Content marketing is all about wooing the customer. You draw them in with incredibly useful content that they can’t help but dive into. You make yourself so invaluable that you’re the first person they think of when they have a problem in your bailiwick. And then you effortlessly ease them into a purchase. Because you’ve built up so much goodwill and trust, the whole process is so natural that you need no overt selling.
This is content marketing nirvana. Something that content marketers aspire to, but few achieve.
So how do you create content that’s so useful you leave customers wanting more of your services?
Here are three examples of terrific content. All three share the advantage of being incredibly hands-on. No vague tips and tricks here. It’s all solid, meaty, walk-you-through-the-process information.
“How-to” content is a standard go-to for content marketing. But many how-to pieces err in providing content that is too abstract. Often the idea is to demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about without giving away the store—so that people have to come to you.
But today, the best content marketers hold nothing back. The idea is that even though they tell customers how to do something, they still may not want to—or be able to—do it as well themselves. And if they’re confident that you can do it because you’ve provided such valuable information, they’ll hire you.
Salesforce.com’s eBook 5 Blueprints for Building Smarter Emails is a great example. It starts with a pressing customer problem. Most marketers use emails. All of those marketers would like to make sure those emails perform at the top of their game.
Many articles that talk about email marketing either present lists of tips that readers can apply to any email or present research findings from A/B testing on, for example, what types of subject lines pull best (how long, placement of numbers, whether to include words like “free”).
This eBook takes the usefulness factor to a whole new level in two ways.
First, the eBook talks not about generic emails, but about emails in a context that makes more sense to marketers. It defines five specific types of emails and what they’re used for: welcome emails; promotional emails; event- registration emails; transactional emails; and cart-abandonment emails.
Second, for each email type, the eBook talks about how these types of emails can go wrong and specific tips on how you can make them better. Even better, the book provides specific examples of what each email in a welcome email series might look like.
For example, for the promotional email, the eBook provides specific examples of elements you can include, such as highlighting your loyalty program, including personalized recommendations, and so on.
My only nit with this eBook is that it uses terms without fully explaining what they mean. For example, it talks about “defensive” design without defining the term.
Checklists and Cheat Sheets
Another useful type of content is a checklist or cheat sheet. These are often produced in conjunction with a report or eBook to help the reader implement the concepts on their own. Or they can be standalone documents.
Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling, does a great job of providing self-service materials with specific tips you can use. Not only does her book SNAP Selling provide thought leadership on how to sell to busy people. Her website contains many ancillary materials with even more in-depth information on how to implement the ideas she discusses in the book.
For example, the book touches on effective ways to reach busy prospects using email. Her website then provides even more in-depth information on how to craft the emails. And her Email Message Evaluator provides a checklist with a long list of questions you can use to evaluate your own emails to ensure they comply with Konrath’s vision.
Together these materials come as close as is humanly possible to having Konrath as your personal coach without Konrath being t here. And when you’re struggling with a gnarly sales issue, all the great information certainly makes you think that Konrath would be the perfect person to hire as a consultant to help solve sales problems.
Of course the ultimate in useful content is something that not only tells you how to do something, but that actually does it for you. That’s the idea behind HubSpot’s “PowerPoint Templates for SlideShare.”
While HubSpot has a lot of corporate clients, they also target small businesses with their content-marketing platform. As an entrepreneur doing content marketing (one of HubSpot’s sweet spots) for my own business, I’ve created content and then struggled to come up with a way to create a professional looking design for it. I love templates because they make my marketing content look good without the expense of hiring a professional designer.
HubSpot clearly recognizes that need with its templates. The material comes in two parts. One is a PowerPoint that explains design principles. The second provides actual templates you can use to present your own content, saving you the hassle of having to apply abstract design principles and saving you from your own lack of design sensibility.
If you want to make your content as effective as possible, make it as hands-on and concrete as you can. Provide not only very specific tips, but also concrete examples, checklists that customers can use to evaluate how well they implement the tips, and even templates that do the heavy lifting for them.