It’s probably my least favourite word in marketing.
Just typing it makes me cringe.
We may as well just say “stuff”, or “filler”…
But it’s almost universally recognised as shorthand for “that important ‘stuff’ (see! Told ya) created to inform and educate people about something”…
And since there’s no better word to hand right now, I’m using it in this email.
(Hey, do me a favour:
Just for today, try replacing the word “content” with “genius output” when you see it…
And make every writer, podcaster, marketer and ‘thought leader’ – ha! no, don’t even get me started on that one – glow with happiness.)
There’s “good” and “bad” content, for sure.
But is there ever such a thing as “the wrong content”?
Are biz-owners actually spending time and effort creating content online that’s just flat-out wrong for its audience?
Oh, you betcha.
It happens all. the. time.
So let’s take a minute to make sure it doesn’t happen to you, ok?
Now, by “the wrong content” I don’t mean completely the wrong theme…
Like a vegan blogger writing about the 6 tastiest cuts of steak (mmm, steak)…
Or a Florida gulf coast travel company’s guide to downtown watering holes in chilly St Petersburg, Russia…
I’m talking about articles and even landing pages that are simply wrong for their target audience’s frame of mind.
You’ve probably heard this age-old marketing nugget before:
“Enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind.”
It’s attributed to copywriting legend Robert Collier, who wanted us to keep our sales copy directly relevant to the person reading, right at the moment they encounter it.
To win and retain a prospect’s attention, ol’ Bob advised, don’t just start by immediately burbling out your product’s sales spiel.
Begin by positioning it in such a way that it’s connected to what’s already happening in your TM’s (Target Market) brainbox…
If they’re looking to solve a problem, talk about that problem and link your solution to it.
If they’re responding to a previous command (like clicking on an ad), don’t ignore it.
If you know their position on a particular subject, refer to it and agree with it (but only if you genuinely feel that way too).
Smart advice – but this applies to your content marketing too, not just sales copy.
In a lot of industries, the basics of content marketing are still working for businesses large and small:
Create educational, engaging content that appeals to your prospects. Then sell relevant services to them once you’ve got their attention.
Not enough of these biz’s are taking the basics up a notch.
They’re still spending a lot of time and effort (not to mention moolah) on getting eyeballs on the right content at the wrong time.
A couple of common mistakes:
Promoting all your articles everywhere at once with a ‘scattergun’ approach rather than focusing on the real crowd-pleasers…
…and mismatching content with prospects who are in a different frame of mind.
It’s this ‘mismatching’ we all should be wary of – especially if you sell high-$ products or services.
See, there are essentially two key types of content online:
EDUCATIONAL CONTENT is where you provide useful information for people looking for answers. Yes, you can sell your product or service too – eventually.
But the sales angle shouldn’t take the lead…
The way we buy high-value goods and services online (in B2B or B2C) means we often start by looking for information, not options.
When there’s hundreds and even thousands of bucks at stake, people first look to reduce the ‘unknown unknowns’ and arm themselves with info, not start spending impulsively.
We research today so we can buy tomorrow (or later).
If, on a whim, someone just wants to know more about the Northern Lights, what they are and where they can be seen, they don’t (yet) want to compare the prices of all-inclusive trips.
If they’re faced with that when they arrive at a page having Googled for info, they’re likely to click away, fast.
So your content should help inform this ‘early stage’ prospect, AND then offer them a way to engage with you more regularly so you can nurture that lead and position yourself as an authority…
That way if/when they start thinking about dollars and cents, you’re top of mind.
PURCHASE-DRIVEN CONTENT is for people who are already aware of what a solution or service might look like – and are deeper into their research, actively ‘thinking with their wallet’.
So you might want to create comparison posts, pricing frameworks or case studies, as this excellent SEO-focused post discusses in detail.
But if you send all your leads – including those who don’t yet know you from Adam – to your purchase-driven content, it’s likely to cost you a fat chunk of ad spend trying to ‘sell’ people who aren’t ready to buy.
(It’s a bit like trying to sell me a luxury watch if I ask you for directions in the street.
“Um, yeah, nice watch, and uh, sounds like a fair price, but still… WTF?!?”)
It’s a mindset thing, really:
If you create content as part of your digital marketing, your overall intent should be to solve a problem first, sell later.
That’s how you build a position of authority and trust with your audience.
Sometimes solving a problem means information, and a nurturing ‘hand-holding’ approach until your prospect is informed enough to consider spending money (or not)…
…and sometimes solving a problem means confidently demonstrating why your service is the perfect solution for them right now.
With content, it’s a matter of timing…
Get it wrong and you risk turning those leads away for good.
Get it right and your efforts are rewarded with attention and eventually, profit.
Either way, when you solve a problem for the people you’ve decided to help by ‘Selling Unique’, you’re focused on creating a distinctive, memorable brand that’s relevant to the conversation in your prospect’s mind…
You can stand out by listening and responding, asking and nurturing. Like a real person having a conversation with your audience.
NOT by blowing your ad budget on an offer your reader’s not ready for.
Right content, right time.
(Even if “content” makes you go “ugh”.)