Content Marketing Done Right

Content marketing when done right can deliver exceptional results yet as many as 75% of marketing departments are doing content marketing the wrong way. One big and critical difference between content marketing and promotional marketing can be summed up in these two words: sharing versus telling.

Today’s digital savvy buyers and educated consumers are ignoring traditional advertising and sales tactics like never before. They have become immune to brands telling them what to buy. Banner ads and online advertising are also feeling the heat with ad blocking technologies like AdBlock and AdDetctor helping consumers avoid advertising altogether. As one marketing agency stated “Internet savvy people are more likely to sign up for a trip to Mars than click on some banner ads.”

So, the logic would follow as buyers and consumers turn away from interruption ads online and are even using tools to nullify them, then marketing have responded to this challenge to ad weariness, right?

Ah no, this is unfortunately not always the case.

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Marketing is contributing to “Content Blindness”

When developing content marketing strategies, over 75% of marketing leaders report that product mentions are a regular tactic in their content strategies. (The Economist Group). Marketing departments have responded to the move away from online advertising or “ad blindness”by viewers and implemented content marketing tactics to counteract this decline in raising product awareness. However by flooding the social media networks with promotional lead content, they are in fact now encouraging “content blindness”.

The sharing of content has become a breeding ground for brand plugging and promotional stuffing. The result is audiences are now starting to see some content shared by brands as being deceiving, missing out on the fact that when you strip away the advertising pitch many of these brands have powerful stories to share.

Content marketing is primarily about sharing great stories and as you earn the audiences trust you can begin selling your products. The hard sales pitch tends to turn off potential customers, so rather going straight into selling mode, start with building trust and credibility through informative content that adds value.

Prior to publishing an article or blog post, ask the following questions:

  • Does the content offer real insights on a market or interest OTHER than plugging how great a product or service is?
  • Do the articles and blogs showcase the company’s expertise by providing actionable tips or research based analysis?

If the answer is, “Yes,” to these questions, your content is ready to publish.

Hold on I hear you say, so if we work diligently to create content NOT to sell to our readers, then how do we use content marketing sell?”

Well research shows that less is more, the least sales pitch orientated articles drive more sales when executed correctly. This is because the content will drive awareness (inform, educate, amuse, engage) and ultimately help prospects become qualified leads as they consider you as a viable purchasing option.

Any business can create a content marketing journey for their prospects and over time gently guide them to the solution to solve their problems: considering your product or service. But the patience and skill is you have to let them arrive at that conclusion at their own pace.

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Educate Through Content – Highlight Your Expertise

Real content marketing is about sharing thought leadership or research, addressing problems or market trends your customers or potential customers face. This stream of valuable content acts like a seed, planting the ideas which overtime grows into the realisation to prospects that they need your product or service.

The stark reality is that the press release route and publishing in-depth product descriptions serves only to create a wall between you and your audience. Audiences just tune out if they have not been primed with educational content before you go for the sale with “sales content”.

Also B2B buyers now use social media to research trends, reviews and ways to improve their business. This presents a great opportunity for marketers. But are B2B marketers missing the mark?

Well, the CMO Council studied how buyers viewed content published by business-to-business marketers. This quote may help focus your content strategy: “Business to business buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped, and overly technical content.”

Still lots of B2B marketers think that “content marketing” almost like a Trojan horse, publishing product descriptions in the guise of content. But buyers constantly remind us they are not ready to be sold the moment they see some sales content. Their journey is about accessing content that understands their problems first.

So when publishing content on forums, LinkedIn or on the company blog, keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Hold the sell. As most readers are looking to learn more about a topic, do not start bombarding them with promotional jabber. Content sharing focuses on engaging them through quality articles packed with valuable insights to encourage them to learn more. Remember, in the sales process it takes anywhere between three and thirteen interactions for a prospect to turn into a qualified lead, so starting a “social conversation” with a sales pitch baked in will chase away potential customers, so the goal is to get them to stick around to learn something.
  2. Think of your audience, not your product. When creating and sharing content, always prioritise an audience first approach. What would the readers want to learn more about? What obstacles are they encountering and how can you overcome those? When you tap into your prospects’ needs and issues, you can create content that they can align themselves to and encourages them to continue the education process.
  3. Become a valuable information resource. Publish helpful content on a consistent basis will give readers a reason to visit your blog time after time. Becoming a go-to resource is critical to building up followers and readers. I also suggest that carefully offering a white paper, e-book or case study to visitors is a way to gain more in-depth information.

