Some years ago, I was working for a company that made video editing gear. We noticed pretty quickly that customers and prospects had some common questions: How to shoot great videos, how to add audio, how to tell a story. So we began to write articles and posted them on discussion groups and forums. The articles didn’t talk much about us or our products. In fact, one article, “How to choose a video editor,” listed all our competitors.
Not only were they wildly popular, they produced buyers — and fiercely loyal evangelists.
This was in 1995.
We later posted those articles on our nascent website and I was able to show traffic from search engines (before Google) and buyer conversions!
Now, it’s called “content marketing” and it remains one of the most important marketing strategies of all.
The idea is simple: Rather than write about your company and your solution, the best content addresses the needs of the user, independent of your products. Your goal is to be authentic, authoritative, and helpful. You earn trust and a reputation. You become a go-to resource for quality information — and that makes you a search engine magnet. The Content Council says that 61 percent of customers are more likely to buy from companies that produce useful content.
Here are some tips to get started.
The answer is: now! It takes time to build both content and reputation in the eyes of search engines (and consumers), so it’s wise to begin building content even before you have a detailed strategy.
In the early phases, you will have a lot of low-hanging fruit such as tutorial-level articles, overviews, and materials you have probably already written in one form or another. Post these on your website now. Don’t worry about perfection or completeness or even navigation. Just get materials up and let search run its course. Later, you’ll use analytics and customer feedback to see what’s working and beginning tuning content.
Do worry about quality and especially, worry about customer focus. Is your content about you and your products? Or is it a full-on focus on customers, prospects whether they do business with you or not? If people send you email saying, “hey, thanks,” then you’re on the right track. If other people link to your articles, then you’re gold.
I suggest you set monthly or quarterly goals for everyone to develop articles. If some of the team does not write well, I can help you locate reasonably inexpensive editing resources.
If you have done persona development, you know who your customers are and what their problems are. You therefore know exactly what to write!
If you don’t have personas developed, another good clue is to look at what your company has already written. Ask your customer-facing employees. Ask me about how to do a customer-facing employee survey.
While detailed, technical articles are great, don’t overlook the low-hanging fruit, the kinds of things your staff can write from their own knowledge. It can be produced quickly and is likely what prospects want to know. Look at competitors’ and partners’ sites and at trade sites for inspiration (no, don’t steal). Glossaries of terms, tutorials, and tips and tricks are a great way to get started. “Top ten…” articles are a consistent winner. For instance, “Top 5 features to look for in a tent.”
It’s fine to post an article every week or two for now, but very soon, you would be wise to build a strategy. Some key elements:
1. Think like a publisher: Every magazine schedules content and you need to do that, too. You will want a schedule with names, dates, and topics. You’ll want to synchronize with industry seasons, tradeshows, new product releases, etc. In particular, you want your staff to be a publishing machine — everyone knows they owe you an article per quarter, an article per month, etc. It needs to be a machine.
2. Reuse: Every idea should be reused for your blog, email campaigns, newsletter, technical articles, Facebook and LinkedIn postings, etc. One company I know has a practice which produces 19 uses for every article.
3. Promotion: Having an article on your website is interesting. Having links to it from others’ sites, from trade magazine sites, from trade association sites, blogs, social sites, and your users, and discussion groups — that’s gold. When a visitor sees your expertise touted by an authoritative source — that’s platinum. Social media is a great way to achieve this.
4. Search: Nothing feeds a search strategy better than a great content marketing strategy. You will want to develop a solid search strategy to stand alongside your brilliant content!
5. Show results: While many in the organization believe in the value of content, production resources are the most fragile of commitments. Content never seems urgent enough to permanently get the focus and commitment needed to sustain a publishing model. That means you need to constantly keep the company on board. Think about the metrics that prove the value and beat, beat, beat the drum. Measure before, during, and after. ROI is a stinky way to run a business but content marketing is one of the few strategies that can show return.
- Start with my content marketing index (a guide to all my primary content marketing articles).
- I haven’t read Rebecca Lieb’s newest book, Content – The Atomic Particle of Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Content Marketing Strategy, but I nonetheless recommend it, because know her and her work well.
- Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing: Comprehensive and free.
- Boosting Sales by Sharing Your Expertise: Simple article, Costco Connection, makes some important, high-level points.
- The Big Book of Content Marketing by Andreas Ramos is indeed a big book and very comprehensive. It is more tactical and especially good for finding the resources for guerilla-style content marketing.