I’ve written previously that professionals often make things sound more complicated than they really are. One way is by peppering conversations and writing with their insiders’ alphabet soup. Remember this great scene from Good Morning Vietnam ?
For small businesses and non-profits, the term “content marketing” may seem like a new and complex concept that would require an advanced degree to understand. Not so. It does require, however, a change of perspective.
To develop and maintain an effective content marketing strategy with free social media as the workhorse, stop thinking of yourself as a business owner or a non-profit manager. Think of yourself as a customer or donor.
When you start thinking from your audience’s perspective, you will begin to develop content (articles, blog posts, photos, graphics, links to other articles) that really captures interest.
As an example, consider the Virginia-based company, River Pools. Co-owner Marcus Sheridan reports in this video from the Content Marketing Institute that River Pools was nearly washed up when the economy tanked in 2008. But they didn’t, and Sheridan credits content marketing, along with a big buy-in from employees, with the turn around.
“Everyone in this company is a teacher,” Sheridan explains. Instead of focusing on selling their product, River Pools staff began selling themselves as fiberglass pool experts. They launched “The Most Educational Swimming Pool Blog in the Country” and began by answering common questions about in-ground swimming pools–everything from manufacturing to installation to maintenance.
I encourage you to take a moment to look at your Facebook page, Pinterest board or Twitter feed. Are you only posting info about sales, store hours, products/services, etc., or do your posts offer more. Here are some examples:
- An antique store owner writes or shares an article about what’s hot on the auction circuit these days. He or she might also pen a blog post on how to check a piece of furniture to determine if it is a valuable antique or a reproduction.
- As a way to encourage parents with biological children at home, the director of a foster care ministry shares articles on nutrition, discipline, kids crafts, etc. Those same people might be interested in contributing to the work or (even better) in foster parenting when their nest is empty. If you provide a steady stream of content that is well sourced, interesting and fun, they will remember you.
- I have a friend with a pet-sitting business. She shares articles on pet care, adoption and debunks articles she believes are misleading.
- The manager of a local food pantry offers up-to-date statistics on hunger in the community, state and country. Instead of only posting the needs of the pantry, he or she includes a thank-you note from a family impacted by the generosity of others. Posts about nutrition, vegetable gardening and smart grocery shopping would also be helpful to this audience.
- A plumber, landscaper, mason or other specialized professional could readily expand his/her customer base by blogging. A common challenge among homeowners is discerning when a problem is a do-it-yourself project or should be handed over to a pro. Imagine the goodwill generated by helping customers do small repairs/maintenance at home. Chances are very good that a homeowner will call a pro who has been willing to “give away” a little bit of that expertise via social media.
Content marketing is a concept that is more subtle than shouting about specific products, prices and “deals, deals, deals!” When you hear the term “creating community” via social media, this is what the pundits mean.
As one expert in the video notes: “Nobody cares about your product. They are trying to solve a problem.”
If your sales are sluggish and it feels like your customer/donor base is shrinking, I suggest you pour an extra cup of coffee and watch this video. It is filled with real-life case studies, a look back at vintage marketing campaigns that worked, and funny observations.
If, after viewing, you want to try something new in promoting your business/cause, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (502) 432-8725.
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