Some traps are easy to fall into. Perhaps the easiest, in marketing terms, is believing that your customers care about you, your company or your services.

They don’t.

They care about themselves. They’re bothered about their problems, issues and desires.

Yes, they may well come back to you, perhaps time and time again. But they’re doing it to scratch their itches, not yours.

In website content and copywriting terms, failing to appreciate this leads to a larger percentage of what’s presented to the visitor as being introspective; perhaps even self-important.

It’s a turn-off. There is a need for ‘sales focused’ website content – the usual features and benefits stuff. But the reality is that people only need this when they are buying. Which is, perhaps, 1% of the time. The rest of the time, it’s utterly irrelevant to them.

Real content marketing places the customer first. It thinks about her or his needs. It comes from that clear understanding of what actually motivates someone to visit a website when they are not buying: how they search, what they’re looking for and why they come back.

It’s all about building a relationship during the time when people aren’t buying, so that when they do buy, you’ve already engaged yourself with them – and put yourself in pole position for the sale. It’s about having something of worth for the other 99% of the time.

Let’s look at a straightforward example.

Let’s say that I sell cameras. Sure, I need an online store with all of the usual stuff: cameras, lenses, tripods and so on. We’d expect this to include photographs, specifications and so on. It has to be there. But it’s only working for you when the customer moves into buying mode.

Yet, the rest of the time, the customer is still a keen photographer. What would keep her or him coming back to your website?

Now and again, out of interest, perhaps the latest camera may be something to drool over. But I doubt that even shifts 1% of the time into being 2%.

Content which might well interest those people will be focused around their need (to take photographs) not your need (to sell cameras). Here are some examples:

  • How-to video tutorials about lighting, focus, depth of field and so on. Like many topics, photography is complex – there are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential subjects.
  • Demonstrations of how to set up and use the equipment you sell. These days, manufacturers often only include skimpy manuals, if at all – and these focus on features, rather than best practice.
  • Ideas and demonstrations of how products work together: something manufacturers seldom do.
  • Articles about how to overcome shortcomings in products: something manufacturers never do!
  • Articles or videos about restoration and repair.

The list could go on and on.

All of the items on the list are properly customer-focused. They’re designed to answer questions which customers have most of the time, not those which they have 1% of the time. They represent a better way to be found on search engines, since people often search for “how do I?” topics. Add in the ability to comment and reply on these items, plus some social media time, and they represent a way to start building a relationship, long before the customer has a need to buy.

They also represent a lasting investment. This is content which accrues value. Once created, it will sit there, attracting people, for a long period of time.

So, what’s the challenge? The biggest one is a shift in thinking. Traditional marketing follows the “if I send out x mailers and get x responses then I’ll get x sales” model. Clearly, this doesn’t apply here – at least not in the same straightforward way.

Yet the traditional model is one of churn. Once a campaign is done, it’s done. The next one is a clean slate, with the counter set back to zero.

Content marketing provides a return on investment which is cumulative. It gets better and better with time. It provides something which keeps people coming back.

There’s little in traditional marketing campaigns to set you apart – they're an essential part of the marketing mix, but they don’t really build towards anything.

Content marketing means creating content that counts. Content that’s of worth to your customers. Content they want to read, watch, listen to and share. Most importantly, it’s content that isn’t just noise.


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