If Content is King, Are We the Jokers?

By now you’re likely a bit tired of hearing the same old refrain: content is king. It’s the “new” darling of digital marketing and communications; it’s more important than anything, ever, and you need to spend thousands of dollars on a monthly program or watch your search rankings dry up, your leads vanish and your digital marketing go kaput.

Or not.
Fact is, when it comes to communicating on digital channels, content is obviously the wheels on which the bus goes ’round. It’s not new or revolutionary — in fact “content” has been around in various disguises for a long, long, time. The difference is the freedom that digital channels give to all in creating content. From the troll living in his Mom’s basement to the hard-working Internet Director, posting stuff online is everyone’s right — what you do with that right is what makes a difference. Content done correctly builds awareness of your brand, creates loyalty and engages with prospects as well as existing owners.

Perhaps most importantly, good content creates a reputation of knowledge and expertise. And that provides a positive boost for all marketing and communications, a boost that starts with a plan. According to eMarketer, it takes more than just “doing good content” to make all that happiness come to your dealership. It takes planning and commitment: Over 90 percent of in-house marketers surveyed plan to start 2013 with an actual content strategy, one that aligns with company priorities and objectives. Ironically, that number is significantly higher than on the agency side — just 71 percent of agencies or consultants plan to do the same. The survey also found that while many marketers already use content curation techniques, the hard part is in the making of original content.  As a result, most plan to base their content plans on social updates and blog posts — video being a distant fourth on the list.

That’s not because it’s complicated, rather, it’s because it takes hard work, time and patience — lots of patience. Sure, pulling the plug is tempting when the content you make is doing zero page views and zero shares — but staying the course is what separates success from the failure of a wasted effort. And that’s the trick: finding the right course and following that blueprint until it gains critical mass. It takes a content strategy designed for your business. Strategies take many different shapes, certainly, but here’s one simple approach that may help get those content wheels churning:

Know Who You Are
Take some time to analyze your current efforts around content. Conduct an SEO and site audit: how much content is on your site? What’s the quality like, and how often do you create or aggregate new content? Check the freshness of your site; how often do you update your Facebook page? Take a look at unique visits and pageviews, and discover your primary sources of traffic, then compare that to major events or news stories in order to map your traffic to events that may show trends and user preferences. Pay close attention to traffic patterns during Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. From there you can paint a picture of what kind of content your users want.

Build Your Foundational Ideals and Create Themes
This is where a content strategy can help your entire business. Start by creating key touchstones or principles that drive the way you conduct business and the reason why people do business with you. Write them down and make them simple: one might be “Innovation,” from the cars you sell to the way you operate parts and service. Take that ideal and develop content themes that support it: Innovation may have themes such as in-car technology, for example, or fuel efficiency. Remember, too, that your content should be more than just sales — the foundation you build should cover all main aspects of your business, from new and used car sales to fixed ops and finance. For example,  you may want to base a foundational theme around Service. If so, the themes around Service should  include consumer touch points throughout the lifecycle.

Talk Content and Build a Calendar
Once you know the big picture, pull in a group of trusted advisors and talk tactics. Toss up article types and ideas that align with your themes and are of interest to your audience. If your prospects buy on fuel economy, focus on ideas around saving gas and the technology behind high mileage models. Think about the difference between timely and evergreen content, and how you want to mix the two — it makes a difference in terms of resources and consistency. It’s important to hew closely to your expertise at this point: write content about what you know best, and find people who know other topics to write about those things for you.

Aim to create a list of article ideas that fill a two week calendar, but before you do, agree on a set cadence for content publishing based on the realities of getting the work done, the commitment you’re making and the expectation your users have for fresh updates. Believe it or not, a dealership blog doesn’t necessarily need fresh stuff on a daily basis — at least not at the start. It’s more important to focus on quality over quantity, especially when you start and the need to refresh your content isn’t as great.

Build Content…Slowly
From blog posts to video and Facebook updates, content means many things, some of which are easier to do than others. If you’re starting out, start with the basics: good editorial and photos, quality social media updates and solid vehicle content. Once you check the box on the basics, move into more complicated and expensive types of content, such as video, podcasts and more. And remember one thing: no one goes to blogs because of the noise or the amount of times they get updated. Frequency is nice, but people come back when they read, watch or see something worthwhile. Content may indeed be King, but only because it brings with it a Queen called Engagement.

–Brian Chee

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