A few weeks back, I was hanging out with a few buddies and reminiscing about our Glory Days in college – swapping stories about a few of the girls we’d dated and about the ones that got away. The ale was flowing and with it came the funny stories. We had ourselves a good laugh about the extremes we’d sometimes go to find out more about ‘her’ so we might have a snowball’s chance in hell of striking up a conversation and maybe even get a phone number out of it! We wanted to know what bands ‘she’ was into, whether she was a tennis player or a golfer, what books ‘she’d’ been reading. The idea was to attract by showing we had a lot in common and that we were fun, interesting. Anything and everything we could learn about ‘her’ was open and fair game for striking up that critical first conversation.
Days later, it occurred to me that those experiences are repeated often and everywhere that good marketing is going on. One huge opportunity to strike up those conversations is Content Marketing. It’s a critical part of many sales funnels and should be part of your small business marketing efforts. When you engage in Content Marketing, you’re appealing to your customer’s natural interests so that they’ll pay attention to you. Sound familiar? (See paragraph one or raise your hand if you’ve never had a relationship with another person. The nice doctors in white coats will gladly explain.)
Old school advertising was kind of like a really bad date. The person you were with spent the entire evening talking all about themselves, never once asking a question about you. By the end of the night, you might even have slowed down slightly as you drove by your date’s house, opened the door and shoved him/her out. Forget about calling for a second date! But content marketing is based on the premise that what is interesting to your customers is also interesting to you, and you are sharing something with them that will build your authority on those subjects. Voila – they Like You! Liking you is at least on the path to loving you, right? So, while you might not have learned everything you needed to know in Kindergarten, by the time College ended you should have had most of it.
Content marketing is about informing, engaging and amusing your target customers. So we’re talking about quality content which does not – at least from your potential customer’s perspective – include conventional ad content which is ‘you’ centered. Content Marketing is ‘customer’ centered. You don’t want your e-newsletters to get deleted without a read – essentially the same thing as being shoved out of the car at the end of the evening. You want them to read your next post or blog or newsletter…. You want that second date!
In Content Marketing, you win when you become the provider of valuable information that people you are interested in turn to as their ‘go-to source’ for _______________ (name your topic), just like you wanted your date to see you as ‘his’ or ‘her’ Mr. or Ms. Right. There are basically five reasons you want to start and maintain a Content Marketing campaign.
- Thought Leadership. You want to be perceived as the authority on your subject. This topic is associated with your small business but you are not writing about your products or services directly. Get out of your own way and talk about problems your customers have and solutions that will help them. Show them how to solve their problems. Be a friend first. (Remember that from dating?) This builds trust. Demonstrate your Thought Leadership!
- Subtle Marketing. Becoming a Thought Leader in the eyes of your potential customers is a very subtle marketing tactic. It’s very effective. You’ve identified a group of people that have a need that you can help solve. You’ve positioned yourself as an expert in solving problems like theirs. You publish on a regular basis, so you’ve got frequency. People subscribe to your blogs, like your Facebook page and demonstrate other ‘fan’ behavior. Some of these people even hire you to help them solve specific problems they’re having. Gee – it sounds like marketing to me!
- Influence Marketing. Publishing with frequency and on a regular schedule builds expectation for your next offering. You develop a small (over time a large) following of people who look forward to your stuff. Your perspectives, thoughts and solutions become influential.
- Improved Brand Loyalty – Likes, follows, subscribers. This is brand loyalty! You and your followers are becoming a ‘regular thing’ – nice!
- Support Selling – None of this matters if you don’t link your social media pages and blog to your website. You should have a ‘subscribe to our newsletter’ button on your homepage. You should offer a white paper on your homepage. Plan public speaking events where you share your knowledge for free or a ridiculous value to people you believe mirror your customer base. Then look for ways to integrate all of these elements together for one purpose – to generate leads that you can contact and develop to convert some of these into paying customers!
Here’s an example of something you could try doing using a very simple content generating model – content curation. Edinger Medical Group is a medical practice in Central Orange County, California. Recently I’ve begun a content curation campaign on their Facebook and Twitter pages which focuses on the needs and interests of their two market segments, parents (Pediatrics) and adults (Internal Medicine and Family Medicine). (Customer Focused). I post content I research on various medical blogs, medical journals and elsewhere on their behalf (Thought Leadership) on a twice daily basis. (Influence). In the morning, I post a short note related to children’s health with a corresponding link to an article or blog that deals with the topic in more detail. I do the same for the Internal Medicine side of their practice every afternoon. Accompanied by a link to the EMG website and including a call to action, each post provides an opportunity for potential patients to enter into my client’s sales funnel. (Supports Sales).
This simple campaign demonstrates several of the effective Content Marketing hallmarks identified above.
Content Marketing requires a long-term dedication to the process, a clear understanding of who your customers are and the problems they are trying to solve and an ability to engage, amuse and entertain with a purpose.