Content Marketing 101: What Content Can Do For You

(This is the second post in a four-part series. You can find Part I here.)

Last week, we discussed what exactly this critter we call content marketing is. This week, we’re going to look at the 6 things content marketing can accomplish for you and your biz.

Because content marketing is marketing, it has to have a purpose, a goal, some reason for its existence. Otherwise, why bother, right?

So whether you want to call these 6 things the purposes behind content marketing, or the goals of content marketing, or just the “stuff” that content marketing can do for you, that’s completely up to you.

I prefer to call them outcomes – you set out to achieve them, and use your content to do so. It might be more accurate to call them objectives, because your main goal of content marketing is to form strong relationships with your audience. These 6 help you do that in very specific ways.

Ready? Let’s go!

The 6 E’s of Content Marketing

They say fun things make it easier to learn and remember something. And, I’ll be honest, as a professional word nerd, word play is something I love to mess around with, so when I was coming up with a way to present these 6 outcomes, I found a word that started with the letter E to describe each one.

Allow me to present to you the 6 E’s of content marketing. They are:

  • Educate
  • Encourage
  • Empathize
  • Excite
  • Engage
  • Entice

We’re going to discuss each one in detail, so you know exactly what it is and what it does for you when applied. I’ll also give you a practical examples of content you can use when desiring that E’s outcome in your content marketing.

Content That Educates

Our first E to explore is the one we’re most familiar with. Anyone who has spent any time on the internet or even on a mailing list in the real world knows what educational content is all about.

It’s content like this blog post, that teaches and informs the audience. And the thousands of articles found in every blog, ezine, magazine, and newspaper across the world.

It’s the recipe you find on a blog site to use up that weird jar of artichokes your foodie in-laws gave you for Christmas. That listicle naming the 164 items essential for your home office set up. And the how-to video your SaaS company sends you in an email after your first purchase. Also, the postcard from the political candidate outlining their views on the current hot-button issues.

And what all that content does is establish authority. It makes you the “expert”, the guy to go to for the answers and results. You’re the know-it-all for your audience, whether you actually know it all or not.

You know more than they do, and that’s all that matters to them.

Content That Encourages

Many times, even when we’re trying to be the expert, we create content that is encouraging or inspiring.

We post quotes and videos to uplift spirits. We share our thoughts and ideas and opinions in the hopes of sparking something inside the heads of our audience. We change minds and influence thoughts.

In short, we become thought leaders and life influencers.

Some people devote themselves to becoming encouragers. Many counselors and coaches, for example, spend most of their time reassuring their audience that yes, they can make the mental changes necessary for whatever success they are chasing – fitness, weight loss, quitting smoking, overcoming anxiety, etc. Confidence boosting is vital to many self-improvement programs, especially when things get tough.

You become their cheerleading and their biggest fan, as well as their coach and mentor. You change their mindset as well as their situation.

Content That Empathizes

Unless you are a sociopath, you most likely share some empathy with aspects of others’ struggles. It’s another part of our human nature that’s hard to ignore, and sometimes, difficult to hide.

Just as some have chosen to be professional encouragers, others have taken on the role of professional empathizer. Some do it because they aren’t comfortable with placing themselves in the position of the end-all-be-all authority on their subject. Still others do it because it’s natural to their place and their biz.

Take, for instance, the parent of a disabled child who has developed a business around educational or movement aids for that child.

Their audience is other parents of children like theirs. Their only expertise is the day-to-day hands-on knowledge they’ve gained from their unique parenting situation. They are down in the trenches, right alongside their customers and prospects, getting through each day as best they can, using their products or services for their own benefit.

They are no better or worse than the people they serve. And so their content reflects that. “We’re right there with you on this one.”

You often find empathetic content from support groups, too, as many of those “experts” are “survivors” or “in recovery”, just like the people they try to help. “Been there, done that.” Charitable organizations often use empathetic content to try and help you relate to their cause, their needs. “You know how hard it can be…..”

It makes the people behind the content very real, very human, very likable, very relatable. A true and trusted friend. And that’s what good content should do.

Content That Excites

Ever follow an author’s regular updates on their latest work-in-progress? What about your favorite fitness guru as they prepare to launch a new boot camp? Or how about Gary Vee and his hyperactive, loud videos?

If you have, then you know all about how exciting some content can be.

It builds you up for something big, or bigger, anyway. It feeds a sense of curiosity and anticipation. You get the feeling that not only are you a member of the audience, but a participant in the process. You are behind-the-scenes, a part of the action. Or at least you want to be.

