What Is Content Marketing and How Should My Food Brand Do It?
You have a fabulous food brand that you want to world to know about. But how do you get the word out without sounding salesy?
You could spend money on advertising to bring people to your virtual shop window, sign up or subscribe. But what do you offer them before asking for the sale or their email address? How do you get customers engaging with you? How do you talk to them, show them your values and build relationships with them?
Content is still king and filling your website and social media feed with juicy titbits, mouth-watering recipes and inspiring stories are the ingredients to giving your brand the royal treatment.
Content Marketing, Defined
So what is content marketing? There’s a number of definitions, all with their own angle or take on the subject.
According to Yoast, makers of the excellent WordPress SEO plugin, content marketing “consists of all marketing activities that focus on creating and sharing information”. They say the idea behind content marketing is “sharing valuable information to attract an audience and build a brand”.
Developers of sales and marketing automation software, HubSpot, take a slightly different tack. They refer to content marketing as “inbound marketing”. Advertising, cold calling, trade shows and email campaigns sent to purchased lists fall under the “outbound marketing” umbrella.
HubSpot use the term “outbound” because brands are sending their message out far and wide in the hope that it’ll stick somewhere. Content marketing – or “inbound” – brings people in.
Whether you call it inbound marketing or content marketing, the premise is the same. HubSpot describe it as “attracting customers through relevant and helpful content”. They say the right content will “address the problems and needs of your ideal customers” and “build trust and credibility for your business”.
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) agree – and with a name like that they should know what they’re talking about!
CMI see content marketing as a strategic alternative to pitching your brand’s products or services. Instead, you’re providing “relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues”.
Here at Sapling we pull together sentiments from each of these definitions to create our own:
“Content marketing is a strategic way of marketing your business by producing consistent, quality, informative and engaging content that speaks directly to your audience’s needs. The goal is to develop a relationship built on trust, values and mutual benefits.”
Inspiring Content Marketing from Good Food Brands
Content marketing is the opposite to pushy sales tactics and sordid, underhanded marketing schemes.
Content marketing is a softer approach that prioritises giving value first. It’s all about being helpful and informative. But that’s not to say you can never sell!
If you’ve provided value you have every right to ask for something in return. There’s nothing wrong with asking for an email address in exchange for a compelling lead magnet. There’s nothing wrong with adding a strong call to action at the end of a 2000 word blog post that educates and inspires.
Consider content marketing the friendlier, more helpful, younger second cousin twice removed to the infamous sleazy car salesman.
To give you an idea of what this looks like, here’s some examples of food brands getting their content marketing right.
Ocado Online Groceries
If you order your groceries online, you might get a monthly or quarterly magazine with your shopping. Ocado are a good example of this. Their Ocado Life magazine is full of inspiring recipes and exciting new things to add to your shopping basket.
I’m sure they don’t print me a personalised magazine, tailored to the things in my shopping basket, but it really feels like they do. There’s always something in there that I can scan directly from the page into the Ocado app, ready for delivery next week. Ocado are talking to me with the content in their magazine. They know their customers, what they like and what their values are.
Riverford Veg Boxes
Based in Buckfastliegh in Devon, organic veg box suppliers Riverford have a hugely popular blog.
The founder, Guy Watson, is very vocal about the pressures on UK farmers and in being so, he’s talking directly to customers who believe in – and want to buy – simple, locally grown, organic fruit and veg.
Follow the Riverford blog, sign up to Guy’s Newsletter or follow them on social media and you can get regular, honest content. You’ll learn what to cook with that celeriac in your veg box, what’s in season and discover endless reasons to eat organic meat, dairy, fruit and veg.
Ella’s Kitchen Organic Baby Food
Organic baby food brand Ella’s Kitchen is the biggest in the UK. Their brand is built on a truth – that the founder Paul Lindley’s daughter was a fussy eater as a young child.
The entire brand is based on recipes that Lindley’s daughter Ella would eat. All of their content is based on brand truths, thinking like a toddler and understanding parents from the inside, out.
Content Marketing Should Appeal To and Solve Customer Problems
Your customers want a brand that understands them, and their needs. So you need to show that you get them.
What issues do they have? What questions are on their minds? What’s stopping them from making a purchase?
You might think a blog is an incidental, fun, light-hearted way of communicating with your audience. But what if someone really needs to know how to make vegan red velvet cupcakes? Or what the latest kitchen dinner party must-have is? What the currently trending superfood is or why your kitchen gadget will transform dinner time?
You could become their saviour!
What Are the Benefits of Content Marketing for My Food Business?
Content marketing can answer many questions, create engagement and develop a connection between you and your customers.
Content Marketing Improves Brand Awareness
It’s important to realise that content marketing is a long-game strategy. But, a clever use of regular and engaging content will increase your brand awareness and in turn, the number of sales, sign ups and subscribers you receive. If you have more content touchpoints, customers have more chances to get to know your brand.
Whether your customers tend to be brand loyal or not, whatever your competition, people tend to buy from a company or brand they know, like and trust. Content marketing can deliver on all three of those key ingredients.
Content Communicates Your Values
How many times have you read something that’s really resonated with you and in turn led you follow or buy from that brand?
That’s content marketing at play.
You certainly don’t feel sold to or pushed into buying. You’ve made a decision to engage because you trust what they’re saying. That blog spoke to your beliefs. That article voiced an opinion that matches yours, or at the very least sparked an interest in you.
