One of the most powerful ways to get more customers and stand out from the competition is to use content marketing.
Content marketing is a method of attracting and retaining new customers by offering them valuable free information.
As Joe Pulizzi (found of the Content Marketing Institute) wrote in his excellent book Epic Content Marketing:
“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves, their wants, their needs. Content Marketing is about crating interesting information your customers are passionate about so thy actually pay attention to you.”
In a nutshell, if you can deliver regular valuable information to prospective buyers for free, they will reward you with their business and loyalty.
And content marketing can take many different forms – blogs, email newsletters, social networking, eBooks, webinars, videos, reviews and infographics.
But the key ingredients are the same… it must be useful, interesting and relevant for your target customer. It should seek to educate, entertain and help them achieve positive results.
This form of marketing has so many powerful advantages:
- It helps you build a loyal following: we live in an age of information overload. And your customers are actively seeking businesses and individuals who can filter and make sense of the flood of information centred on the topics that interest them.Your customers and prospects want to be educated, informed and entertained, helping them live happier, healthier and richer lives. If you can offer this kind of content, then you can start attracting highly qualified prospects to your website and social media networks.
- It’s extremely low cost. Rather than pay to advertise the traditional way (banner adverts, pop ups, classified ad space, radio, TV) you use your own content to draw in an audience. Aside from whatever you pay for your website hosting, there are no other costs.
- You can build a trusting two-way relationship with your prospective customers that you simply don’t get from traditional advertising. When you become a regular and valuable source of information, they begin to like and trust you in the way they would a friend. You become someone they turn to for advice and help.
- It increases the level of regular contact you have with your customers. The more contact you can have through emails, social networks and blog posts, the greater loyalty, trust and ultimately sales you will make. There is more about building trust and authenticity later on in this Digital Upstart special.
- Your original content makes you unique, interesting and credible in a way your competition might not be. It gives your product or service personality and helps you create a strong brand. If you’re not content marketing right now, beware that your rivals are.
The fact is, no matter what business you are in right now (or intend being in) – whether it is online or offline, a product or a service, producer or affiliate, content marketing MUST be at the heart of all your marketing.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 72% of Business-to-Consumer marketers are producing more content than a year ago. A massive 90% said they used content marketing and an equally impressive 92% said that social media was important to their businesses.
In other words, this really works.
I’ve used content marketing very successfully for the past 15 years. I’ve created, written and published dozens of different eletters across a whole range of different subject areas. I’ve advised and consulted other companies on how best to use content marketing to increase sales and actually reduce their marketing costs.
If you’re not doing it right now, you really should. From today think of yourself as an ‘information publisher’, offering advice and insights that well help your potential customers.
So how do you go about actually go about finding and sharing this content?
Until a few years ago, generating content was hard work. And expensive. You had to research, write and present your own material. Then, once you had the content, you had to somehow get visitors to your website to see it. This usually meant…
- Hours spent Googling relevant information, joining email newsletters and signing up for RSS feeds that filled up your inbox.
- Storing and organising your notes from the unending flow of good and bad emails, blogs feeds and updates.
- A high level of writing skill (and a bit chunk of time) to turn that material into original content every time you wanted to share it with your customers or prospects.
- Needing to learn all kinds of SEO (search engine optimisation) tricks and Google advertising spend to lure people towards your website.
Yes, this was all achievable of course. But if you ran a business alone, or with a small number of staff, you might simply not have had the time and resources for it. It might be something you hate the idea of because you’re “Not creative” or “too busy”. And I wouldn’t blame you.
Creating content and getting people to see that content used to be a huge challenge.
But now, thanks to a new set of free and user-friendly networking sites anyone can now gather and share content to market their business, even with zero writing skills, poor organisational abilities and a complete lack of technical ability.
