Branded content can help companies gain new business

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Print this page by Mike Gray and Andrew Ryan

As the economy continues it long recovery, businesses face uncertain and rapidly changing marketplaces.  Whether targeting businesses or consumers, the ways in which companies can position themselves in front of potential clients has exploded.  The plethora of options—from traditional marketing and advertising channels to social media platforms—has created a number of business development challenges because the options can seem overwhelming.  The key focus for marketing and business development professionals and departments must be on positioning expertise that will help drive business.  Focusing on branded content that is resourceful and targets current and potential customers will deliver results and more business.

Branded content campaigns are a method of creating controlled content and leveraging them to position a business and/or its key executives as leaders in their field.  Branded content, when used appropriately, will highlight a company’s role as a resource for its target clients, thus becoming a trusted and reliable source for information.  Creating these relationships and communicating them through marketing make branded content so powerful. 

At its most basic level branded content is any type of content that is developed and owned by an organization.  However, existing branded content is often not appropriate for business development purposes.  Sending your company’s annual report or an internal newsletter to current and potential clients, for example, is not likely to secure more business.  Rather, companies should create content that is a resource for their clients.  The content should be engaging and resourceful.  It’s not about a hard sell or repurposing marketing material, but rather it’s about providing useful information. 

The ideal type of branded content provides updates, analysis, and insight on topics that are of interest to your target markets.  It can take many forms, including events, surveys, reports, blogs, white papers, and infographics.  A number of companies in Virginia use branded content effectively.  In the commercial real estate space, for example, Thalhimer and Jones Lang LaSalle release quarterly reports on the state of various commercial real estate markets and submarkets throughout the state.  These reports include great statistics and discuss trends in the office, retail, and industrial sectors.  The reports are released publicly and are widely anticipated by those active in the commercial real estate industry.  Other examples include CarMax’s Vehicle Recommendation Tool and Capital One’s financial literacy programs. 

As these examples highlight, successful branded content campaigns are those that identify the needs of a target market and provide a tangible resource.  These campaigns offer a number of marketing and business development benefits and can easily be repurposed.  For example, reports or surveys can be posted on your company blog, sent to clients and shared with reporters for potential news stories. 

Regardless of how the content is used and distributed externally, it will be owned by the company.  The ability to retain the ownership ensures full control over the content and analysis.  It also brands the findings with your company which positions your business as an expert in the field.  Whether reported in the news, shared through email, or discussed online, your company’s name will be associated with the branded content and the larger issue it addresses. 

The very nature of branded content also allows a company to develop a loyal constituency.  People will follow resourceful content that is delivered consistently and addresses issues that are important to them.  The more you craft quality branded content, such as blog posts or white papers, the more you associate yourself as an expert on that particular topic.  The most important feature of developing that loyal constituency is the ability to deliver content on a reoccurring basis.  Whether daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually, you must set expectations early and ensure that you meet them.  The type of content may dictate the frequency of its updates, but all branded content must be reoccurring to be effective (one-off projects will not deliver the desired results). 

Before embarking on any branded content plan, conduct your due diligence by identifying areas of interest for current and potential clients.  What can you and your company provide of value?  Are there other types of branded content already on a particular area?  Is there a unique angle you can take?  These types of questions must be considered in advance of any branded content efforts.  You also must consider what resources your company is prepared to commit to such a project.  Some types of branded content, such as blogs and white papers, require more time than monetary commitments while other types of branded content, such as surveys or events, may need significant financial resources behind them. 

The most important question, though, is how any branded content campaign fits into your company’s larger business development plan.  As with any marketing tactic, its value is derived from the ability to help generate additional business.  Any branded content campaign should revolve around your company’s target markets and business development goals.         

Mike Gray and Andrew Ryan are partners with Commonwealth Partnerships Group, a marketing, public relations and community-relations firm for the real estate, professional services, and non-profit industries.  They can be contacted at mgray@cpgroupllc.com and akryan@cpgroupllc.com.

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