Just about every website, every slogan, and every brochure in the business world uses the same type of tired wording to entice customers:
- ACME Corp offer best-in-class solutions.
- Customers rate ACME Corp as the number one retail brand.
- ACME Corp are the brand you can trust.
Urgh. So what? All of the above mean nothing to a customer. You could say you’re the empress of the moon and nobody would care, because they’re just empty words, backed by nothing. No substance.
What you should be doing is demonstrating the above. Prove that you can do what you say.
Think about it: when hiring someone for a job, you insist they demonstrate that they can do what they say. So why, after you’ve hired them, does your business fall back on platitudes for its day-to-day interaction with customers? Isn’t that a double standard? Of course it is! So how do you address it?
Two words: excellent content.
Two examples of ‘show not tell’
It sounds daunting to write content that engages readers. Sounds like a lot of work, and it is. But with a little creative help or a nudge in the right direction, you can do it and reap the benefits to your bottom line, just like these companies.
One of the top-selling cooking magazines, packed full of recipes and tips. Flip through the pages and you’ll find it barely mentions the supermarket itself, but all ingredients are available in-store.
Result: people who read the magazine often buy products from Sainsburys instead of from their rivals.
The association between creative recipes and the company’s food products is strengthened through the high quality magazine content, without ramming home the company name on every other page.
Building on groundwork laid by other outdoor retailers, this co-operative company produce instructional how-to articles and make them available for free. From how to change a bike chain to orienteering advice, they provide free content that people search for on all things outdoors.
Result: the teeny tiny REI logo at the start of the video is linked in the viewer’s mind with the knowledge transferred from it. This builds a trust bond between the knowledge and the brand.
The free transfer of knowledge from company to potential customer is something that people remember. And, crucially, share in conversation.
Content marketing sounds expensive… and risky
If a magazine seems out of reach, you’re not alone. The good news is that content doesn’t have to be on glossy pages to form a bond, as REI demonstrated.
All you need is to understand what your customers value and fill that knowledge gap with informative content. No rocket science required.
Share your knowledge and people will flock to you
The cumulative effect of empowering potential customers with engaging content is twofold:
- People love to talk and share. Recommendations are incredibly powerful and persuasive.
- When the time comes to need some product or service that you provide, people will remember you.
As a potential customer, would you turn to someone you trust as a specialist? One who has been recommended by a friend as trustworthy? Or would you risk an unknown business?
One trick is to take advantage of social and seasonal trends to answer questions your customers are asking. Are there interest spikes at certain times of year or month that you can tap into? Use them to publish interim content that demonstrates you understand your audience.
In return, content consumers will help drive traffic to your site and build awareness by sharing your information, without you asking them to do so.
But I need sales results now!
Sorry, you’re in the wrong place. Content marketing isn’t a one-shot, one-gimmick ride. You need to commit to writing informative content regularly. Preferably on a manageable schedule, or as close to it as you can muster.
Sure, one publicity stunt, one viral video, can help wonders to kickstart a campaign, but you need to be ready to back it up with solid content that demonstrates you are the leaders in your field.
That takes planning.
The problem with today’s perceived desire to measure engagement and report ROI, is that writing about your expertise cannot directly be linked to sales. People reading your content might not respond immediately, might not close that sales loop today. So can they be considered a sale? Not according to analytics.
But if you get the content right, people will seek it out and share it for you.
Express your values to create brand ambassadors
Hopefully your mind should be whirring with all manner of ways to build and mobilise an army of followers. Great! Use them.
If you’re still stuck for ideas, reach out to others. Ask around. Seek content experts who can assess your business from the outside and dig into its fabric. Find someone who can take your values and write about them regularly on your behalf.
Alternatively, ask friends or existing customers what they value in your business and use some of their analysis to drive future content.
Simply focus on what you do best and present it in easily digestible formats. Pass on your expertise in clever and inventive ways, because people who enjoy your content today will become far more than just customers; they’ll evangelise you to others.
And you cannot put a price on that.