A couple of weeks ago I wrote on this blog a piece on how content marketing helps create leads that are already sold to, before they even reach your sales team. In that particular article, I addressed the issue of content strategy and how it needs to serve a bigger purpose in your company’s overall marketing. A content marketing strategy isn’t just made out of writing blunt and boring articles that reply on popular short and long-tail queries. No, it’s far more than that. It helps you create your company’s voice, build up strong relationships with your readers, and generate tons and tons of smart leads that are willing to buy whatever it is that you’re selling.
Although this post generated a lot of positive feedback, I also received a few interesting emails and comments that inspired me to further on address the issue.
A couple of people misunderstood the general point of the above-mentioned text. One guy reached out and told me how his content isn’t really paying off, how he hasn’t made any new sales or conversions on his site, even though he wrote like 10-15 blog posts per month.
Desperate for any real results, he wondered if I have any additional advice to share with him.
Intrigued by this gentleman’s case, I asked him to send me a link to his website. Once it came to my inbox, I decided to immediately check it out.
Once I landed on his blog, it took me no more than a few seconds to register why his writing isn’t converting:
Every single piece of content on his site is nothing more than a big sales letter. It’s all quite aggressive, self-oriented and full of call-to-actions. Every post looks and feels like a giant ad, with only more text to it.
Naturally, this isn’t the way to do content marketing. I would never suggest to anyone to transform their blog into an annoying, money-hungry salesman.
However, my interest here isn’t to point fingers at people or discourage anyone’s efforts. Nope. All I want to do here is help.
Apart from giving this gentleman private council, I decided to cover this topic on our blog as well and explain to anyone interested in this subject how to tailor a correct content marketing strategy for their brand.
So, without further delay, let’s get down to business.
Before I expand on the problem at hand and start to write what makes a good content strategy and what doesn’t, let us first cover the basics:
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a marketing technique that focuses on creating valuable, relevant and concise material that is carefully tailored to suit the needs of a precisely targeted audience, and help them see the real value behind your business and services.
The word to look at here is “value”.
Although content marketing represents a lot of different things, and it comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, it first and foremost needs to satisfy one main criterium – it needs to provide additional value to your brand and audience.
That’s it. If it doesn’t do that, you’re doing it wrong. People can tell if certain content is written just to fill in the empty space on a website or if the author poured his heart and soul in it in attempt to feed his readers with something truly valuable and memorable to read.
Having this in mind, if your goal here is to create content to shamelessly promote your products or services, I truly advise you to abandon that plan while you’re still ahead. Why? – Well, because it’s hard to recover from such a bad rep. If your current and potential readers start to see you as nothing more than just another brand who cares only about robbing them out of their money, you’re gonna have a lot of problem with acquiring new leads.
As we established before on this blog, without a constant flow of fresh leads, your business cannot really function. It’s his lifeblood. Without a steady wave of new leads coming in, it’s only a matter of time when you’ll be forced to close up shop and move on to your next best idea.
You don’t want that, do you?
So, How Do I Make My Content Marketing Work For Me And My Users?
In order to fully understand why content marketing is important for business and how to do it correctly, you must first figure out how a buying cycle really works.
Every smart business out there has a marketing funnel made out of the following stages:
1. Exposure – the first time a person comes into contact with your brand.
2. Discovery – the first moment when a user truly acknowledges your existence.
3. Visits – the moment when a prospect is actually interested in learning more about you.
4. Consideration – the part when your visitor considers doing business with you.
5. Product pages – when he (or she) is interested enough in your work to view your offers
6. Conversion – the overall impression or quality of doing business with you or your brand.
7. Customer service – when a user first comes into contact with someone from your company.
8. Retention – reasons that will stimulate your visitor to revisit your website.
Every single one of these stages represents a part in your customer’s journey. It is your job to optimize it as good as you possibly can, so that you can be sure that all your current and potential buyers needs will be always meet correctly. This is where content marketing comes to shine.
Unlike ads and surveys, content marketing has the power to affect every single part of this funnel in a more efficient and natural way. It raises awareness of your brand and educates your current and potential customers about things they never knew (or wanted to know) about your brand.
Nothing Builds Up A Brand Like Sharing Knowledge And Powerful Stories
Apart from showcasing your expertise and adding additional trust in your products and services, content marketing also helps build up brand authority and create real lovemarks out companies which, let’s face it, could not really get ahead if they solely depended on their products and services.
I think that this is what makes content marketing an unavoidable part of every sound marketing equation. A lot of brands still fail to see that. Giving your customer a peek behind the curtain, a glimpse of your core values and principles or even a chance to ride along with you on your journey to success could really do wonders for your brand.
It all revolves around your ability to craft powerful stories that solve problems, provoke emotions and inspire people. Storytelling was, is and forever will the foundation of every great marketing strategy.
