Welcome back to another episode with Ali Schwanke. In the last episode, we talked about taking the path of the most resistance along with Ali’s entrepreneurial journey, B2B vs B2C content marketing, and quick wins. In today’s episode, we’ll discuss why content marketing is so powerful and Ali’s tips for successful content marketing.
Why is content marketing so powerful?
Content marketing equips customers with the power to make what they feel is their own buying decision. Ali gave an example through real estate and buying a car. She said, “I was never a home buyer in the days when you didn’t have access to the MLS listings. I was never a home buyer where I had to go to the office and have someone sit down and put house offerings in front of me. I’ve always been in the age where I go online, and I look at the neighborhood that I want, and the realtor to me just feels like a person that I have to go through to get to the house.”
“Content marketing is the same way. Every industry now feels like that. I can go buy a car, but how much do I know what I’m doing when I buy that car? That’s where content comes in. So if I feel like you’ve educated me to the point where I feel like I know enough that . . . I’m not being tricked or duped in the sales process, then I’m [going to] have a good buying experience, and that’s what content facilitates.”
Top Content Marketing Strategies
Here are some of Ali’s top content marketing strategies.
1. Focus on Thought Leadership or Search-Driven Blogging
Ali was working with a company that was doing strategic planning. They were writing articles that were very interesting to their audience, but they weren’t getting much traffic from a search engine perspective. Ali said, “The tip that I often tell people is there are two different types of blogging. Most companies don’t know that they’re actually doing one or the other, and they don’t really know what camp they’re in and why.”
Ali explained that a search-driven or SEO-driven headline for a blog might say, “5 Ways to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile.” To find this blog post, someone might type in “how do I optimize my LinkedIn profile” and that blog would come up as an answer.
In contrast, Ali said the thought leadership version of that title might be “5 Ways You Bombed Your Last Interview Because Your LinkedIn Profile Sucks.” She explained, “No one’s gonna search for why your LinkedIn profile sucks, but they might stumble upon that on social or if that’s in an email newsletter.” When they do, they’re going to ask, “Did I really bomb that interview because my LinkedIn profile is so awful?” and then read the article.
“When it comes to deploying written content you have to understand which camp you’re in because each one of those has different strategies.” Ali told the company she was working with that “the only way they’re going to get more traffic with sexy thought leadership-driven content is to find other audiences to leverage.”
2. Be Consistent
To get into the baseball Hall of Fame, a player’s average needs to be about .300, which is three out of 10 bats. If you think about it, that’s not very high. But it is the consistency of showing up to play the game that matters.
“I think a lot of times,” Ali said, “companies or marketing directors will look for the home run type of content, saying, ‘The last few blogs that we wrote didn’t go over really well,’ but some of the success of what you’re going to see is simply by showing up every single week.”
In addition, she said, “When you stop publishing content, people start asking questions. And when people ask questions and you’re not there to answer the questions, they make up their own stories.”
3. Focus on the Customer
In order for us to have content success, we need to use the words our customers use and write about the things they face—not the things we want to talk about. “There’s this Venn diagram of . . . the things the customer cares about and . . . the things that your product or service can solve for them.”
“Where those two meet together is where your content should be, because if it’s not if you write just about what they’re having problems with, you’ll get a lot of traffic and not a lot of conversions. If you just write about what your product is you [won’t get] a lot of traffic.”
“Those two together are the hard part because sometimes the CEO or the product team will say we should write about this, and the marketing team has to be able to say, this is where we stay if you want content marketing to actually pay off.
4. Promote, Promote, Promote
Ali said, “It is equally important to promote as it is to create.” She explained, “If you were going to err on the side of consistency and you can’t keep up with every week, I would much rather see you publish a one really great piece of content a month and promote the heck out of it. That means your one piece of content might be a really great guide, a really good blog post, or [a] really good video, and it’s reshared on social, it’s put over on Medium, it’s shared over on Buzzsumo, it’s put out as an infographic, etc. You’ve repurposed it and reshared it so that you have all of this kind of groundswell. It’s not just like a new thing every week.”
5. Customize Our Webchat
Webchat can be complicated. “If you have a software company or a solution that has more of a self-guided journey [for the customer] to [make a] purchase, there is a need for a chat to be part of that. But I see too many companies that have a one-size-fits-all chat solution like, ‘hey, here I am, chat with me,’ whereas chats are really supposed to be the place where you think ahead of the questions that someone would have relative to the information that they’re viewing.”
For example, if someone’s on a software company’s pricing page, the chat might say, “Do you have any questions about pricing?” Ali said, “Those [customized chats] are typically things you need to develop from looking at your analytics, looking at what people are asking you, [and] using that data side to really inform the creative. But chat is powerful. . . . You don’t need to throw it on every page of your website.”
