Content marketing should be about more than just getting content up on your website. Here’s why.

Work out why you're doing it. Then use these five golden tips to fit content marketing into the old sales triangle: empathise, educate, sell.

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What’s the point?

The past few years have seen a whole sub-industry grow up around the topic of content marketing. You probably have your own broad or finely-tuned definition of what it is. But the bigger question is what purpose does it serve? Find the answer to that and you’ll have a better idea of what your content needs to be about.

Above all, content marketing should be about more than pushing people to your site — it’s not all about SEO. Let me explain why.

Some time last century a sales manager I worked beside told me there were three stages to successful professional selling — empathise, educate, sell. The key to getting it right was to give all three equal weight. Where poorer sales people often got it wrong was in going straight for the jugular — starting off with product or service benefits before understanding what the customer’s issues were.

That old fashioned model of having a sales team to respond to sales enquiries has disappeared in many industries — thanks to the internet giving buyers the power to research markets without having to talk to sales people. So, in a world where the buyer holds all the cards, and might already be two thirds into the buying process, does the old empathise, educate, sell triangle still have a place?

Stop pushing. Start educating.

I would argue that it does, and that in fact content marketing completes the triangle, by delivering the educate element that a good face-to-face salesperson would have provided. You could say that content marketing is an activity that helps to create an environment which makes sales easier.

So how does that alter the way we think about content marketing? We meet a lot of organisations who are ‘getting more content up on their website’. If we asked any of them to share their written content strategy, we suspect it wouldn’t produce too many responses. Some are putting more content up because they already have it offline, while others are driven by SEO considerations. For me, neither of them sound like good reasons for content marketing, and they certainly don’t throw any light on what your content should really be about.

Five things every content marketing campaign should have

For me, there are five key things to remember about your content marketing campaigns. There may be others too, but if you get these five right you’re well on your way.

  1. Make it an education piece – not a discussion or a point of view. Give your users facts and information.
  2. Have a content plan — and I don’t mean ‘let’s make all our press releases a blog’. Split your marketing year into handy month-sized chunks, and write down what you’ll do in each one, and do it.
  3. Ask your sales team — if you have one. They’re often full of anecdotal information that gives you clues about your customers’ concerns.
  4. Define your tone of voice — if you haven’t done so already. You might be calling on colleagues or freelance writers for help. Make sure they understand what you sound like.
  5. Promote your content — it’s unlikely the world will beat a path to your door so figure out how you’re going to let people know about your content.

Postscript: Facts about this blog

When I was writing this article I had the B2B market firmly in mind. Parts of it might also be relevant for B2C — you can decide that one for yourself too.
I haven’t mentioned the benefits of content marketing; I’m trying to educate rather than sell.
If content marketing was my key phrase I’ve used it 10 times, giving me a keyword density of 3.14% according to seobook.com We could argue all day whether that’s too high or too low, or agree not to argue.

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