Note: This post is the third part of the series titled: ‘Market Your Business Out of Obscurity... Into Limelight’
Six months ago, I knew very little about insurance policies. Insurance guys are just salespeople who what to sell you insurance.
But that changed after the insurance company paid my late sisters death benefits three months after her death.
She was enthusiastic when she told me she bought a life insurance policy. “Why would you be thinking of life insurance at this youthful age?” I thought.
Because someone educated her on what she didn’t know about insurance; and won her as a customer.
How could she have known if no one was there to educate her?
Even in a world drowning in information, inhabitants are starving for the right information. It’s just like yearning for fresh water in the middle of the salty sea.
If you are willing to teach others what they don’t know about your industry; give them that fresh water they thirst for, they will not only be grateful, they’ll become your loyal customers.
Don’t Be a Salesperson; Be an Educator
People rarely come online looking for businesses to patronize. They come looking for solutions and answers. They are looking for human connection. It is your duty as a business to identify the questions prospective customers are asking online relating to your business and start answering those questions on your online platform.
By educating, you are persuading, because you are helping people change the way they think about something. When they know enough about what you offer, then they are in the position to do business with you.
The strategy of educating your prospect to know and trust you to do business with you is known as content marketing.
Content Marketing: The Cost-Effective Strategy to Attract Business Prospects like a Magnet
Content Marketing is a marketing strategy of creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell. In other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you. - Copyblogger
If you’re interested in marketing your business online, (who isn’t anyway) you can’t escape hearing about content marketing. You hear that;
- People don’t want advertising when making purchasing decisions; they want valuable information.
- It’s content that people desire and seek out, and it’s great content that Google wants to rank well in the search results so that people can find your business.
- It’s content that spreads via social networks, generating powerful word-of-mouth exposure for savvy content publishers.
- Content is the best way to achieve what advertising is supposed to achieve, but doesn’t do so well online - getting people to know, like, and trust your brand.
You hear all of that, and perhaps you’re thinking... “What does content marketing actually mean for my business?”
Marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldview come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them, cost-effectively – Seth Godin
Seth Godin’s statement is what content marketing helps you to achieve – bring people with similar worldview together in a cost-effective way.
Think about this:
- Why does ‘Stand Up Nigeria by Bunmi Davies’ show free clips of comedy shows on TV for months, before advertising the live show for ticket booking?
- Why will a speaker mount a platform, engage the audience for 2 hours before selling his Books or Audio Messages?
- Why do you get to watch Big Brother Africa, Nigerian Idol, Project Fame West Africa and other TV reality shows, Nations Cup, World Cup and other sports events, Super Story and other Soap Opera all for free? You pay nothing. The TV stations simply weave in adverts from Sponsors in-between the show – the content.
- Why would that road side drug peddler create an entertaining scene to attract a crowd to sell his products?
It’s all everyday examples of content Marketing.
Building a content-driven online platform is not different. Blogging, video tutorials, email newsletters, white papers, free reports, eBooks, infographics, social media... all work together to position you as the right solution in the mind of your prospective customers and clients.
People are not just coming together; they are coming together around your platform.
Remember, content drives the Internet, and consumers are looking for information that solves a problem, not an immediate sales pitch.
The trust, credibility, and authority that content marketing create knocks down sales resistance, while providing a baseline introduction to the benefits of a particular product or service.
Who likes Advertising anyway?
Only ad men like advertising. If your content looks like an ad, it will be overlooked or thrown away. Content marketing make your “advertising” too valuable to throw away by wrapping it in valuable content.
But you have to make your business objective clear (as subtle as getting readers to click a link, subscribe to your newsletter, make that phone call, make sales or any action that bring them closer to business). Just giving away free content without a clear objective may be a waste of effort.
The idea of content marketing is to build an audience that builds your career or business.
Who is Content Marketing for?
The likely question in your mind right now is, “Will this content marketing hullabaloo work for my business?”
Below are examples of people who have and continue to use content marketing to build and grow their businesses.
The Pool Guy
Marcus Sheridan’s swimming pool company in US, was hit hard by recession in 2008. He and his business partners discovered that in order to save their business, they had to get creative fast.
They decided to try content marketing through blogging. They started writing content for their blog by simply answering every customer’s questions about buying a fibreglass pool.
