Content Marketing – Demystified

The internet may have made publishing content easy and affordable, but your prospects’ expectations have made it a necessity! Despite warnings about impending “Content Shock,” people’s appetite for truly useful content has not diminished. If you are not giving them what they want, they will find someone who is. Then they’ll buy from them.

Last night, our little Wilmington Social Media Club was honored to have Melissa Pressley, Content Marketing Manager at the Wilmington Business Journal and Wilma magazine visit us and present, “You are a Publisher – So Start Acting Like One!”

If you’ve never been to a Social Media Club Meetup, put it on your calendar. As a co-organizer, I can tell you we’re not out to sell anything or promote any business. We’re here to help you because this stuff really gets us fired up! This meetup was packed – standing-room only. So, what brought these business owners out on a Thursday night? The promise of an explanation of content marketing!

Of course, the practice of publishing content has been around for thousands of years, but what is new are the means for distribution. Websites, blogs, forums and social really allow all of us to create word of mouth content marketing as long as we remember to share what we know, not try to sell.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing (or “pull” marketing that draws people in) is when your favorite brand gives you information so helpful or entertaining that you don’t mind a little, “brought to you by” message thrown in to remind you who gave it to you. In fact, it’s so useful that you would pay for it if you had to! Conversely, an example of interruption (push) marketing is the advertisement in the middle of your favorite tv show for some product you don’t care about at all. Fast forward!!

OK, So What Should I Write?

The panic brought on by wondering, “What do I write about?” is enough to stop some people in their tracks. But, it isn’t hard to figure out. What are potential customers asking about when they call in, come to your store, send email, etc.? If you have sales people, make sure you ask them what questions they are hearing over and over again. Pay attention to the words they use when asking (ie., did they ask, “how do I get red wine stains out of my carpet?” or “what’s the best stain remover for carpets?”) and use those words in your blog posts, ebooks and social media updates.

If you have a contact or other sign up sheet, add a field and ask, “what’s your biggest ___________ challenge?” People love to be asked, and it shows you are truly interested in them. Learn more about finding out what your prospects need.

Melissa revealed that for her clients, case studies are wildly popular right now. People want to see what your services are doing for businesses like their own, and your case study doesn’t need to be long and formal. If your personalized gift company helped one dentist improve return appointment rates by 50%, write about it! If your stand up paddle boarding lessons helped Jake get on the path to losing 40 pounds and overcoming his diabetes, tell us about it. If your skin care cream helped Amy feel more confident about her appearance, show some before and after photos! As Bruce Brown (one of our most loyal and engaged members) said, “Fact tell, stories sell!”

Other types of content in high demand are trending stories, industry news (just make sure to make is useful, not “all about me”), interviews, info-graphics, and video. If you’re interested in getting started with video, you might check out Wistia’s learning center or my DIY studio video.

Effective Content Marketers

Melissa brought up one of the best underdog success stories of recent years. Marcus Sheridan, the Sales Lion, started out as the owner pool company struggling due to the recession. He was able to create an enormous library of helpful pool owner information, and in the process save his business (and then some). Learn from his example – give people what they want and you will get what you need.

Some local examples include Mark Johnson Custom Homes and Flow Sciences, Inc, whose leads tripled in the first year they started publishing content designed to help their prospects.

If you feel like your industry or locality is already overrun with effective content marketers and you are too late to the party, don’t despair. Perhaps they are blogging well, but don’t use videos. Maybe their Facebook page is unbeatable, but they haven’t taken advantage of Pinterest. Emulate, don’t imitate!

Helping People Find Your Content

Just creating content is no guarantee of success. You must help people discover you. Some ways include social media, email marketing (but don’t buy those lists!) and traditional marketing. With the help of Melissa’s team, Flow Sciences, Inc. was able to contact a company with a huge email list of people in the market for their services, offer to write about anything they liked, and gain free exposure in the process. Could you do something similar? If you have a business contact with a popular blog, would something in your area of expertise be interesting to their readers?

What about Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing? That can be a highly effective way to reach your target audience, especially if you are just starting out. However, as attendee Bob Zimmerman discovered, it can get expensive and sometimes you don’t get the clicks you want. Since in AdWords your quality score has a large bearing on what you will pay for every click, this is an aspect of online marketing we all agreed is worth outsourcing.

Make Content a Priority

It’s true, marketing often gets pushed to the bottom of the “to-do” list, and the “content” part of marketing goes under that! So, make an editorial calendar and make people accountable for deadlines. Some of the tools suggested by the audience members are Trello (my pick), Evernote and Google Docs. Keep a running list of ideas for blog posts and do not miss your deadlines!

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