What exactly should content marketing mean to a small or mid-market business?
By content marketing, I don’t mean social media. Social media, like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, is important, but it is just a channel. It’s what you put into those channels that makes the difference.
So when you hear “content marketing” as a small or mid-market business, think of it this way: information (content) that you create, which is not about your products and services but ultimately helps you sell more stuff.
Many small and medium-sized businesses have major issues with this. Why? Because when they create content, it’s almost always about their own products and services. But for content marketing to work, we have to realise this important creed:
Your customers don’t care about you, your products or your services, they care about themselves.
To get and keep attention, content needs to be amazingly useful and incredibly interesting. That means you have to stop talking about yourself . . . especially in social media channels.
If you feel there is an opportunity for you to sell more, save costs or create happier customers with a content-driven approach, here are six principles to get you started.
1. Fill a need
Your content should address some unmet need or answer a question your customers have. It needs to be useful to them in some way – above and beyond what you offer in the way of products and/or services. In some cases it may fill an emotional need, like Coca-Cola’s content and Red Bull’s storytelling efforts aim to do.
2. Communicate consistently
The primary hallmark of a successful publisher is consistency, both in terms of quality and delivery. Epic content reliably delivers on the promises your brand makes. Whether you are asking your audience to subscribe to a monthly magazine or daily email newsletter, you must ensure that they receive what they signed up for and that it always arrives on time and as expected. This is where so many companies fall down.
3. Find your unique voice
The benefits of not being a journalistic entity is that you have nothing to hold you back from being, well, you. Find what your voice is and share it. If your company’s story is all about humour, share that. If it’s a bit sarcastic, that’s okay too.
4. Express a point of view
This is not encyclopedia content. You are not giving a history report. Don’t be afraid to take sides on matters that can position you and your company as an expert. Chipotle’s runaway viral hit The Scarecrow clearly has a point of view – that locally sourced and responsibly produced food is, well, superior to how most food is processed today. Don’t be afraid to take stances like this.
5. Avoid sales speak
At the Content Marketing Institute, when we create a piece of content that is about us versus an educational post, it only garners 25 per cent of the average page views and social shares that our content normally drives. The more you talk about yourself, the less people will share and spread your story. It’s that simple.
6. Aim to be the best
Though you might not be able to achieve this at the very beginning, the ultimate goal for your content is to be considered the best in its class. I know it may sound oversimplified, but if you expect your customers to spend time with your content, you must deliver amazing value to them, and nothing less.
So where should you go from here? First, identify who the reader is. You may have seven or eight different types of buyers, but for content marketing to work, you need to focus on who your target audience is.
Second, tell a different story. What makes the content you are creating and sharing more important than anything else your customers are engaging with?
Third, focus on creating an audience. At the end of the day, we want our content marketing to become an asset. That asset is best represented by attracting and keeping an audience, just like media companies do. So maybe, in the future, you won’t have to buy advertising, because the people you want to target are already part of your audience. This is the essence of owned media.
Joe Pulizzi is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute which is bringing Content Marketing World Sydney back to Australia, March 31 to April 2, 2014. Joe will host a session specifically designed for small businesses without big budgets who need answers to their most pressing content marketing issues.
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