Content marketing is an increasingly growing method of marketing for businesses. If you are looking for a way to build upon the effect your current marketing strategy, content marketing may be what you’re looking for.
This blog discusses the fundamentals of content marketing: what it is, how it works, various types of content that you can work with, and the methodology for utilizing content marketing.
What is Content Marketing?
A dialogue with your [online] visitors. In simple terms: you create lots of content that your target audience will find valuable, and that audience rewards you with their business and their loyalty. And, if done properly, this is exactly how it works too. It can be very effective, and once you get the ball rolling, you get back what you put into it and much more. But again, it must be done properly!
Content marketing involves creating consistent, high quality, relevant, and useful content on topics and areas directly involving and surrounding your restaurant’s niche or specialty.
There are two main goals here:
1. Produce content your consumers will find useful, insightful, or entertaining.
2. Drive customer action.
If you’re wondering what qualifies as “content,” the short answer is: blogs, videos, infographics, and ebooks, but don’t worry; you don’t have to do ‘em all. A blog is absolutely necessary, but when it comes to the others, even picking just one is fine, though if you have the capability to do more (properly!), then you might consider it. We’ll discuss each of these below, too, so you have an idea which might be best for you.
One thing to keep in mind: The content you produce should not always be directly about your restaurant, but about the things the people who visit your restaurant will want to read or view. And yet, the topics should be things that interest you and that you have a lot of knowledge about.
The objective is to, over time, build a clearly-defined audience with your content. Ideally, this will grow into an audience that is interested in your restaurant’s niche or speciality.
Consumers today are well informed. They appreciate a company who puts real effort into providing consumers with valuable resources. And this is one of the reasons why this can build up consumer loyalty and encourage business. In addition, if you’re providing useful, informative content, you are presenting your business as a forerunner in the industry.
Content marketing takes time. If you’re just getting started with content marketing, realize that it’s a very slow process to start up and it requires a huge investment of time to start. But, once an audience, even a small one, is built up surrounding your content, content marketing eventually becomes a part of your marketing strategy that “snowballs” as visitors share your content, further building that audience, and those new visitors also start sharing your content, and so on.
The payoffs for content marketing are potentially huge, but be aware that it is an ongoing process that should fit into a larger marketing strategy, meaning it should not be the only component of your strategy, even if it does eventually turn out to be your biggest and best marketing effort.
Why does Content Marketing work?
You are providing a useful, fun, valuable, entertaining, and/or informative service on a regular basis. You are maintaining a dialogue with your visitors, staying close to them and keeping your business in the loop. You learn what customers want and keep up with their trends. Other forms of marketing may put your business in view of disinterested parties, reducing the effect of your efforts. With content marketing, you are building a focused group, or multiple groups, of visitors who are interested in your business and what your business does.
A website called the Content Marketing Institute offers some great information on this form of marketing. Their getting started guide provides some useful information as well as links for further research.
Types of Content Marketing
Blogs. Infographics. Videos. Ebooks. And More. Content marketing consists of a multitude of channels and mediums. Some of the most common include blogs, videos, and infographics. Blogging, however, is arguably the most important piece of your content marketing strategy, as is lays the foundation for the other content forms. Let’s start off by addressing the importance of a blog, and why you should strongly consider implementing a blog into your existing (or non-existent) content marketing strategy.
Blogging: The Foundation
A Centralized Location For Your Content. Your blog will be the centerpiece of your content marketing strategy, an online database full of relevant information and content. Usually, a company will use a blog as a means of keeping up a steady dialogue with their readers and customers. You can find many great uses for your blog that your readers may enjoy, such as being able to share recipes, talk about the inspirations for your menu items, talk about current events, offer your readers a “pick-me-up,” and so forth. By posting blog articles regularly, you are showing that you are active in your industry and willing to communicate and connect with your readers and customers.
If you are considering content marketing for your business, a blog is a must. Every other form of content marketing ties into your blog.
How to Use Your Blog for Content Marketing
A blog, as with any form of content marketing, requires a lot of attention, regular updates, and interesting ideas to succeed. If you’ve got all this and you’re ready to get started, you should know some starting best practices for running your blog. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines; what works best for your restaurant will vary, and you should be willing to experiment to find out what produces the best results.
1. Post Frequency.
This will vary from business to business. Businesses with more resources (writers, hours to work with, etc.) may be able to afford posting very frequently. Updating once a day (or maybe even multiple times a day) puts a lot of content on your blog. As long as all of that content is high value (and you’re not just posting filler), such frequent updates can make your blog a resource for your visitors.
But you don’t have to post that extremely frequently. You can post far less frequently if that’s all you can afford, or if that’s what you want to do with your blog. But be sure to post on a schedule.
