As published on Forbes.com
When you are watching your favorite show, do you look forward to the interruption of an advertisement? The beauty of the DVR is that we can skip advertisements that have not earned our attention. If you want to make a big impact, you have to deliver valuable content, not just old-school self-promotion. Realize that if you want the right customers, you need to know the new rules of content and marketing to attract the best sales opportunities. As I noted in the 2016 Trends Article, “The Best Companies Will Tightly Integrate Content Marketing into Their Sales Process.”
I had the good fortune to spend some time speaking with Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and producer of the popular Content Marketing World conference as a guest on the Grow My Revenue Business Cast. In CMI’s documentary film, The Story of Content, you can see how top brands have effectively developed stories to address the biggest challenges of their ideal customers. Is this notion of content marketing new? Pulizzi shares one of his favorite examples, John Deere. In their publication, The Furrow, John Deere has provided value to the farmer for more than 125 years. In their publication, across all those years, John Deere mentioned themselves fewer than twenty times. Millions of subscribers rely on their publication to provide unbiased information, and has done so since 1895.
The Common Marketing Trap
As marketers, you can invest dollars to try to interrupt consumers to tell about your products or services. In order to feel like they are doing an amazing job, marketers think they need to attract a large quantity of potential customers. By casting the net wide enough to not miss anyone, you may be attracting people who are a waste of your time. With so many channels of information, consumers can simply tune you out. The challenge is that some businesses forget that the goal of sales AND marketing is to attract the best potential customers, not just anyone with a pulse.
If the net that marketing casts is too broad, then the sales organization wastes a ton of time sorting through garbage opportunities that are not likely to turn into revenue. It gets worse, though. If you spend too much time chasing garbage leads, you might fall into a pattern. This means that after twenty bad opportunities in a row, you might overlook a good opportunity that happens to be contact number twenty-one. It’s time to stop falling into these traps and start attracting the right sales opportunities. In order to help, follow this formula for success.
Content Marketing Defined
Joe Pulizzi defines content marketing as, “A business model to create valuable, relevant, and compelling information on a consistent basis to a targeted audience to see some profitable behavior for our organization.” Joe then illustrates how to build an audience that likes, trusts, and respects your business. Joe shares, “Don’t focus on your products, but instead focus on your customer’s needs. You need to tell a different story to cut through the clutter.”
Marcus Sheridan of TheSalesLion.com, suggests that your goal should be to “Become the best teacher on the planet for whatever it is you do.” Marcus explains that too many businesses fear giving away their secret sauce – which isn’t so secret. Think about your ideal customers. What information would they find valuable enough that they might be willing to pay for it? In most cases, customers seek answers to their questions. They want to know how to solve important challenges for themselves or their businesses.
How To Create Great Content
Great content does not start with your products or services. Rather, great content starts by listening to your customer . Marcus and I held a joint workshop with a customer recently. Marcus did an exercise where he asked each participant to write down every question a customer might have related to your field, including a list of the reasons they might NOT buy from you. The list of questions and obstacles becomes the source of content for your editorial calendar.
It’s easy to follow old habits and start spewing self-promotion. Follow this simple formula for case studies and content that will add the most value for your audience. Buyers first need to know a) why they might need what you offer, or what problem it solves. Then they need to b) develop confidence over the likely result or outcome of that solution for their business.
Great content should follow a simple flow:
- Describe an issue that your ideal client would be facing;
- Explain the impact of that issue on their organization;
- Share why customers tell you it is so important to solve;
- Share the outcome of those for whom you have solved that issue (without talking about your solution).
- Be honest about alternatives – especially the ones they can implement for free.
Notice that the formula leaves out what you did, or how you solved the problem. The goal of the content is to attract the RIGHT potential customers who can see themselves in the description of the issues you excel at solving, and might have a heightened desire to solve that issue after reading the impact and importance pieces.
What You Should Ask When They Contact You
When your potential customer calls you after reading the content (or watching a video or listening to a podcast), they will often refer to the article that sparked their call or email. Avoid the urge to tell them all about your solution. At this point, you don’t know enough to determine if you can help them, or if their issue is worth solving. You might start by asking “What was it about that article that caught your attention?” Then you work together to see if there is a FIT.
Today, every company can be a publisher of great content. Most, however, are creating marketing babble that provides little value. If you focus on topics that are important to your audience, they’ll beat a path to your door, and by the time they speak with you, they’ll already know you, like you, and most importantly… trust you.
It’s Your Turn
Do you or your team fall into traps? Do you try to attract a wide audience, or just the RIGHT audience? What steps have you found to be most effective?