Have you ever walked into a car dealership and immediately been approached by a sales person who can’t wait to tell you about his “best deal” and explain why you absolutely must make your decision today? Ugh!
Today’s consumers don’t like the feeling of being sold to. It’s uncomfortable, and it makes us immediately put up our guard.
That same feeling takes over when we’re barraged with advertising. We don’t trust what we’re told, and in fact, most of us have become adept at ignoring the many sales messages that come at us each day.
If you’re running a business, what do you do if you’re trying to cut through the clutter? What should you do to engage with prospective customers to make them aware of your products and services in a way that doesn’t cause them to tune you out?
The solution is content marketing. By writing relevant and valuable content, you can attract and retain customers.
Content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. And it’s become an effective strategy for building brand awareness. Use it to attract, nurture and retain customers.
Here’s how it works. You generate content that your prospects will find interesting and useful. They may even like it so much, they share it on social media. You focus on educating your prospects instead of selling to them. It positions your business as the expert in your industry.
Your content gets your name in front of your prospects on a regular basis. They develop respect and trust for your organization. When they’re ready to make a purchase, your name is the one that comes to mind. Ka-ching!
Some of the world’s largest, most successful companies are investing heavily in content marketing; P&G, Kraft, GE, Coco-Cola, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and John Deere, to name a few. But what’s most intriguing is that content marketing isn’t just for companies with big marketing budgets.
In my area of Orlando, Florida, I see many small to mid-sized businesses that have developed and executed a content marketing strategy. They’re law firms, software companies, hospitals, realtors and even small retailers from clothing stores to pet shops.
Why have they put their resources into content marketing? Because it works.
If you deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, you build trust currency, and they will reward you with their business and loyalty.
Content marketing can take many forms — print, online, digital, mobile, video and social media. With the myriad of media available, you can deliver your message in whatever method you think is best to reach your target audience.
Here is a list of 25 content marketing vehicles:
With so many options available, you don’t need to limit your content marketing to only one vehicle. You can share your best material multiple times on multiple platforms. Doing so will expand the reach of your marketing efforts and help you to build a loyal following more quickly.
No matter what media you choose, the key to results with content marketing is having something interesting or important to say, not just something to sell. Well-crafted, purposeful content will showcase your company’s expertise and elevate its image in the mind of your customer.
When you post informative content on your website or blog, it brings you visibility in the form of web traffic. How so?
When people go to Google or other search engines, they’re seeking information that will answer to their questions, whatever those happen to be. If your content provides those answers, your site is more likely to be presented to them high up in the search results. The quantity and quality of your information will all be taken into account through the search engine’s algorithms.
One caveat: don’t try to fool Google by posting content that you’ve copied from somewhere else or that lacks substance or is of poor quality. That’s not the way to covert prospects into customers. And if Google notices that your site has a high bounce rate, indicative of people landing on your site but leaving quickly, your site will be demoted to a lower ranking.
Content marketing can build or transform a brand. It allows you to get your message across quickly in a carefully controlled way.
To be memorable, start with stellar storytelling. If you create compelling stories that connect emotionally with users, they won’t soon forget your name. They’ll relate to what you’re saying and may even share your content with their friends and coworkers.
Your best bet is to demonstrate that you understand your customers’ needs and give them content that will truly resonate with them. When readers find themselves consistently reading a brand’s content, they start to see that brand in a new light, not only in terms of credibility but also likability.
One surefire way to increase awareness of your products and services is by giving your brand a fun, unique brand identity. No matter the medium, creativity wins out over dull material. Be gutsy. Be innovative. Be different. Show enthusiasm backed by solid knowledge. That’s how you get noticed.
Write content in conversational tones. No preaching, no hard selling. Never underestimate how savvy your readers actually are. They know if they are being taken for a ride.
If you work in an industry where a little dose of comedy or personality is appropriate, be entertaining and you’ll make your brand memorable.
Remember, consumers have many choices for sourcing information. Be original. Be different. Make your content relevant and meaty to impress your target customers and have a positive influence on their buying decisions.
Wondering what type of written content you can create? It’s not as hard as you think. Try any of the five approaches below:
1) Solve Problems – What problems do your customers complain about? What concerns do they have? Answering questions is a great way to build content, especially because other customers likely others have the same issues.
2) Create Case Studies – Did you solve a customer’s problem? Did a customer tell you about his amazing results with your product or service? All of that information would make a great case study that you can easily write up in a format that explains the problem, solution, results, and perhaps includes a quote from the client as a testimonial. Case studies are one of the most trusted content types, so create them whenever possible.
3) Do Research – Do you collect data on any topics related to your business? Do you ever hold focus groups? Do you have a blog or social media presence with followers you can ask to complete a survey? Put the responses into statistics. Even better, if they’re surprising and go against what the reader expects.
Writing up original research positions your business as an industry leader and authority. It also is unique content that no one else will have and others might even choose to quote you or link to your research, which can help your SEO.
