable and familiar.
PROVIDE VALUE. NOT A SALES PITCH.
Content marketing, as in all well-developed editorial, is not advertising. Like a journalist, focus instead on how each article can help your readers. Sales will gain traction when you first gain your audience’s trust and respect. Invest in forward-facing feedback from sales reps and customer service staff to help identify the topics that your customers are interested in. In the process, you’ll get to know their pain points and the content you can produce — to help them overcome their challenges. Over ¾ of prospects complain that brands don’t understand them as individuals. And as such, they will continue to shun poorly targeted marketing messages.
TRACK AND MEASURE RESULTS.
To analyze how effective your content is, track the traffic that your content marketing brings in, and determine conversions. Without it, “poor-performing” content and “top-producing” content are indistinguishable. Content must work for you in boosting business success… from bringing more traffic to your site or landing pages, to increasing leads, as well as for growing brand awareness.
Let Kleber and Associates turbocharge your Content Marketing strategy and show you more return on your bottom line. Contact us today for a personal presentation of how we can add metrics to help you determine ROI and allow for marketing innovation that will really move the sales needle — saving your business both time and money in the process. Our team will be participating at the Tile International Surfaces Event (TISE/Surfaces) in Las Vegas. Let’s plan to connect in the New Year!