The secrets of great content marketing
It seems to be the way of things that a lot of these posts start with a conversation with a client and this one is no exception.
In this case, a long-standing networking colleague was complaining about his website's lack of visibility. Resisting the overwhelming urge to shout at him, "You should have come to us!", I asked him if he had a content strategy.
The answer I got contained a lot of expletives, but for the benefit of any tender-eared and sensitive readers, let's just say that he thought that everything that marketers offered was pretty much snake oil sales. At this point, I knew I was in trouble and slipped my jar of snake oil into a drawer where there was no danger he could see it
Safe again, I asked him why he felt that online marketing and, in particular, content marketing, was such a waste of time. The one phrase that struck home was when he said, "they make it all so complicated....full of jargon and suggestions that no normal person can follow!"
Well, to be fair, he has a point. Marketing is full of its inbounds and outbounds. If a marketer can use a complicated phrase when a simple one would have done, so much the better. So much of what passes for marketing never distinguishes between the strategies that will work for a particular customer, and those that will not. As I felt that he has an interesting business and certainly has plenty to say, I persisted in persuading him that he would benefit from putting some effort into content marketing. He has agreed to consider it and asked what were the important things to consider.
Now the brainstorming session that went on is too long to describe in detail, of course - and it was specific to his business, but there were some simple headings that did come out which we organised the braninstorming into. So I have my networking colleague to thank for what comes next.
Twelve Steps to Great Content
Have a strategy
How many times do we repeat this? What do you want your business to do? How do you want it to be seen? What steps do you have to take to make that strategy active and successful?
Consider your audience
You can sell the finest widgets in the world, but if you don't let the right widget-buyer know, how will you ever sell any? Always think who do you want to hear your message, when is the best timing and, just as importantly, what do you want them to do when they hear it or watch it.
When do you want them to see/hear it
Create a timetable which your business can support. The only difference between a one-man band and a huge organisation is the make-up of the team. Bigger teams may be able to do more, by definition, but every organisation overcommits in their wish to please everyone. The team needs to understand the brief, the objectives, the timetable, the measurement and the delivery plan. This is equally true if you outsource your PR. You need to confer just as regularly to ensure the marketing objectives are met.
Keep it simple
In the opposite of the marketing man's dream, make sure whatever you create is easy to understand, well laid out and logical. In the truly great project management book, "Simply Brilliant", Fergus O'Connell hammers home the point of making things easy to understand, so you can ensure people will implement them.
Engage with your readers
It is very satisfactory to hear from someone who engages with you. The whole of the social media experience teaches us that people love to respond to Facebook posts or to like an image or short video posted on Instagram. Engagement is frequently a sign of interest, silence a sign that your audience is not even hearing you.
Tell a story
We humans are geared up to hear and listen to a story, especially ones which include struggle and triumph. No need to write a new Game of Thrones, but remember your readers are going to enjoy something which tells them a story about your business or products as much as you are. Harvard Business Review - Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling
Make it original
This is sometimes more difficult than you think. We are not all instinctively great, or even good writers. For all that, you should consider that you are not going to get people interested in you, if you simply say what others have already written. Your writing needs to be meaningful, if they are going to come back to read you again. It's also worth saying that Google has a big downer on scraping. If they don't see your content as original, then you will get marked down in search.
Create strong headlines
What do you notice first - the headline or the long and carefully-crafted paragraph? You know the answer to this one. Why else do the headline writers get so well paid?
Make sure people can act on what you write and say
You have put all this effort into creating content. Just where is it going? Who has it persuaded? In selling, it is generally considered the ultimate failure never to have asked for the order. In its "content marketing", the typical business is trying to influence the reader to use them or refer to them. Having your phone number to contact, a comment form to respond to or a call to action box is part of the process.
Provide answers to questions and solutions to problems: be an expert
This is the whole purpose of establishing trust in you and what your business offers. We, all of us, like to turn to people who can answer our questions and help us solve our problems
Be truthful and accurate
It will catch up with you if you don't. This does not mean you should not have an opinion, but you should consider if this gets in the way of doing good business. The more opinionated you are, the more chance there is of alienating the very client you want to attract. On the other hand, if you make sure you give truthful, accurate content, you and your business will become known and respected for it.
Be consistent and regular
The lesson the skilful bloggers and writers show is that delivering regular content maintains interest. Yes, it can be hard to think of the next blog post, or to make sure you make that Tweet when you are tired, but, if you want to build your audience, then they will go away if they never hear from you.
Share your content
I added this at the end just to make sure it was included. Do make sure you share on as wide a range of platforms as you can. Interestingly, my networking friend tweets regularly to keep people in the loop about the fantastic charity work his business does. When I asked him if he tweeted and posted on Facebook about his business, he said that they never did. It might just explain why the charity work attracts followers and contributors and why he believes that content marketing is not working for his business.
There is a lesson in this for us all.