Oftentimes one of the first request we receive from client is to make sure they’re visible online. Normally the number one reason is that their business is not participating in content marketing marketing. This is one the first items that we address when taking on the new client who wishes to be visible online: why content marketing is important.
Saying nothing of value
For a lot of companies and individuals the root of the problem is that they have nothing of value to say!
This sounds harsh but we must think about this from the point of view of the potential customer.
Most companies only talk about themselves online. They fail to think about the value of what they are producing in reference to the person who is consuming their content.
A secondary mistake is to always be selling even when the potential customer is not at all interested yet and what it is they have to offer.
Think about a dinner party where you’ve been buttonholed by an annoying person refuses to talk anything except for themselves.
Most companies operate in this fashion online: simply talking about their benefits, their products, all the great things they have done, and why you should purchase from them.
Online, as at a dinner party, the first thing you want to do is run away from these people.
Go on to most businesses’ websites and you’ll see they talk about nothing but themselves. The only references to their customers tend to be in testimonials and reviews, both of which are designed to continue talking about the business themselves.
Who do YOU listen to?
Think instead about who you follow online. Who do you go out of their way to find and consume the content of?
These are the people and companies that we need to be emulating.
What is it about the content that these companies put out? The vast majority of the time they are producing content that is valuable to you, for you.
The focus is not them. It’s you.
This form of marketing is broadly known as a value-add marketing. Specifically, especially in the online world, we refer to it as content marketing.
This is most commonly known in the form of blog articles, social media posts, and long form videos such as those found on YouTube.
It is only value-add marketing when the consumer of this content (and potential future customers) find this content to be valuable. Not when the company believes the content to be valuable.
Value is in the eye of the beholder not the creator.
Are you guilty of this?
When looking over potential clients’ social media feeds and previous blog articles it’s often easy to identify a company that does not participate in value add content marketing.
One particular egregious recent example was a company (who shall not be named) whose last post was a photo of their Christmas party. Mainly photos of their staff having a good time, ending with a call to action to sign up for a post-Christmas package.
Who was this for? Certainly not the customer! They don’t care.
This type of content is purely ego-stroking. It provides little to no value to the audience or potential customer. Instead it is purely a content about the company, including people from the company, telling you to do something that will help the company rather than you you the customer.
Switching to value add content marketing
How instead we participate in value add content marketing?
The key here is to give, give and give some more.
And then give again. For good luck.
One thing you need to realise is that information is free. Trade secrets are from the annals of history. There is very little information that cannot, with enough resourcefulness and dedication, be found online for low-cost or free.
Any business who continues to believe that what they do, and what value they provide, is so uniquely special that nobody can find out how to do it themselves is simply delusional.
Whether or not you agree or subscribe to the thesis that “information is free” does not matter.
The fact is in the online marketplace information is free, whether you like it or not!
Control the conversation
Therefore if you want to be noticed online you need to provide value under the assumption that information is free and can be found easily for low-to-no cost elsewhere. For you to control the flow of information and provide value to your potential customers you need to be in charge of the conversation. Burying your head in the sand will not help and you will not be able to grow your business online.
If you’re a business owner or in the process of starting an online business you might be thinking to yourself “but I’m not running a charity here, I’m not simply going to give everything away for free! I’m not purely an educator and I’m here to run a business”
We absolutely subscribe to this notion. Remember that the BATON system starts with B: business.
Our free online business course starts with Business. Business first!
Everything we do is rooted first in business. Value marketing and content marketing are no different.
How content marketing drives business
We are using value marketing to hook the attention of potential Audience members. We use value based content to gain attention and awareness for our business.
From this point onwards we continue to provide value, bringing prospects into our Tribe, and then on to becoming customers at the Offer stage.
Content marketing sits at the beginning of our sales funnel. The purpose of content marketing is to eventually drive sales. How specifically content marketing drive sales has been covered in another blog article.
Once you are on board with the idea of value marketing first question is obviously what value should I be giving my potential customers?
How to use content marketing?
Let’s again imagine you’re at the dinner party. First impressions count. The same is true for businesses just as much as it as it is we individuals. We very quickly make snap judgements and decide whether we like or dislike companies much in the same way as we do with individuals.
