When I suggest to people that they give away their best tips, tricks and advice for free as a means of marketing themselves, some look at me aghast.
“But then why would anyone want to buy my book/service/product?” they ask.
Because when you provide them with something of value, they not only become familiar with you and respect your expertise, they know your book, service or company may also be valuable to them.
Content marketing is providing free, useful information as a means of promotion. The concept has been around for a long time, but it exploded with the rise of the Internet.
I recently read an interesting example of successful content marketing – by a non-PR professional – in a blog post at www.webinknow.com. It’s the story of a woman who trains service dogs to help people with disabilities. She began posting instructional videos on YouTube to show people how they can train their own service dog.
“This information was not available on the Web because nobody wanted to share how they trained dogs for tens of thousands of dollars,” the trainer, Mary McNeight, told the blog writer.
People accessed her videos – and came to her for more. She not only receives “thank yous” from around the world, she gets orders for products and requests for her training services.
The man who wrote that blog post is marketing strategist David Meerman Scott, best-selling author of eight books, including The New Rules of Marketing and PR, an international bestseller now in its third edition with more than 300,000 copies sold in over 25 languages from Bulgarian to Vietnamese.
I’ve been a fan and business associate of David’s for years, so I asked if he would answer some questions to expand on the concept of content marketing for The PR Insider readers. He kindly agreed.
Here’s our conversation:
Q. Why is content marketing so effective?
A. People search the Internet for products or information to solve their problems. When your content shows up in search results, or when it’s shared in social networks, you become valuable. It’s a very subtle way of showing that you have a particular expertise and that you’re potentially good to do business with.
When you’re providing something for free with no obligation – and I absolutely mean free; you ask nothing in return – there are no barriers to people accessing your information.
Q. What other payment besides money would make the content not “free”?
A. A lot of organizations insist on providing content only in exchange for something, typically an email address. I don’t think that’s a good way to do it.
If you require people to give an email address, maybe only 5 to 10 percent will access your content because they don’t want to share their personal email. So it becomes a barrier.
Those who do download it are less likely to share it with their friends. If they endorse it by sharing, and their friends end up in some spam nightmare, it makes the original person who shared look bad.
Q. Is there a best format for providing content?
A. There’s no best format. People have different preferences for consuming information. Some read, some listen to audio, some watch videos. So the best strategies include a combination of these.
But you should also think about what you enjoy creating. If you don’t like to write, if that’s torture for you, find something else to offer, like photos or infographics.
Q. Do you have any tricks for driving traffic to content?
A. The main mistake people make is they come at it from the perspective of traditional, product-based marketing. People don’t care about products – they care about themselves and solving their problems. You need to know who you’re trying to reach, your buyer personas, and understand what their needs and problems are. If you have different buyer personas, you need to create content for each.
For instance, a hotel’s buyer personas might be the independent business traveler; couples getting married and needing a location for a reception; families going on vacation; corporate travel managers; and event planners looking for space to hold a meeting or convention.
You have to understand the problems of each and create content for them. And no, it’s not talking about your wonderful hotel!
For the couples getting married, maybe you have a blog about great wedding receptions in the community; videos of wedding bands; interviews with brides and grooms about what made their receptions memorable. Your hotel blog turns out to be a great place to find out about wedding receptions in your city and so, guess what? Your hotel gets a lot of visibility.
Q. What do you say to people who protest, “If I give it away, no one will buy my ….”
A. How’s your business doing? If things are great, why change? If running ads in the Yellow Pages or on TV is working, that’s great. But most people I talk with want to be found on the Web. They want to get new business and grow their companies. Providing information for free is the best way to get found on the Web.
It’s not an either-or. Don’t stop doing everything else and only do this. This is just something else you can do.
David points out that content marketing is actually a lot of fun! He’s right. This very newsletter is content marketing and it’s my favorite tool. Through The PR Insider, I’ve developed some truly meaningful, long-lasting relationships. And when someone emails me to say I’ve helped them in some way, well, that’s the ultimate in gratification.
So go ahead. Give it away!
Marsha Friedman launched EMS Incorporated in 1990. Her firm represents corporations and experts in a wide array of fields such as business, health, food, lifestyle, politics, finance, law, sports and entertainment. She consults individuals and businesses on a daily basis and is frequently asked to speak at conferences about how to harness the power of publicity. Outside of the office, she is also the founder of a non-profit organization called the Cherish the Children Foundation. In 1996 the White House recognized her charity which sets out to raise awareness of the plight of underprivileged and foster children.