The Unspoken Genius of Content Marketing
Ah, Sunday. My favorite day of the week. For just one day in seven, from morning to bedtime, I unplug from all things business: no computer, no work, no email, no social media, no giving in to “lemme just check this real quick” temptations. Just rest, relaxation, naps, backyard time with the pups, and Formula One racing.
But last Sunday, I made a teeny exception.
Last Sunday, when my friend John Phillippe of Zephyr Salvo texted me this video, I broke my no-business rule just long enough to check it out. And I’m glad I did:
If you’re not in a spot where you can watch this quick one-minute clip from MSNBC, here’s a synopsis: Small business consultant Barry Moltz shares the main reason why businesses aren’t getting referrals, even if they ask for them. The problem, he says, is that we usually ask our clients the “do you know anyone who …” question once we’re done providing our product or service. At that specific moment in time, the odds of said client being able to refer a perfect prospect to us is slim to none.
The secret to getting referrals, Barry continues, is staying top-of-mind, so when that client does come across someone who needs your product or service, as he puts it, “you jump to the front of the line” and they refer you.
Now, ready for the kicker? Here it is:
“We actually can’t sell anything to anybody. We’ve gotta be there when people are ready to buy, and the only way this works is consistent content marketing.”
That, folks, is what content marketing is all about. We show up, day after day, week after week, not with marketing messages, but with engaging, useful content, and when that moment of readiness comes about, we do indeed jump to the front of the line.
The question of how to stay top-of-mind with prospects and referral sources is one that has plagued sales teams for as long as anyone can remember.
Think about the typical sales process. Your sales ace gets wind of a prospect and makes a pitch, only to be told “We’re not in the market for [your product/service] right now.”
Thus begins the oh-so-painful follow-up process, which usually goes something like this:
1 month later:
“Hi there, ready to buy yet?”
3 months later:
“Hi there, ready to buy yet?”
You get the idea.
But what if we followed up not with the same old rehash of “ready to buy yet?” but with rich, insightful resources that actually made those folks’ lives better?
With content marketing, we can.
By the way, this is why your sales team should be the #1 fans of your content marketing. Instead of piping up with “Hey, Bob, just wanted to follow up and see how it’s going …” (we all know nobody ever calls “just to see how it’s going,” right?), we enable them to send an email that goes something like “Hey Bob, when we spoke earlier, you mentioned that your team was having an issue with X. We just published a blog post where we show five easy steps for resolving X, and I thought you might find it interesting. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: …” Big difference, right?
How to Get to Top-of-Mind Awareness … and Stay There
That top-of-mind awareness (or “TOMA,” for my acronym-slinging compadres) that Barry spoke about is the holy grail of every marketer. When people think of our product or service, we want our brand to be the first one that comes to their minds, just like they think of Coca-Cola for soft drinks, Nike for running shoes, and Apple for computers.
And content marketing can do that. If we’re consistent.
Oh, crap. I said “the c-word,” didn’t I?
So, yeah, let’s get that out of the way right now. Achieving top-of-mind awareness takes steady action, over time. It didn’t happen overnight for Coca-Cola, Apple, or Nike, and it won’t happen overnight for us, either.
Now, consistent is not a word many marketers like to hear. We are campaign-oriented creatures, and if we can’t show bottom-line results after six months, well, then, what the heck good is it?
But that’s how content marketing works. There is no drive-through. There are no shortcuts. We have to show up with engaging, compelling content, week in and week out, through product launches, personnel changes, budget cuts, and every other challenge that crosses our paths.
So if you’re not willing to be consistent, all the “best practices” in the world won’t do you a dang bit of good. But if you are in it for the long haul, here are a few proven ways to stay top-of-mind with your prospects and with referral sources.
Build a schedule and stick to it
There’s more to being consistent than publishing content frequently. We have to approach our task like the publishers we are, not with three blog posts one week, zero the next, and one the next. Pull out your project calendar and create a publication schedule you can live with. When will you publish your blog posts? When will you send out your email content? When and where will you publish on social media? Then stick to it. That’s how we build trust.
Know your audience
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’re probably sick of hearing me say “know your audience,” but I can’t repeat it enough. Because here’s the deal: Audiences don’t engage with your content to hear about you. They engage to be educated, informed, inspired, and/or entertained. That’s it.
How do we deliver content that achieves one or more of those goals? We spend a lot of time and effort getting to know the folks on the other side of that screen. What are their challenges? Their interests? Their fears? Their hopes and dreams for the future? Once we have a clear picture of what these folks want and need, we can start delivering content that makes their lives better.
Don’t just share your own stuff
Part of becoming an authority in your field is showing a bit of humility. So branch out. Don’t just share your own insights from your own subject matter experts. Mix it up and include other voices from your industry. Not only will you add flavor and variety to your social media feeds, but you’ll also remind your audience that you’re there to serve their needs, not to hear your own echo.
If someone takes the time to comment on a blog or social media post or to respond to an email, do them the courtesy of responding. Even if they disagree with you, make sure they know that you acknowledge their points of view and that you appreciate the effort. Not only is this good for your cred; it’s just the right thing to do.
Measure and adjust
Unless we engage in some extensive — and expensive — market research, most of us will never know exactly how top-of-mind we are with our target audiences. But the KPIs that are measurable can give us a good indication of what’s working well and what isn’t. Your website traffic numbers, your social indicators (reach, likes, shares, etc.), and your email analytics are all worthy sources to check on a regular basis (at least monthly). Look for patterns among the most and least engaged-with content, then adjust your approach accordingly.
It’s All in the Timing
One of the biggest mistakes we make in marketing — and in sales, for that matter — is that we do everything by our timing. “We need to sell more units of Widget X, so we’re going to promote the crap out of Widget X until we reach our quota.” “We lost a major client this quarter, so we need to add at least one new client from X industry by the end of June.”
Wanna hear something scary? It’s not about our timing.
Wanna hear something really scary? It never was.
Sure, decades ago, a snazzy sales pitch was all we needed to convince buyers that they needed our product or service — right now. Whether or not they actually did need it, well, that was immaterial.
But today’s consumers are smart. And powerful. Until that moment when they’re ready to start the decision making process, even our brightest, most beautiful ADDY-award-winning marketing just blends in with all the rest of the white noise out there. The best we can do is make sure that when that moment does come around, ours is the first name that comes to mind.
And that, folks, is what content marketing is all about.
Find out why Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, had this to say about The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN:
“A simple yet effective guide to an approach that most businesses get flat out wrong. Do yourself and your business a favor and take a deep dive into this book. You won’t regret it.”
About the Author
A self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).
As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and author of the book The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN!
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