“Content marketing” means providing information that educates a customer or prospective customer enabling them to make an informed purchasing decision. Instead of hard-selling products or services business use content they create to engage and inform prospects to turn them into fans, and turn existing fans into fanatics.
Content marketing is not new. The tractor company, John Deere, launched a print magazine called The Furrow more than 100 years ago. This was not a sales brochure, but a media publication with bona fide editorial content that was mailed to farmers.
The concept is simple: by providing educational material, John Deere became a trusted source of information, and when buyers were ready to make a purchase, they turned to their trusted source. Today The Furrow still exists and is mailed to 1.4 million farmers in 40 countries. It can also be found online.
What is new about content marketing is that the online tools available provide the ability for businesses to create and publish their own content with speed and simplicity – every business is a publisher. Here are seven content marketing 101-level tips based on my experience:
1. It’s cheap but expensive. It doesn’t require much money to get started, but the most expensive part of content marketing is time. Content marketing is laborious. There’s always one more thing you can do – it never ends. The more you learn, the more you realize there’s more to learn.
2. Passion over experience. Passion sometimes counts for a whole lot more than experience. I’d never recommend passing on experience – if there’s anything close to a shortcut, experience is it. The challenge for many organizations is that experience is expensive. Passion can close the gap; for those with enthusiasm for the job, it’s a labor of love.
3. Mistakes are inevitable. Big brands in particular struggle with this: Every organization will make mistakes. Learn from them and move on. Mistakes are the portals of discovery – we have to fall down 1,000 times before we are an expert.
4. Ideas require discipline. There’s a pervasive notion that ideas are a creative – and while that might be true – they are also fleeting. Write ideas down – and be disciplined about it. Keep a list, email yourself, keep bookmarks, create a voice memo, or in some way, shape or form, save your ideas. Do it right away because you won’t remember in 10 minutes.
5. Everyone contributes. It’s great to have a champion, a cheerleader, or a blogger-in-chief – but everyone needs to pull their own weight and contribute. In my experience, people are afraid to speak publically – fear is the biggest obstacle. Brands that are successful at content marketing create a culture of content marketing. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
6. The more you write, the more you’ll write. It can be hard to get started, but putting rigor, structure and deadlines to writing will force an organization towards that culture. And once you get started, you’ll have momentum. Writing and creating content gets easier with practice.
7. Consistency: The biggest secret. Consistency is the biggest “secret” to content marketing. Secret is a bit of misnomer, because hard work isn’t a secret at all. Stick with it. It doesn’t work overnight, but it works. You’re competition won’t know what happened.
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What would you add, edit or delete?
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