Why content marketing is not one size fits all is pretty simple- your story isn’t the same as the next guy.
Your story is why content marketing works. It’s a creative, commercial and often hard to crack conversation you have with customers.
The problem is marketing is a subjective art. So is content marketing and social media is even more prone to problems. Even SEO, with all its technical requirements, plumbs the depth of the subjective.
We can however get smarter by digging deeper and communicate better. It is, after all, what we’re paid to do.
So here is why content marketing questions aren’t all equal. And what you should do to get a far more substantial and useful answer to the questions you do ask.
Does social media work?
Social media comes under fire…a lot. It seems like a lot of effort for not a lot of return.
The issue with social media is the benefits take a while. You don’t see hoards of customers running at you with fistfuls of cash the minute you announce your arrival on social media. And the focus on likes, follows and comments makes it seem like a popularity contest rather than a form of marketing.
Social media has 3 basic pillars of intent:
- Providing customer service
- Exposing your product to customers between visits
- Persuading your customers to buy from you when it’s time
Social media doesn’t work unless you spend time building relationships. It doesn’t work if you think thwacking people over the head with sales all the time is sufficient.
But if you want to build a community, facilitate customer service and humanise your brand in preparation for a sale, social media works.
That means positioning yourself as an authority and committing to at least 6 months of proper work.
How many social media platforms do I need to use?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of advocating for a particular platform over other ones.
That doesn’t make it the right platform for every business. And therein lies one of the biggest problems.
We’ve all heard it. Some people will say GooglePlus is dead or Instagram is better than Facebook. Or you need to be on LinkedIn to seem like a business. Or Periscope because it’s new.
These reasons are lame and superficial.
What social media you should be using comes down to 3 things:
- Where are your customers?
- What social media platform excites you?
- What are you using it for? (I.e. the 3 things featured in the first section)
Whether it’s as new and fresh as a baby’s bottom or as populated as the busiest city doesn’t mean a hill of beans. If you don’t like a social media platform, your customers could care less about a platform or you have no idea why you’re on social media, you’ll suck at it.
Don’t ask what platforms or how many platforms you should use. Instead, get to know your customer. Understand what suits your industry. And what your marketing department has the skills to support. Decide what you want to get out of social media and match it to your audience and abilities.
Social media is like any other marketing or advertising form. You have to do your homework.
If someone else is doing your social media and suggests a platform, press them.
Ask them to justify their reasons. Get them to explain why that social media is worthwhile. Ask them to describe your customers and why that platform appeals to them.
Don’t let them off the hook until you understand why your audience would tune in and care.
Do I have to have a blog?
Why content marketing is wonderful isn’t hard to gather. You can have an intimate conversation with your customers while giving Google some tasty fresh content for SEO.
This is why a lot of people love blogs. And why blogging for business is so popular.
What seems to be missing out of the blogging equation is the plan. I can’t stress this enough. If you’re a small business or startup that engages a copywriter for blogging, if they don’t chart out the content, don’t hire them.
Because writing blogs without a plan is stupid.
Blogging is an activity you undertake for 4 reasons:
- To overcome your customer objections to purchasing it
- To answer the questions they have while using your product
- To attract customers when they are searching via Google
- To remain front of mind between purchases (otherwise known as community)
Consumers self research. We dig into Google with our questions and we want answers. We also want to know between purchases what our favourite shop it up to. Plus we want help when we need it if we run into difficulty. And we’d love to have the language to convince our friends, partner, parents or ourselves we need that sassy item.
In short, we want to understand the things we buy and justify those purchases to ourselves and others.
That is what your blogging comes down to. It’s not about jamming keywords in so that Google loves your ranking. Nor is it about copying what your competitors have written.
So when you’re looking at the kinds of topics you should blog about, you need to keep in mind:
The Buying Cycle
- Awareness and education- your customer is trying to figure out what solves their problem. They may not even have a clue it is what options are available
- Info search – Now they know a type of solution is available, they are using that knowledge to look for potential suppliers to fix their problem
- Supplier Identification- you’ve been identified as part of that process. So what makes you better or more appealing?
- Purchase decision- Maybe your customer has been floating around for a little while and keeps tossing backwards and forth. But now the need is greater so things become a little more in depth and money starts being a consideration
- Competitor testing- they may call or email, visit the store and dig deeper. By this stage, they know what they are on about
- Show me the money- they are ready to buy and they want you or your competitor. So you better seal the deal
Yes, there are more layers to it than this and customers can skip and jump levels, but the basic bones are there.
The aim is to tell a continual story. Not just have the hottest blog on a particular topic anyone has ever seen and get nothing out of it.
If you are told you need a blog, ask your marketer why. If all they respond with is “Google rankings” and “everybody has them” don’t bother. And if they don’t talk about planning, run away.
Your business story deserves more respect than that.
The (not so) final word on why content marketing works
Why content marketing works is because we love a great story. Customers are humans. We lie to ourselves about what works for us. We adopt personas that are not grounded in reality because it’s what it means to be in sales or in business.
Distraction plagues us, too. We look at our competitor and become excited by what they offer. So excited we don’t realise that marketing like them doesn’t differentiate us in the market.
And we’re suspicious of new technology, new ideas and alternate ways to crack the marketing code. Yet we’re drawn to the next new shiny thing like moths to business flame.
As the sellers and adopters of content marketing, we too have our own blindness to work with.
We become pro-whatever we sell and forget that it may not be the right thing for our customers. If I had a dollar for every SEO consultant or online advertising sales person who said their way was the only way, I’d be rich. That doesn’t mean they aren’t talking out of their bum.
Content marketing costs time, money and brain space. It has to have a strategy. It needs a rationale. And it always needs to fit with what your business needs and what level of support you can give it to work.
So please, always ask why content marketing is so essential to your business efforts. Challenge the assumption that it’s necessary. That way, you can test whether it is the right solution for your business.
I love content marketing. But not stuff done in an hour or spat out as one liners without any connective tissue or thought behind it.
And you shouldn’t either.
To make your content marketing endeavours simpler, I supply the following:
- A marketing coach services over Skype. You can use this to work out whether content marketing is right for you and/or to get some advice on how to make it work.
- A free content marketing eBook called ‘Age of Word Love’. You can find out more about that here.
- A section devoted to content marketing. Read away!
- Content marketing plans. I can help you with a content marketing plan, social media plan or both under the foundation marketing plan.
- Content marketing retainers. I can look after your blogging and social media for you. Ensure it has a backbone and some measurable outcomes by having someone (me) look after it for you. It’s geared towards small business and startup, so the prices are reasonable. Email me directly via Rebekah @ unashamedlycreative.com.au to find out more.