Consumers Are Suspicious & Exhausted
Consumers are wary (and weary) of brands, salespeople, and advertising that only promote the attractive elements of products and services. They’ve grown tired of being misled, shortchanged, or flat-out lied to by those selling them products.
So, where are they turning to for information about products and services they need and/or want?
They’re going online and learning from third parties. They’re reading blog articles, watching YouTube videos, and listening to podcasts created by other consumers that are aimed at educating rather than pitching; teaching rather than selling.
(And while I say “they,” I really mean “we,” because I’m in the same boat, and so are you.)
Don't Forget, You Also Buy Stuff
Even though most of you reading this are marketers, salespeople, and business owners, you’re also consumers. While you spend most of your day pitching and selling products for your company, you’re also making purchases weekly -- or maybe even daily.
Aren’t you sick of making a purchase based on false promises only to have the brand blame you for your ignorance?
Remember when vitaminwater touted that their products could “boost your immune system” and fight “free radicals”? And when they were called out in a lawsuit for blatantly lying, Coca-Cola blamed consumers for believing them in the first place with this message:
“No consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking that vitaminwater is a healthy beverage.”
Wow, Coca-Cola, we are so, so sorry. We trusted you when you preached what your product could do for us -- how silly of us! We should have known it wasn’t anything more than overpriced Kool-Aid for grownups.
Content Marketing Definition
For a short, to the point definition of content marketing, nobody says it better than the Content Marketing Institute -- so I’m not even going to try:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Such a swoon-worthy definition.
Let's Break This Definition Down
First, content can be defined as “something to be expressed through some medium.” For marketers, that thing we need to express is information about our products and services. The mediums we use include written articles, videos, infographics, images, social posts, and so many more that we’ll discuss in later chapters.
Before you get all crazy and say, “Oh man, I’ve got so much content already. Have you seen this awesome video ad we have running on YouTube?”
...pump the breaks a bit.
If the video’s goal is to promote your product or service, it’s not content marketing.
The key to defining content marketing is that the information you’re presenting is valuable and relevant to your audience. Promotional content is just that, it’s meant to promote a product, to express only the benefits, uses, and awesomeness of the product.
But How Often Is Content Valuable, Helpful, & Relevant?
Does a piece of content help your prospects solve problems? Does a piece of content help consumers make the best well-informed purchase decision possible for them? Even if they decide to go with another vendor?
Content marketing is about producing educational content with the goal of helping people improve their lives; to arm them with as much information as possible so they make informed purchases.
When done right, they’ll make that purchase through you.
Content Marketing Is a Strategy
Of course, as a business, the end goal of content marketing is to make sales. But rather than just selling your products and services, content marketing is about developing trust.
When you produce great content frequently, you become a trusted source of information. You become a resource consumers turn to for education on the topics relevant to your field. As long as you’re focused on educating over selling, you will sell more.
Consumers want to buy from brands they trust. Become the Wikipedia of your industry, and you’ll grow your customer base.
What Content Marketing Isn't
At the risk of beating a dead horse, I can’t emphasize enough:
Content marketing is not promotional content.
But that doesn’t mean you have to stick to being 100% educational and 0% promotional.
If that was the case, after reading a piece of content you created, you wouldn’t want customers saying, “Great. I’m ready to make a purchase. Now I have to go find someone who sells this.”
That would be terrible. So, what do you do?
Try using the 80/20 rule when creating content -- 80% of the content should be aimed at educating your audience and only 20% should be aimed at selling them.
It’s okay to let them know you sell the service you’re discussing. Just don’t beat them over the head about it. If you’re writing an educational blog post, you can let them know in the introduction that you sell the service you’re talking about but that your intention is to be educational.
The body of the article should be mostly information with as few mentions of yourself as possible.
The conclusion of the article is where you can give your pitch. They’ve learned what they’ve come to learn, now what? This is when you can offer your services to them in a way that feels more natural.
You Won't Get Rich Quick with Content Marketing
It takes time for content marketing to bear fruit. Sometimes a couple of weeks. Sometimes a couple of months.
Be patient. Content marketing is a long-term strategy that picks up momentum as you go.
It’s like the snowball effect. When you first start at the top of the mountain, you’ve only got a tiny little snowball in your hand that you gently roll downhill. But as it starts going, it picks up more snow and more snow -- and, next thing you know, you’ve started a raging avalanche charging downhill ready to bury a poor, unsuspecting village.
Content marketing takes a lot of work.
You can’t have content marketing without content. And if you’re doing it right, you’re creating high-quality content regularly. Good content takes time and effort to create. So let’s get rolling and start an avalanche.