Where does content development fall on your list of marketing priorities? How often do you blog or add content to your website? Do you have a strategy for figuring out what to write about or how to use content to reach more potential customers?
Content is King. And, as with any other king, the quality of your conduct (with your content) will ultimately determine the fate of your reign (your online business). In fact, no single activity you undertake with the goal of reaching and engaging your target audience can produce nearly as many results as the frequent development and publication of high-quality original content.
THE CASE FOR CONTENT: EDUCATION-BASED MARKETING
Many small business owners are stuck in the pre-information age mode of marketing: gearing all their marketing time and money towards “finding the next client, now!” While we might admire this strategy in its focus on the right priorities, this method actually needs to be retired, and fast! This “interruption-based” approach is the most expensive and least effective way to build a business.
“You no longer need to spend tons of money interrupting your potential customers. Instead you need to create remarkable content, optimize that content, publish the content, market the content, and measure what is working and what is not working. A savvy inbound marketer is half traditional marketer and half content creation factory.”
– Dharmesh Shaw and Brian Halligan, Authors of Inbound Marketing
As salient as this quote from Halligan and Shaw may be, education-based marketing is not, in fact, a new concept. For decades smart marketers have been using educational materials in the form of free consumer guides and pamphlets containing valuable educational materials.
However, content is the new currency of the online economy. You can change your Web design in five minutes with the click of a mouse, but two years of high-quality, audience-attracting blog articles can be irreplaceable.
WHY EDUCATION BASED MARKETING WORKS
Education-based marketing works for the same reason that buying someone you hope to get to know better a drink before you ask for a sleepover date does: before anyone trusts you, they have to like you. And before they like you, they have to know you.
This golden, three-step map for building relationships has proven effective more often than any other:
The core of education-based marketing is giving your prospects access to highly valuable and helpful information targeted at fulfilling their needs, while asking for nothing in return (or very little, in the case of an opt-in form for an e-book or download). This “low-pressure” approach starts the relationship with your prospects. They will now know and like you for providing them with great educational content. And, as they read your content, becoming engaged with you, seeing you as the expert in your field, they’ll grow to trust you.
BENEFITS OF CONTENT MARKETING
There are several powerful benefits of content marketing:
- You get there earlier. As you should recall from Chapter 5, the majority of online searches are informational. By targeting and producing content geared towards these “top of the funnel” searches, you’ll enjoy early-bird privileges through the opportunity to establish a relationship before your competitors reach the prospect.
- Content can make you the authority in your niche. If, over the next year or two, you prolifically add blog articles to your website, describing virtually every aspect of your business and industry, people will notice you as the expert in your field.
- Google loves content. I’ll say it again: Google loves and requires great content. This means detailed, original articles that people are sharing and linking to. Another huge benefit of content marketing is traffic. Every blog or video you post acts as a long-term traffic magnet, adding visitors to your website.
- You get to hang with the big publishers. When I was a kid, every family in America watched “The Waltons,” or, “Little House on the Prairie” every Sunday night. Did we do this because the shows were that great, or because there were only two TV stations? I’ll let you make the call, but the point is a significant one: In today’s highly fragmented digital environment, people no longer have to choose from two flavors of media. This “de-centralization” of media is making it increasingly easier for anyone with a blog and something interesting to say to reach an audience.
- Filters out deadbeat leads. When done properly, content marketing is a great method for increasing your conversion and closing rates, while eliminating time-wasting, unqualified leads. People who consume your content gain a better understanding of their options and have many of their questions answered before you hear from them. They also gather insight into how your company works and what you have to offer. When these folks do contact you, the chances of them converting into clients go through the roof!
FORMS OF CONTENT
There are several popular and effective types of content, any or all of which are worth exploring and utilizing, depending on the type of business you’re in and the needs of your audience. The following are the most popular and most useful for small businesses:
- Blogs: Derived from the 1990s term “weblogs,” which were used to describe “keeping a journal (or log) on the Web,” a blog is simply an organized platform for publishing content focused on a specific topic. Some blogs are formal and corporate, while others are used as casual platforms for personal commentary. Your blog should be the primary publishing medium and center of your STAND OUT content strategy.
- E-books and Whitepapers: Each of these is a longer-form piece focused on a simple topic. E-books are the preferred of the two formats, as they make great “lead magnets” by representing education-based marketing at its best: Give your audience highly valuable content in exchange for permission to follow up with them (via capturing their basic information on a Web form). E-books are highly “shareable” as well and are one of the most underused media by small business owners. This is largely because creating e-books seems complicated or intimidating, but these are both myths that we’ll dispel in Chapter 9. An e-book can also make a great direct mail or POS (point of sale) piece. Whitepapers are technical reports that, despite their popularity, I don’t recommend using due to their low level of effectiveness.
