There are a couple of major points you should take away from this article:
- You can no longer attract new clients the way you used to. Content marketing is no longer an "option" it is now a "must do".
- Content marketing is an asset that builds your business, BUT you must use it strategically and stop treating it as a distraction (or something ELSE to do)
I'm about to give you a very real recipe you can use today to create great content and get it in front of your BEST client.
Step 1: Why Do We Create Content (At All)?
Truth is, there is a fundamental difference between the marketing possibilities (just) 20 years ago and the marketing possibilities today. Yes I'm talking about the internet, but I want to be specific. Let me explain.
In 1985: your best client had to look you up in a phone book and call you to begin the sales process. There were no cell phones. There were no smart phones. There were no tablets. The Internet wasn't a term or a tool people could use. Clients found a vendor for services through the phone book. Find a name, call the number, and have a person explain services to you. Your BEST client had fewer information sources and expected the free consultation as the starting point to learn about your company.
Today: your BEST client can learn everything (or nothing) about your company without ever having to call you. Your best client expects a free consultation to be one of the last steps, not one of the first. Because the Internet (and all of its information) is SO available through phones, tablets, televisions, etc clients expect to be able to learn "something" about your company before they engage (if at all). Your BEST client knows they have information at their finger tips. They want to know something about you before they engage.
This research was completed by CEB's Marketing Leadership Council in partnership with Google. CEB unveiled this research through a presentation at Google’s Think! B2B conference. You can read more here.
Bottom Line: content marketing IS what your BEST client is using to differentiate solutions. They are no longer depending on your free consultation to walk them through the buying process.
Good News versus Bad News
Bad News: Your BEST client isn't waiting on you to find a solution to their problem. They come into the buying experience with more information than ever before. They don't have to trust what you say.
Good News: There are now massively scalable ways to educate and attract your BEST client without the free consultation. In fact, offering too many free consultations can actually slow your business down and distract you from your BEST client.
Step 2: How Do We Create Content?
When you begin to create content there are two main questions:
- What do I say? (What is my core message?)
- Where do I put it? (What marketing channel makes the most sense for my business?)
Message comes first. Focus on the client.
Creating great content begins with having a great message. Once you know what your message is then you could use appropriate marketing channels to get the word out. However, most conventional companies talk about about themselves in their messaging.
Conventional companies use "WE are the best" type messages. For example:
- WE are honest.
- WE are number #1 in customer service.
- WE have friendly people.
- WE care about our clients.
- WE are experts.
It's "boring". It's "generic". It's "much of the same". Most importantly, your BEST client can't figure out where they fit because your message doesn't include them in it.
Coveted companies use "We are the best for YOU" type messages. For example:
- This is who we believe YOU are
- This is what we believe is affecting YOU
- Our beliefs have led us to create the following plan for YOU
The difference is specificity. Coveted companies are specific about what they believe AND how their beliefs lead to specific offerings for their clients. Most importantly, your BEST client doesn't have to guess where they fit because your message speaks directly to them.
Marketing channel comes second. Focus on your strengths.
Once the message is clear then it's time to choose a marketing channel. You have two main questions:
- What do I create? (What format should I use?)
- Where do a put it? (What platform should I use?)
Most companies spend way too much time trying to figure out, "Which magical social media platform is going to create instantaneous results after I post one piece of content?"
It's a poor question. It's also a confusing one. Let me help simplify your options (and your strategy).
There are five basic content formats:
There are 5 major online platforms:
Here is the simplest strategy possible: Use the one content format you are most comfortable with and apply it to the online platform you understand best. Get to work.
Coveted Note: Moving forward with a sense of purpose is always better than sitting still with a sense of fear.
If you are looking for a few examples of successful content marketing case studies, take a look at the next step.
Step 3: Content Marketing Models That Work
Remember, content marketing must be done and it must be done strategically. With that said, let's look at the skeleton of a quality content marketing strategy and a couple of real-life examples.
If you were going to start create a content strategy today, this is what I would advise you to do:
Step 3a: Brainstorm content ideas based on what you believe...
- about your BEST client
- about what effects your BEST client
- about the role you play in fixing your BEST client's problem
Step 3b: Create the content by interviewing your thought leader
- It shows your BEST client that you have real knowledge and understanding of their situation (thought leadership).
- It shows that real humans are doing the work and care about the issues at hand (authenticity).
- It shows that you have solutions that fit your BEST client's specific needs (relevance).
Step 3c: Post, Syndicate, and Distribute
- Video record the interview to begin video marketing.
- Use the audio from the interview to fill your audio podcast.
- Transcribe the interview and use it as a value-filled written blog post.
- Summarize the main ideas and build a visual infographic.
- Create a follow-up checklist to help the reader execute on the ideas and generate leads.
