Put Your Customer at the Center of Your Content Marketing Strategy

Thanks to everyone who attended our thought leadership presentation on June 10, where my colleague Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media laid out a detailed approach to Content Marketing, Social Media, SEO and Email Marketing in Seven Steps, and Brad Farris of Anchor Advisors discussed case studies illustrating content marketing that works to bring him new clients and extend his reputation.

Sandwiched between these thoughtful and inspired talks, I examined the question: what do you publish?

To answer that question, I asked the group to consider this:

Why: don’t get distracted by the mechanics of the process. Content marketing is about generating leads, attracting customers and growing business.

What: Your brand story, told in a way that is all about your customer, should be at the center of your content marketing. More on this, below.

How: Follow Andy’s process and you will be able to engage your audiences with consistent, useful information over time.

What to expect:  Content marketing takes time, and doesn’t turn directly into leads. Rather, the results can be indirect. For example, being a publisher of content is a demonstration of your expertise. You can reference own material as part of your credentials. The act of writing or developing other content media is a forum for working out your unique point of view and product/service offering, which provides critical advantage during your selling process.

Content marketing is an extension of what you already know about marketing your business. Use content marketing to extend your ability to develop face-to-face and personal relations, but with new depth and with a much larger network community.

So what is a brand story—What is your brand story?

•    A brand is the promise of what you do for your customers.

•    A brand is focus. Have the courage to limit what your organization does, to be the best or the only provider of your specific offering.

•    A brand is distinct in its category. Do the work for your customers, to clearly differentiate your offering from all the other available.

When you consider this definition of a brand, it's easy to see that content marketing is brand fuel! It’s ideal for accomplishing these three things. Here are five results you can expect from content marketing, and ways that will support your brand and develop customer leads:

1)    Extend your reach and visibility by publishing across your email, Blog, website, eZine articles, LinkedIn and other platforms.

2)   Distinguish your promise and value from other similar offerings. At 500-1000 works per article, and with images and video, you have a powerful forum to demonstrate how your firm uniquely solves customer problems, as well as to illustrate the pain your customers suffer.

3)    Educate your audience on the benefits of your niche offering. None of us are generalists anymore. But becoming an educator is a bigger responsibility that being and advertiser. And it’s also a big opportunity to…

4)    Create trust by becoming an advisor to business. Connect to your customers by putting their interests first, outside of the selling process. Become a Resource. Then, when they need what you do, you won’t have any competition.

5)    Sustain relationships over long periods of time. Sales cycles can last for years. Your business network may have hundreds or thousands of individuals. With content marketing you have the means to keep in touch, in a meaningful way.

Another objective of content marketing is to build your sales funnel. You can use content to stimulate and engage customers at each of the four traditional stages of their buying process: Awareness→ Familiarity → Consideration → Solicitation.

Content marketing calls for a break from past ideas about marketing. It is also interconnected with developing social media, search marketing, web analytics and customer relationship marketing (each are topics for future events—stay tuned!). To help shed old ideas of brand marketing, and to embrace the power of content marketing, consider:

Companies that don’t know where they’re going, have their product at the center of their marketing strategy.

Companies that do know where they’re going, have their customer at the center of their strategy.

When your customer is at the center of your strategy, your firm is truly living up to a brand promise that is focused, distinctive and valuable!