- Video: Video provides the ultimate medium for all three phases of the online marketing funnel. One phrase I use often is, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand customers.” The creation of online video is now accessible to every small business owner, as it’s become extremely simple and inexpensive—what ten years ago would have cost $5,000 and a film crew can now be done in twenty minutes with a $200 camera. Chapter 10 will reveal how to start adding video to your content marketing strategy.
- Podcasts and audio recordings: Podcacts are extremely popular (iTunes alone boasts over 500 million users), are easy to make, and offer a brand-new content marketing channel for small business owners willing to put forth the time and effort.
- Infographics: Infographics are “graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge” (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infographics). Many infographics have become viral, creating immense exposure for and awareness of their authors. For an example, see “Dog Owners vs. Cat Owners,” here: http://editorial.designtaxi.com/news-dogvscat1207/1.png
- Webinars: Although not typically thought of as content, webinars are nothing more than content presented to an online audience. Webinars are a great tool for leveraging “repurposed content”—taking your existing content and extending its reach by presenting it in a different form (covered later in this chapter).
THE FLETCHER METHOD CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
I’ll dig into the mechanics and “how to’s” of writing and producing great blog articles, e-books, videos, podcasts, and webinars in later blogs. But first, it’s important to put into place an overall strategy for ensuring that your content accomplishes its goal of reaching and engaging your target audience. We’ll call this your STAND OUT Content Marketing Strategy.
Here’s what the typical small business content marketing process looks like:
- Write an article.
- Post it on your website.
- Wait for loads of traffic.
- Get frustrated at the lack of traffic.
- Conclude that blogging must not work and stop blogging forever.
If this looks even remotely like your blogging process, you’re about to experience a business-changing revelation.
A key insight into effective content marketing is that writing is a relatively small part of the process. It’s the “before” and “after” steps that make or break your content strategy. Needless to say, your content must be of great value to your audience or none of this matters. Without doing the right research before you produce content, and properly promoting your content afterward, even your best cornerstone pieces may fall on deaf ears . . . and blind eyes.
6 STEPS TO BECOMING A CONTENT MARKETING MOGUL
- Create a content roadmap: This tool will be used for planning out your content and ensuring that it will provide the most “bang for your buck” in terms of reach and engagement. Your Content Road Map will serve as a template for managing the development of content, thereby converting your targeted “informational keywords” into traffic-producing, trust-building articles.
- Produce great content: Great content is any form of content that accomplishes the following three fundamental goals: Great content is any form of content that accomplishes the following three fundamental goals:
- Reaches a specific target audience.
- Stands out and engages readers through its focus on their questions and needs, as well as its structure and format.
- Moves readers toward some desired action, such as subscribing to your newsletter or contacting you.
- Optimize and publish your content: Before you upload your new article or video to your website, it’s critical to ensure your content is optimized for each phase of the Online Marketing Funnel.
- Syndicate your content:
“Syndication: to publish simultaneously, or supply for simultaneous publication, in a number of newspapers or other periodicals in different places” –dictionary.com
Within this traditional definition of syndication lies one of the most powerful nuggets of your content strategy: the act of taking a single piece of content and syndicating it across multiple channels on the Web.
- Recycle your content: the art of “content recycling” is taking a single piece of high-quality content and transforming it into multiple forms of media.
- Measure the impact of your content: All the dedication, research, planning, writing/filming, posting, and publishing converge into one place: measurable results. As much fun as all your hard work might be, it must be quantified. You must measure how well your content does at reaching, engaging, and converting your target audience.
RESOURCE: To learn how to implement these 6 steps in depth, please see my blog titled 6 Steps To Becoming A Content Marketing Mogul.
Content truly is king in our new cyber economy. Today’s consumers are smart, savvy shoppers, researching and evaluating their options before making even the simplest of buying decisions. This new content-driven marketplace creates a great opportunity for those business owners who get on board and produce high-quality, targeted content on a regular basis.
Your Content Marketing Strategy hinges on creating and distributing compelling content that positions you and your business as the trusted resource for your local niche. The business owner who answers the questions and concerns of his or her audience is the first to build a relationship, one that will often lead to new customers and growing market share.
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