5 Steps to a Successful Content Marketing Strategy

Lander Academy: 5 Steps to a Successful Content Marketing Strategy

 

Much ink has been dedicated to content marketing, especially lately. It seems everybody is in a rush to start blogging, podcasting, and producing YouTube shows in order to produce content that will drive sales.

And everybody has so many questions: How do I differentiate myself? How do I come up with ideas? How do I know if my content is resonating with people?

But before you start getting into the nuts and bolts of content marketing, it’s important to get some fundamentals down. It’s important to get your mindset correct.

First, what is content marketing?

What is content marketing?

Source: Copyblogger.com

In their eBook “Content Marketing: How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Business,” Copyblogger defines content marketing as:

“…Creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.”

This is actually a very well thought out description. Note the use of the words “valuable,” “free”, “prospects,” “buyers,” “educating.”

I’ll expand on these concepts a little further in this post. But it’s important to point out that we can’t separate the “content” from the “marketing.” They go hand in hand. Even though we’re producing valuable content for free, our purpose is to drive a commercial relationship with customers.

But first, why is content marketing so important now, and why will it continue to gain in importance?

The Web Has Fundamentally Changed the Dynamic for Customer Communications

This is a problem for some businesses, such as large media companies and businesses that relied on advertising as their core marketing tactic. But it’s a huge opportunity for savvy marketers who see this an way to attract customers by producing high quality content:

  1. 14.3 trillion webpages. According to Mitch Joel in his slidehow 25 Mind Blowing Stats about Business Today, there are 14.3 trillion webpages live on the internet today. We’ve gone from 3 TV channels to now trillions of multi-media destinations. Your audience has almost infinite choices.
  2. The media monopoly has been broken. As a result of these choices, the media monopoly has been broken. Our customers can now view the content they want all the time, any time they want. They can tune out advertising, Tivo it, or go surf to another website.
  3. The web has become a place for people to find the answers to their questions. This is where the prepared entrepreneur can find opportunity: they can be there to answer the questions they’re customers are typing into their search engines.
  4. The playing field has been leveled. Parallel to the exponential growth in web pages, technology has reached a point of zero marginal cost. We all have access to low cost or no-cost tools to become journalists (bloggers), radio talk show hosts (podcasters), and TV moguls (YouTube channels).

 

Because of these changes, we have to change too. Unfortunately, there are far too many of us who refuse to “see” the changes. As James Altucher says in his recent book “Choose Yourself,” we've become the “walking dead.”

So if you'd like to wake up from amongst the dead, we've written this post to help you navigate these rough waters. We've put together a list of what we believe to be the fundamental pillars for your content marketing strategy.

Provide Overwhelming Value

Provide Overwhelming Value

In a recent Entreproducer podcast, Brian Clark and Robert Bruce were answering readers’ questions about content marketing. One of the readers asked “when do you know you’re giving away too much content?”

Clark’s answer:

“When you think you’re giving away too much content, that’s when you know you’re on the right track.”

You should provide so much free value in your content marketing that your clients feel guilty receiving it. They’ll think what you’re giving away is so helpful, they'll be literally looking for opportunities to pay you back with their business.

This is the concept of “reciprocity” that Robert Cialdini talks about in his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

"Reciprocity" means that we, as humans, prefer to return favors or debts, because we generally feel uncomfortable feeling indebted to someone.

This is a principle that was understood years ago by the Native Americans of the U.S. and Canadian Pacific Northwest. The Potlatch was a ceremonial giving of gifts employed by these tribes as part of their economic system.

As Wikipedia said: “The status of any given family is raised not by who has the most resources, but by who distributes the most resources.”

In other words, the chief who gave away the most value was the winner. 

Share your secret sauce. Give away the best you have to offer. Don’t hold back.

Sean D’Souza from Psychotactics calls it “the bikini concept.” Give away 95% of your knowledge, and your customers will think that if what you give away is so good, the remaining 5% must be worth paying for.

For example, Copyblogger gave away the secrets to how to become a great copywriter before they ever offered anything to sell. They built a rabidly loyal fan base by educating freelancers and consultants on how to write persuasive copy for the web. Now, whenever Copyblogger offers something for sale, their fan base is there to  buy.

The Content Marketing Institute constantly gives away information that high value consultants use in their own practice. This blog post, for example, provides readers with “17 Essential Content Templates and Checklists.