As your journey into content marketing continues, remember that telling is not selling so put your audience’s interests before your own. Content will only grow in quantity on the web, and the way to avoid content blindness and do it right is never use sales pitches disguised as articles. Instead focus on sharing your expertise and insights. Always write to benefit the reader. As time progresses readers will take note of your genuine approach to offering solutions and then will be happy to engage with the sales process.

Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is not about boasting or bragging, rather it is about sharing informed insights to hopefully inspire people. Thought leaders are not afraid to propose new ideas, new models or different views on a topic.

Thought leadership when done correctly can help further a person’s career or a business. Being a thought leader should mean becoming a trusted source of information on your chosen topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of the audience seeking enlightenment or education.

So here are a few tips on using content marketing as a launch pad in thought leadership for you, your business or even the team you mentor.

THOUGHT-LEADERSHIP

Thought leaders speak and present

They speak to educate not to sell. Thought leaders seek out opportunities to present as to impart their insights from research or experience. They rise to the challenge of delivering opinions so to drive debate on topics. Thought leaders advance the adoption of ideas by speaking on commercially relevant, and research backed points of view. They are dreamers and doers; they talk about “blue sky strategy” from their own research or from research gathered through clients, customers or competitors.  They rarely speak about product, brand sponsored white papers or rehashed content that copy ideas already well discussed.

Give time freely with no expectation can propel someone into thought leadership and general awareness. A good lesson here is to accept non-paid speaking engagements if it puts you in front of an audience that facilitates dialog and exchange of opinions. Regardless of the event, the audience or the setting, a thought leader will always deliver meaningful content.

Thought leaders write and share

Thanks to social media and the access to content marketing channels, a constant flow of well researched articles which you have written will keep you visibility high and credibility in-tact.  Thought leadership is not about writing a few 600 word articles and then retiring your pen, in a digital world people will soon forget you. A constant stream of articles shared across social networks and forums tells people that the author is a thought leader year worth following on a continuous basis.

Articles need to be a minimum of 800 words although most research based articles can be 1500 words plus. Longer, deeper articles demonstrate the time taken to craft the story, to prove research undertaken and ensure reference points are covered in detail.

Once an article is written, the article needs to be published. For whitepapers and heavy research based articles, a good starting point is a professional or membership based organisation to which you belong that publish articles. Explore trade publications that cover your industry or topic.  Also submit articles to local newspapers, on-line news, on-line interest groups and publications.

Consider sites like BizSugar, LinkedIn Pulse, Academia, and inc.com, Forbes or Harvard Business.  Make sure to also publish to your own social networks to reach more people and improve your profile in visibility. A few options include publishing to your own website, your blog, and post on your LinkedIn profile or to groups, publish to Tumblr, Google+ or Medium.com, send out an email with article link to clients and connections. Send out a message regarding your article on Twitter, Facebook and relevant forums you feel would benefit from reading the article.

Thought leaders publish research

Research does not have to mean focus groups or an academic background, it has more to do with , homework on the topic you are going to write about. Write about topics you have expertise in, deep knowledge and first-hand experience in. Focus on writing great content with supporting information that will make you stand out from your competitors by giving more than just a bunch of research jargon or results.

Articles should be interspersed with references, quotes, trends, external research, supporting documentation or forecasts. Though leaders will use the research element within an article to gain the readers trust when sharing ideas, creative thinking or a different view on a topic. Some research and support ideas include interviewing experts in the field you are writing about, conduct surveys, share real stories about your own experiences, tap into social media channels to gather opinions or ask someone in authority to write a footnote.

A mistake to avoid if never publish in a hurry. Save a draft, let it cool and with fresh eyes review it yourself, rewrite sections where it does not make sense, spell check it and then depending on the level of “news” within the article you could share it first among friends, work colleagues or a mentor to check for errors and give you honest feedback.

BUSINESS-IDEAS

The vision of every thought leader is to be in the spotlight. The knowledge you share can bring about business opportunities, social influence, a better job, an award or an accolade, acknowledgement from your industry or a mention in a newspaper that engages your audience to rally behind the topic you have been championing.  A constant presence on the speak, write, research channels can lead to an invitations, doors being opened and new  ventures that never possible before, including the chance to mentor and encourage other people to become thought leaders themselves.

For lots of thought leaders it is a very personal journey, a deeper reason around, why am I here, what is the meaning to my work, what would I like to leave behind? As the articles get published, the influence will grow and the exposure to inspiring people will be the most rewarding. As a thought leader, regardless of the topic or reach of your publications, you will leave a lasting legacy for yourself, other people, a bright young business brain or even an industry.

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