Want to make content marketing work for you? It’s not as complicated as you think. Understand these three ridiculously simple secrets and everything should start to click into place.
SECRET NUMBER 1
To make content marketing work you have to know your content sweet spot
Sounds obvious, but I reckon it’s the number one place where people go wrong with content marketing. They spend time and money creating the wrong content, and because it’s the wrong content, it doesn’t do the job.
And content does have a job to do. Content marketing isn’t just about creating fantastic content and sharing it on the web, it’s about creating fantastic content that has serious work to do. That work is attracting the right customers, and helping you to develop valuable relationships.
So what is your content sweet spot and how do you find it?
Your content sweet spot lies in the intersection between content which helps your customers, and the content which will help you grow your business.
There will be an infinite number of things your customers are looking for online. On the one hand you could share videos of cats doing funny stuff and gain hundreds of social media followers, but it won’t win you any business. On the other hand you could talk exclusively about your business and its sales messages and probably nobody will listen. The content sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. Not cats, not self-interested sales promotion.
Now you probably could have worked that out. And a lot of people do, so they get someway towards knowing their sweet spot, but they don’t focus sharply enough. So you see law firms who think, we’re a law firm, we must have content about law. We sell law services, our clients want law services, we will publish law content. They subscribe to law news feeds and populate their blogs with very well written law content that does very little to draw leads to their website. And that’s because what people want from lawyers is not general information about law, and changes in the law, they want specific information to help them deal with a challenge they’re facing. They want someone to help them with something that is probably a very stressful problem.
An example of a very good piece of content from a law firm is a video – how to save money on your divorce – from a high street family law firm. How to save money on your divorce. That’s what people want to know. How can you help me specifically? Even more specifically, how can you help me, and not charge me too much into the bargain?
SECRET NUMBER 2
Help don’t sell, show don’t tell, talk don’t yell
Secret number 2 is the essence to all effective marketing today. If you want your content to work I have a secret mantra for you – Help, don’t sell. Show, don’t tell. Talk don’t yell.
It’s a harsh truth but nobody is interested in you and your business, they are interested in themselves and their own problems. So the starting point for your content needs to be ‘how can we help our customers’ not ‘how can we sell to our customers.’
A good starting point for creating helpful content is to begin with the questions your customers ask you. Answer those questions with your content. Share your expertise freely and be generous with what you know. Blog about it, make videos about it. The format isn’t the most important thing, it’s the intention that matters more. Use what you know to create exactly the kind of content you know your customers crave.
The ‘help, don’t sell’ mantra
Help don’t sell, talk don’t yell, show don’t tell is our mantra at Valuable Content. It’s not just about the content you create, but the way you behave in person and on social media too.
You can’t separate content marketing from social media, they’re inextricably linked. Social media is one way you share your content – your blogs, your guides, your videos, but your social media updates are content in their own right too. Make them helpful, human and non selly. Share other people’s content, if you know it will help your customers. Share it even if you think it’s too good, and you wish you’d created it yourself. Share it even if it’s so fantastic it hurts.
The biggest thing content marketing can do for you is to build trust in you and your business. Having your customers’ best interests at heart at every stage of the content process – from the subject you choose to write about, to the way you behave online – is the way to build trust, so keep this secret mantra in mind.
SECRET NUMBER 3
Content marketing only works for the good guys
There really is nowhere to hide on the web. You can’t create fantastic content on the one hand, and treat your customers shabbily on the other. If you don’t care about the people you’re serving you’ll get found out pretty quickly.
People rarely write letters of complaint these days, they leap onto Twitter and expect you to sort it out. So content marketing isn’t something you can leave to the marketing department, the whole team has to be in on the act. These days, it’s as much a part of customer service as it is a front end marketing issue. You need to be a good business – one that acts in the best interests of its customers – through and through.
If you’re doing content marketing well, you’ll be creating content and sharing it on social media platforms. Being a successful content marketer doesn’t mean creating the shiniest glossiest most amazing content and pouring it into the world and waiting for the results. It means using that content to help customers, and start the conversations that develop into long-term relationships. A big part of content marketing success is down to what you do with the content once you’ve created it – how you build content creation, distribution and relationship building into your business model.
The 3 secrets in action at BeerBods
For an example of how this works in practice, hop on over to the BeerBods. We’ve written about the online beer subscription club BeerBods before, and they’re also one of the case studies in our free new online course for the Digital Business Academy.
Content marketing works for BeerBods because theirs is a great business that’s structured to delight its customers. They’ve got a simple mission that anyone can understand – they want to teach the world to drink better beer.
Social media and content is part of the product and business model. Matt writes and shares the stories behind the beers with his subscribers. They post a review of each beer on the BeerBods website with live video tasting via YouTube. Subscribers rate the beers and post their reviews via social media, text or email.
They sell a good product, care about their customers and care about their suppliers. And it’s their content and the way they behave on social media that tells us that. Matt describes their open approach as ‘a window into your business’ – a fantastic explanation of how and why this approach works for good guys like them.
BeerBods demonstrates all 3 content marketing secrets in action, and it’s an approach that’s fuelling their success. They’ve grown to over 2500 subscribers in a few short years, and they’re enjoying their business. This is marketing people love.
So that’s the secret
- Know your sweet spot
- Help, don’t sell, show don’t tell, talk don’t yell
- Content marketing only works for the good guys
And even though it’s simple, it still might sound easier said than done. If you want to get started today, begin with uncovering your content sweet spot. You’ll find more help with that in our free online social media course.
NB. This is an edited version of a talk I delivered at the Digital Buffet, Colston Hall, Bristol, October 2015.