Content that excites isn’t often done as a steady diet. Most bloggers and vloggers and podcasters can’t keep it going forever. A few authors I know are pretty good at it, but even they don’t use excitement in every post or video.

There are down days in Life, and it’s in our nature to share them right alongside the good ones.

Excitement can be used, though, when big things are in the works. A new book. A new look for your brand. That new course or service you’re adding to your offers. How about growth? Those new office digs or that new team member is sure to warrant some excitement and anticipation.

Go ahead and share. We’ll enjoy the ride along with you.

Content That Engages

Even the most introverted among us enjoys a good conversation every now and then. Strangers become friends. Friends become like family. Conversations change our lives. Sometimes, they create the times of our lives.

And that’s what engaging content does, too. It starts conversations. It helps strangers form relationships. It creates families of followers.

Many think that engaging content must be restricted to social media and only social media. I have seen successful engagement in blogs, on YouTube channels, and even via email. Jeff Goins, author and speaker, and Colin Theriot, self-proclaimed copywriting “cult leader”, both encourage engagement with their daily emails. They want to hear from their readers. They desire those conversations.

So much content talks at the audience, not to or with them. If your ultimate goal is to be the leader of a community of followers – a family of fans – then engaging content should be your go-to resource for creating it.

Content That Entices

All right, here we are. I chose the word “entice” because it means to persuade, to create desire. In short, it’s a synonym for “sell” and we can’t discuss content marketing without discussing how we can use content to sell, right?

The biggest issue I have with enticing content is that for some, that’s the only kind of content they create and publish.

Do you know what happens when all you tell your audience is “buy buy buy”? Your audience tells you “bye bye bye”.

If you’ve read the Part I of this series, you know that your content has to be valuable. There’s no value in publishing nothing but sales messages. They get tedious and boring after a while. Your audience will go find someone who is a better conversationalist.

Now, that said, there’s nothing wrong with having a CTA of some sort in every piece of content you create. How about a call for comments or questions at the end of a blog post or video? Or a request for replies to an email? A “sign-up for email updates” opportunity is another “enticement” that doesn’t sell anything.

In fact, I think many miss opportunities because they don’t include “soft sells” like these in their content.

But “buy buy buy” messages should be kept to somewhat of a minimum, unless you’ve just launched a new offer or are taking pre-orders or it’s a big “sale” like year-end or holiday time or some such. Even then, the flow of good, valuable, consistent content shouldn’t stop.

We can’t forget that it’s the content they come for. The sales and signups we make are the icing on the cake.

Putting All This Content to Good Use

We’ll get more into content strategy in Part III of this series, but for now, let’s just say that the best thing to do is to choose one of the things your content can make you as your main goal for your content marketing.

Want to be an expert? Educate. Want to be a community leader? Engage. Want to be their trusted friend? Empathize. Want to be a thought leader and life influencer? Encourage. Want to get them pumped up and ready for action? Excite.

Then, choose one or two of the others that you wouldn’t mind having as a secondary and even third outcome. (In today’s online health and wellness world, that’s typically educate to become an expert first and a community or thought leader second and third.)

You’ve just discovered the main type of content you should focus on, and one or two other types to throw in every now and then to mix things up.

Audiences love variety, by the way. No one wants a steady diet of the same thing, day after day, on their plate. No one wants a steady diet of the same type of content, either. A good mix keeps your audience coming back for more.

Now that you know what content can do for you, what will you decide? What’s the main outcome you want your content marketing to achieve? Drop me a line in the comments, please. I’d love to hear from you!

Content Marketing 101: Content Marketing Defined

(This is the first post in a four part series.)

What exactly IS content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute, who coined the phrase but did not start the craze, defines content marketing this way:

Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

So, let’s take this post and break that all down into plain, easy to understand, simple terms, shall we?

Content Marketing is Strategic

ALL your marketing approaches and efforts should be strategic, purposeful, carefully planned out. Otherwise, how do you know if it’s working, or not? How do you know if it’s worth it, or not?

Content marketing is no different. My favorite advice to business owners is NEVER PUBLISH ANYTHING WITHOUT A PURPOSE. Before you hit update or publish, or post or tweet, or add that awesome video to your Insta, do you know why you are doing so? If not, don’t bother.

Content marketing can fulfill 6 purposes for your biz, which we’ll get into in Part II of this series. If your post or awesome vid doesn’t fit one of those 6 purposes, or if you’ve choses to focus on just one or two, and it’s outside that plan, then you should rethink your choice in making it public.

In my humble opinion, no one should engage in content marketing without a plan, a strategy drawn up and written down, to be followed by whoever is creating your content. That way, questions of whether that post or video are worth the time and effort get answered well before you have to make the choice.

