What is Content?
Sometimes those of us who deal with digital marketing for a living forget that our small business customers don’t speak the language.
I recently was having a conversation about optimizing a clients website for a certain service. The conversation went on for a few minutes before my client stopped me and said “what is content?”. A simple question, that was obvious to me, but not so obvious to the client.
Content is, for the most part, written stories, tutorials, product descriptions, advice, video, downloads or other material on your website or social media page that is relevant to your business and your customers. Content is the most important part of your site when it comes to connecting with potential customers, who are seeking advice. 70% of customers now look online to find information before making a purchase or deciding on choosing a service provider. Most customers are seeking content that helps them make a decision, not generic content. Content marketing has become more important in the last few years as the ability to share content via Facebook, Twitter and Blogging platforms like WordPress (that can function as your main website as well) has become so easy.
Why is Content Marketing Important?
Content marketing is an indirect sales channel and increases relevant traffic.
Content marketing is one of the best ways I advise clients to increase relevant traffic to their website. Great content positions people and companies as experts to a group of interested people who search the web before buying. Think of it like your neighbor who is a Master Automotive Technician, or a a friend of a friend who is an Attorney. When a problem arises with your car aren’t you likely to ask that neighbor, hey can you look at this? When you have a legal matter, isn’t it always easier to call that person you know rather than do the work to try and find somebody qualified just to bounce a question off? It’s always better to position you or your company as the expert first, before somebody needs to make a rush decision. They are much more likely to call and not shop if you have already built that relationship. From this point forward, assume every person who visits your website or facebook page is someobody you need to build a relationship with and share your knowledge. Assume they aren’t ready to buy, they just need information. In time – you will have thousands of neighbors who turn to your first. And, they same way you would be honest with somebody in your family or with your neighbor, be honest with your potential customers. Educate them and share information that would help them make a decision.
Great Content vs. Filler Content
Great content wins. So what makes great content and how do you provide it to your clients?
The first step is sharing the knowledge you have with potential customers. For years in the traditional marketing world, businesses had a protection mentality when it came to sharing “secrets” or “methods” or giving away information that would allow a client to use this information without ever needing their services. So instead of writing great content that helped people, they wrote filler content that generally talked about what they do and supplied all of the credentials about why they are great. We’ve all been to Attorneys sites that list all of the attorneys and the degrees each has earned and what dollar amount litigated by each attorney. It’s filler content, nobody cares. Both service and retail industries benefit from great content and both benefit from giving away as much information as they can to educate their customers. The more you educate your potential customers, the more likely they will be to view you as the expert or the industry leader in a given field.
Great content is transparent. Be honest and upfront about your capabilities, about your successes, about your competitors and what you offer. Don’t be afraid of comparisons of your product to another, instead try to control the conversation. If you know of your competitors, chances are so do your customers, so don’t ignore the facts. Glorified statements about your product or your service are generally ignored as marketing speak and don’t serve to gain trust among your potential customers. Reviews and testimonials, on the other hand, often do resonate well with consumers. Be honest and aim to educate.
I often have customers tell me awesome stories about their company, its people and their capabilities. They tell me stories or anecdotes that get me excited and it isn’t long before I realize why they are better than their competitors. I generally WANT to hire them after hearing their story. They often tell me that when they are able to get in front of a client and make a sales pitch in person, they almost always win the deal. Often, the pitch might be repeated, but the only place you can get it is in the board room during a sales pitch. Why isn’t that information shared – in great detail, with every potential customer who visits their website!! It makes no sense. Share, educate, and entertain your potential customers the same way you would somebody who is sitting across the table having coffee with you.
How do I create content?
It is easier now then ever.
I always suggest my customers use their website and their content hub. If you aren’t on a good content management system like WordPress (or Drupal and Joomla) then I suggest moving to one of these web platforms unless you have your own content management system. Have a website on a solid platform allows you to access your site and create new content quickly and efficiently without the need for advanced HTML or CSS skills (web stuff).
When you create new content like news stories, blog posts, additional pages of resources, video etc – be sure it goes on your website first. The, push this new information out to your social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get the information out to those who may be interested.
What do I write about?
This is the most difficult part for most of my clients.
They freeze as soon as the time comes to create content. They aim for perfection, brilliant words, awesome news, big stories. If you can manage that you will be one of the few. Just keep it simple. For starters I bet I could site down with any one of you know and in 15 minutes I could find out more about your company and why people would WANT to hire you than I could spending an hour on the web digging for information. People ask me questions all the time and I provide answers to their specific questions. That is how this story came about, with my client who didn’t know what content was. I’m sure there are tons of other business owners wondering the same thing. You must get some of the same questions, so answer them. If you need more structure, try to break your ideas down by season or by different services you offer and keep it simple. If you own a lawn care business, take the time to educate people about what they should be doing at each season to care for their lawn. Give tips that geared toward the region you live in, this will make increase their trust in you. If you sell products in retail be sure to share tips and educate buyers about your products. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers. There is something that differentiates you from your competitors… what is it? Write about it!
Finally, tell your story. People aren’t interested in facts they can get anywhere else on the web. If you are a local small business (mom and pop), tell your story and make it personal. I would much rather shop with a local retailer who seems to love what they do and even pay a little bit more for the product, but you have to get me excited about doing that. Unless everybody in town walks through your store you won’t ever have the opportunity.
If it helps, mix your new content into a few different categories and make a commitment to educating people about those topics on a regular basis. Commit to a few new stories a month and aim to educate, entertain, and at times … sell.
You must be aware of Google in Content Marketing
What? I thought great content would take care of it?
Ok, so this might seem like I’m going back on what I just said. I know, I said to make it personal, tell your story, aim to educate, don’t try to sell…… and now I tell you to be aware of Google? Well, the point of content marketing is to allow people to find you. Google just happens to be the number one way people are going to find you online, and we know that 70% of people go online first before making a buying decision. Because of that we can’t ignore what Google needs. Google crawls (techy word for reads) your site and indexes all of your content. When somebody performs a search, Google serves up pages it thinks may be relevant to what people are searching. Let me give an example of what an accountant may write during tax time.
“It is that time of year again. I just wanted to put a word out to let everybody know to check out the new rules and be sure you know what to do when you file this year. We have had a lot of clients ask us about how the new rules are changing, so let me explain a bit ……. ( and the story goes on).
The accountant had a great idea to educate his/her clients or potential clients about recent changes, but the sentence above could apply to almost anything. Google has no idea what you are writing about so it has no idea if your content is relevant. Maybe something like this would be better.
“Tax time is here again and time to file your IRS Return. I wanted to notify everybody that the Internal Revenue Service has issued new rules, specifically pertaining to taxes on large breed dogs. We have had a lot of clients who own large breed dogs and wondered how these changes may affect them. Let me explain how the IRS plans to handle these new rules …. (and the story goes on)”
The second version is clear in its intent and the message. Google can now easily understand that this story is about the IRS, Internal Revenue Service, Large Breed Dogs and filing your return.
Get help when you need it.
Sometimes a large portion of our job in the digital marketing world is nudging our customers on the shoulder and letting them know they need to create new content. But, lets be honest – other times this is just too much to deal with when you have a business to run. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about running your own content marketing campaign or want to sit down and talk about how we can help you.