All website owners have heard the old adage that “content is king.” This is true when you want to improve your search ranking and provide value-added information to prospective clients. But how do you create great content that gets marketing results? Here is a list of suggestions.
1. Focus on Participation
The companies who are most successful with their content marketing strategies have wide participation among their employees. You hire smart people who like their jobs and understand your solutions and the problems of your customers. They want to be empowered and they want to help—let them.
Within your environment, free them to blog, tweet, and be active on social networks—good things will happen. We just did an internal analysis of our blog post traffic sorted by author. The person who keeps our laptops and networks running wrote the second-most-trafficked post over the last thirty days. This is a guy who doesn’t talk a lot in the office and, in a “traditional” world, would never get access to a corporate blog.
Progressive organizations like ExactTarget have over 160 employee bloggers. Sears actually has participation in blogging as part of the job requirements. Set your employees free.
2. Focus on the Customer
We all know that people buy from people, and the more transparent an organization is, the more human they become to their audience. Successful content marketing organizations make sure they discuss and celebrate the human aspects of their business. Blog about birthdays, anniversaries, parties, and awards. They should all become part of your content mix, because your customers can relate to these activities.
Along with this transparency comes a responsibility to honestly face shortcomings and openly address problems. Use your social channels to do so. Companies who aren’t transparent simply aren’t trusted. The Iowa legislature is on the verge of approving a bill that makes it illegal for outsiders to film inside animal feeding and processing facilities. How do you think this will affect peoples’ excitement for eating meat from Iowa? Be honest. Don’t hide your faults. We all have them. They make you human.
3. Focus on Transparency
The most important person in any business is the customer. Good content marketing efforts address and tell the stories of the customer. The greatest selling tactic in the history of mankind is The Similar-Situation Story. Tell me a story about how you have helped solve a problem like mine, for someone like me, and I’ll trust that you can solve my problem, too. Want to accomplish this easily? Use email and make some phone calls. Don’t ask for reviews—which, at the end of the day, is content about you—but use-cases, situations, and experiences—which is content about your customer. That is, let your customers tell their stories.
Suppose you sell treadmills. You are going to have a picture of your treadmill and, odds are, you will have a model of some sort posing on it. That is a Similar-Situation Story. Depending on that model, certain customers will imagine themselves and think, “This is the right treadmill for me.”
Now, imagine you capture pictures and stories from hundreds of customers that use your treadmill. They’re going to be people of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions. All this leads to dramatically increasing the types of Similar-Situation Stories that you can tell, directly increasing your opportunities to sell more treadmills.
4. Focus on Sharing
You create content to educate, engage, and enable discovery. Sharing is key, but it doesn’t happen by itself. Successful strategy requires active management of your sharing program. The word “active” shouldn’t intimidate you as something that requires an inordinate amount of work. Tools like email, CoTweet, and a host of others make sharing easy. Sharing is more about using your imagination. Think about using email to point customers to stories they’ve submitted, adding giant share buttons alongside the links.
Marketing 101 tells us that your best prospects are the people who share the behavior and characteristics of your existing customers. By definition, those people are probably the friends of your current customers. Do everything you can to help your current customers share their stories about their experiences with your business on their Facebook walls and Twitter profiles.
Another great tactic is to hold contests among your content creators (i.e., your customers and employees) to see whose content can get shared the most. You will be surprised how much spread you can get with simplistic efforts like these. There was a great book in the 80s called Hope Is Not A Strategy, yet so many content marketers seem to live on the “hope” that their content will be shared. Make it happen.
5. Focus on Search
Let me state unequivocally that the number one benefit of content marketing is the qualified traffic you get from search engines. I recommend that every marketer take the time to review their keywords at least weekly. Guide your writers and your audience to use these words in your content. Was it Matt Cutts who called keywords “the language of your customer?” Understanding your keywords is understanding how your customers are interacting with your industry and how they are thinking about their problems.
I was once looking for rubber floor mats for my garage. After a Herculean effort, I found them on a catalog site labeled “PVC floor covering.” I’m sure some lawyer was like, “We can’t call them rubber,” but my perception of PVC is white plastic pipe for plumbing—not something I’d park my car on. Speak in the language of your customer, not your lawyers and engineers.
Remember—and if you don’t believe me, check your own analytics—most of the consumption of your content is coming from first-time visitors. Our studies show that, on average, eighty percent of all blog traffic comes from people who have never been to your site before. Keeping your messaging and keywords in mind will help you grow your audience by targeting the right people.