Sometimes when I talk to people about my content marketing consulting business, I start to worry that I’m contributing to an epidemic of worldwide content pollution. Like many people, I get tired of those daily or weekly emails from companies that I’ve bought stuff from in the past. Don’t even get me started on the ads everywhere. Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and please, New York Times – I beg you, no more ads! It seems like the amount of noise in the world might rival the big bang. So, take a deep breath and begin to quiet the noise. Close your eyes – oh wait – you might have trouble reading this with your eyes closed.
Content marketing has become an all-important aspect of any business, and I would argue that it has increased in importance exponentially over the past five years. If you can’t find a website for a recommended consultant or store or restaurant, does it make you want to do business with them? If you are looking at two different possible CPAs to help you with your taxes, are you going to pick the one with a website that that simply lists its services and contact information or the one that helps you understand how the new tax law impacts your withholdings?
It seems almost impossible to imagine that any business could be taken seriously without some sort of content marketing effort. The trouble is, because everyone has amped up their content marketing, it takes even more posts, hits, impressions to penetrate the vast web of communications out there. You can't just sit back and hope that posting an accolade once every few months on your LinkedIn page is going to bring in clients.
So, what on earth do we do? Let's think about the purpose of content marketing. It is supposed to be user-focused and instead of being baldly promotional, it must be helpful, practical and hopefully lead to the user being able to both take a step toward doing something on their own and possibly considering you as potentially helpful.
First, here is a basic definition of content marketing:
"A type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services."
Next, let’s all do some more deep breathing and follow the lead of the findings in the recent 2018 State of Digital & Content Marketing report that was published in July. The Report highlights findings from a survey of in-house counsel, so it skews toward that audience, but it’s likely that many of these findings would apply to any busy professional services provider.
Always. Be. Helpful. This is by far the most important bit of advice I can give. The purpose of anything that you write should be to help someone with a problem. Promoting yourself is not the goal. In order to do this, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal client. If you really consider life from their perspective, you will create useful, actionable content, not noise.
Use “earned media” whenever you can. Because there is so much noise and fake news floating around, people are relying on publications like The Wall Street Journal more than self-published sources. If you have PR professionals to help you build relationships with reporters, by all means, take advantage of that. If you’ve been quoted in a major publication, tell your network about it on LinkedIn or via email (more on email below).
Make sure every bit of content you post is serving an overall strategy. Your communications should consistently express your core message and value proposition. If they don’t, then hold off on posting/emailing. See my post on messaging for a more in-depth look at this.
Email is still a great way to communicate. The Report highlighted a preference for email communications. It’s still a simple and clean way to communicate, since it doesn’t involve social networks, Google searches or advertisements. Consider how you could use it. Maybe a monthly email update on your particular area of business or utilizing your firm or company’s regular newsletter and personalizing it for your contacts.
Be brief. Really, I mean it. In-depth articles are great, but people don’t usually have time to read a long article. If you actually want someone to read your article/email/post, you need to keep it short(ish). Probably between 500 and 800 words.
Don’t you feel better now? Okay, now you can close your eyes. And download my Messaging Strategy Worksheet!