6. Have a Customer-Centric Marketing Strategy
A customer-centric marketing strategy assumes that we’re going to find out what’s most important in the customer’s mind. Sometimes we assume we know a lot about our audience. For example, we might ask customers, “how did you hear about us?” They might respond with “a friend told me” or something like that.
But what if we asked, “what was happening in your life at the time that you found our solution?” They might say they just moved or got married or the license expired for the software they were using before. With this kind of question, we can understand what’s happening in our customers’ lives and find out how to help them better.
7. Repurpose Content
Ali had a client who sells services to dealerships do some original research. “One of our clients had done a research report, which is a powerful strategy, but it’s one that’s definitely a lot more uphill than it is downhill.”
“They surveyed everybody there in the dealership . . . and came out with some findings and actually created this . . . [about] 30-page report. Out of it, they produced infographics, produced videos, [and] were able to link it to case studies.”
Ali said, “What that created is this evergreen opportunity to get mentions and guest publications and raise the level of their thought leadership. It’s been continually producing leads for them since we created it. So I think back to that idea of [how] one powerful piece of content has paid dividends, [and] all of their blog content then is being derived from this one piece. So it’s really powerful when you do it the right way.”
8. Use Content as a Relationship Builder
Ali has another client who is producing a podcast as a way to build relationships in their industry. She compared it to real estate, saying, “If you’re a real estate agent, and you know that title companies, lawyers, attorneys, estate planners, [etc.] they all work with people who may need new house options for buying and selling.”
“So in a sense,” she continued, “what they’re doing is creating a podcast for those folks to build a relationship. So they’re using the podcast as a relationship-building tool to then drive them into the funnel to learn more about what their company does. So I think content can also be a really good relationship builder, as well as a content engine.”
9. Be Creative to Make B2B Video Marketing More Interesting
We might be thinking how do we make B2B video marketing less boring? Well, Ali gave us some examples and ideas.
She described a company that did a video explaining the concept of video marketing. “They were comparing it to baking a cake,” she said. “And it was so well done, and so I think it sticks with me to this day because it was using an analogy that everyone is familiar with.”
We can lean on popular concepts or pop culture and have fun with our videos. We can also study things from other industries like documentaries or shows and movies that seem like they would be boring and see how they made them exciting.
10. Bridge the Creative and Analytical
Ali described two groups in marketing. The first might say, “I’m just gonna pitch really crazy ideas and see if the client likes them.” And the second might say, “I use data to make decisions, and there is little room for creativity. I have to do what the data tells me.”
“I firmly believe there’s an intersection between the two of those,” Ali said. She gave an example of going after the search “how to monetize my business.”
“Let’s say that it’s dominated already by companies that have really good content. So, you could either attack it from a, ‘I’m going to make much better content than them,’ and better is going to mean an emphasis on better questions, [going] further in-depth, [having] visuals, [etc.]. Or [saying], ‘What are the other ways I could attack this from a data perspective? It looks like they’re not ranking over on YouTube, or they don’t have any content on social [media] about this.’ So using that analytical mind to find the gaps that you can dig into. And then the creative pieces: ‘How do I not only answer that question but I also entertain them?’”
“Look at what’s happening outside your industry. Don’t look for examples in your industry. Go see what’s happening. . . . I’m sure there’s a lot that you can learn from looking at what’s happening in manufacturing and how they do it on Nickelodeon that you could pull into your creative process to really bridge that gap.”
Thank you so much Ali for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. Content marketing allows customers to be informed about their purchase decisions.
2. Choose to focus on thought leadership or search-driven blogging, so we can know how to promote our content.
3. Be consistent. Sometimes showing up to play the game is the most important thing with content.
4. In our content, we should focus on what the customer cares about and how our product or service can help them with that.
5. Regardless of how much content we’re putting out, we need to make sure we promote, promote, promote.
6. Our web chat should be tailored to the specific pages it’s on; it doesn’t need to be on every page of our website.
7. To understand what’s happening in our customers’ lives and find out how to help them better, we should have a customer-centric marketing strategy.
8. We can make good use of our content by repurposing it.
9. We can use our content to build relationships with our audience.
10. B2B video marketing can be fun and creative when we draw on popular concepts, pop culture, and more.
11. Use both data and creativity to inform our content marketing decisions.
Connect with Ali
If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Ali or connect with her, you can find her on LinkedIn or Twitter. You can also check out Hubspot Hacks on YouTube or visit her website, SimpleStat.com.
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