One common beginner content marketing mistake is to assume a “sales pitch” is “content.” This is not only incorrect but can actually be harmful to the content marketing effort.
Content marketing as party conversation
At its core, content marketing is the “show don’t sell” of promotion, based on communication of useful information.
Imagine you’re at your friend Gary’s huge bash of a party and you meet his friend, Georgina — and the first thing Georgina says is “Hey – I heard you say you have two dogs – did Mary tell you I take dog portraits? Do you need pictures of your dogs?” Georgina shoves her card at you and says, “Do you have card? Can I have your information? It’s time for holiday dog photos – I’ll call you tomorrow and we can set up a time.”
Georgina might be the most brilliant photographer ever but chances are, after that interaction, in the future you’ll be ducking behind plants to avoid her.
Now instead imagine you’re at the same party and, as you’re petting Gary’s dog Rufus, and someone named Olivia approaches you. You and Olivia gab about the delicious hors d’oeuvres as Rufus tries to grab them, you discuss your dog’s fondness for table scraps – and Olivia says, “My dog doesn’t wait – he jumps right up. I can manage other people’s dogs when I take their portraits, but…” Oh? “Yes, I have a business taking pet portraits – in fact” — she points — “I took those pictures of Rufus, there. Here’s my card — I have hints on my website about how to take great pet photos.” She tells a funny anecdote about her latest client…
Well, you don’t need a pet portrait but now you have a rapport with Olivia and you know you’re on the same page about a number of things, you’ve seen examples of her work — and she’s offered you a bit of free professional advice, no strings attached.
You go Olivia’s website — cute pet portraits! And there’s Rufus! You think you can use her pet photo advice and you sign up for her newsletter… And then your cousin calls and tells you she’s just adopted two pedigree pugs from the same litter and she’s going to try to pimp them out as twin pug clothing models and they need a portfolio… And you mention Olivia and forward her the latest newsletter …
Content marketing translation
The big bash is social media – at first, it seems overwhelming and amorphous. But social media behavior (akin to your obvious fondness for dogs) is a signal – by interacting and engaging, people reveal their likes and dislikes. Olivia knows that the party is a wide net – and she’s there to listen as well as interact. You have given the signal that you’re a dog lover — Olivia knows to approach you.
Like Olivia’s strategic party chitchat, a newsletter warms potential clients up to your services, helps you get to know each other (the regular content selection and reader clicks reveal insights). The all-important website gives deeper information about product and service offerings — and gives all potential clients “social proof” — examples of work and client testimonials — which (like Olivia’s IRL portrait of Rufus) reveals whether vendor and client are a fit.
Here’s a more corporate example.
photo credit: AnnMarie Spinella