We are all familiar with what’s going on in the economy these days. Words like “crisis”, “recession” and “unemployment” bombard us constantly. Isn’t it easy to let all the bad news drag us down? But things are never that black-and-white. The reality of the situation is that there are plenty of opportunities for the company that is paying attention.
A McGraw/Hill study of 600 businesses during the recession of the early ‘80s found that companies who maintained or raised their level of advertising during that downturn came out better in the long run. For those companies who aggressively advertised during this time period, “better” meant that they had sales 256% better than the businesses that did not. That’s a big number. And an important thing to keep in mind during times such as these, when the first instinct of many companies is to cut marketing budgets.
But not just any marketing strategy will work. When money is tight, customers resent the hard sell even more than they normally do. Customers need solutions to their problems, not hype. In addition, today’s customers are savvy products of an Internet Age – they know they can jump online and gather almost unlimited information on any topic they are researching. And they do. This means that before you even know you have a potential customer, they are reading up on you and your product.
These trends present incredible opportunities for those companies that choose not to follow the crowd, and instead to invest in their marketing now.
Who is there?
According to Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett, authors of Get Content. Get Customers, Content marketing is “the art of understanding exactly what your customers need to know and delivering it to them in a relevant and compelling way”.
Traditional “interruption marketing” (ads, radio spots, hyped-up sales letters, etc) just doesn’t have the impact it used to. Although there is still a place for it in marketing strategy, content marketing is the future. Content marketing is the means by which you educate your customers: on your market; on possible solutions to their problems; on what to look for when deciding what solution is best for them, and even with customer reviews of your product or service. But be advised – this content must be relevant and educational, not a thinly-veiled sales pitch.
By creating this highly valuable content, you become perceived as a thought-leader in your industry, position your company as a partner and trusted source and your customers give you their loyalty. These intangibles are especially indispensible in the natural products industry, which has been beset with voracious media coverage on the unethical, fly-by-night companies that popped up with the promise of easy money. Set yourself up as ethical, knowledgeable and genuinely interested in being an active partner and you will gather around you a loyal and profitable customer base.
Creating content isn’t that difficult but it requires an intimate understanding of what your customer needs, your sales cycle and where certain content will be most effective. It also requires good solid material. A sales pitch badly disguised as a white paper will never get the results you seek.
Most content works incredibly well as a lead-generation tool. Customers will be happy to give you their name and email address in exchange for valuable content. And you get a highly qualified lead. Some examples of great content include:
- Case Studies: Also known as customer success stories. What is more powerful than a story about how your product or service solved a problem for a customer? Typically a case study is only a couple of pages in length, but it packs a powerful punch.
- White Papers: Not just for the tech industry anymore, studies show that white papers are the single most popular, viral and trusted source for potential buyers. If you write your white papers effectively, there is no better lead generation tool.
- Blogs and forums: These social media marketing components should be part of your content marketing strategy. Even if a company blog isn’t an option, learn how to effectively communicate on the blogs and forums where your customers are spending their time. And always remember to contribute, don’t sell.
- EBooks, special reports, tip sheets: From a one-page “10 things” type of tip sheet to a 60+ page eBook, anything you create that your customers consider helpful will be another valuable piece of your content puzzle.
- Web Site Content: The brochure style website is going the way of the dinosaur. If you want your website to generate quality leads and cultivate repeat visits, you need a site that is packed full of helpful, vital and high value information that’s updated often. Not only does this bring your leads to you but search engines love it.
Remember, content marketing is not a hard-sell packaged in a different format. As soon as you start talking about you instead of catering to your customers needs, you will lose credibility and likely the sale. This takes a different kind of marketing mind-set and an ability to adapt to new rules in the marketplace. But the results can be truly mind-boggling.
Patty Reagin is a freelance writer for the natural products industry specializing in white papers, case studies and other content marketing materials. For more information and a free report on how to market your case studies visit www.thewritingquill.com or email [email protected]