Content marketing might be the marketer's darling these days, but its concepts are not new. Law and accounting firms used it in the 1960s when their partners started publishing articles in journals. Even farther back than that, John Deere started its own magazine in the 1800s—The Furrow—as a way to share expertise about farming.
The difference now is the Internet. Now everyone can be a publisher, and they can use that content in a multitude of ways: to demonstrate their expertise, attract buyers, develop and nurture client relationships, and prove that they are trustworthy.
"As a peddler of services instead of products, you can't display your efforts. No one can walk into your office and pick up your widget in their hands, choose just the right color, or take a taste sample. Besides hearing from others about how well you've helped them, the only way a prospect can decide whether they want to hire you is by inspecting you," writes Brian O'Connell in his article 'You Can Trust Me': Why Content Marketing Is Critical for Service Professionals.
And content marketing makes that possible.
More than publishing articles and white papers, content marketing also involves making connections with people in the online world. When you show that you are part of a community, your level of trust rises, O'Connell says.
"Through your site's content, such as reviews written by folks in the community, guest posts from business leaders in your town, and exchanges on Facebook among your neighbors, you show these connections effortlessly," he says.
By sharing your content on social media networks, you can build an online following. The more giving you are and the more you communicate with followers, the more likely they are to visit your pages and respond to your posts, writes Daniela Baker in her article How to Increase Sales Productivity using Social Media.
Baker says you must follow five strategies for social media in order for sales to increase: consistently reach out to prospects, invite feedback and comments, personalize communication with prospects, provide educational content, and connect your content with a sales call to action.
Turn Audience Members into Clients
If you speak at events, chances are slim someone will come up to you after your talk and say they want to buy your services. The speaking engagement is the first step in networking with and engaging potential buyers.
Content you produce can go a long way toward nurturing relationships with people you meet at speaking events, writes C.J. Hayden in her article 5 Steps to Turn Audiences into Clients.
"If you'd like the opportunity to follow up with everyone, pass a basket to collect names for a drawing and give away a book or a CD related to your topic," she says. "Or offer to send people a free report, ebook, or newsletter subscription in return for their contact information."
Don't stop after sharing just one resource. Reach out to people consistently, providing advice and resources, to grow the relationship.
Turn Clients into Advocates
You know it's easier to get current clients to buy from you than to persuade prospects who don't know a thing about you to buy from you. Imagine now if your clients helped with your sales and marketing—that they became advocates for your company. You could have a select group of clients who not only refer you to others but who write blog posts and social media posts on your behalf and even speak up for you and your services in community forums.
Not only that, but they do it at no cost. They do it because they love your service. More important, though, they do it because you help them in return.
Companies should do things that help these rock star customers, says Bill Lee in his podcast interview A Growth Opportunity Most Companies Ignore. That includes promoting them and their success.
"Don't promote your stuff and your company," Lee says. "It's much more effective to promote their success. It's a much more effective way to grow your company and to get them excited and engaged and interested in coming into your growth process and working with you."
Again, content marketing can play a significant role. Collaborate with clients on a white paper, ask if they want to write a guest blog post, write a guest blog post for them, or invite them to speak at an event, for example. If you can give as well as take, you eliminate the "us versus them" situation and make it easy for them to want to market for you.
How do you use content marketing to grow your business?
Photo by Garry Knight
Michelle Davidson is Editor of RainToday. As such, she oversees all of the articles published on the website and publishes the weekly newsletter, the Rainmaker Report. She also produces the site's weekly podcast series, Marketing & Selling Professional Services, and the site's webinars. You may contact her via email at email@example.com and via Twitter at @michedav.
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