4) Tell a Story – Ever listen to a great speaker, someone who captivated their audience? Most likely, they told a few stories. Anecdotes are extremely compelling. If you can come up with a story that’s relevant to your product or service, you can create content that’s sure to engage readers. According to SEO company, The Hoth, “Stories are a powerful tool for making content more engaging, even in boring niches.”
5) Be Entertaining – Everyone wants to be amused or entertained. That’s what makes a video, photo or idea go viral. If you can write about something that’s funny or unusual, and somehow tie it into your product, people will read your copy. Bonus points if you can include a relevant photo or video to attract additional attention.
6) Create Controversy — “Controversy can add interest to any topic, no matter how boring it may seem,” says Andrew Epprecht of Phase 5 Analytics. “You can write about a hotly debated topic or a pressing question that no one really has the answer to.”
For example, if you’re in the healthcare industry, take a stance on the issue of vaccines. Make a strong statement pro or con and you’re sure to spark a discussion. “Because the controversial topic triggers a powerful emotional response, it will engage people, whether they agree or disagree,” Epprecht says.
You don’t have to be big business with lots of resources to do content marketing. Most of my clients are small to mid-sized businesses, and they’ve seen benefits from using a content marketing strategy.
One North Carolina company I work with sells cooking sauces. They publish recipes with yummy photos on their blog and Facebook page.
Another company I write for is a shoe retailer in Georgia. They publish photos and descriptions of the season’s hottest looks on their website and on Twitter.
A personal trainer I know in Orlando, FL publishes daily workouts on her Facebook page and exercise videos on her YouTube channel to maintain a connection with her clients. The result is that her clients stay motivated and are extremely loyal. They not only buy services and the nutritional supplements she sells, they tell all their friends about her too!
A public adjuster I write for uses articles and short posts on social media to gain exposure for his services.
Finally, a realtor I work with in the Miami area has me write a weekly newsletter about new properties being developed in South Florida. He has over 20,000 subscribers, and when any of those individuals is ready to invest in a property, you’d better believe he’s who they call!
What makes each of these businesses successful in its content marketing endeavors is that the information is presented in a way that’s entertaining, educational and engaging.
Using regular communication with their customer base, they’re gradually developing a bond with their followers, increasing the trust in their brand and making their product or service their customer’s first choice.
One way to get more mileage from your content is to build on the success of your best posts. How do you know which ones are best? Track the responses.
If your post is initiating conversations, generating comments, getting likes and being shared socially by others, you know you’ve got a winner. Create more content on the same topic or take your existing content and repackage it for other mediums.
For instance, if your written post on cleaning rust stains off pool decks seems to be getting a lot of interest, consider creating a video on the same subject. And be sure to cross-promote both items.
If you’re not skilled in writing yourself or don’t have the time to create your own content, hire a professional copywriter. Choose someone who has proven experience as a content creator. As most people who have any experience with content marketing will tell you, you get what you pay for.
If you’re hiring a writer for whom English is not a first language or a writer whose best credential is she got an “A” in freshman English 20 years ago, you’re wasting your money. You may save a few dollars but the content you get won’t be effective.
Remember, people have an abundance of options for content. If you want to grab eyeballs, you’d better make it good!
Choose a copywriter who knows how to be strategic with content marketing, is familiar with SEO best practices and is capable of understanding your industry well enough to write compelling copy about it.
As for cost, that depends on the quantity of content you need. Many copywriters offer content packages that are affordable and can supply you with new articles or blog posts on a monthly basis. Consistent, frequent, quality content is the best way to increase your impact.
Creating content is only one-half of the content marketing equation. The other half is promoting what you create.
What’s the point of publishing amazing content if no one sees it? The most successful content marketers will tell you to spend more time promoting than writing!
Content promotion is best done on social media. For example, if you write a blog post with tax tips for small businesses, here are a few ways to promote it, always including a link back to your full post:
Content is more likely to be popular and shared by social audiences if it’s unique, outrageous, valuable, funny, interesting or useable.
The important thing to remember about content marketing is that content promotion is just as important as content creation.
Content marketing takes time. Be realistic in your expectations. You may not see significant results in a matter of weeks or even a few months.
Any positive feedback or increase in web traffic says you’re on the right track. Look for gradual improvements, not overnight success.
To gain traction and get a following takes time. Be consistent, stay the course and you will eventually reap the benefits.
Content marketing is a relatively new means of promotion. But most advertising pros and copywriters believe it’s here to stay, even if it is continually changing and evolving. Here are the trends you can expect to see:
The evidence is indisputable – consumers are more likely to do business with companies that consistently offer quality information online. Companies that create content — whether copywriting, videos, photos — will pull ahead of those who don’t in terms of search, social media visibility and ultimately, revenues.
Content marketing can provide these competitive advantages:
If those benefits sound appealing to you, get started developing your content marketing strategy. Whether you have a big business or small sole proprietorship, you can ride the content marketing wave and flourish.