Processes that were difficult, expensive and annoying a couple of years ago are now – and I don’t say this lightly – “touch of a button” stuff. Whether you have an established business to market, or you’re in the stage of setting up online, it is now possible for you to:
- Instantly plug into attractive, readymade content platforms with tens of thousands, even millions, of active users (and potential customers) all seeking out information.
- Grow a big following even if you’re in a small niche. Because this is global, and pretty much everyone is on some kind of social media network these days, you can find big audiences for very small and weird niches that wouldn’t have built you a worthwhile audience five years ago.
- Get an automated daily flow of highly relevant articles, tips, videos, news items and other content without actively searching for it or needing to organise it.
- Store and share this content instantly on public networks full of eager, info hungry users. You can pass on the most interesting and useful pieces of information at the touch of a button, without even needing to create the content yourself.
- Grow a loyal army of followers, creating you a list of prospects you can convert into website visitors, email subscribers, even customers.
- Have people freely advertising your brand, service or website whenever they share your information on their own networks.
Best of all, these things can be done for free, without you needing to build a website or using technical skills. Here’s how…
6 Free Tools to Get and Share Great Content
There are a number of social media networks that are ideally suited to finding, storing and sharing content. They include:
Twitter – you can follow influencers, businesses, game changers, commentators, critics, super-fans, potential customers and bloggers in your business field. They’ll provide a constantly rolling feed of links, ideas, tips and inspiration.
Likewise, you can share that content on Twitter, growing your own list of followers. In this way it’s possible to gather thousands of Twitter followers without needing a single piece of your own content.
Though its real power comes when you begin to include your own blog posts, videos and pictures in the mix.
Pinterest – you can create your own pinboard of articles, photos and other items relevant to your business.
Particularly good for businesses with highly visual elements, such as design, crafts, photography, architecture, food and art. Very popular with women.
YouTube – why not set up your own channel on Youtube, posting relevant “’how to” videos with tips, recipes, exercises, songs – or indeed – whatever you like?
You can gather followers, and not only that you can gather other people’s videos onto your channel.
YouTube is not just for music videos, cute cats and people falling over. It’s packed full of advice, demonstrations and sometimes just people taking to camera in the way you’d write a blog. Particularly popular are: cooking, fashion, interior design, fitness, sports coaching, music.
Stumble Upon – is an automated ideas factory that delivers website after website, based on a theme of your choice. You “like” the websites that suit you and you reject the ones that are off-topic or irrelevant. Over time the website learns what you’re looking for and you start getting a large number of “hits”. It’s really super simple, fun, and will mean your inspiration never dries up.
Scoop.it – this is like an instant off-the-shelf magazine-style website of your own. It will give you a daily feed of relevant articles based on keywords you set up, and a bookmarklet that allows you to instantly republish interesting articles, videos and social media updates on your scoop.it page. You can organise these into differently themed pages. Over time you build up an extraordinarily large and well-organised store of content, which you can easily share on your other social media networks.
Storify – this is an online storyboard you can build out of other people’s content, or your own. With Storify you can tell the story of a development, conversation, news item or sequence of events. Or simply use it to gather a lot of content based around one particular theme.
Your Action Plan
If you aren’t on at least a couple of these networks, you’re missing out. And there’s no excuse for you not to be. It’s so easy to set up with your own content generators and connect with people.
My advice is to start today. Your first action should be to open a Twitter account. Even if you don’t have a website or a business yet. This is a great tool because you can:
- Follow all your competition, rivals, people in similar fields of interest and get all their information delivered to you in a rolling field.
- Follow influencers and critics – these could be bloggers, reviewers, super-fans, amateur enthusiasts – so you understand what people really think about your business, products and the competition.
- ‘Favourite’ the information you find most useful, so you can retrieve it at a later time.
- Instantly begin to retweet the most interesting items you find. This will allow you to start building your own list of followers.
As well as Twitter, consider at least one other platform that suits your business. As you can see, each of the networks has different strengths, but all of them allow you to attract, organise and re-publish other people’s content, as well as your own.
(This article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of Digital Upstart)