Is content marketing here to stay? Honeycombers founder Chris Edwards talks through the massive, growing potential of this organic marketing strategy – and how businesses can start leveraging email marketing, funnel management, and SEO.
The content marketing landscape is undergoing a huge shakeup, evolving at such a rapid rate that many may find it difficult to keep up. One of the biggest trends is the shift from outbound marketing to inbound marketing. Previously, businesses focused heavily on outbound marketing, which involves blasting large volumes of content to potential consumers via trade shows, seminar series, email campaigns, and cold calling.
However, the industry has increasingly shifted towards inbound marketing – a methodology that aims to draw in new customers, rather than push out, which has emerged as the preferred marketing method in the last five to ten years. Unlike outbound marketing, which uses mass advertising to tap into a wide audience, inbound marketing works by attracting consumers through the use of helpful, value-filled content that addresses customer pain points and needs. This more personalised approach builds both trust and credibility, and cultivates meaningful, long-term relationships with sales prospects, resulting in higher quality leads.
Businesses are finally waking up to the importance of content marketing, and one expert at the forefront of this growing industry transformation is Chris Edwards. Since launching lifestyle magazine Honeycombers, which covers markets in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Indonesia, back in 2008, she’s founded three additional businesses. Her most recent enterprise, content marketing agency Digital Collective, helps APAC helps brands harness the power of digital marketing to grow their businesses via email marketing, funnel management, SEO, and on-brand copywriting.
Here’s what she had to say on the topic of product conceptualisation and content authenticity, as well as her vision for Honeycombers and Digital Collective.
Can you tell us a little about Honeycombers?
Sure! Honeycombers is a digital lifestyle media platform with about 1 million visitors across our platforms each month. We have local editions in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Bali, and a second edition in Singapore for parents called HoneyKids Asia. We also have a subscriber base of about 100,000. These are people between the ages of 25 and 45 of high-net-worth who are really seeking to live their best life and get the most out of their city or local environment.
What has been your proudest achievement since launching back in 2008?
I think what I’m most proud of is the quality of our products, and how much our raters trust us. The metrics from the website, like time on site, and clients’ feedback bear this out. We foster trust from not just what we say but how we say it, which is to say we place a high premium on user experience. No banner ads, no click strategies that are used to drive what we call “vanity metrics”. We’re also adamant on not allowing third party content on our site.
In addition, given that our editing process is very rigorous and thorough, it fills the void in the market in which there is a lack of quality websites that are not spamming you with ads or content.
Before we dig into your thoughts on today’s content marketing landscape, I want to quickly rewind back to the very start. What initially made you want to found it?
I was 28 when I founded Honeycombers. At the time, online publishing wasn’t really a thing but I just felt this disconnect between people and the media. I wanted to start something that could forge an authentic connection and inspire people to live their best lives and soak the most up of the city.
You mentioned in another interview that you worked without pay for three years. Can you tell me about the early days, and the biggest challenges that you faced?
I think I had a lot of faith in my concept which served to spur me on, even though it did take some time to pick up traction. What was challenging for me personally was not having guidance as to how one is supposed to navigate a startup. I had no support network or business coaches to steward me down the right path. But, if cast under a different light, you could see it as a double-edged sword. Naivety could sometimes work in our favour – with little knowledge of potential risk and likelihood of success (or failure), I was able to gather the chutzpah required for an entrepreneur.
How did you manage to turn it into a successful business model?
Our business model has always been focused on editorial or content strategies. For us, it was all about networking and putting together the right cards. Since I came from both a publishing and marketing background, I understood the importance of creating a product that responds to consumers’ needs and making sure it is marketable. It was fortuitous too because I had a solid network in Singapore, making Honeycombers the right idea at the right time and the right place.
Earlier this year, you launched Digital Collective. Am I right in saying that it’s a content marketing and sales funnel marketing agency?
Yes, we do both. Essentially, it’s a digital marketing and content marketing agency. What we’re doing is pulling out the core skills that we’ve built up in e-commerce, then enabling businesses to leverage our skills to help them create and implement their own digital marketing strategies.
How has COVID affected business?
One thing, for sure, COVID has done is push businesses to be more tech-savvy. You have to really rethink your businesses. Part of our business is the events marketing part and we have adapted to hosting them on a virtual reality platform. In our day and age, everyone loves to wander around in this virtual world, so from a marketing standpoint, digital platforms can give you better ROI and leads. Obviously COVID hasn’t been all positive, but I think it’s been good for us in that it has propelled us to be innovative and think of different ways to serve our products.
You’ve covered a lot of different cities. Do you have any advice on content localisation?
Yes! Localisation is salient if you’re looking to scale and expand. To do it effectively, you need local content producers, writers, and editors. Another piece of advice when setting up a global brand is to build communities, and we accomplish this through event marketing.
From the inception of Honeycombers to now, have the metrics for digital/content marketing changed?
I supposed a lot of metrics have changed over the years. For starters, SEO wasn’t around when I founded Honeycombers. However, I would say that past and present metrics evolve around one cardinal principle – our intrinsic need to connect. Content marketing is an instrumental fodder for this since it helps you find your audience and build relationships.
What changes do you foresee in the next three to five years in digital marketing?
I think the appetite for authentic content is going to metastasise insofar as it’s going to supersede the influence of marketing. Audiences will eventually learn to switch off and dismiss reviews if they find them disingenuous.
It’s been 12 years since you founded Honeycombers. I have to ask, would you have done anything differently? Do you regret anything, knowing what you know now?
I’d be hard-pressed to say I truly regret anything, but I guess I could have sought out more help and tried to sit back and enjoy the ride more. Entrepreneurship is like a roller coaster – the highs can be tremendously exhilarating and the lows can be very frightening. It can be harrowing when you’re cognisant of all the responsibilities stacked up on your shoulders. But I also think being uncomfortable is what helped me excel. One thing I’ve learnt in the past years is the value in learning. Through reading books and listening to podcasts and just being an eager and industrious student, a lot of things were demystified for me. At the end of the day, I don’t think I have any regrets because I believe there’s beauty in trusting the universe and having faith in yourself.
Do you have any advice for firms looking to get more into leveraging digital advertising or marketing?
Surround yourself with good advisors – people who have experience in the digital landscape and are well versed in how to run campaigns and build funnels. Ideally you want to hire staff who are smarter than you, but if you lack the wherewithal – especially if you’re just starting out – I suggest breaking down your vision into smaller goals. An axiom that I always fall back on is “eat the elephant one bite at a time”, which means that, in the face of something that seems enormous and almost impossible, we can always work through it by crossing out one item at a time on your to-do list.
On top of that, part and parcel to getting into digital marketing is nailing your vision and what you stand for. Questions like what is your Unique Selling Point (USP) and what is your customer avatar need to be considered as well. This comes easily to some more than others, but if you find yourself struggling then you should find someone to help you.
Well, recently we’ve been paying more attention to Digital Collective since it’s still in its infancy. I’m currently just really enjoying the ride of setting up a new business, developing a new product, and eating the elephant one bite at a time.
More about Honeycombers
Founded by Chris Edwards in 2008, Honeycombers is a digital media platform and micro agency that focuses on creating engaging written and video lifestyle content. To provide more comprehensive services to clients, The Digital Collective was created in 2020 to work alongside Honeycombers, harnessing the power of digital to drive business growth for clients.