If you can only make a post once a week, post on the same day at the same time every week. If you can make 3 posts a week every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, always post them on those days. If you can only post once a month on the 5th, post every month on the 5th.
At some point, you may choose to increase your blog posting frequency. This can allow you to experiment with increasing the value your blog offers.
Or, maybe you begin posting rather infrequently, and choose not to increase your posting frequency over time. If that method is working for you just the way you want, then that’s great! Stick with that.
Whatever your posting frequency, just make sure you’re posting blog articles on a schedule. Later, if you begin to post more often, then you can adjust that schedule.
2. Post Length.
In general, you’ll want to focus on longer posts (1500 words or more). Shorter blog posts were popular in the past, but recently longer, more detailed blog posts with actionable content are, overall, producing the best results. Actionable content is the kind of content a reader can use.
As examples, a high school English paper is probably not actionable content; something like that is purely informational. Actionable content, conversely, is something like “10 Ways to workout at Home.” In a (well-written) post like that, a reader can read that post and take action based on what they’ve just read.
Of course, purely informational content has its place, too. Research is done every day and if you produce high quality informative content, your blog can become a resource. That, too, is valuable. Which brings us to our next topic.
3. Make Your Blog Valuable.
For readers to want to revisit your blog and read your content again and again, you’ll need to provide some form of real value to your readers. One way to do this is to write actually informative or useful content.
It’s not enough to look up other blogs’ posts and rehash the content they’ve already put out. You need to make original, useful content of your own. Share recipes with your readers. Discuss trends in your industry and talk about how you plan to bring those trends to customers in their next order.
And in some posts, avoid talking about your restaurant at all! Talk about things that are important to readers. If you’re not sure what that is, find out! Run a poll or a survey. If you don’t have many readers to poll or survey yet, run that poll or survey in your restaurant!
It’s also very important that you write about topics that interest you. If you are writing about something you find boring, your blog post is probably going to be boring. A bored reader is one who isn’t likely to be inclined to revisit your site any time soon. So, write about topics you really enjoy, as your enthusiasm will transfer and show in the writing!
Is there some aspect about running a restaurant that you find really interesting or enjoyable? Is it the people you work with? Is it the ever changing industry? Is it the ability to delegate and set your own hours? Maybe it’s something else, but whatever the topic, perhaps you could talk about that topic for hours and hours on end. That’s the perfect type of topic to write about.
4. Be Genuine.
Readers appreciate a company that is truly genuine. That’s how you want to connect with your readers, and that means placing your readers above your restaurant. It’s okay to talk about your restaurant’s inspirations, or discuss the values that you want each of your employees to exhibit. Talking about your restaurant is fine, but don’t sell in your blog. Avoid using your blog as one big advertisement.
Readers will quickly notice you doing this, and this makes your blog feel artificial. If the topic you are writing about naturally warrants mentioning your restaurant or your competitors, feel free to do so. In the case of mentioning your competitors, don’t feel like you must always downplay their successes. It’s okay to feel completely justified in mentioning one’s competitors in a positive light. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging what your competitors are doing right.
Simply put, maintain a dialogue with your readers that is natural, easy going, and flows effortlessly. Yes, this is a blog for your business, but you don’t need to constantly point to that fact. In any natural, easy-going dialogue with your visitors, they’ll appreciate honesty and your candid approach.
Remember, Your Blog is the Centerpiece.
Whatever other forms of content marketing you pursue, you need a blog to propagate your content. In addition to normal articles, your blog is where you’ll post your infographics, videos, and ebooks. Your blog is the place where you will link to in other, outside places on the web. It’s the central hub for all of your content marketing efforts. It’s where visitors who are interested in what you are doing are going to keep up with your content, and it’s where you will seek to spark that same interest in new visitors.
Other Forms of Content Marketing
Primarily, in addition to your blog articles, you may consider videos, infographics, and ebooks for your content marketing efforts.
Generally speaking, videos are tougher to produce than blog posts, but they have a lot of very potent strengths. As the popularity of sites like YouTube and Vimeo has shown, there is a very large audience for videos. Videos tend to have a greater chance of going viral than blog posts do, and if one or more of your videos go viral, you’ve just earned a tremendous amount of exposure.
How to Use Videos for Content Marketing.
If you’re producing videos, or you’ve hired professional help to produce videos, you’ll want to upload those videos somewhere they’ll be highly visible. The best places for this online are YouTube and Vimeo. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but we won’t cover in this guide which of those two sites you should use. Instead, take a look at Sproutsocial’s YouTube vs. Vimeo for Business guide.
