You constantly have your eyes open for the next innovative, different way to build brand awareness for your business. You’ve tried search engine marketing, video, and even some digital ads. You have a company blog, and you’re boosting posts on Facebook. Robust online presence – check.
First page of the ole’ Google search – yes sir.
So – maybe you’ve heard of Sponsored Content but aren’t really sure what it is, or how it works.
Sponsored Content is a form of content marketing where a publisher writes articles about your company, for your company, from your company’s perspective. The publisher’s team of marketing content writers work with you to write your story on their platform with your company’s business goals in mind.
Many businesses have already identified Sponsored Content as a must-do content marketing initiative to round out their sales and marketing efforts. Here’s why:
Showcasing your company’s thought leadership
People want to do business with companies they know, like, and trust. However, it can often be difficult to cultivate trust based on traditional advertising alone. Where there are industry pockets of big competition, Phyllis Neill, manager of AL.com’s Content Marketing Studio, sees Sponsored Content as a means for businesses to really differentiate themselves from the crowd. Says Neill, “Every business has something they excel at; they’re just not talking about it broadly enough. The ability to have a story told about your business and to create thought leadership within your industry ensures that potential customers get educated and are really made to think.” Neill goes on to say, “For example, Level Four Wealth Management educated their prospective customers on the meaning and importance of fiduciary duty, while law firm Heninger Garrison Davis proves they are experts in the traumatic brain injury representation arena. And they don’t just TELL you they are experts – the article’s content proves that they are. That’s where the trust gets built.”
Steven Iaconis of Level Four Wealth Management said of his Sponsored Content article with AL.com: “My last firm threw tons of money at an article in another publication. But I just had a client call me and said ‘I read your AL.com article.’ This is one of my larger and more important clients. I said ‘Because I shared it on Social Media?’. He said ‘No I happened to be on AL.com and saw the headline and it caught my eye, made me pause just for a moment enough to click on it, you know a lot of articles you don’t click on but this one stopped me to click on it….then only after reading I saw it was yours!’. I then chatted with him about our goals and our working relationship. So this thing ya’ll do with the headlines that I geeked out on when you told me about it….it actually works!”
Nurturing prospects all along the buying cycle
Consumers do a ton of online research, and as a result, buying cycles have become longer than in the past. Sponsored Content is a perfect way to nurture a prospect along during this decision-making time. Neill shares, “PNC Bank nurtures potential customers by talking about the great philanthropic work they’re doing right in the local cities where they are; supporting early childhood education is one of their company’s goals and that charitable work resonates with consumers while giving shape to the people behind PNC.” And this strategy isn’t simply limited to brands looking to increase business. Says Neill, “Other organizations, like nonprofit Alabama Organ Center, share moving testimonials about how contributions to their organization made a profound impact in someone’s life.”
Content that’s compelling, targeted, and relevant can really influence your prospective customer to learn more about your organization. And, of course, once that interest is piqued, your company has the opportunity to really shine. Erin Stephenson of PNC Bank said of their Sponsored Content strategy with AL.com: “Five years ago, PNC came to the Alabama market and was searching for the right partner to help us tell our local story. Our relationship with AMG’s Content Marketing group has us shine a light on our strong community partnerships and solidify our brand as a good corporate citizen.”
Educating your customers during the buying cycle
One of the most important goals of Sponsored Content is to educate people while they’re in the beginning stages of the buying cycle. Says Neill, “Many of our customers want to get clients who NEED their products, but don’t know yet they need them. MedHelp Clinics for example, offers many different services you might not think of when contemplating a family medical clinic, such as allergy testing. And did you know that there’s such a thing now as a rechargeable hearing aid, as offered by Birmingham Speech & Hearing? These types of articles do SO well on AL.com, because they’re relevant, informative, and offer information people aren’t expecting.” The knowledge shared in these instances becomes a gift of edification—an “I never knew I always needed to know this,” immediately followed by, “Now that I do know it, I need to take action to experience it!”
Like other forms of digital marketing, Sponsored Content articles are highly measurable. The click-thru rate (CTR) will tell you how many people clicked on the article and actually read it. The call-to-action rate (CTA) will tell you how many people clicked on a hyperlink within the article. And Engagement Rate tells you the depth of engagement your article received.
AL.com’s Content Marketing Studio team, led by Phyllis Neill, is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to helping you realize the topics that are simply begging to be written about your organization in the form of sponsored content. This team also offers a unique approach to pull and prod compelling, significant thought leadership out of your organization’s executives’ brains on their time. The results of these well-written, well-trafficked, well-timed articles can make a profound impact on your ability to showcase your brand in a non-traditional way, which, in turn, garners consumer attention. Selling yourself and/or your brand through storytelling has never been more accessible (or more exciting!).
AL.com is the state’s largest news and entertainment website. As both a digital marketing agency and a publisher, we drive daily conversations and engage millions through stories that are crafted to inform, entertain, or inspire—stories that connect our communities to the world around them. To learn more about our content marketing and Sponsored Content solutions, you can click here.