One of the most significant recent trends for startups and web businesses has been the explosion of content marketing. But how can giving away free content help you build a profitable business?
Sometimes called branded content or custom media, content marketing means creating content for your target audience that’s so valuable you’ll become recognized as an authority in your niche. When that happens, you’ll have created yourself a new audience that trusts you enough to give you business, buy your product or service or opt-in to your mailing list.
Compared to traditional advertising, it’s a complete reversal. Instead of the advertising interrupting the content – like a TV commercial or a magazine ad does – the content is the advertising.
Or at least it is in a sense – because it’s crucial to craft your material as great content first and as a marketing aid second. Of course you’ll want to include links back to your site and even include a call-to-action at the end but don’t get carried away.
Simply put, the most effective types of content marketing have the same qualities of great content in any other type of format. They’re written for your customers – not others in the industry – and they:
1. Target a specific user
2. Show how to solve a particular problem
3. Contain clear and practical steps the user can take
Once your beautifully written, gorgeously designed content is ready, it’s time to get the word out. Let’s look at how you can best use the various social media platforms.
One of the best examples of a content marketing blog is Copyblogger. The company behind the site makes money from selling products that help content creators attract more links, social shares and generate more revenue through writing better content.
Every post is another piece of their content marketing strategy. With every post they’re building a loyal audience that can see if they deliver the goods in free blog posts they’re likely to deliver the goods with their products.
Tutorials, screencasts and product walk-throughs are all examples where using video is often a better choice than text and images. Because you can host your video on a social media site you can save on bandwidth and get extra traffic from You Tube and everywhere else the video is hosted.
As with all content marketing, a straight presentation of your product is likely to generate large yawns and back button clicks. You’ll get the best engagement by showing how the product solves a problem or saves time.
If it suits your style and product, don’t be afraid to use a little humor – it’s no coincidence that most viral videos are funny.
It’s not that people like getting emails, it’s that they like getting interesting emails.
Make sure your emails are so good that subscribers look forward to getting them. Tutorials, customer experiences and the occasional special offer (careful not to overdo it and come across too promotional) make good starting points.
An advantage mailing lists have over blogging is that you can make sure each of your subscribers has a chance to read all of your most important content, regardless of how old the content is or when they joined your list.
Using an automated email marketing service like Aweber means you can send new subscribers content in a logical sequence, regardless of when they subscribed. That way, your best content keeps working for you and isn’t just stuck in an ancient blog archive, gathering dust and feeling lonely.
Free Reports, Case Studies and Whitepapers
Everybody likes free – it’s an appealing price point. But you also need truly compelling content – because there’s a lot of free stuff around and people make judgments about whether your free download is worth it or not.
You can win the argument and get the download by writing a great landing page that clearly shows what the report covers, how that will benefit the user and showing through your writing style that it’s going to be a good read.
This is especially true if you’re offering a report in exchange for a mailing list signup. Make it compelling.
Slides & Presentations
If you’re a Powerpoint genius you’ll probably have an archive of material that can be reused. If not, old blog posts and infographics can be re-purposed.
The best – and therefore the most shared – presentations tend to combine short and snappy bullet points with good typography and images. Take a look at the Top Presentations of the Day on Slideshare for inspiration on design and topics that resonate with viewers.
In a nutshell, content marketing is about homing in on what your audience needs, creating outstanding content that helps them achieve that goal, and then promoting the hell out of it.