Once you have your video online, you’ll want to increase exposure to it. You can promote it, as you could promote anything else, for a small investment to see how your video does. You can also post the video to your blog. This will show your audience that you’ve got new content up.
Post your video to your social media outlets, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. This networking is important to the growth of your restaurant’s business, and posting unique, useful content to them helps grow both your social media endeavors and your marketing efforts.
After using whichever methods you choose to let your readers/contacts know about your video, you can simply wait. Remember: simply by having your video uploaded to a site like YouTube your video is searchable. Video hosting sites want your video to succeed. When your video succeeds, they succeed. As long as you’ve tagged your video properly the site’s built-in features can help to make your video viewable to visitors.
Types of Videos.
Informative Videos. These videos inform your viewers about something. Maybe your viewers are interested in nutritional value information for your top selling menu items. Maybe you’d like to share information about how your restaurant got started.
Comedic Videos. Comedy videos can be some of the most effective forms of content marketing because they are very shareable. If you manage to make a viewer laugh, they might be willing to share your video with others.
Anecdotal Videos. Telling short and amusing stories about your restaurant, or about experiences customers have had at your restaurant, can also be very shareable. The funnier or more interesting the story, the better.
Video isn’t easy to produce, and it’s difficult to produce regularly. Some may find the biggest challenge is producing quality video. But visual content is very popular on the Internet, and it’s very shareable. If you have the capability and resources to produce unique, high quality video regularly, your content marketing efforts stand to benefit greatly.
Speaking of shareable, infographics have been a growing favorite among the Internet audience for a while now. Infographics are well-designed images made in Photoshop or another image editing program, and are packed with useful, entertaining, or amusing information based off of hard data. That’s the kind of data you get from surveys, databases, studies, etc.
So you need good, solid data about a topic so you can turn that data into information for the infographic. Data taken from any reliable source are still simply data; the data does not become broadly useful until they are analyzed and presented as information. That’s exactly what infographics do. The result can be highly appealing to the infographic’s target audience.
How to Use Infographics for Content Marketing.
The great thing about infographics is that they attract attention. They’re visual, they’re colorful, they’re often fairly large, and they pack a lot of interesting, useful, entertaining, or valuable information into one concise image. With a well-designed infographic, there is no clutter or filler to sift through to get to the information: it’s all front and center, clearly defined.
All you need to do is put your infographic in front of the right audience. Your blog is a natural place to post your infographic, since that’s the right audience right there.
So you’ll make a blog post for the infographic, and usually, somewhere near the bottom of your infographic you’ll also include a link to cite your sources (because you did keep track of your sources, right?). This link should go to that blog post and there you can list all the sources you used, and maybe include a very short writeup about the information in the infographic.
But infographics should be shared elsewhere, too. They have an advantage in this regard, since there are sites where you can post them, and that link you put at the bottom of the infographic may serve well in bringing new, interested readers to your blog. Naturally, post your infographic to your social media outlets, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
You can also post to sites like imgur, Instagram, Pinterest, and reddit. Like YouTube and Vimeo do for videos, these sites make your infographic searchable shareable, further increasing exposure.
Note: In the case of reddit, be sure you’re very careful about posting to appropriate subreddits. Many (perhaps most) subreddits have strict policies against self-promotion, and there’s a chance you could be “shadowbanned,” banned from the site in such a way that, to you, it looks like you’re not banned—you can post, comment, vote, etc.—but for the rest of the site you are invisible and your votes don’t count, for advertising yourself. Search reddit for appropriate subreddits based on your business and content before posting.
Your Restaurant. This one shouldn’t be a tough one. You probably have lots of data about your restaurant. What interesting information can you create from those data? Example: Maybe 20% of customers order orange juice in the morning, while 55% order some form of coffee. Put that in your infographic! (And maybe, with this information, you can include your top 3 best-selling coffees.)
Trends. This could include things not directly related to the restaurant business. Example: Is yours a sandwich shop with a focus on healthy eating? Maybe research exercise and diet habits. Perhaps 15% of people in your area go for a morning jog, while 20% head to the gym after work. (Again, just example numbers.) That seems like a bit of information your target audience might find interesting!
Local Attractions. It’s been said that “location is everything.” Maybe some interesting information about your local area! Is your restaurant near a racetrack? A high school? A shopping mall? A historical landmark? All of the above? Research these areas! Find some interesting stuff about them. Your customers might enjoy learning about them.
Recent Changes. Did your restaurant just remodel? Maybe you gained 44% more floor space in your building and 50% of that new space went to adding new tables. Are you offering a new vegan menu? Perhaps you’ve found that sales increased by 22% over first month after adding that vegan menu, and 90% of those sales were from the menu.
