There’s no question that content marketing is the hot trend these days, with marketers and news companies talking about how we have to start focusing more on story telling to get our message out there in the new technologies.
Content marketing has sprung up as departments, service offerings in agencies, and task forces in larger companies. Corporate America is turning to the mantras of academics, yelling “Publish or Perish” and sending word count requirements across the teams.
But the buzz wears off, and the content doesn’t get created, and the rationalizations set in. You prioritize business as usual, scrambling to build your business in ways that you’ve done before. And you decide that your traditional business doesn’t need fancy trends to reach your customers.
1. You don’t know where to start.
You find lists, ideas and tips from marketing articles, competitors and more and you become overwhelmed. Do you develop a newsletter, a social media presence, write white papers or articles? A blog? Where do start, and what should you focus on first?
I will always say start with a plan. WHY do you want to communicate. HOW do you want to speak with your customers and WHAT do you want to say to them. At least start with an voice. Look to who your company is, what it stands for and what you project to your clients. (Your existing tag lines, brochures and other advertising pieces, along with your business plan probably already spell that out.) Fine tune that voice as needed, and use that as the guiding voice for your public communications.
In all honesty, it doesn’t matter where you start, but it is easiest to start with what is most familiar to you. How do you currently speak to your customers? How do they respond? Add some content, ask them a question, get them to respond.
And if you don’t know where to start, start at the busiest place. If most of your customers go through your website first, start there. Add more content, a library of fact sheets or tips. Update your company information and background. Tell your company story, and answer customer questions. Begin where your customers are because that will have the fastest impact.
2. You don’t have the time or resources.
So much of any company involves work surrounding the actual focus. It is in those supporting areas of the business, and even in the business plan itself, where you will find some of your content. Do you have a promotional video or slide shows? They can easily be converted to videos and easily consumed by customers.
Your customers have stories, have them tell you. Your sales teams have stories, processes and steps. Begin by offering those to your clients. What are the usual questions? Write them up, or you probably already have. The point is, you likely have more content than you realize already.
3. You are dedicating your resources to PPC so you don’t need to worry about content.
This is one of my favorites. How’s that working for you? If you have an agency handling your PPC, and you have a typical agreement to drive traffic to your site, chances are you are not doing as well as you should. Your agency is motivated and driven to deliver results — clicks and traffic. They are not driven to deliver qualified leads or conversions. So they will research keywords, sometimes even audience behavior to target geographically and using day parting, and they might even work with ad re-targeting to follow users until they click the ad.
But what happens after they click? Your agency bills you. Where does the click go? Does it match the ad? Does it match what they searched on? Without the right content to answer the need your potential customer is looking for, you’ll only get the bill, and not the lead.
4. Our customers see us as experts, so we want them to come to us to ask us, not give away our expertise.
You’re already giving away your expertise. First, you’re giving it to your customers, and all they had to do was show up. Nothing is stopping them from using your expertise and going somewhere else to make a purchase. Of course they’re already there, so they might as well buy from you, but the next time they won’t have to.
You’re also giving away your expertise by keeping it. Your customers and potential customers may not know you have specific expertise and so they don’t think of you for it and just go somewhere else. You are also spending a huge effort that may not be required to get a potential sale, when the entire process could be simplified.
Imagine if you had a store with no pricing listed. Every customer would have to ask a sales person for every price, and many simply wouldn’t because it was too much effort. By including the prices, customers can make decisions on their own, without having to tell another person that they can’t afford a product and cause embarassment or judgement.
Content is no different. Provide basic information easily, readily and freely. Your competitors always do. For more technical and detailed expertise, provide an overview, and offer additional content through registration, or through in person consultations. Your customers are then more qualified, the relationships are then stronger, and the loyalty is then deepened.
5. Our products are basic and there’s just so much you can say about them.
My high school English teacher told us what her husband did. He was a neuroscientist working on a portion of the brain that was approximately the size of the fingernail on your pinkie. He worked on that for over 40 years. He did not work on other parts of the brain. But he used them.
If your product is important enough to your customers for them to buy it, there are stories in the effects it has had on them. If it’s important enough to make, there are stories behind the making. The details are the stories, the processes, the nuances …
Yes, there are times when you may hit a wall. There are times when you may struggle to find a new way of saying something. In those moments ask yourself how much money, how many hours of your life you have spent watching action movies where the main character is misunderstood and changed by something in the past that has made the character stronger, and dedicated to doing the right thing. The actors may change, the cape colors may be different, and they may move about in an Ironman suit or a Batmobile, ‘as a Vietnam vet turned mercenary or a misunderstood tattooed girl with a strange interest in uncovering a psychopath. Each time they heal their own wounds by fighting evil.
There may not be new themes to tell, but the details can continue through 7 franchises of 50 characters spanning comic books to television to movies. And when for other audiences, you can take the RomCom approach.
Content marketing isn’t new. Telling your story is what you’ve been doing all along. Your story is what sells you to your customers, be it through word of mouth recommendations, customer service or sales speaking to your audience, or your advertising messages. The ancient art of storytelling is content marketing, and if you don’t do it for your company, your customers and competitors will.