Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about content marketing. To find out what it’s all about we invited Fred Wauters, storyteller and content guru, to tell us all about content. He told us everything about the differences with traditional advertising, the downsides of content marketing, but of course also the benefits.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Fred Wauters. I am the founder and manager of a small content marketing agency called Ex Abrupto . And we are, of course, busy with producing content and planning content for our clients.
We hear a lot about content marketing why?
I think it’s because traditional marketing is coming to an end in some way. Because people hate to be interrupted. You only have to see how many people have downloaded adblockers on their pc’s for instance. It means that people don’t want to be interrupted. But on the other hand, they want information when they look for the information. And that’s what content marketing is about.
What is the difference between copywriting and writing for content?
Copywriting is about just writing. Writing for content means that you have to take a step back and look a bit closer at what the clients of your clients want to know, want to hear, want to learn. Not necessarily about the client’s products. But more about the problems, that these products have to solve. And That’s what content marketing is about. Copywriting is just the art of writing, which is an art in itself, but content is the art of deciding what to write.
What are the causes of the shift to content marketing?
Contrary to what happened before the internet, and especially before social media and all that stuff, people were not able to interrupt the unwanted content. Now they are able to interrupt unwanted content, be it by hitting backwards on the browser or installing adblockers. Which means that, since they can stop being exposed to unwanted content to a certain level, giving them content they want is an obvious and interesting way to try to get to them.
Is content advertising the solution to adblockers and ad skipping?
I don’t know if it is a solution to ad skipping or adblockers, because people will still be making ads. But it’s a solution in the sense that it allows you to go over these adblockers. Because people are looking for your content. It’s for instance people who are doing research on google, because they want to find a solution to their problem, “What is the best rate for mortgage at the moment in Belgium?” They will look for that. If you will give them information about mortgage rates and how they have rules etc. That will probably help them decide what they want and what’s good for them. And that’s the idea. They are looking for your content. Or they see something on their Facebook feed and it’s interesting for them and they click on it. The fact that they click on it indicates that they want to see your content which is totally different from a regular ad which is just pushed in their face, without them having a choice about it.
Does content marketing work for every company?
Yes, because everyone has something to say. If you are selling a product or even if you are raising awareness. Let’s say you are an NGO and you want to raise awareness for climate. It’s the same, you have to provide people with content about questions they ask themselves. For instance “is there pollution in Brussels?” If we talk about current subjects and what is the extent of that pollution. That is content as well. So everybody needs content and every company can provide content to people it serves, be they customers or just the general public.
What are the issues that come along with this change?
I’d say there are 2 issues. The first one is that companies still need to do a mental shift, cause content is about giving people what they want, not starting to push your product. It’s a little like when you go to a party and you start talking with people. If you start going to people saying: “Hi I am Fred! I am wonderful, I am the guy you need to talk to!” after a while the people will start getting annoyed and they will just shut you off. If you listen to conversations, if you take part in conversations, if you provide information in conversation, if you’re entertaining and agreeable and at the same time knowledgeable about what you talk about. Then people will want to listen to you. But companies have hard time making that mental shift between pushing their products or services or giving content.
What are the upsides of this change?
It’s the fact that people get information about the problems they want to solve.
Is it hard to find a balance?
It’s not really a question of balance. It’s really a question of understanding that today the first thing you have got to do is, establish some credibility. Showing people that you know what they experience, what problems they have, what issues they’re trying to solve. And then providing information about how to solve these issues. And then eventually talking about your product or services. But it’s a total different shift. You’re not saying you’re the best, you’re saying: “Hey I think I know your problem, and I think I have ideas on how to solve it. be they my ideas or somebody else’s ideas. And that’s also the difference.
It’s like when you go to a shop. Sometimes you ask for something and the shop owner knows, it’s not something they have, but the shop next door has. And so if he’s a good seller he will say, “go to the shop next door, because I can’t solve your problem, but they can”. And they will also be remembered as a good shop owner, because they provided help and they provided a solution, which is ultimately what everyone is looking for.