Interesting Information. As you can see, there are a lot of possibilities here. If you can research and compile data, try to turn that data into useful information. It’s often fun to read information presented in an infographic, and customers may enjoy it!
Infographics, like videos, are visual content. And, again, visual content is very popular and shareable. But, compared to videos, infographics are, in general, easier to produce and may be the more accessible option for your restaurant’s content marketing efforts.
Ebooks are another way to provide valuable information to your readers/customers. They are (often much) longer than blog posts, but, of course, shorter than most actual, physical books. Ebooks offer a way to provide lots of valuable information to your visitors, while also asking for something valuable from them in return, if you want.
Just like in a blog post, in an ebook you’ll want to provide useful, entertaining, amusing, and/or valuable content to your readers. But, unlike a blog post, an ebook is offered as a downloadable file that readers can read on their PC desktops, or perhaps a reader will even print out and read the book physically. It’s up to them how they want to read the ebook!
One of these reasons ebooks are appealing to readers is that they can download the file and read it even if they’re offline—after they’ve downloaded the ebook they don’t need access to your website/blog to read the information in that ebook.
There’s a sense of ownership there, and a little bit of security, too. Plus, readers know that the ebook is more information than they normally get in a blog post, and it’s about a topic that interests them.
Ebooks require much more research, preparation time, and writing than blog posts do. The result is that they offer more information than a typical blog post, and they provide a different way for readers to interact with your content.
How to Use Ebooks for Content Marketing.
So then, how should you get ebooks to your visitors? Put offers for the ebook in sidebars on your blog, or in various blog posts that touch on the topics in the ebook you’re writing.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with providing an ebook without asking for anything in return. That’s a very noble and philanthropic approach, and many visitors would be highly appreciative! If it’s simply your goal to provide visitors with great content and you don’t want to ask for anything in return, feel free to just hand out your ebook.
But, and this is usually how it’s done, you can make a conditional offer for your ebook. Usually, you ask for very little from your visitors in return for the ebook.
Maybe you provide the ebook in return for their e-mail address, because having a e-mail list of potentially interested/active visitors to your site can be valuable to keep them informed (and make sure never to spam your visitors after you have their e-mail).
Maybe you provide the ebook after they’ve taken a very short survey (1-2 questions), because getting feedback from your visitors so you can provide even better content for them in the future is also valuable.
Whatever it is you hope to gain from your visitors, try your best to make sure your ebook provides a ton of value in return. The most important aspect of content marketing is that your readers/visitors/customers come first, and even during a mutually beneficial transaction like an ebook offer, that aspect should be absolutely clear.
Sharing Information about Your Restaurant. What makes your restaurant stand out? If you could talk about that topic for hours, perhaps it’s an interesting topic for an ebook.
Share Recipes. Share some of your restaurant’s recipes (if permitted to do so)! Not everybody goes to a restaurant all of the time, and visitors to your site might be pleased to try variations of your signature dishes at home. Maybe even write an e-cookbook!
Share Your Company’s History. If your restaurant’s history is particularly interesting, visitors may enjoy reading an ebook about it. History may seem like a tough topic to interest visitors, but if your restaurant really does have an interesting history, you can write a short blog post about it talking about some of the really interesting things about your company’s history, and offer the full ebook in that blog post.
Share Other Interesting Topics. As with infographics, videos, and blog posts, there are a lot of possibilities here. Maybe, after your blog post has been running and updating regularly for a while, you can take a look at what topics your readers seem most interested in and write ebooks about those topics.
Ebooks can do a fantastic job if you’re looking to provide value to your visitors and request something from them in return. It’s beneficial for your business, from time to time, to run a survey, or acquire e-mail addresses, or get your visitors’ opinions on a new service you may be thinking of adding to your restaurant’s offered services. As the business in the business-visitor interaction, you probably shouldn’t be asking for these things from your blog visitors without offering something in return. Well-written and informative, entertaining, useful, or funny ebooks are a great way to provide a mutually beneficial transaction. Readers may be more likely to answer that survey of yours if they’re interested in the ebook.
Summing It All Up
Up to this point, we’ve covered the fundamentals of content marketing and hopefully communicates what content marketing is, how it works, and what’s involved in a content marketing strategy.
However, there is definitely a lot more to it than what’s been discussed here. There are various considerations in starting your blog, for example, such as choosing backend software and a hosting solution, hiring experts, and more. There are various types of video content that can be created, from live action videos to animations, and different ways to produce them. There are different ways to make infographics, and there are some significant considerations to make when writing an ebook. Don’t feel limited to the content expressed above. Experiment and learn what methods are one, feasible, and two, work best for your business.
Remember, it takes time to launch a successful content marketing strategy. Hang in there, and soon enough, you’ll see positive results!
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