The other day, I was creating a lesson for my blogging course on content marketing. And I had no idea where to start.
Despite having worked in content marketing for five years, I couldn’t explain what it was.
So I asked a few people. And I came to a terrible discovery: they didn’t know what it was either!
Answers ranged from ‘I don’t know,’ to rambling answers that just described marketing, to ‘it’s used to promote a product.’
The people I spoke to worked in all sorts of businesses and came from all sorts of backgrounds.
It just goes to show – even though content marketing gets THREE TIMES more leads than paid advertising, those of us that work in marketing take for granted people knowing what it is.
So, what is content marketing? Does it work? Who’s it for? Could it really work for your business?
What is content marketing?
Put simply, it’s marketing using content. The most common form is blog posts, but it can also include videos, podcasts, infographics, and sometimes even emails and social media.
The main difference between content marketing and traditional marketing is that content marketing puts the audience at the centre. It isn’t about the product or the brand. It’s about helping the audience in any way possible. In some cases, that might even mean referring them to a competitor!
You’re far better off deterring people who don’t suit your product or service. Doing so avoids headaches in the long run. Content helps you to do this by letting people know what you’re like before they invest any money in you and your product/service.
Unlike traditional marketing, content marketing is designed to serve. It provides value to the audience without any pushy sales tactics.
It’s a subtle, low-touch way to sell.
And, best of all, once your content is optimised, it will sell for you while you sleep. Now that’s the dream.
Why use content marketing over traditional marketing?
We’re bombarded with marketing messages every day. People get tired of them.
Content marketing allows you to reach your target audience without contributing to that noise. Instead, you solve their problems. This enhances the know, like, and trust factor that’s vital to building a relationship with your prospects. The more they know, like, and trust you, the more likely they are to spend money with you and not a competitor.
It also builds you up as an authority in your industry. This can lead to book deals, speaking gigs, and of course, sales. The more of an authority you’re seen as in your industry, the more likely people are to see you as the person to solve their problems.
Who can use content marketing?
The key to using it successfully is creating blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts, and social media posts that answer your prospects’ questions.
If your content doesn’t answer a question or serve a purpose, it will get drowned out in the 4.4 million posts and 24,000 days’ worth of videos published every day.
The deeper you can tap into your audience’s needs, the more you’ll stand out.
What content marketing isn’t
One Jupiter-sized mistake that many businesses make is thinking that because they have a blog, they’re doing content marketing. If you’re posting all about you, you’re not content marketing. You’re bragging.
Ditto if you’re writing in the first person all the time.
Content marketing is all about your prospect. If the content isn’t from their point of view, it’s just plain ol’ marketing.
Does content marketing work?
- You answer a prospects’ needs
- You have a clear strategy
- You’re not talking about yourself
An effective content marketing strategy can lead to an increase in website traffic of over 800%, generate more leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Stages of awareness
In content marketing, there are three stages of awareness that you need to know:
Awareness content is the honey that attracts people to you. It answers common questions, it generates discussions, and it never, ever talks about you.
You should have an abundance of awareness content to drive people through your sales funnel. If you don’t, you won’t attract as many leads which means you’ll get fewer conversions.
As soon as it mentions you, it moves into the consideration stage.
The consideration stage is where most people sit. It’s people who already know who you are but haven’t bought anything from you yet. They probably like and trust you at this stage.
Here, your aim is to answer all their questions so that they can decide if you’re the right person to help them. Talk about your product in a general way. For instance, if you create a diary, you could demonstrate how to use it or get the most out of it. If you organise events, you could talk about who the event is for and what they’ll get out of it.
Purchase is the final stage, where you make it very clear that you want people to buy. But you want the right people to buy. The wrong people buying can lead to all sorts of headaches that you want to avoid. This is why knowing your audience/niche is so important.
Even though this stage is all about purchasing, the focus should still be on your prospect. What can they get out of it? How will their life change if they purchase from you? Think about the quick wins as well as the long-term achievements they’ll get from buying your product or service.
People love quick wins because it creates endorphins. So, if you can give them that, you’re already one step closer to that conversion.
Content marketing done right
In a world that’s currently in crisis, having content that shows you care for your readers can increase your conversions. People want to connect with real, honest people now more than ever.
An effective content marketing strategy can increase website traffic, encourage engagement on social media, fill the pipeline, and lead to more sales.
To get the most out of content marketing, though, your sales and marketing goals must align. Sales and marketing must work together for it to be successful. If they’re not working towards the same end goal, it will send conflicting messages to prospects. This confusion leads to a lack of trust and fewer sales.
Your content marketing should have a clear message and direction – down the sales funnel and to the point of sale. Imagine it’s Glinda the good witch to your prospects’ Dorothy, guiding them down the yellow brick road to Oz. Your prospect needs to go on that journey to realise that what she needed all along was right in front of her. In this case, your product or service.
Sometimes content can take years to sell. I’ve been on people’s mailing lists for five years before purchasing from them. I stayed there because their content was amazing. I just wasn’t ready for their paid services yet. Their free content kept them at the forefront of my mind when I was ready to purchase. When it came to that need, it never occurred to me to buy from anyone else because I already knew, liked, and trusted that person. I knew that they were the only person to help me solve my problems.
Content marketing is nothing new. The best sales content always helps prospects without forcing them or being overly pushy.
What’s new is how businesses are using content to reach their target audience. The most effective ways are the ones that are the most creative and the most helpful. These are the ones that will differentiate you from your competitors and build a know, like, and trust relationship with your audience.
What’s your experience with content marketing? Has it helped you? Or have you just realised that you’ve been doing it all wrong…?