A great display of the power that content marketing has to transform small time players into industry favorites can be seen in the case of GrooveHQ.
Although great, frankly speaking, GrooveHQ is just another help desk software. There’s nothing sexy or thrilling about that. However, these guys have a different way of doing things, so they decided to make that pretty clear to anyone and everyone who comes into contact with their website or product. The best thing of all, this strategy appears to be working quite well for them. GrooveHQ is constantly winning over new customers, regardless of the size and power of their direct competitors. They invested a great deal of effort into developing content that makes it pretty clear to any type of buyer, no matter in which stage of the marketing funnel he or she might be, that GrooveHQ is all about providing solutions to problems.
Apart from that, the thing that really sets this company apart from other digital businesses is its blog. GrooveHQ decided to share their success with anyone who’s interested in seeing it through. Thanks to that, they’ve created an amazing lead generator for their business. Groove’s Journey to $500k a Month is one of the most actively followed blogs out there.
As we can clearly see from the example above, good content marketing plan communicates with the users on a much larger scale than classic advertisements do. Apart from giving them all the info they need in order to acknowledge the value of certain products and services, if done right, it could also help people acknowledge what really makes you special, and why your brand is not just a brand, but an idea that wants to take those who follow it to a better and more prosperous future.
Just like GrooveHQ, the man behind Under Armour understood where he needed to take his brand in order to rise above his competitors. Although this brand basically sells sportswear, which you know is a pretty competitive market, thanks to the story behind the logo, Under Armour has managed to grow into a serious player in this cut-throat scene.
Started in his grandmother’s basement, Kevin A. Plank, CEO of Under Armour and a former special teams captain of the University of Maryland football team, got tired of having to change out of the sweat-soaked T-shirts worn under his jersey. Doing laundry one day, he noticed that his compression shorts worn during practice stayed dry. This inspired him to make a T-shirt using moisture-wicking synthetic fabric. He believed that he was on the verge of creating something great, so he worked hard in order to make people see that his product really is the solution to an annoying problem. In 1996, Mr. Plank was traveling up and down the East Coast with just a couple of prototypes in the trunk of his car, and now, he owns the fastest growing sports brand in the world.
Amazing, right? This is how you develop a brand. You need to create a story around your business and products that provokes genuine emotion from all those who are exposed to it. You need to lead, inspire and convince people that your goal here is to do more than just make money from selling shirts and shorts.
Content marketing can get you there, so, before you go on and post a random blog post or send a basic newsletter from your company’s account, sit down and think about what kind of value you’re sharing with your leads with these particular messages.
Never Focus On Selling – Customers Will Come On Their Own Once They’re Good And Ready
Unlike any other marketing and advertising technique out there, content first focuses on solving problems, alleviating pain points, providing great customer experiences and creating new relationships. Generating new sales and conversions is what comes as a natural follow-up or reward to your good work and practice.
Before you decide to invest in this type of marketing, you have to see it for what it truly is. Content marketing represents the bridge between the brand’s and user’s desires and needs. Although the goal of every sane content strategy out there is to drive in more traffic and increase sales, in most cases, it still aims at that blind spot that brings the two sides together.
That’s why it’s still an inbound strategy. Content marketing is a long game. To see some significant fruits of your labor, you need to develop a certain continuity when it comes to the quality of your work, and be willing to wait a significant amount of time for that cash register to go: “Ka-ching!”.
But it’s worth it. Especially if you plan to stick around.
As I already wrote on this blog before, as a person who favors content marketing far above any other marketing technique, I play a whole different game here. I know that most of my shoppers are quite experienced and well-educated, and that there’s no way in Hell that they would go out and purchase a web hosting package before fully understanding who stands behind.
Numerous of examples have shown that my current and potential customers care about brand reputation, the general story of what a certain company tells through its channels, and all those other things that paint a clearer picture of the person with whom they’re doing business with. All their decisions are data driven, so the only thing that I could do to influence them is to create enough reasons to see my brand as the real deal. That’s why I never chase my clients. My strategy is to provide good enough reasons for them to chase me instead.
My knowledge and expertise is my visit card. Instead of bombarding them with ads and all sorts of different proposals, my goal here is to give my current and potential users a constant flow of useful and valuable content that actually helps them overcome their daily and weekly troubles. If I manage to do that, I’m pretty sure that they’ll have enough sense to go on and buy stuff from me, or maybe even recommend my company to some of their friends who are looking for a good and reliable web hosting solution.
I hope this post helped you see what content marketing is all about and what you need to think about when coming up with a blueprint for your own strategy. If you have anything to add to this post or ask a question, feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section below.
This is it for now.
See you soon again,
Goran @ AltusHost B.V.