Give ’em Something to Talk About
Posted on 29 March 2012
Once upon a time, marketers spread the word about their products and services by paying for advertising, sending media releases to journalists, blasting out emails, and using their websites to talk AT people. It was all one-way, pushy, disruptive and mostly unwelcome broadcasting.
That doesn’t work anymore.
Now, thanks to technology, the power has shifted from the sellers (companies) and the middlemen (the media) to the buyers (customers). As customers, we read product reviews and complaints by other customers, observe how companies respond (or don’t), ask for advice from fellow shoppers, compare features and prices, watch and share viral videos, gain impressions about a brand, express our opinions…
So if you’re a business owner or marketing person, how do you create and communicate effective, trustworthy marketing messages?
Tell a story
In the past few months, I’ve become fascinated by the concept of “Content Marketing” (it’s also called “Inbound Marketing” and “Brand Storytelling”- do a search for all those terms and you’ll find LOTS of information).
“Content Marketing” means creating and using compelling content (that means truthful, helpful and inspiring stories, in many different formats), with the aim of marketing your company and your products/services, not only externally but also within your organisation. It’s about being of service, having a conversation with people, and humanising your brand; it’s NOT about pushing out lots of information all about you.
The article “What is Content Marketing?”, from the Content Marketing Institute, offers this definition: “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
So what is “content”? It could include: your website, your blog, your mission statement, YouTube videos, white papers, newsletters, brochures, SlideShare and Prezi presentations, your twitter bio and tweets, your Facebook page, case studies, podcasts, webinars, infographics, training workshops, handouts, books, ebooks, print magazines, instruction manuals, lists of useful tips and FAQs, speeches, your elevator pitch, photographs, mobile apps, other people’s content curated by you…
It could also include “user-generated content”, meaning content created by your customers and followers, such as testimonials, tweets, Facebook messages, videos, blog comments, competition entries… (of course you’ll need those people’s permission to use their content for your marketing purposes).
Here’s how to be a content marketer
- Think like a publisher, and become a knowledge-sharing organisation.
- Listen to the stories of your staff, clients, stakeholders…
- Learn how to gather, craft and tell interesting stories that people will want to share with others.
- Empower all your staff, not just the marketing department, to tell stories.
- Make sure your content is relevant, useful, informative, educational and/or entertaining.
- Tell stories not just about your company’s products and services, but also about your people, your customers, your industry, trends, issues…
- Be very clear about WHO each piece of content is targeted at, what the best format or channel is for each piece of content, and what you want people to do with it.
- Write and speak like a real human being, and don’t be afraid to show some personality!
- Invite your customers to share their stories with you and other customers, and make it easy for them to do that on your website and blog, and on twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn…
- Participate in the conversation.
- Use a very soft-sell approach – talk WITH people, not AT them.
And here’s why
With good content marketing, you’ll:
- be seen as a trusted expert
- develop a memorable, share-worthy brand
- circumvent the middlemen (the media) and communicate directly with your customers
- build a loyal tribe of people who become fierce advocates for you
- be found more quickly and easily online
- attract more traffic to your website and more followers to your social media pages
- attract and retain better customers, staff, supporters, volunteers…
- educate customers about how and why to use your products/services
- be better at training and inspiring your staff
- build a strong case about the value of your products/services
- make better use of the money that you might otherwise have spent on advertising
- sell more of your products/services
But beware! Good content alone isn’t a magic fix-it pill if your products and services don’t work as promised, or if your systems don’t make it easy for people to do business with you. Thanks to social media, people will very quickly spread the word about bad products, services and experiences.
The lesson: Customers these days don’t like pushy marketing messages that are irrelevant to them and their lives. Content marketing is about telling true stories that people will want to share. So like the song says, “give ’em something to talk about”!
Action steps: Start learning about content marketing, and start gathering and sharing good stories. Contact me if you need help.
Also, check out the people I follow in my Content Marketing list on twitter – in particular, I highly recommend that you follow Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe), Gregg Morris (@greggvm), Michael Margolis (@getstoried), Ruth Zive (@rzive) and Raf Stevens (@rafstevens).
Do you have any content marketing tips or stories to share? Please post a comment.