Content marketing is one of the biggest online marketing trends of the past few years, but many companies are still figuring out how to use content marketing to get new customers. Content marketing is something new in the history of media and marketing. In the old days, marketers could choose from “paid media” (buying ads) or “earned media” (getting publicity via PR efforts). Today, content marketing offers a third way: “owned media” – with content marketing, brands have become publishers and are sharing their own stories and building their own audience.
Instead of running an ad, or sending a press release and hoping that news publishers will choose to spotlight your company’s story, content marketing gives companies the power to directly communicate with audiences in an engaging and credible manner. Whether it’s a blog, YouTube videos, podcasts, infographics or other media, content marketing puts companies in control of their own message and puts their message in front of their own audience.
Most of the time content marketing works best when it’s done with the focus of building online audiences and building credibility for the brand – content marketing does not work if it sounds too much like a direct sales pitch. But content marketing can help you get new customers if you use it in the right way.
Here are a few ideas for how businesses can use content marketing to grow your customer base:
Showcase Your Experience
One of the best ways to use content marketing is to share specific success stories that your business has created. For example, write a blog article about a specific case study where you helped a customer solve a problem or helped improve a customer’s situation with measurable results. But be careful of the tone you use – don’t be overly self-congratulatory or self-promotional. Instead, think in terms of “case studies.” What are some persuasive examples you can offer of “how” your product or service makes a difference for your customers? Can you find some customer testimonials or interview customers to share their stories on your blog? The more specific stories you can offer, the more likely you will be to attract new customers.
Share Your Expertise
Content marketing is an ideal way to share your expertise and insights about the latest issues affecting your industry. Write an article for your company blog (or record a podcast or YouTube video) where you discuss some key issues, problems or frequent misconceptions about your industry. Be sure to speak not just about your company, but about the industry as a whole. Where is your industry heading? What are the causes for optimism? What is something that customers need to understand – or that you wish customers would ask – when they’re deciding whether to make a purchase from someone in your industry? Content marketing is a great tool for educating your customers and creating better-informed buyers – and often, better-informed buyers will be grateful to the companies that helped provide the information they needed.
Ask yourself, “Why are people searching for answers on our company website? What problems can we help them solve?” If someone finds your website, chances are they are looking for information and answers about a specific problem. For example, if you sell insurance, people might find your website by asking Google, “How can I find affordable health insurance?” If your blog can reverse-engineer the questions that people are already asking, and provide credible, substantive answers (in the form of helpful articles, videos, podcasts, etc.), then you will be well on your way to winning new customers.
Content marketing is a way to show your prospective customers that you know how to solve their problems – and it’s a way to start building relationships with customers and educating customers about your product and about your industry before they even pick up the phone to call you. But remember: don’t make your content marketing “all about you.” Talk in broader terms about how-to tips and must-have advice that any customer would want to know – even if it’s not directly related to the products or services that you sell. Try to make your website so helpful and engaging – such a must-read, colorful, well-designed resource – that your audience will read it for fun.
Content marketing is an exciting and promising form of media because it gives businesses the power and freedom to talk with their customers about any topic that the customer finds interesting. Brands are becoming publishers – so we all have to start thinking differently about what to say and how to say it. Instead of writing “sales copy” on our websites, or always asking for the sale in a prominent fashion, we need to use content marketing to take more of a “soft sell” approach and give customers a chance to get to know our companies and feel comfortable with us. Customers are doing more online research than ever before. Customers have more transparency than ever before into how our industries work. None of this is a “bad thing” – instead, we should embrace the opportunities of content marketing and engage, communicate and educate our customers more than ever before.
Gregg Schwartz is the Vice President of Sales at Strategic Sales & Marketing, one of the industry-founding lead generation companies. He supervises content marketing strategy for his company and their clients, as well as doing consulting, strategy and training for B2B major account lead generation.