Content Marketing: It’s Not Just About the Sale Anymore

 Conventional sales messages no longer work in visual or print media. Explaining why your company is better than others only results in rolling-eyed looks of skepticism and the subsequent, taunting question of our youths – the “Oh, yeeah?” that silently challenges your authority. While you may not believe that this is significant, it is time to recognize that the way businesses not only market their products or services, but the way they market their entire brand is changing. Because an explanation no longer convinces people of your value, it’s time to respond to the line that always came after that provocative question and prove it.

While highlighting what people will save by choosing you over your competitors is effective for some businesses, what happens when you competitors offer lower prices? Savings may bring in one-time customers, but as soon as they find a lower price, you may lose their business. Don’t rely on price alone to be a winner because eventually someone will come along who can undercut you, and you will be the loser. So how can your other marketing strategies ensure that they will return, let alone become evangelists and help market your brand for free? Add value by utilizing a content marketing strategy.

Content marketing is a subcategory of marketing that focuses on the long term – the attraction and retention of customers – by creating such useful and helpful content that you become an indispensible and trusted source of information about your industry. Marketing now requires a more personalized touch that augments your value and worth to the customer. It’s not just about the price alone anymore; it’s about credibility, authority driven by thoughtful and nurturing content that extends beyond price and creates new value through information.

This is especially true of online sales. The online shopping experience has become extremely impersonal. People are, now more than ever, able to control the sales process by conducting research about your company and comparing it to others that offer similar products or services. While the best prices may attract them initially, what is going to keep them coming back? If you give your target market nothing else that makes your company stand out among the rest, people will continue to conduct this kind of research and find the lowest prices unless you are able to find a way to inspire loyalty from them – this is the goal of content marketing. However, it requires that a company have an actual interest in, concern for and dedication to its customers that not every company pays attention to.

While all marketing is ultimately focused on getting people to take some kind of action, content marketing is really all about building authority, credibility and trustworthiness through the production of inherently useful and helpful content. No overt sales message is necessary or even desirable. The purpose of this content is to be useful when people have a problem they can’t solve, a question they can’t find the answer to or instructions on how to do something they’ve never tried. The key to content marketing is not to tell them to buy their product, but finding a way that allows people to “discover” the solution on their own and how your product solves such a problem best.

Giving It All Away?

Many people who are confronted with this manner of conducting business and interacting with customers, are concerned about giving away some kind of secret, or giving away their competitive edge by providing valuable information about the company, its products or services. However, providing this information directly to your customers and your target market creates great value because you are sharing unique information, free information that readers and viewers can benefit from in all likelihood. After all, it’s about your market, real people, not your competition anyway. Rather than bombard people with sales messages, this approach will make people value you as someone who understands the problem, found the best way to fix it and who wants to share their experience and expertise to help them accomplish the same, rather than yet another company that just wants to make a sale.

This goes back to proving your value and puts you on people’s radar as a company that is credible and one that can be trusted. By educating people, rather than just selling to them, you place yourself in a position of authority, so that when a need arises, they automatically think of you because you have helped them in the past and, as a result, will be more open to the products or services you have to offer. Then, if your product or service meets or exceeds their expectations, the more likely they are to evangelize your brand and products, explaining to their friends and family how helpful you were and what product or service or article solved their problem. They will generate leads for you, for free, and only be too happy to do it. They probably won’t even realize they are doing it.

The reason for this is twofold. First, people take pleasure in being helpful to other people. Whether for vain or altruistic reasons, they want to be a source of information that others are looking for, and by helping them do this you play into the vision they have of themselves. You look good by helping them look good. Second, people want to justify the expense and so they convince other people that the purchase was worth it to prove to themselves that it really was.

Becoming Relevant, Credible and Trustworthy

However, there is a catch to implementing a successful content marketing strategy. Your information, products and/or services must actually be helpful in order for this to work. The more accurate and helpful these things actually are, the more this evangelism will spread. It can backfire if your information is inaccurate, solves no problem, if your product is faulty or if your service doesn’t live up to the standard you have created with your content.

The point isn’t to sell people on how helpful you are, but to actually be helpful before and throughout the entire sales process, to make products or provide a service that continues this commitment to customer satisfaction. This promotes lead generation and customer retention. By becoming a problem solver, a thought leader, by making life easier for your customers, you deflect any objection to the cost because you have preempted that objection with your content, because you have increased the value of your product through real life problem solving. By doing this, you create opportunities to market your products and services as something that has been created by your company for the purpose of making these solutions even faster and easier. Now, how’s that for effective marketing?

Finding out what your customers have questions about, are struggling with, want answers and solutions to is as simple as doing research, coming up with solutions and communicating. Simply conduct keyword research to see what terms people are searching for or what phrases are being used to find information and solutions. Then, discover where their issues are being voiced – on the blogs of other industry leaders, on third party review sites, on your own website, etc. This allows you to understand the actual questions people have about these keywords and phrases and offers a treasure trove of ideas for content. It also allows you to move ahead of the competition by becoming the company that made it a point to resolve issues that these other sites have ignored. Bookmark where you found these questions so you can go back and respond with a link to your content, explaining how you saw their question and wanted to answer it. The value that this kind of helpfulness has for your marketing efforts is incalculable.

Also, keep in mind the different elements of online content – it is not solely articles that you write. You can also create videos, images, infographs and a variety of other informational vehicles that solve a problem. It may require a bit of experimentation to discover which medium works best for the type of information you are offering. For example, videos may be especially useful if you sell a product because you can use it to provide a how-to video that uses one of your products without overtly selling it. By using your product in a video, you allow people to see how your product solves their problem, without promoting the product like an infomercial. It turns your product into a discovery and makes it desirable because they have already seen how it solves the problem.

Once you have discovered the problem you want to solve for your customers, or customers-to-be, and the medium you want to use to solve it, keep a tight focus. The key to building your credibility and authority is actually solving the problem and doing it thoroughly. Take all details or roadblocks that people may encounter along the way into account and address the most important ones. Then pay attention to the comments and if there are some things that people still have questions about, hey presto! you have the opportunity to be even more helpful, not to mention additional ideas for new content. If the idea is too big or complex to begin with, if there are too many different aspects to cover thoroughly in one video or article, create a series that covers each part in depth. This will keep people coming back and have you steadily producing relevant and helpful content – both important aspects of marketing online.

Still Not Convinced?

The goal of internet marketing, as opposed to other subcategories of marketing, is to provide relevant, meaningful, useful content without an overt sales message in order to build credibility, trustworthiness and authority.

Content marketing isn’t a shortsighted marketing strategy whose only goal is immediate profits. Content marketing is the name given to the pre-existing strategy used by companies that actually care about and seek to benefit their customers through their marketing. It is not a strategy that stands alone, but should be used to compliment your other marketing strategies. Content marketing creates a strong, long-lasting industry presence by developing a company’s image as a thought leader and problem solver – as an authority in the industry that people will turn to for information, help and products or services they can depend on because the company’s credibility, trustworthiness and authority have already been established by their past helpfulness.

A content marketing strategy is best suited to companies that wish to go above and beyond the call of their customers and peers, for those companies that state customer service is the most important thing they offer, who want to build a relationship with their customers, become a part of their customers’ lives by making their lives easier and sticking with it for the long haul. The approach is not “you need this, give us your money,” but “we saw you had this problem and want to help you. This is the solution we came up with that works,” whether or not that specific piece of content features one of your products or services.

To learn how we can help you and your company achieve this image with a marketing strategy that includes content marketing, contact us for a free, no obligation consultation!