With this in mind we need to make sure that our first impression counts!
We want the first piece of content we provide to be one of the most valuable we are able to produce.
Do not hold back at this point. If you do so, chances are you’ll lose their interest and therefore any chance for potential future sale. Once you have an opportunity to make an impression make sure that it’s a good one.
Common pushback at this point from clients and students who we work with is that if they give away huge amounts information upfront what possible reason should a customer have for wanting to spend more time and later money with them.
Remember whilst information may be free: action is not.
Don’t just sell information – sell methods to achieve action
Even when people have all of the information they require in front of them they will not use that information.
Subsequent links in the value marketing chain are concerned with helping people to achieve the result that they sought you out for. As a business we help people solve their problems: Entrepreneurship is problem solving. Most people will not be able to solve their problems using purely information. They require something else.
The greatest proof of this is the diet and exercise industry. If people acted on the information presented to them there would be no need for a diet and exercise industry!
The whole industry instead could be pretty much summed up as “eat less, move more”. If everybody simply acted on this information the basic problem would be solved. They would lose weight and reach their ideal target weight. No need for expensive gyms, exercise programs, apparatus and dietary supplementation.
Another example is higher education. Most of the top universities in the world including Stanford, MIT, and Harvard, now publish the full courses online. It is even possible to take the examinations online and receive college credit and even a degree from one of these institutions. Check out edX if you are interested in doing so.
The information is free. Why then do people continue to sign up for ungodly expensive degree programs at universities and institutions such as these?
Information alone is not enough for most
In both the weight loss industry and higher education industry the information itself is not everything.
Information is free: action is not.
Acting on this information requires more. In the weight loss example it might be a personal trainer for a meal delivery service. In further education it is the discipline and schedule imposed by attending a structured three-year program.
What about for your business?
Let’s imagine you’ve given away some of your most valuable content to 10,000 people at the beginning of your sales funnel.
One or two of these people may take the information and run with it. These people will indeed no longer need your help or assistance or any products or services that you provide. These people will get the job done themselves and never become your customer.
However this handful of people were always going to be self-sufficient and they were always going to find information and just get on with it themselves without you or any of your competitors’ help.
They were never your customer.
Instead we focus on the 99.9% who will still need your help and assistance even after you have given them all information they could ever need to progress on their own.
How to reach this audience through content marketing
Your opening salvo in the value based marketing approach has been to give them all information required. Subsequent products and services help them to apply that information and to achieve the results that they want. Your products and services will solve their problems for them.
We talked previously about how businesses are in the business of solving people’s problems. Generally people still need help because of laziness, technical issues, lack of motivation, speed of implementation, or cost reasons.
If your products and services can help them achieve their result better than they could by themselves then you have a route to market. They’ve already come to you and found out that you know what it is you’re talking about. You’ve proven your expertise and your willingness to provide value through your content based marketing.
Now, to actually achieve the results that they want they are likely to continue to want to work with you through your products and services.
Content Marketing: An example
Compare this situation to the one that we started with.
Instead of you posting a handful of photos from your Christmas party that absolutely nobody in the world gives a damn about, you are now potentially talking to tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, providing massive value, proving your worth, and then providing subsequent products and services to support their journey and help them achieve their result.
This is a true benefit of value add content marketing.
What is the common value marketing chain?
In online business you’ll often see the following value chain:
- A free e-book or informational pamphlet.
- A low-cost more detailed a book or online course.
- A fully fleshed out i.e. 5 to 10 hour video course.
- A premium “done for you” service
Escalation from one level to the next only works because we’re getting enough people to enter the system. Giving away information, knowing that most people will no actually act on it, allows us to drive the volume of traffic required to make an online business work.
The question for you and your online business is this:
What piece of content can you provide upfront in order to provide the most possible amount of value to the market?
A good starting point here is to make sure that you know what the problem the market actually has: What do entrepreneurs do? Once you know the market’s problem then you -as an expert- will know best how to provide massive amount of value and help people overcome their problem.
Work this out and you have a solid foundation for the beginning of a value marketing chain.
Nail this and you’ll have evergreen traffic piping revenue into your business.