Ice cream seller Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream gives away the secret to how to make their ice award-winning ice cream. Even though their book “Jeni’s at Home” costs US $17.63, that’s a paltry sum compared to the value of giving away the recipes to their famous ice cream.  They enable their customers to make their ice cream at home, while at the same time deepening their relationship with them.

The same can be said for the As Seen on TV business.  They have been so successful throughout the years and so many different sites continue to sell all of the As Seen on TV products and do extremely well.  Just their commercials alone create this phenomenal sub business.

Now, you may think that by giving away such valuable information your customers no longer have an incentive to come to you and pay your high consulting fee. But you’d be wrong.

  1. Your customers don’t have the time to implement the “secret sauce” you gave away. They’d prefer to come to you, the expert, to do it for them.
  2. Your customers could do it themselves, but they don’t have the 10,000 hours of practice you have. You’ve done it, and you have the scars to prove it. They'd prefer not to risk doing it themselves.
  3. If you’re still worried, then do as Sean D’Souza recommends with his bikini concept: the 95% is the “how-tos” to do what you normally charge money for, but the remaining 5% is the process or methodology you use to bring it all together. Without the process, the how-tos don't work.

Focus On Your Customer, Not Your Product

Focus On Your Customer, Not Your Product

We discussed value, but value is subjective. One person’s value is another person’s garbage. You need to think about value as it pertains to your particular customer. That’s why the next pillar is to focus on your customers, not your product.

Create atarget persona. I can’t get into too much detail about how to develop a persona – you can refer back to the webinar “Conversion Rate Optimization for People,” by Xavier Colomés for that info.

But you need to go beyond your persona. You need to think about the intersection between your target persona and their unmet need.

Let me give you an example.

Real Estate agents all seem to be the same. You can see their shiny faces and blue suits on the real estate signs they post on every house they've listed. They seem to have all graduated from the "make friends and influence people" school of motivation.

But in Austin, Texas there is a real estate agent, Nanette Labastida, aka “Rock’N’Realty,” who appeals to a specific persona: the person who truly believes in the mantra “Keep Austin Weird. ” They love live music, organic food (maybe they’re vegan), they care for the environment, they love their tattoos, and they’re borderline  hipster.

This particular group didn't have a real estate agent who they could identify with, until Nanette appeared on the scene. On her blog she writes about some of the funky, eclectic things to do in Austin that nobody else is talking about.

She appealed to a particular persona, and their unmet need.

Think about it in your case. Maybe your topic is the same topic as thousands of other bloggers, but you can bring a different angle to your content because you appeal to a particular persona that has never heard this information before.

You could be the social media expert that teachers librarians how to use social media. As somebody who is familiar with librarians, you know you have to use very precise language (they're grammar know-it-alls). Your blog should be very well structured and categorized, because librarians live in a world of structure and categorization.

You are also intimately familiar with their problems: they’re usually quiet and not very outgoing, so they need a lot of help with the “social” of social media.

Become The Media

Become The Media

Peter Drucker famously said: “Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” Why? Because marketing, as well as innovation, produces results. All the rest are costs.

You are not a product company or a service company, you are a marketing company. Except that now you must become a media company. Let me explain.

Back in 1956 Procter and Gamble had a problem. They had some soap brands they had to sell to housewives, but they couldn't figure out a way to reach the housewives. So they came up with an idea: create an ongoing drama on this new media vehicle called television that would appeal to housewives (in the 50s most housewives stayed at home).

That’s how“As The World Turns,” the first soap opera was born.

But most of us are still stuck in the traditional lead generation, advertising and telemarketing rat race. We rely on borrowed media to advertise or to get a few press mentions. But when we become our own media company (as Chris Brogan calls it “develop our platform”), we can retire from the rat race.

We produce valuable content that appeals to a particular audience, and we keep a regular schedule, just like a media company.  This enables us to build our own audience - an audience that hangs on to our every word. An audience that feels guilty that we’re providing them with such valuable information that they're looking for ways to give us their money. And when we finally ask them to buy something, they buy.

Gary Vaynerchuk understands the power of becoming a media company. He just hired a full-time staffer to “shadow his life,” follow him around, record his remarks and turn it into content.

As Vaynerchuk explains:

“The more content I can put out, the more luck I have.”

In case you’re thinking you don’t have the time to produce content on a regular time-table, think about the fact that Vaynerchuk was producing videos daily for The Wine Library by himself for years before he ever hired somebody to produce the content for him.

As a media company you also want to think about how media personalities get famous too. Guest appearances are the key.

