This book has not said anything that I’ve found particularly new, but says it all very well. I nodded a lot at the practical guidelines given, which both encourages and challenges readers to think about what they should be doing with regards to content marketing.
Don’t every try and sell me on anything. Give me ALL the information and I’ll make my own decision. Kanye West (Tweet)
The authors seek to challenge what Doug Kessler suggests many have made appear as a ‘black art’. In the foreword he says “Content marketing is very simple: use your expertise to help your prospects do their jobs. Work hard to add value in every piece you produce. Be generous. And earn attention by injecting passion, attitude and energy.” Produce content that people actually want to consume.
As the authors lay out in the introduction – there’s a lot of information out there, but there are opportunities to new connections – sharing content that people need, want and appreciate, which will mean that they will give you time, attention and support, and do social sharing on your behalf. ‘Content marketing’ is a term that has become mainstream since 2012.
Content marketing looks for businesses that have their customers best interests at heart, seeks for ways of connecting (marketing) that feels natural, demonstrates that you care deeply about your customers. Look for ways to step away from poor marketing techniques (interruption, irrelevant, cold calling, spam) and find content that people truly love.
The book’s mantra “Help don’t sell, show don’t tell, talk don’t yell.” (See more: http://www.valuablecontent.co.uk/).
Chapter 1: Introduction
Marketing is no longer about stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell. Seth Godin
People buy very differently these days, so marketers need to sell differently. People tend to research online, search Google (so you need to be found), want to know that a business can be trusted, and seek recommendations from social networks, so businesses need to demonstrate empathy, purpose and usefulness – not shouting loudest. (p10)
The points that rose for me in this chapter were that we can’t do identikit marketing, the customer journey has changed – but many businesses are still using old marketing methods, and a question I ask my clients – what is the cost of not doing this?
If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less. General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, US Army.
We need to understand that today’s buyers are discerning and cynical buyers behave differently, and see this as an opportunity for change. How do we raise brand awareness, convert and retain using new methods when the old methods of mass cold calling fail, emails remain unopened, press advertising is costly, trade shows are costly, and the old networking methods don’t work. It’s not ‘black magic’ but it takes time too – think, listen and mindmap!
So, whilst the economy remains tough, who is still winning at this game – getting good leads, expanded networks, warm referrals, and with clients/customers calling them. These companies are focusing on producing/providing and giving away valuable quality, content, which is consistent and relevant (presentations, blogs, guides, infographics, videos, slidedecks, etc.), with a clear idea of audience, have a strong brand identity, good stories to tell, customer-focused, have built goodwill and awareness so that they are ‘known’ and trusted by potential clients before those customers are ready to buy (and be aware the lead-cycle can be quite some time). This material is active and ongoing – not restricted to random campaigns a couple of times a year.
[p17: buyer behaviour]
By the time sales people are connected with the buyer, around 60% of the buying process has already passed, in searching online, and talking to friends. There’s a real opportunity for companies to tell their own stories their own ways, rather than having to fight with paid media… but this digital footprint needs to be consistent across platforms, and allow easy word-of-mouth referrals.
Far too many marketing messages have become self-serving – which is when marketing becomes untrusted. Companies need to regain that trust – by focusing on their audience. Don’t tell others how great you are, show them via your usefulness, authenticity and humanity. Often obvious manipulation, such as ‘buy now before sold out’ will lose customers rather than gain them.
Educate or entertain your buyers, show them best practice, tell them what to look out for, give them valuable tips on how to achieve success, demonstrate how you’ve helped others in their shoes. Answer their questions and solve their problems, open their eyes. Creating and distributing this kind of relevant, valuable and compelling information will help you turn prospects into buyers and buyers into long-term fans.
Chapter 2: What is valuable content and why does it win you business?
You can buy, beg or bug people for attention – or you can earn it – a very human approach to doing business, that we will all have seen.
[p23 – Defining valuable content]
|Valuable content is …||Valuable content isn’t…|
|Relevant||Vague – no sense of who this is aimed at|
|Written with a real person/people in mind||Written without a grasp of the person who will be reading it|
|Answering a genuine question – it’s what people are looking for||Inward looking – doesn’t answer a real question – the so what? factor?|
|In line with your business goals||Not aligned with your business aims|
|Well designed||Looks shabby, hard to read/watch/listen to|
|Findable||No one can find it|
|Shareable||Hard to share|
|Created in a spirit of generosity||Created with a cynical mindset|
|Unputdownable – this is fantastic!||Unpickupable – I can’t be bothered to look at this|
[p25] Business content that works best is helpful, entertaining, authentic, relevant and timely. [My experience vulnerable or humourous really works.] Looking for content that will be read, shared and acted upon.
