What’s the greatest ‘lie’ of content marketing?
That we tell ourselves, as we're creating, it’s for our customers, our audience.
<sigh> Sadly, that’s often wrong.
True content marketing SHOULD be about and for the audience – your reader, your prospect, customer, client, user, donor or patron. The first question about your content should be: ‘is it useful?’
But that doesn’t happen as often as it should. We're lying to ourselves as we write, shoot, post and tweet.
What really happens is we write for ourselves.
Oh, we say it’s for ‘them’ and we mean it. But the way it comes out, it’s not truly for them. We, as an organization, are still controlling the message and the content. And the audience.
Not so different than ‘old’ marketing, eh? The reader ends up serving OUR needs or wants as an organization, instead of us really, truly serving THEM.
To really rise above the sea of information out there, all the other ‘content’ flooding in-boxes, screens and newsfeeds, you must be really, truly useful. Not just what YOU think is useful, but what your audience or target tells you is useful to them.
Ask yourself, ‘Will this piece of content save my audience time, money, or both?’
If not, it’s not useful.
Or at least, it’s not as likely to be seen as useful enough by your audience for them to give up their email and name at first glance.
So what is ‘really, truly useful content’?
- Content so awesome, so helpful, such a problem-solver that people would otherwise pay you to get it.
- Material that is invited in, welcomed, anticipated, demanded, eagerly awaited.
One of the rising new names of marketing experts (who maybe doesn’t always think of himself as a marketing expert – after all, he started out selling swimming pools) is Marcus Sheridan. He put it very well recently:
Content Marketing = ‘your company or organization’s ability to be the best teachers and problem solvers in the world at what you do, digitally speaking’
See yourself as a teacher – (you teach people about ___ )
[e.g. Sheridan teaches people about fiberglass swimming pools]
See yourself as problem solver -(if someone has any question about _______, you’re the source) Are you, or can you become, the go-to source for info on X problem?
[e.g. Sheridan is THE source on pools, pool problems, pool installs, pool designs, really, anything, pools]
Can you and your organization be helpful at every step in a process, decision making chain or buying decision? THAT’s where good content lies.
What does that kind of content look like?
Answer their questions
Everyone has questions, about nearly everything.
Any process, system, decision or purchase creates questions in people’s minds. They don’t ask all of them out loud or to someone on your staff. Doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Often the most important ones are the ones people are afraid to voice for fear of looking ‘silly’.
So be the hero and answer their questions.
Use text, visuals, graphs, charts, diagrams, audio, infographics, pictures, screen casts, video – whatever you have, whatever you can create within your means. Whatever is necessary to give clarity, greater understanding, and confidence to your audience. Help them solve problems and make decisions, and chances are much, much greater they will decide to choose you.
Solve their problems
Address the problems your audience may not even be completely sure they have!
But you know your subject, the one your audience trusts you to be an expert on, and you know where are all the deep issues and problems come from. Your users may still be floundering a bit on the surface, drifting, just going along and experiencing these cramps, pangs or symptoms of their bigger problems.
So share what you know with them.
Show through examples, case studies, or stories your audience can relate to that you GET their problems, at all the levels. Show (more than tell) how you can educate them about these problems they maybe didn't even know about. Show how you can address and solve problems – big or small.
You’re a teacher and a problem solver
And now you’ve got content marketing that brings your audience in, keeps them there and really matters to them.
You’ve beaten the greatest lie of content marketing.
The more you can plan and create content, in whatever format is best for you AND them, that meets the true needs of your audience, the bigger the win for your org AND your clients or users. They learn to see you as a really trusted resource, more than maybe before, and someone who gives more than they take. You’re in a better position to work with them either now, or in the future, because you have a trusted relationship.