How do you make a good content strategy ?
There are three things you need to know, before you start building your content strategy. The first is “who is the target audience? Who are you talking to? What are these people? What are their problems? What are they experiencing? What are they trying to achieve? What are their challenges? What are their hobbies? Everything, you need to know as much as possible about your target audience, because it will help you decide which messages are interesting for them to hear.
The second thing you need to know, is about your products or services. Because you have to understand where there is a match between characteristics of your products and services and what you’re client wants on the other hand. And if you can find what has value for the client in your product or services and market it to them through content, then you have a good content strategy.
And the third thing to know is why you are doing that. Are you trying to raise awareness, are you trying to sell products, are you trying to boost your image? That is something that would frame the kind of story that you’ll want to tell, the kind of content you’ll want to bring.
What are the trends within content marketing?
The trends go to more authentic content, more original content. That is what Google by the way is trying to push. Original content that answers the questions that the public, the target audience, might be asking
Is it the role of these brands to make content or is there too much content out there?
There is never too much content, the question is: how much good content is out there. I think there is a lot of bad content out there in the sense that there a lot of people who copy paste something they’ve seen elsewhere. Or put out some generic information, it’s not generic information people are after, it’s stories, it’s stories, it’s tricks, it’s ideas they can act upon. And that is good content, and good content is still quite scares for the moment, so there is still room for creating good content for every company.
Is it better for companies to make this content themselves?
There’s two sides to that questions. Because on the one hand, the only one who really has the knowledge about the customers, about the products and services is the client. They have a gigantic knowledge mind inside of their company that they can tap to find meaningful content. Now the question is how to produce that content. Now that is better left to professionals. But I can be inside professionals or external consultants like myself. Both are possible, but what these consultants need to do, they need to get that very good understanding of the target audience on the one hand and the product and services on the other hand and how these two can match and how you can then construct stories about the problems that the client has and how you can help them solve them.
Should companies share content every day or only when we really have something to say?
It’s never a good idea to say something when you don’t have shit to say. But then the question is how do you know what you have to say or if you have something to say. And it means you have to some planning, You have to plan ahead. And think okay this is going to happen. For instance if you’re in real estate if I refer to my previous example, if you are a bank for instance and you make mortgages, then it makes sense to provide the audience with interesting content at the time of “batibouw” salon in Belgium. Because it is a moment when people think about buying a house. And have questions about buying a house or renovating the house. So it is also a question of knowing when the target audience is going to ask these questions and looking for information.
Do you have any good examples of Content marketing?
Well I have a good historical example, because the bank that was doing that doesn’t exist anymore, it has been absorbed by the mother company. It’s a small Belgian bank called Record bank, who decided, I think it’s 8 years ago, that they were too small to buy big advertising, and radio’s and newspapers and big posters in the street. So they thought okay we’re going to make interesting content, relevant content. And so they were for instance at the time of batibouw, but also other times in the year, since they were selling mortgages, they were providing readers with information about the tips and tricks about buying a house, what questions do they have to ask, what do they have to look for? Is it useful to have your own notary or can you use the seller’s notary, do you have to have a lawyer? Do you have to hire an expert? How do you determine what the price is in the region? Etc. All questions that people were going to ask themselves before they start the buying process. And so they achieved quite outstanding results with that strategy and they were able to grow and grow their market shares, the proof that content marketing is efficient.
And what about any bad examples?
We all know bad examples, we see them around it’s the articles we start reading and we stop reading because they don’t provide us with information that really adds value to our thoughts. So you just have to look around. But you can also look around for good content. Because fortunately there is good content around.
What about the future?
I think advertising is going to die a slow and painful death. That’s for one. As far as content marketing is concerned, I think it is going to evolve, for the moment there is a lot of written content. I think it’s going to evolve more into video’s, like you’re doing right now. Because people like videos. And it’s an easy and entertaining way to have content. I think content is going to become a lot more than text. It is already a lot more than text, but the non-text part will grow in the future.