I recently hosted a webinar on Content Marketing for the Vocus UK team. It’s a hot topic, driving more engagement than any previous webinar we have run out of the London office… conveniently and rather successfully demonstrating the whole point of content marketing.

Content marketing is a cost-effective method of generating interest in your business (remember: there is no such thing as cheap or expensive marketing), driving ideas and ultimately helping to sell more. I made the analogy that content marketing is like a bicycle wheel: made up of light components which, when combined, produce a strong and efficient method of transporting you down the road to profitability.

Content is very much about generating conversations. Because of this, I was very pleased to be inundated with questions during the event, some of which I’ve answered here:

Q: How do you balance thought leadership with giving too much information away for free?

Share as much information as possible. You might be worried about potential clients taking this information and doing the job themselves – but in reality they are much more likely to hire a company that demonstrates their position as undisputed leaders in their field of expertise. Your clients are busy, they will want to focus on their main business activities and leave any other services to the experts.

You may also be worried about competitors taking your insight and running with it. If you are first to market with an idea and publish original, engaging thought leadership you will be seen as the go-to expert, while your competitors are seen to hand on to your coattails. Who would you rather do business with?

More detailed content-led initiatives such as a white paper or ebook should never be free. The price of detailed thought leadership should be the provision of actionable lead information (an email address, telephone number, company name, etc.)

Q: How do you persuade, cajole or bribe colleagues into providing the content you need? 

Ultimately, as a marketer, you are responsible for creating content.

Yes, ideas can and should come from your colleagues but don’t rely on them to provide carefully crafted blog posts ready for publication – it’ll never happen. Think like a journalist, learn to ask the right questions and capture ideas at source (or risk losing them) and then write them up yourself.

Q: What, and how, do you measure the success of content marketing?

This depends on your objectives. Content marketing can be used to build brand awareness, generate traffic, leads or sales. When you are planning your strategy you should always plan for the conversion, whether this is a request for a call back, an email subscription, a social media follow or a sale.

You content marketing will always have a cost associated with it (even if it is just your time – and time is money). If you know how much you are spending on generating content, you should be able measure it in the same way you do with all your other marketing techniques.

Q: Do you have any tips for collecting emails from customers?

Be as proactive as possible in collecting email addresses. We recently published the following nine tips for list growth on the iContact Blog:

1. Improve Your Website-to-Email Conversions: Make it as easy as possible for visitors to your website to register for your email newsletters. Place your subscription form on every single page (not just the home page). Never hide your subscription form behind a link in your website navigation – very few people will actually click here. Remember, once people have left your site, it is very hard to get them to return.

2. Get Social #1: Drive subscribers to your email marketing list via your social media activity. While it is easier to grow your following on Facebook or Twitter than to collect email addresses, email marketing has the potential to drive more significant ROI. Be sure to add an email subscription form to your Facebook pages.

3. Get Social #2: Make it easy for your email recipients to share your emails with their friends and family members by adding social media share buttons to your newsletters. This will ultimately send more traffic back to your website, which, if optimized as per point #1, will help drive email subscriptions. The best way to encourage sharing is to invest time in creating great content.

4. Keep on Blogging: An active blog gives your website a pulse, aids your SEO efforts, and helps your business stand out in a sea of static website content. Don’t forget to include your email subscription form on every page of your blog.

5. Get Mobile: Email marketing apps for the iPhone and Android mobile devices make it easy for you to add names to your list on the fly. Whenever you meet potential clients, ask them if you can add them to your email list.

6. Take Advantage of Trade Shows: It’s not a high-tech solution. But there is nothing wrong with placing a goldfish bowl in your booth and soliciting email subscriptions (perhaps with the aid of a competition) from trade show attendees. The cost of adding names to your list is negligible; therefore, email marketing offers an ideal solution to dealing with lukewarm leads while your sales team focuses on more immediate prospects. The unsubscribe functionality on your emails will also go some way toward helping your clients self-prioritize their lead status.

7. Ask at the Point of Sale: How much repeat business is lost at your sales counter? If you don’t ask for your customers’ email details, you’ll never know. Sweeten the deal by offering an incentive to share their details.

8. Incentivize and Reward: You don’t need to offer a financial incentive to win repeat business. How about offering email exclusive promotions, such as the first chance to buy? This will be particularly useful if the customer is presented with a perception of scarcity.

9. Keep It Relevant: Don’t be a generalist. Maintain multiple lists and send targeted campaigns. Manage your unsubscribes carefully by offering alternatives. Just because someone no longer wants to receive your weekly newsletter, doesn’t mean that s/he would not appreciate a more targeted or less frequent communication.

Click here to listen to the recorded version of the full webinar and for a chance to receive a free copy of John W. Hayes’ book Becoming THE Expert.