You've just turned one high-level piece of content (an interview) and opened up five different marketing channels. How's that for leverage?
Now that you have your finished content in multiple formats take a look at what some other examples of real content marketing in action.
LeadPages: Content Marketing Snapshot
Leadpages is a SAAS (software as a service) tool that makes the creation of opt-in (and other lead-generation) forms a breeze. Here their content marketing strategy in a snapshot. This was the blog post that served as the fuel "How to Build An Evergreen Launch Funnel". (By they way, it's an excellent tool and you should really consider using it.)
Marie Forleo: Content Marketing Snapshot
Marie Forleo is a business coach with a bright personality and plenty of charisma, but please do not miss the deliberate strategic approach she takes to delivering her content. Here is her content marketing strategy in a snapshot. This was the blog post that served as the fuel, "Do You Feel Guilty About Making Money?" (By the way, if you want a more complete breakdown of this strategy you will find it in the attached download.)
Did you notice? These companies do not use every marketing channel. Their strategies also aren't "perfect" (we could pick apart their methods all day long). What is most important is to realize what they have right. Each has created focused, consistent content based around their BEST client's needs.
Step 4: What Are the Benefits of Good Content Marketing?
What you are looking at IS the recipe for creating an audience (tribe, following) around your services. Consistently creating great content that speaks to your BEST client is what creates a spirit of community around what you do. It strengthens your positioning, lowers sales barriers, and raises customer lifetime value.
If you are a content marketing "convert" you know this already. For those that need to see it explained in more "business" terms, consider the following benefits.
- Scalable - the platforms do the work! Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn touch almost every person in the world with internet access. (Talk about distribution!) If you BEST client has internet access then it is to your advantage to be appropriately positioned on this platforms.
- Systematic - content is best leveraged when deliberately scheduled. Just like a monthly magazine or daily newspaper. Content marketing provides the most benefit when it is scheduled and delivered consistently. Being predictable is a requirement to being unstoppable. Kobe Bryant said that, not me.
- Authoritative - establish the trusted advisor relationship. The internet has introduced a rush of thoughts, opinions, and ideas but which should your BEST client follow? When you deliberately and consistently create helpful content that speaks to their needs (not yours), you establish a relationship where your thoughts are trusted others. You win!
- Attractive - your BEST client finds and chooses you (instead of you chasing them). There is nothing more difficult than trying to close a client who isn't ready to buy services. There is nothing easier than trying to close a client that has pre-selected you as their provider. The difference is in offering the kind of content allows your BEST client to choose you before a sales call is ever made.
- Asset - your continued efforts create a business building body of work. When executed correctly, your social media platforms transform from "that place I haven't posted in a while" to "a rich resource filled with thoughts that help your BEST client".
This stat was just one of many outlined by Barry Feldman President, Feldman Creative. The original article can be found at 21 Benefits of Business Blogging and 22 Tips on SocialMediaToday.com
Doesn't this sound a whole lot better than mandatory one-on-one consultations each and every day? If so, read on to Step 5.
Step 5: What Do You Need To Make It Work?
If you are going to make content marketing work for you (and you should) there are a couple of must-haves so that you can claim your strategic advantage. Be sure you have the following ingredients:
Ingredient 1 - Messaging strategy. You must have a clear, high-powered message. I'm not talking about the selfish "we are great"-type messaging . I'm talking about the client-focused, "we believe we can really help you" type messaging. Take the time to get clear on it.
Ingredient 2 - Content plan and calendar. How many pieces of content will you create per month? What exactly do you expect your BEST client to do when they consume the content? This can't be guesswork. It's the kind of thing you need to have clear on paper first.
Ingredient 3 - System for execution. You should NOT be responsible for creating, editing, and publishing all of the content. You've got to get a system for execution. Creating the content might not always be easy, but the process should always be clear.
Ingredient 4 - Consistent inspiration. Believe it or not, you won't always have great ideas for new content. You need a have a few resources at your fingertips to give you something to respond to. Popular blogs, old books, competitor sites, inspirational quotes, etc will help keep you sharp when it's time to create content.
Get Yourself An Action Plan!
The Big Idea: content marketing is here to stay. It's more than a good idea or a clever fad. It will be a legitimate part of how businesses compete from now on. It is to your advantage to take your great message and put it into wonderful content your BEST client can consume.
I'd like to offer my help with a step-by-step content marketing plan.
In the download below I am offering a complete mindmap for how to create and distribute high-level content for an entire year! The download includes:
- Full mindmap of a year long content creation and syndication plan (MindMeister, Freemind, Mindmanager, and image file)
- 5 minute video walkthrough of the mindmap
- a 4 step plan for distributing your content for highest leverage
- an outsourcing template if you want to hire someone else to do the heavy lifting for you