Ever find yourself at a cocktail party cornered by a conversation hog? You know, the kind of bore who drones on in a hyped-up, one-way conversational stream about his interests, his work, his health, his achievements, his love life?
At first you’re polite. But within minutes, you find yourself annoyed, impatient and desperate for a way out.
Chances are, that’s how your customers feel about your marketing.
The sad truth: If you depend only on traditional marketing tools, very likely you’re boring customers out of their skulls.
Like the conversation hog, most ads, brochures, Slim Jims, direct mail and websites are about you: Your company, your products, your work process, your corporate culture, your not-for-profit worthy causes.
Hyped, look-at-me marketing may have packed power back in the Mad Men era. Before consumers were inundated with messaging. And before digital media let them talk back.
Today, not so much.
So what should marketers and businesses do? Throw in the towel and stop promoting products and services?
Of course not.
Today marketers have unprecedented opportunity to inform, educate, promote and sell. Through content marketing.
What is content marketing?
The term content marketing is often used interchangeably with “inbound marketing,” “permission marketing,” “blog marketing,” “relationship marketing,” “custom publishing,” “custom media,” and more.
The idea is to deliver content that’s useful to customers and clients. Content that provides genuine value through helpful information, advice, tips, reports and insider intelligence that solves problems, educates and entertains.
Content marketing sells without hard-selling.
Content marketing steers clear of hyped, inflated claims and self-serving copy. It never hard-sells. In fact, you have to look hard to see it sell at all.
But it does.
Subtly. By positioning you as problem-solver and thought-leader. By establishing your expertise, gaining trust and building relationship. By keeping you top-of-mind and making yours the product of choice—when customers are ready to buy.
15 effective, hype-free content marketing tools
Some of today’s most popular content marketing platforms include:
- Blog posts that publish valuable, targeted content.
- Articles published in eZines and through online content aggregators.
- White papers that solve customers’ problems or provide professional guidance.
- Tip and fact sheets.
- How-tos and guidebooks to explore customer pain points—and solutions—in more depth.
- Digital newsletters with brief articles, sidebars, bulleted suggestions and links to additional resources.
- Print magazines filled with useful reader-focused content.
- Press releases that deliver real news, not self-serving hype.
- Podcasts to give busy customers an alternative to text-based content.
- Videos that demonstrate products and show the human face behind your brand.
- Apps to help users manage tasks faster.
- Wikis edited and updated by visitors.
- Webinars that invite customers to participate in your lectures and conferences from the comfort of their desks.
- Email that lets you easily share newsletters, articles, autoresponders, links, sales specials, discount codes, coupons and more.
- Social media to share, amplify and leverage your great content.
Likely, you can come up with even more ways to deliver useful content to your customers.
Do your marketing tools pass the test?
Content marketing doesn’t require you to abandon traditional marketing tools. But it does force you to think hard about your content mix—and include the tools that work best for your customers. As you plan content, ask yourself: Will this blog post—or ad or direct mailer or brochure—really add value? Will it provide useful information, news or entertainment for your customers? Will it strengthen your relationship with them?
Or will it just hog the conversation and keep the focus on you?