Consistent Content Builds a Fanbase
Using content marketing to communicate your values helps more and more people get to know you. Over time this will steadily build your fanbase.
The alternative is crossing your fingers and hoping that a one-off campaign goes viral overnight. While the prospect of viral growth is alluring, the slow and steady approach of content marketing is something we’d back every time.
Quality Content Leads to a Better Website and More Traffic via SEO
Filling your website with content gives your visitors something to consume and engage with. Without it, there’s not much to tempt first time visitors to come back again.
Content written to target specific topics and questions your customers are searching for will improve your search engine rankings. This can provide a huge boost to your traffic.
Good content and a smattering of search engine optimisation (SEO) leads to more organic visits to your website. That’s traffic that you get for free once the content is written, optimised and published.
Without a range of quality content it’s almost impossible to rank in search results. Paying for traffic becomes the only remaining option. And that gets expensive, fast.
Content Forms the Basis of Great Social Media Posts
Your online and offline content can also form the basis for your social media posts. The more content you have, the more you have to talk about on social media. Posting consistent content on social is a key tactic for growing your following. Without content to share, posting to social media becomes very challenging and one-dimensional.
Content Produces Valuable Data and Insights
Content is a great way to attract an audience. And when you track key metrics, you’ll be able to learn a lot about them as people too. Track your top content, measure your social media metrics, report on your email open rates and click through rates. There’s so much data to gather!
Website analytics will allow you to really dig deep into how your customers move around your site, what they engage with, and where they get stuck. You can then create more content to help bridget the gaps, write more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.
If you find your readers love finding out about the provenance of your ingredients but don’t rave about your recipes, then drop the kitchen creativity and stick with the facts. But, if your recipes are a hit, then focus your attention on creating more to have them shared on social media.
Content marketing doesn’t just allow your customers to understand you and your values, it can help you understand your customer too!
What Type of Content Can I Use?
The most commonly published long-form content on a website is a blog. But once you have one, it needs to be updated regularly. And by regularly we’re talking weekly, or even daily.
Stick to a consistent style and tone of voice, and don’t confuse your message. If you have multiple people that contribute to your blog, develop a style guide to keep everyone on track.
Content doesn’t just mean blog posts though.
You can publish and share content on social media; either short, snappy posts or a link to a blog post with an enticing one-liner as an introduction.
You can create longer eBooks or PDF downloads – these are also a great way of growing your email list.
Content certainly doesn’t always have to be the written word. Video is a trend set to continue, so it’s worth exploring if you have the resources.
You can create video series, podcasts, physical books, magazines, email courses, newspapers, the list goes on and on!
Remember, what works for one brand might not work for you. Test, measure and find out what works for you.
The Secret Sauce for Food Brands
You and your food brand are in a great position. Foodies love food. They love talking about food, reading about food and watching videos about food.
Food content is interesting and engaging. How you pimp it up depends on your brand values and your identity. Whether you dress it with an organic, homemade glaze or with plain ol’ mayo from the jar, people are always going to be interested in food.
You’re lucky. You don’t have to go to the lengths of making a piece of B2B content on “What is Content Marketing” sound fun!
There’s so much you can do with your content. You could go old school and create a printed newsletter (who says print is dead?). Or you could share downloadable recipes like Daylesford Farm. Or make a big deal of your brand story like Ella’s Kitchen or Whole Foods Market.
Content is Free! Hurrah, Free Marketing!
Content may be free for your audience (in most cases) but content isn’t free for you. Sorry.
Good quality content can be pricey. Hiring full-time writers or copywriting freelancers isn’t something to be scrimped on. Even if it’s your own time that you spend creating content for your site, it’s still not free. Your time is money.
Invest in your writers and editorial team to get good content. Freelancing sites are full of ‘a fiver for 500 words’ jobs which might sound appealing but you really get what you pay for.
Good quality content isn’t just churned out. It’s carefully written, optimised for SEO and sticks to a consistent tone of voice. And don’t be fooled, not everyone can write. You don’t need an English degree, but your content should have a certain amount of flair. Creating share-worthy content that engages the reader is a skill.
Spam, bad spelling and grammar are definitely out, as are stats that don’t add up, and facts that can’t be backed up.
Next Steps: Make a Solid Content Marketing Plan
Planning is everything.
Research upcoming food festivals or celebrations that fit with your brand and build your content marketing plan around them. Plan a few months in advance and you’ll be streets ahead of your competitors.
Have content planned for the seasons, school holidays, that weird international food day celebrating something obscure, or the next royal wedding.
Whatever fits with your business, and whatever your content marketing strategy, remember:
- Content marketing isn’t aggressive, it’s a gentle, unassuming, slow burn
- Good quality content is crucial
- Content is the biggest communicator of your values
- You can use content to learn more about your customers
- Content improves brand awareness, fanbase, traffic and SEO
- Think like your customers
- Content provides ready-made social media content
- Talk to, and show you understand, your customer’s needs
- Content isn’t just about blogging, it can be audio, video and printed too
- Whatever you do, keep it consistent and publish on a regular basis
If you need a hand to develop your content marketing strategy, a content framework, an editorial calendar or just need some content written for your next campaign, get in touch to tell us about your brand. If we’re a good fit, we’d love to see what we can create together.