March 7, 2019
“All things being equal, simpler solutions are generally better than more complex ones.”
This paraphrasing of Occam’s Razor is the second most popular expression in our offices (the first is “measure twice, cut once”), and it guides many of our decisions. It’s what we ultimately fell back on when arguing about what to make our first blog post about. So, in an effort to keep it simple, we decided to start by defining what it is, exactly, that we do.
“What Is Content Marketing?”
There are almost as many definitions of Content Marketing as there are Content Marketers, but they all say essentially the same thing, Content Marketing is the practice of producing content that is both valuable to your audience, and relevant to your business, and then making that content easy for your customers to find. Put another way, it’s creating content that answers questions that your current customers or potential customers have, about topics that are relevant to your company’s products or services, and then publishing that content where they are most likely to see it, in the format they prefer. And, maybe even anticipating their informational needs and proactively providing them with the answers. Ultimately, it’s about building trust with your customers and in this post-truth, fake news world, trust is the most valuable currency in business.
Content Marketing is educational, not promotional. It isn’t focused on selling your products or services. Its purpose is to establish your brand as a trusted source of content that is interesting, useful, timely, entertaining, unique or all of the above, as a precursor to selling. Content Marketing requires you to figure out how to provide some value to your customers beyond the product or service you hope to sell to them. It involves expanding your definition of useful, and understanding that there is a fundamental change happening in the business world. This change is shift of power to the consumer, where the entire experience of interacting with a brand is more important than a company’s products or services.
Content marketing requires you to put the needs of your customers before your own. Effective content marketing is predicated on a deep understanding of your customers. You have to understand the decision-making process they go through when making any purchasing decision, and the particular nuances of this process, as it relates to your product or services. You have to know what information they use to make decisions, what questions are they asking, where do they go to get answers, what sources of information do they use, how do they like to consume information, and what are their preferred formats. Once you have this understanding you have to apply these insights when deciding what topics to address in your content, how broad or detailed you need to be, do you cover it in a blog or a podcast, and should you only publish it on your site or in your newsletter or on social media.
And here’s the rub, you have to make the effort to learn all this about your customer, and then take the time to create some killer content, probably in multiple formats so you can distribute it across multiple platforms and you have to do all this without talking about yourself or your product. Why? Because consumers can smell a sales tactic a mile away and they don’t trust advertising. They still want to engage with your brand but not on your terms, on theirs.
So how do you get a potential customer to engage with your brand? It’s no longer about interrupting their viewing experience and inserting your message into the content that they have chosen to consume. You have to create content that they seek out, that they choose to engage with and make it easy for them to find when they are actively looking for it. And over time, if you accurately understand your customer’s needs and give them the information that they use to make purchasing decisions, they will come to see your brand as an authoritative source of trustworthy information, significantly increasing the chances that, when they are ready to buy they will buy from you.