“Is Content Marketing A Scam?”– It’s a deafening headline for those who make their living by providing content strategy, development, and distribution. It’s also a valid question that actually came to the forefront of my brain last week after meeting with my accountant.
This guy is possibly one of the best small business owners I’ve ever met. I found him when l was living in Bucktown several years ago. I probably googled “Bucktown tax service” or something similar, and his business popped up right at the top of local search results. I set up an appointment, had my taxes filed at a reasonable rate, and was happy with the service.
Several years later, I am still extraordinarily pleased with the services he provides (and the prices at which he offers them). Since starting my own business, my accounting needs have expanded, and rather than losing my mind, I just meet with this guy.
I recently met with him to go over some details for my 2017 taxes, and I reveled at how seamless and enjoyable the experience was. Yes, going over tax details was enjoyable. He is friendly, professional, and explains things clearly without sounding condescending. He also repeatedly emphasized that we were partners and that he would do everything in his power to make things as easy and beneficial for me as possible.
I don’t know how else to say it, but I left our meeting gleeful. Truth be told, I am rarely gleeful when I leave a professional meeting of any kind. I’m typically fine, unobjectionable, or downright copacetic.
Gleeful is some next level jazz.
I wondered how he was able to elicit such a positive response (one that I’ve seen others who leave his office share), so I set out to break down the elements of a positive customer experience based on my own interaction.
As it turns out, there’s a fairly simple recipe for success:
- It’s personalized. When I walk into that office, I’m “Ashley”, not customer #894579. He uses my first name and talks to me about details of my my life and business as if we are longtime friends. He’s not “chummy” in a spurious way, but toes the line between professionally adept and friendly. I feel like a valued customer and a valued person all at once. It’s magical.
- It’s customer-centric. Everything we discuss is centered on achieving the best outcome for me. Selfishly, I love this. There is not even a hint of a sense that he is going to shirk his responsibilities or try to finagle the easiest workload for himself. I know that he will provide high quality services that will ultimately work to my benefit. In combination with #1, I am hesitant to believe that any of his competitors could do anywhere near as good of a job. Even if they could on paper, the overall experience has me sold on his services.
- It provides value at a reasonable price. While I would probably pay a higher rate for the service and experience provided, I don’t have to. His services are priced in a way that makes it impossible for me to even consider switching professional service providers. This is the nail in the coffin – the death rattle – for all CPAs in Chicago. I am certain I could find more expensive alternatives, but why pay more? I am also certain I could find less expensive alternatives, but my glee with the services provided inhibits my motivation to engage in that search as well.
These three simple elements are a trifecta for success, and I haven’t even mentioned the word marketing.
To review, the three elements that make this a win-win for all involved are: 1) personalization, 2) customer-centric, and 3) reasonably priced.
I experience all of those things in this business partnership – in real life. Alas, these are the benefits of local small businesses who enjoy face-to-face relationships with their customers.
But what about businesses that don’t have the opportunity to personally connect with each and every one of their clients or customers on a face-to-face basis?
That’s where content marketing comes in. Content marketing enables mass exposure and promotion of a company by encompassing that trifecta – as a digitally packaged relationship-building experience. That’s right – content marketing builds relationships.
In a way, it synthesizes what you might experience via a face-to-face experience with another human being. Does that make it a scam?
I don’t think so.
I think we can all agree that it’s impossible for any enterprise business or brand to personally connect with each and every customer in a face-to-face manner. It would be swell, but just isn’t a realistic concept. What businesses turn to instead is a way to provide value to their audiences in a personalized, customer-centric and reasonably-priced way. Content marketing builds relationships by adding value.
Content marketing done well is personalized.
Content Marketing, when backed by a strategy, is created around and for personas. B2B businesses are likely familiar with buyer personas, but for content marketing, it’s good to focus on audience personas. There are just slightly nuanced differences between the two in that the latter also identifies where, how, and when people prefer to consume content and on which topics they prefer to consume.
In this way, your content should be personalized for your audience and answer their questions, address their issues and concerns and be created in their preferred format.
For distribution purposes, there is ample room for personalization. If you’re using a newsletter to distribute content, make sure you’re including a first name within the body of the email. If you have more sophisticated marketing automation tools at your disposal, there are actually ways to include relevant pieces of content for each person in your CRM based on their past behaviors and preferences. Some platforms will dynamically generate content specific to each person you send an email to. Everyone loves being greeted by their first name; email is no exception.
Content marketing done well is customer-centric (or prospect-centric).
Content marketing should provide value to a clearly-defined audience via relevant, unique and consistent content. Yes, the goal is to motivate a profitable action on the part of the prospect, but in the meantime, your job is to make her life a little easier. As mentioned in #1, you should have clearly-defined personas built out that include main pain points each particular segment of your audience face. These are the points on which you should focus in creating content.
Ask yourself how you can provide unique, data-driven insights into these problems and also how you can propose and discuss viable solutions. Since content marketing can (and should) be interactive, consider ways to provide a digital roundtable between you and your key audiences.
Many companies offer free white papers or ebooks on relevant, timely and pertinent topics to their audience and ask for an email address in exchange. Others provide guides, checklists, or other interactive tools to help an audience as they try to solve a problem on their own. By providing helpful resources to your target audience, you bolster your own credibility and you begin to position yourself as a partner – a helpful partner. You build your reputation while your content marketing builds relationships.
Content marketing done well provides value at a reasonable-price: for free.
As mentioned in #2, resources produced as part of a content marketing strategy are typically offered for free to an audience, with the “ask” being that the user provide an email address. Some choose to ask for more information on forms and others give away content at the simple click of a button. Each organization’s goals, objectives and strategies in content marketing will be different, so the ask may be different, too.
The goal here is to provide value through engaging, relevant content that helps your audience solve a problem or learn something new. That can take many different shapes, depending on your industry, business model and audience. This is why a data-driven strategy works best. You need to have a clear understanding of the struggles your core audience faces as well as what they find engaging.
Content marketing builds relationships
In summary, no – content marketing is NOT a scam. It’s a tool that digital marketers can use to build and enhance relationships with their target audience online. It’s a way to add value by being helpful, providing answers, and stimulating discussion around common pain points and questions your prospects have. It’s the intersection between what your business wants to promote and what your prospective customers want to know. If you do it well, it becomes a memorable experience that can have just as positive of an impact as a face-to-face engagement.
P.S. Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re looking for an excellent accountant in the Chicagoland area.