In his words;
“…when the housing market collapsed in 2008, we were in big trouble. That’s when we discovered content marketing and decided to be the best teachers in the world about our business. This decision saved our company.
“I realised early on that the golden rule of content marketing is simple: ‘They Ask; You Answer’. My philosophy is that if anyone has asked me a question about my business, regardless of what it is, it’s my job to answer that question – preferably on my website. This philosophy is what made River Pools so incredibly successful”.
Today his pool website (has been sold to another company) gets more traffic than most other pool company site; making the company one of the most successful pool companies in the US.
When asked what advice he has for those who are trying to build an online audience through content marketing, his response was:
“Be gutsy. Write about stuff your competition won’t write about. Don’t be afraid to push thought in your industry.
“Embrace teaching in a way that doesn’t have the goal of making you seem intelligent, but rather strive to help everyone you come in contact with have an ‘a-ha’ moment where their inner light bulb comes on”
You can read his content marketing advice on TheSalesLion.com
In an article on Forbes titled, “5 Big Brands Confirms that Content Marketing is the Key to your Customer” the writer presents how Virgin Mobile, American Express, Marriott etc are using content marketing to extent their net and reach existing and potential customers. Here are comments from company executives;
“…scaling our content efforts isn’t just about expanding the size of our social reach across new platforms. It’s about deepening the level of engagement we have with our fans in the social communities they hang out in…”
- Ron Faris, Head of Brand Marketing at Virgin Mobile
“Content is an important piece in all our marketing efforts… extending our messaging through content is a great way for us to continue to convert our customers from simply seeing a message to considering our brand”.
- Walter Frye, Director at Entertainment Marketing & Sponsorships at American Express
“As a global brand with limited awareness and limited marketing budget, we have to find ways to be relevant and drive consideration. Content is critical for us because it’s the currency that drives our relevance and therefore consumer consideration for our brand. And content for us lives first and foremost in the offline world through our hotel guest experience. This is how we ensure that what we do and say is authentic. Then we extend it to online to continue the dialogue with existing guests and their network (our prospects).”
- Dan Vinh, VP Global Marketing, Renaissance Hotels at Marriott International
FlyNaija.org, in the travel business, employs content marketing through blogging to attract target audience, by publishing current news and information relating to the travel industry.
Tafoo.com, an online fashion store, shares valuable content on fashion and style for men and women to attract and engage prospective buyers.
Vconnect.com, an online directory for businesses in Nigeria, creates content for their blog but, the content is more about the company and not the customers. This is an example of what content marketing is not – when the content is all about you and not your prospects. I want to believe they are making plans to improve on this.
Olafusi Michael, a Certified Excel Microsoft Valuable Professional – MVP, publish content to attract audience to his blog and offer excel services and training.
These are examples of how large, small to solo businesses employ content marketing to build momentum for their business online.
Content marketing works in almost any industry, locally or internationally, as long as customers and clients have questions to ask and problems to solve.
How Can You Employ Content Marketing to Your Business?
In the 1970s, Circuit City thrived by selling consumer electronics in superstores. The stores were unique for its wide selection, professional sales help, and a policy of not arguing price with customers.
In 1993, Circuit City surprised investors by announcing that it would open CarMax, a chain of used-car outlets. The company argued that the used-car industry of the 1990s share similar trait with the electronics retailing environment of the 1970s.
Mom-and-pop dealers with questionable reputations dominated the industry, leaving consumers nervous when they purchased and financed complex goods. Circuit City’s managers felt that its success formula from electronics retailing (customer-focus) would work well in an apparently similar setting in the used-car sales industry.
CarMax has grown to become the largest used-car retailer in the US and a Fortune 500 company, according to Wikipedia.
The moral of the story is that you can import the qualities and principles that make your personality or offline business stand out into building your online platform.
Think of what makes you stand out. Use content to reinforce it on your platform.
Ask questions like:
- What do people hate about doing business with us?
- What wrong impression do they have about our product or industry?
- How can we use online platform to fix it?
You don’t have to reinvent the wheels. Learn from those who have done it and mix it with your uniqueness.
In the next part of this series, we’ll discuss the 8-Step Content Marketing Checklist - the right framework to build a magnetic online platform.