There’s an obsession in marketing circles these days with content. There are blogs about it, associations dedicated to it and even books focused exclusively on the creation and use of content as a marketing tool.
You as a business owner, however, may not be obsessed with it. I mean, after all, it’s probably the most time-consuming aspect of effective marketing. But, your prospects are obsessed with consuming it and have grown to expect to be able to discover a great deal of trust building and educational content about the people, products and services that they choose to do business with.
So, how do you adopt a content creation and implementation approach as an essential element of your marketing strategy and brand-building efforts?
Body of work
I think the best way to do is to first shift your thinking about content creation to that of an author. Anyone that embarks on the writing of a book generally outlines the entire project in a loose chapter-by-chapter arrangement and has at least some inkling of where they want the reader to start and end on the journey. I’m certain that characters, plots and themes emerge and evolve, but the scope is sketched out before much of anything is written.
That’s how I suggest business owners look at their content plan as well. Think about the entire body of work that you may need to complete to write your book or tell all the major stories about your business. That allows you to stop obsessing about what to write today.
If you take this outline approach ,you simply start chipping away at producing content that will always have a place in some chapter of your body of work.
In our marketing consulting body of work, I always know that I have one of seven buckets or themes that I can continue to create content to fill, no matter where that content runs or how it’s consumed. This beginning, middle and end outline also acts to force us to continue to create content that is laced with our most important keyword phrases.
Tied to strategy
As alluded to above, our “body of work” themes are tied to the overall strategy or brand message that I want to get across. You must have that core message or point of differentiation that defines your marketing strategy in order use it as a filter for broad and specific topics you choose to write about in blog posts, newsletters and articles. You must also decide on a tone and voice that complements your unique point of view.
For example, my Duct Tape Marketing brand stands for simple, effective and affordable small business marketing, and people readily associate the duct tape metaphor with something extremely practical. The elements of our brand, coupled with our “marketing as a system” innovation, drive what we write about and how we write about it.
The Point of View manifesto
In my book The Referral Engine, I talk about a foundational content piece called the Point of View White Paper. This piece, regardless of length or format, is the central distillation of your marketing strategy, methodology or approach to business.
It acts as the thorough description for why your firm, products, or services are unique and gives any reader deep insight into what your firm cares about. Mind you, it’s not a firm brochure; it’s a manifesto into your unique point of view.
For my company it’s an ebook we call the 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success. This document, turned audio program, turned live seminar, has been downloaded and viewed tens of thousands of times and it sells nothing. In fact, it doesn’t even elude to a service or a something tangible; it’s simply our idea of what a marketing system is and it houses the major themes we turn to for all things related to content.
Customers are squarely in the content collaboration camp and it’s your job as a marketer to start building stories with your customers–note the word "with"!
There are a number of ways to do this, but the key thing to remember is to get them to start talking about what they need, what they like, themselves and their stories, if you want to make this kind of content pay.
The good news is that when you involve your customers, they are more likely to want to share their story told on your blog with their social networks.
What are you doing to solicit customer success stories and life stories? Remember, this shouldn’t be about you. I recently asked my readers to tell me about the best "thank you" they ever received, and by the time they were done I had some incredible stories that supported the idea of showing appreciation in marketing–enough to create an ebook in fact.
A final tip: comb through your e-mail everyday looking for customer questions, comments and testimonials and start curating this content and your answers to this kind of day-to-day correspondence as content.