The content I regard as valuable is: useful and functional – gives me answers; beautiful and entertaining – gives me pleasure. I thas to do at least one of those things. If it does both, I consider subscribing. Jane Northcote
P27 Looks at Be-Ro recipe books (http://www.be-ro.co.uk/f_about.html) from the 1920s – demonstrating that everything but nothing has changed.
8 Reasons to love valuable content marketing
- You get found (if it’s not online, it can’t be found)
- You build your reputation (sense of community, referrals are strong)
- You become likeable (all about the tone – people trust those they like)
- You become trustworthy (share content without asking anything in return)
- You become memorable (bigger the purchase, the longer people take, need trust)
- Your business clearly differentiates (quality content, niche audience)
- Your marketing investment stands the test of time (material stays online for a long time, generating leads)
- You feel good (once you get past notions of ‘marketing’, start to enjoy being helpful)
Chapter 3: Guiding Principles for Your Valuable Content
8 fundamental principles:
- Put your customers first (they don’t care about you til they know you care about them – use 80% useful content; 20% sales)
- Help, don’t sell (be good citizens online – think of others, be helpful, don’t interrupt, don’t annoy, be generous, smile, work together, say thank you!) Dealing with real people
- Give ideas away generously, for free (See Nathali Nahai – http://websofinfluence.com/) – if people give us something for free, we feel hard-wired to give back – seems counter-intuitive in a profit-making world, but it’s an investment that count s
- Always know why (what’s the purpose of each piece of content – for customer, for your business)
- Think niche (understand your market/service/customers – stand out as a specialist [always remember from Rachel Collinson] – too general and are nothing to anybody)
- Tell a bigger story (good marketing has always been about telling good stories – know what you stand for)
- Commit to quality (quantity is good, but quality is more important)
- Write from the heart (authenticity, genuineness and sincerity can’t be faked – care – and have a good product that you believe in!)
Part 2 (chapters 4-10)
This section of the book goes through blogging, social media, email newsletters, search engine optimisation, deeper written content (including e-books), video, audio, infographics, and considers PR, guest blogging, events and paid advertising. They look at why, how, when – with lots of advice on best practice and case studies.
This section is ‘for those who are ready to get serious about their content’, and want to move beyond using the tools, and having a clear strategy for use. If new, it’s a research-led approach, enabling you to position yourself as a thought leader in the field, whereas if not new – a chance to step back, and work out how to make it work better…. Focusing on why, who, what, when, where and how… and this all needs to be documented as a frame of reference to return to.
The content strategy process:
- Get clear on your goals (where do you want to be (and how far are you from it), set SMART goals)
- Know your business (ensure content not only meets the needs of your customers, but of your business too)
- Know your customers (ensure you know who they are, through research, not through guessing – survey them, ask them, talk to them, listen to the words they use, thank them; create personas – what are the questions people are asking when researching, when evaluating, and once they are a customer)
- Find your story (know why you do what you do, focus on emotion, be customer-centric, can you sum up your purpose as if it was a book title … this won’t happen instantly)
- ‘Your content sweet spot and vision’ (what are you uniquely positioned to talk about? What are the big topics that you can focus on?)
- Content commitment & plan (plan a content calendar across the year, prioritise your channels)
- Platform & tools (Once clear on your content, what tools will support that objective?)
- Organise (requires the right team, budget and good process, including knowing who takes responsibility, ensure there is senior buy-in, story and message are king, get the right people tell your story (range of roles), get everyone working together, not about quantity but getting the right audience)
- Measurement (meaningful measures that are aligned to business goals, track engagement and conversion, learn and adapt over time)
- Planning the change à actioning the change (conduct a content audit and gap analysis)
The remainder of the book continues to look at some of the practical steps, including evaluating the website (as the heart of the business), understanding how to write valuable content, understand how to sell using content, and how to plan for a steady stream of content production – including getting the whole team on board and engaged… plus a series of troubleshooting queries.
This book was provided to me courtesy of Kogan Page as a review copy for possible use with students. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @ Manchester Metropolitan University. Interested in digital literacy and digital culture in the third sector (especially faith). Author of ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’, regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.