You may be producing content like clockwork, but you may be laboring in obscurity. Take a tip from musicians. Rapper Lil’ Wayne shot to fame when he appeared as a guest on videos and CDs of some of the world’s most famous hip-hop artists.

Likewise, you need to find a way to become a guest blogger. Armed with your knowledge of your target personas and what is valuable to them, identify the websites and blogs they visit the most, then approach the owners of these properties and offer them fresh, new original content for free that would appeal to their audience.

Finally, use social media to your advantage. If your target personas are in the B2B space, you might want to focus your attention on LinkedIn or Quora. If they’re teenagers, consider Vine, Keek and Instagram.

As Vaynerchuk says “it’s not good enough to just produce long form content; you have to put out micro-content to drive awareness to it…” in social media.

Use Your Content as a Market Research Tool

Use Your Content as a Market Research Tool

Brian Clark, in his Entreproducer article “Five Ways a Minimum Viable Audience Helps You Create a Successful Startup,” says that content is the best way to learn more about your audience.

“I learn more from serving an online audience than any other approach I've taken to truly understanding a market.”

This may be a relief if you've felt daunted about creating a complete content marketing strategy. Creating the initial content, and building a minimum viable audience, is a way to test your ideas in the marketplace before committing to an overarching content marketing plan.

Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, used to blog anonymously before he published his book. But in the blog comments his readers said they didn't want him to blog anonymously anymore.

He quickly revealed his name and who he was, and his blog exploded after that.

The feedback that comes from the comments section of your blog provides the unfiltered qualitative market research material you need to determine:

  1. What to sell to your customers
  2. What additional content to publish, and
  3. What vocabulary they use

Customers don’t usually come right out and say “I want to buy a widget with these three features.” But they will express desires, frustrations and problems. This is where your customers are their most candid, and it’s immensely valuable.

Your analytics tool can also help. A quick glance at a detailed report on your blog’s content can tell you what your most popular and least popular content is. This can often reveal little known opportunities to create content that can attract more readers and buyers.

Get Them To Subscribe

Get Them To Subscribe

When you walk by the magazine rack at your local grocery store, it's tempting to pick up a magazines to view the latest sports cars, or to find out how to get a six-pack in six weeks.

Inevitably the annoying little subscription cards fall out of the magazine on to the floor by your feet. You bend down to grab the subscription cards, and looking around you quickly put them back into the magazine.

Magazines know the power of subscriptions. That’s why they are constantly pushing you to subscribe. They know that you might buy their magazine at the store maybe two times a year, but when you subscribe you’ll get it every month. When you become a subscriber, you become a captive audience.

Your goal should be the same. Get your audience to subscribe to your email newsletter. Use an email marketing tool such as Doppler, offer something free like an eBook or a special report in exchange for their email address, and send them something every day (or every week or every month).

This is the way to bridge the gap between your content and your sales. When you gain subscribers, you can start to sell to them.

Joe Pulizzi from the Content Marketing Institute talks about the benefits of subscribing readers to their newsletter. As Pulizzi says, the average CMI subscriber:

  • Was more likely to attend our events and purchase our products
  • Was more likely to share our content with their networks
  • Closed three times faster than a non-subscriber, once he or she had entered our sales process (for our consulting service)

If you want to promote a special offer for your product, or invite prospects to sign up for a high dollar course, use your newsletter to do that instead of your blog. Your blog is your attraction source, and your newsletter is your sales vehicle.

But be sure to mix valuable content with salesy content on a 3 to 1 basis. For every three pieces of valuable, non-salesy content, send one promotional item. But that's a rule of thumb. Test which ratios work best for you.

If you've done your job providing overwhelmingly valuable content, your customers will be ready to receive a sales message. They’ll jump at a chance to take you up on your exciting offer!

Your next steps

You've learned the five pillars to a successful content marketing strategy.

  1. Provide overwhelming value to your customers. Don’t skimp on this step, your customers can tell the difference!
  2. Focus on your customers, not your product. Develop a detailed persona, and fulfill an unmet need of theirs with your content
  3. Become the media. Produce content on a regular schedule, and get as many guest appearances as you can.
  4. Use content as a market research tool. Check out what people are saying in the comments section of your blog, and check out your analytics to see if you’re on the right track
  5. Get them to subscribe. Deliver your content via email, and use email to sell to them.

 

For more details, visit the archives of The Content Marketing Institute, Copyblogger, the Lander Blog, and Convince and Convert or check out yesterday's Webinar.

Fernando's Presentation

Give a look to Fernando’s presentation, if you missed something, now you have the chance to write it down.

Lander Academy Winners

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