Posted in Marketing | 9-min read
Content Marketing is Not the Future
Some will swear up and down that content marketing is the future. Let us be the first to dispel this myth. Hocus pocus. It's pure fiction.
What is the truth? Content marketing is the present. If anything, it's been an incredibly effective form of marketing for quite some time.
For the first time in human history, resources covering any product, service, or technology are available at every consumer's fingertips. More than ever, folks are making major buying decisions before ever speaking with a sales professional. How is this possible? With the help of content marketing.
Your Competition is Already Talking to Your Audience
You may have already invested in paid advertisements on search engines, billboards, and the like. You still may be wondering why your rinky-dink mom-and-pop competitor is still raking in the website traffic while your analytics are sustaining moth damage. It's all built on a straightforward idea of consumer trust. And guess what? Consumer trust is not bought or won — it's earned.
If you're losing the online traffic game, it's not because your competition is winning it; it's because they are earning it. If you don't believe us, check out their online content and social media feeds. You'll likely find that they are answering the consumer questions that you aren't. They're probably supplying website visitors with mountains of helpful information for free. Even more bizarre, they're probably not talking about themselves nearly as much as you are. How on earth does this make any sense?
Brand Building vs. Talking About Yourself
"How could my competition be beating me in marketing while simultaneously not dropping their name as much as I do?"
It's easy to confuse brand building with name-dropping. In reality, building a brand is more about trust than name recognition. What is the difference? A logo has never helped anyone out of a jam. A brand has to do so.
Your Competition's Secret Weapon
As we've mentioned earlier, despite possibly having a smaller marketing budget, your competition is currently out-earning your business. How is this possible? What secret weapon do they have at their disposal? The answer isn't that exciting. They have precisely what you have — first-hand experience of the subject matter. The only difference is that they're putting their industry knowledge to work in the form of genuinely helpful content marketing strategies. In other words, they're busy answering your target audience's questions while you're busy talking about yourself.
Consumer Trust > Gold
Many companies' marketing messages revolve around trust.
"You can trust us."
"The name you can trust."
The variations on "trust" go on and on. What if you could allow your target audience to trust you before they spend a dime? This is the power of genuinely helpful content. When you become a source of useful information in your industry, you start to build the trust of your target audience even before they've trusted you with their business.
They Have Questions. You Have Answers.
Answering industry questions isn't complicated. If you've ever worked in sales or customer service, you likely already do this every day. The difference here is that instead of providing one-at-a-time service, you're putting these questions to work for the sake of your marketing. Let's start with a simple exercise.
The Email Exercise
In this exercise, we're going to build your first piece of marketing content with nothing more than your email inbox.
- Scroll through your sent folder, looking for an occasion where you answered or helped answer a customer's question. The queries are ones you've answered more than once.
- Once you find this thread, copy and paste the meat of the conversation into an external word document.
- Strip out key identifiers that may overly expose the customer in question, such as their full name.
- Go through and edit your reply. Make sure to correct any grammatical errors or inaccuracies. Feel free to expound or elaborate on your answer. Hyperlink appropriate areas to relevant pages, but be as helpful about it as possible.
- Now you have a choice to make. You can either (a) post this thread as-is the way the customer wrote it, or (b) you can tell the story of this customer's dilemma to build up further context into their issue.
- Use a somewhat polished version of the customer's question to title the instance.
Example: What is Two-Step Authentication?
- Post this on your company's blog as an article.
- Share this blog article to your organization's social media platforms and consider sharing it in a company newsletter.
Boom, there's your first piece of helpful content. That was pretty easy, right?
Unpolished Content > No Content
If you're reluctant to get started creating such pieces, that's pretty normal. However, there are ways to quell your doubts about starting a content marketing initiative.
1. It's better to have rough content than no content.
At this point, you may be saying, "I have no business writing this kind of stuff because I'm not a writer." While you're not a writer, you have something a professional writer doesn't have — perspective. You've likely helped dozens of people with this same issue. A professional writer probably has never done so. And guess what — those people answering these questions weren't critiquing your helpful email, phone call, or appointment. They were just happy to have your help.
2. I don't have time to write these pieces.
As we mentioned above, the best questions to answer are the ones you've likely received dozens of times over. That means that people will continue to have these questions, and you can be there to provide them with a professional answer quickly. While you're more than welcome to attempt to reply to each one of these people individually (and to a certain extent, you should always aim to provide personalized service), these pieces of content actually save you time in the future. Here is an example of what your future correspondence could look like after having already answered this person's question with a helpful resource.
"Dear (Customer Name),
Thanks for your question! You're certainly not alone in wondering about this. In fact, I recently created this resource (article, video, etc.) that I feel will answer your question. (Enter link to piece of content here)
Let me know if this is helpful or if you have any follow-up questions. I'm all ears!
(Your Name + company Here)"
This customer will be thrilled to receive a helpful resource from your organization. You'll be thrilled not to have to reinvent the wheel. And if they send follow-up questions in need of clarification, treat these as opportunities to increase the quality of your resource.
If you still don't feel that you have time to write these pieces of content or that you're not a skilled writer, there are other ways to generate content besides just writing. Flip on your computer's webcam or even your phone's video camera to record your answer to a common question in your industry. If your answer is in reference to a software or system issue, many free screen-recording systems make it easy to record a view of your screen while you explain how to remedy such a problem. You can quickly upload these tutorials to YouTube or another video-sharing site with a link back to your company's website for more information.
Look at you, you problem solver.
Getting Your Whole Team Involved
While a little bit of content is better than no content at all, the more genuinely relevant content your organization can produce, the further you can extend your helpful reach to potential customers. To help you in your efforts, share the idea of creating useful pieces of content with co-workers within and outside of your department.
One of the advantages of having many different company representatives creating helpful content is that you'll be able to provide a diverse array of perspectives, viewpoints, remedies, and content styles. Maybe Brian in sales is great in front of a camera while Chuck in repairs is quite the wordsmith. Maybe Sue's 20+ years in the industry gives her an expert's perspective while David's short time on the job allows him to be more sensitive to those new with a product or system. Leverage your team's skills, experiences, and voices to create helpful content that will increase trust among your target audience.
Taking Your Content to the Next Level
Many companies are stuck with the old-school marketing mindset — the outdated notion that if they talk about themselves enough, surely they'll attract business. Soon enough, though, they will also realize that answer-based content marketing efforts translate into a serious return on their investment by building consumer trust. This shift in thinking will make them a significant source of competition for you.
On a more urgent side of the coin, several companies in your industry are already hip to the advantages of practical content marketing efforts. As more companies wise up to the changing trends in marketing, the competition for the most useful, highest quality content will rage. To get their bats in front of this curveball, many have sought the help of content marketing professionals. This move has taken the effectiveness of their content marketing to the next level.
Professional content marketing companies are skilled optimizers of the resources already present in your company. Truly talented content marketing specialists maximize the wealth of information that exists under your company's roof to generate the highest quality resources. Just as you understand the woes of your target audience, these content experts understand the best practices associated with getting your audience to engage with your content marketing efforts. In addition to their marketing expertise, content marketing companies can also be an immensely helpful resource for managing your content strategy, creation, and delivery.
The most significant barrier between your company and content marketing excellence is simply the work it takes to answer your target audience's burning questions. Once you've crafted and distributed resources to help your consumers with their related issues, your company will be much better situated to earn their trust and ultimately, their business.