Over 81% of companies state that website articles are one of their top five content marketing tactics1. However, with 75% of blog posts getting fewer than ten shares2, the impact of website marketing is called into question – as is its ability to single-handedly win new customers. Many brands are now tapping into the value of trade-specific publications to build meaningful connections with their customers and identify new ones.
One of these brands is Sainsbury’s, whose 25-year-old customer magazine has an estimated 3.1 million readers3, with the magazine’s web users up 32% year on year4. In a similar vein, John Deere’s The Furrow, an agricultural journal published in fourteen languages and distributed to farmers and experts in the industry across the world, enjoys a North American readership of 550,000. Often dubbed the first iteration of content marketing, it has a history spanning 123 years.
CREATE A NEW VOICE
Magazines like Sainsbury’s Magazine and The Furrow exist almost independently of their parent companies. This approach of creating a new persona allows companies to engage clients and customers in a new way, branching out from merely posting content on their website and social media channels. This separate content marketing tool should focus on thought leadership and audience engagement, moving away from the hard sell.
ALWAYS ADD VALUE
“Consumers are increasingly cynical about content that is seen to be very obvious in its intentions,” explains Lang. “What they want is genuine content that is really useful, really inspiring, rather than just leading them down a path to buy something. By extension, they are then excited about that brand.”
Steven Roller, Managing Editor at The Furrow, agrees, stating: “We have always tried to produce content that is neutral, and relevant to our audience. We try to directly speak to the farmer and focus on their problems and challenges.
How can our content help them in their daily business?” Using relevant content that your customers want to read will help show that you are genuine in your approach and build trust between your brand and its consumers.” There is also a growing appetite in the B2B space for value-add content – 39% of C suite execs and decision makers said they thought leadership content had influenced them to ask a vendor to participate in the RFP process, and 47% said such content had a direct impact on awarding business5.
While Sainsbury’s Magazine adds value to its readers by offering recipes, restaurant advice and lifestyle content, the corporate world is adding value to its audience by providing them with industry-leading content that will be of genuine use to them.
Lang continues: “We target the magazine at a very specific customer group – people who love cooking – so we’re very careful that the content targets that audience. For that audience, the association that the magazine brings to well-known chefs, cookery writers and food personalities lends credibility to Sainsbury’s as a food destination, not just another supermarket.”
Take specialist recruitment agency SearchBI, who launched the brand InsideData, a digital magazine offering industry news and insights, to increase its profile and engage potential clients. Today, InsideData represents 75% of SearchBI’s business development activity, and after just one issue this small, niche agency was in talks to get onto the PSL of one of the biggest IT companies in the world.
GIVE AUTONOMY TO MARKETING
Creating a new form of marketing as an almost separate entity to your business has the advantage of giving your marketing team something to own, allowing them to express themselves away from the constraints of the company’s website. The merit of using potent content to build a new identity that isn’t necessarily related to your brand is that your prospects will see your content as genuine, focusing on helping your clients rather than simply selling to them.
“The reason why Sainsbury’s magazine is so unique in the content space is that it is completely editorially independent,” says Lang. “The Sainsbury’s marketing team are not involved at all. We feature other brands within the magazine – not competitive brands, but we can include other products – and it makes it a much more rounded proposition.
“That gives the magazine, and by extension, Sainsbury’s credibility, and they look confident. Sainsbury’s customers don’t buy everything in Sainsbury’s – if a woman wants to buy a moisturiser, she wants to read about it in her magazine, and she doesn’t just want to be told about stuff that’s sold in Sainsbury’s.”
For John Deere, The Furrow helps differentiate the brand from its many competitors. “Many companies are asking ‘how do we get closer to our customers? How can we establish ourselves?’ In most industries, the technical difference between the products are getting smaller, so you have to find other ways to stand out. The magazine isn’t a sales tool, its main purpose is to build and support our brand,” says Roller.
BUILD THE RELATIONSHIP
Does Lang have any final advice to offer? “Although digital channels are obviously important, there’s a whole raft of other stuff, like events or print products, that brands can look at to extend the relationship between the audience and the brands.
“We’re very much noticing a revival in print. Print gives brands authority – people spend more time with it, they engage with it on a deeper level than scrolling through their phone.”
And Roller? “I was lucky when I joined John Deere that the magazine was already in existence, because starting from scratch is tough. “However, I’m positive that The Furrow has helping established our brand and ourselves as farming experts, which, in the long-run, has also contributed to profits.”
By thinking outside the box to create something new and fresh, you open up doors to a whole new way to engage your audience. The increase in revenue will follow.