Content marketing has only been around for a few short years, but in that time it has proved to be a powerful tool for attracting potential customers to a company’s products and services. Whether you’re selling designer shoes online or plying a trade out on the road, a well-executed content marketing strategy can increase awareness of your brand and drive traffic to your website. At a deeper level it can even help to convert a curious passerby into an advocate for your business.
However, our customers tell me there are two significant barriers to successful content marketing: fear of getting it wrong and not having enough time to do it properly. Some of them cringe at the thought of writing blog posts. They tell me they have no idea where to start, or what they should even write about. And other customers, those who genuinely understand the value of content marketing, say they’re simply too busy to create the necessary collateral to make it work, be it blog posts, emails, podcasts or videos.
So I’d like to show you some stress-free ways to break those barriers so you can develop a high-performance content marketing strategy of your own.
Empathise with your customers
Now just to clarify, content marketing isn’t about telling everyone how amazing your products and services are; you can do that on your website. It’s about creating relevant and engaging content based on your knowledge of your industry. It’s an opportunity to show potential customers you know your business and are in a unique position to help them.
The best way to do this is to understand your existing customers’ pain points. I spoke about this recently with fellow Aussie and world-renowned content marketing influencer Jeff Bullas. “Content marketing’s key premise is to add value to people’s lives and businesses,” he says. “That could be with content that entertains, inspires or educates potential customers. Providing answers and solutions to their pain points adds that value.”
There are many ways you can do this. The most obvious one is to talk to your customers directly. Find out more about the challenges they face and give some thought as to how you can provide a solution with your products and services. Alternatively, you can monitor customer sentiment online, or use online tools like Survey Monkey. The information you collect will directly inform your content. So this addresses the first barrier. You now know what to write about.
Start with a simple post
Once you have chosen a particular pain point, you can have a crack at writing a simple blog post. It only needs to be a few hundred words. Keep in mind, your potential customers are probably as busy as you are, so they don’t have time to read a short novel (and you certainly don’t have time to write one). Highlight the issue at hand, show you understand the problems it causes for your customers, then provide a solution that doesn’t necessarily direct them straight to your product. You’re actually trying to be impartial at this stage.
Jeff has some golden rules which will help your first blog post stand out from the crowd. “Craft and test your headlines,” he says. This is the text that will catch their eye on social media when you’re ready to post. It should clearly indicate the intent of the article in a way that can’t be ignored (for example, “4 Top Tips to Successful Content Marketing” says what it means and does so in an arresting way). He also suggests you write a great opening line. This will encourage people to read on once they’ve opened your article.
His third rule will take a little more time to master but it’s worth mentioning. “Keep your posts simple,” he says. “Work hard to distil complexity into simplicity. This takes effort and creativity. As Winston Churchill once said: ‘I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.’” Writing clear and concise articles about complex issues can be a challenge. But we all get better at it with practice. I suggest following the writers you admire and keep an eye on how they do it. Then follow their example. You can find some great pieces at the QuickBooks Resource Centre.
Be willing to experiment
Once you’ve written one article, you’ll be ready for the next. It’s not exactly rinse and repeat, because you want to keep your content fresh and interesting. But in the early stages, following the above tips will help you to build your confidence.
“You never know what content will succeed or bomb,” Jeff says. “It is hard to predict whether an article you’ve written will be shared a lot or even go viral. So you need to keep experimenting and testing.” Keep an eye on which posts receive more Likes or better still, clicks through to your website. And equally the ones that don’t. Then tweak your content accordingly.
Create a Content Calendar
Now for the second barrier – not having the time to generate enough content. If you’ve followed the first step properly, i.e. finding out your customers’ pain points, you should have a whole list of topics to discuss in future posts. Some of these will be more relevant to potential customers at different times of the year. You might be an accountant whose clients struggle with tax returns. You wouldn’t write this article over the festive season, more likely at the end of the financial year. Whereas hair stylists may prefer to write articles full of styling tips closer to the festive season. It depends on your industry and particular business.
What you’ll quickly realise is that a content calendar will help you prioritise your articles so you can manage the workload more effectively and your posts will be more relevant to your readers. As Jeff says, “Creating a plan and getting your goals clear allows you to be strategic about why you are creating content.” Many of our customers build content plans in alignment with their marketing campaigns. This is a great way to lead your potential customers along the buyers’ journey – from awareness, to consideration and decision making.
I hope these tips will inspire you to break common barriers to successful content marketing. Once you have your articles ready to go, head to social media to amplify your message. Technology will help you scale your content to a broader audience. There is obviously a lot more to content marketing than just knocking out one post, but it’s a great start. I suggest you read more about it online, follow the best influencers, such as Jeff Bullas, for great tips. And be sure to attend industry conferences where you can hear business leaders share their insights and you can connect with other small business owners who may have tips of their own.
Our very own flagship conference QuickBooks Connect is kicking off at Australian Technology Park in Sydney later this month. Content marketing will be a hot topic on the agenda. The event has been a huge hit in London, San Jose and Toronto. So if you’re keen to learn more about how to amplify brand awareness and attract more customers to your products and services, I urge you to come along.
To register, visit QuickBooks Connect and use promo code GROW for 20% off for $119 tickets.