Talking Content

Yesterday I tried my hand at something I've never done before. I led a discussion on marketing through content in a closed session for MarketingProfs Pro members. That, in itself, is not unusual. But the format was new to me, because it was completely conducted by typing posts in a text-based forum.

I'll call it "Speed Blogging." Because that's exactly what it felt like. A question would be posted and then the race was on for me to sound intelligent and answer thoroughly in as little time as possible. To say my fingers were tired is an understatement. In the course of an hour and a half I must have written the equivalent of three of my normal blog posts.

Now I'd love to share the entirety of my responses, but it was a closed session after all. So instead, I'll just highlight the main take-aways from the event.

Create for the Heart

When businesses think "content," they usually focus on product features or services offered. They may even stray into benefits or uses. But it's rare that a company will listen to the consumer and shape a message around what they hear.

Certainly push marketing should not be controlled by the customer. But when it comes to content, you should always be including your audience in the discussion.

Content should be shaped to appeal to the deeper issues felt by a customer. That's because for content to work effectively, it needs to be chosen by the customer. The customer needs to reach out and engage with it, because it meets some need they currently feel. It could be they need pictures for a presentation and you provide a ready database of royalty-free images centered around your industry. Or it you could just be an entertaining blogger who's fun (and informative) to read.

The point is, while push marketing is about pushing your main selling points, content marketing is about drawing the customer into deeper relationship with your brand.

Don't Force Your Media Channels

People always lambast the "brochure websites" out there. But frankly, not every company needs a great, deep and rich website. Don't get me wrong. If your site hasn't been updated in eons, it may be time for a makeover. But some industries have customers that will never use their site. Other companies have customers who prefer open forum discussions rather than website research.

My recommendation is always focus the majority of your spend on where your customers are. If your customers aren't online, send them a CD, DVD or whitepaper. If your customers hang out on Facebook, engage with them there. If they're Kindle users, distribute a free eBook through Amazon. If your customers are heavy podcast listeners, create audio content and feed it into iTunes.

This doesn't mean ignore your web site or don't have a blog. I'm simply saying don't force your customers in content channels they don't use. Meet them where they are first and evolve them to where you need them to be.

Let Pull Dominate Your Push

I spoke a little bit above about how in content marketing your customer needs to choose to engage with you. At the heart of this phrase is a philosophy of weaving a pull strategy into your content.

In my case, my show The BeanCast is focused first on entertainment and then second on content. Even though I'm lauded for the depth of the content, people would never even show up to listen if it wasn't entertaining.

Always be conscious of whether your content has an emotional value for your audience. The more you touch on this emotional value, the more engaged the customer will be with you, and the more likely they will be to get your underlying message.

Focus on the Feeling

I always sum up my content talks with a reminder that content marketing is more about branding than about selling. So I stress that you need to be asking the question, "How will this make my customer feel about my brand?"

Branding is not about an ad or a logo or a tagline. Branding, at its heart, is how the customer feels about you when they see your product, hears your name or sees you walking through the door. So decide what that feeling should be and carrying it out through all your marketing efforts, including your content. The result will be an investment in mindshare that will grow over time and enhance your ability to close your deals.

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