Remember the old adage: Failing to plan is planning to fail. That’s why content strategy is a part of everything I offer here at Bloomers. I have to know your WHY before I can create content to meet its demands.

Content Marketing is Marketing

Sometimes, I see other people’s content and I instantly know they’ve forgotten the “marketing” in content marketing. They are too busy trying to be cool or controversial or “influential” to get down to the nitty gritty of content marketing.

While content isn’t copy, they serve the same purpose. All roads lead to your people taking an action that you desire them to take. Look at the last line of the definition above: with the objective of driving profitable consumer action.

I believe that all business, whether B2B or B2C, is nothing more than H2H – human to human.

Content helps you form the relationships with those humans that leads to the trust, the confidence, the faith, that your people need to have in you in order for them to take that action, make that decision, that you’re asking of them.

Once you have that trust, that faith, in you and your product or service, you have a loyal customer, a raving referral machine, a rabid fan. And that is marketing no money can buy.

Content Marketing is Valuable, Relevant, and Consistent

Let’s take each one of these one at a time, and then see how they work together to make your content the centerpiece of your marketing efforts.

Your content must be valuable.

This is where so many mess up, especially with social media and email content. They tend to go in one of two directions – either all “buy buy buy” and nothing else, or all “let’s be BFFs” and nothing else.

Your content has to supply information that your audience finds some worth in. No, that doesn’t mean every thing has to be educational, or even practical. Or professional and business-like. But it does mean you have to offer up content that moves your relationship with your audience forward in some way.

After all, that’s what content marketing is for, right?

Your content has to be relevant.

Relevancy is conditional in three ways:
*relevant to your audience
*relevant to your business, offers, products and services
*relevant to the current state of affairs

Offer up content that doesn’t speak to your audience, or that is published in a place where your audience isn’t, and you might as well not bother. Publish content that is off-the-wall “out there” in terms of who you have established yourself to be, or to what you do or sell, and you might just find yourself on the opposite end of where you thought you’d be. And ignore current social or political atmospheres in favor of doing your own thing at your own peril. You may find you and your business getting eaten alive.

Your content efforts have to be consistent.

For one thing, content marketing is a long game, a marathon, not a sprint. And to play the long game, you have to be consistent every time. For another, those relationships you are forming with your audience? They’ll become reliant on you giving them “good stuff” that they find useful, enjoyable, valuable.

Don’t let them down. Don’t be the “friend” who only calls once in a while, or who leaves them on “read” without an answer. Whatever schedule you choose for the channels and platforms you use, stick to it.

That’s why I say start small and grow from there. Once a week, once a day, whatever you decide on, be there. Every time. Or have a damn good excuse when you can’t be.

Content Marketing is Content

It should be pretty evident, but many don’t have a full picture of just what content is used in content marketing. Here’s a short list:

  • Blog posts like this one
  • Your website content
  • Magazine articles – online and offline publications
  • PR materials
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Email newsletters
  • Social media posts – yep, ALL social media posts are content
  • Brochures, postcards, leaflets, and other printed materials
  • Lead magnets and other “downloadable” resources
  • ebooks and Kindle books and real, honest-to-goodness words on paper books, too

All right, so maybe not that short of a list. But I think you get the idea. Anything that is not an overt call-to-action sales copy is, indeed, content. It’s been around since the 1880s, with the first branded magazines for farmers and their wives. It’s nothing new, but it can be exciting.

Content Marketing Has a Specific Audience

Your content performs best – meets its goals best – when it is aimed at and created for your specific audience. That’s why customer avatars and ideal client profiles are so important to content marketing and content marketers.

We have to know who we’re creating all this good stuff for, or we’re wasting our time and your money. So, when your video guy or your blog gal wants to know everything about who you want to reach, you’ll know why.

Knowing the audience is, again in my humble opinion, more important to a content creator than it is to a copywriter. Why? Because you can sometimes make a few sales to the “wrong” people just by hitting the right emotional triggers.

When creating content that builds relationships, makes connections, however, you seldom strike gold with the wrong people. They just aren’t interested enough to join your circle. Your content falls on infertile ground.

Knowing your audience grows those relationships and those relationships lead to content marketing success.

Content Marketing Defined – What’s Next?

Now that we have a really well-defined, easy to understand picture of what content marketing is, next time we’ll discuss just what it can do for you and your biz. We’ll look at those 6 purposes we mentioned earlier, and give some practical examples of each.

Thanks for reading! Any comments or questions? Leave them below. See ya after!