Business success has always been based on an ability to provide value to your clients. Businesses succeed by making a product that is better than the competition or offering a service that people need. When customers fail to find value in the product or service, the business fails.
The same holds true with online marketing. Although “content marketing” is the buzzword of the day, it’s not “content” that brings potential clients or customers to your website. It’s the value of your content that brings in the leads. A lead isn’t going to give away their contact information in exchange for “content.” However, if a potential lead sees value in the information offered they will be much more likely to exchange contact information in order to receive that information.
In the same way that someone might purchase a book on Amazon, a visitor to your website is “purchasing” the information you’re offering. Instead of paying cash for the information, they are making the purchase with an email address or phone number.
But it doesn’t stop there. The information (ie. ebook, white paper or webinar) they’ve purchased needs to provide enough value that they don’t feel ripped off. If the customer doesn’t find value in their purchase, chances are they won’t come back for more. Provide something they can really use though and you’ve not only captured contact information, you’ve created a warm lead–a lead that will be more likely to reach out for your services.
The Rise of “Content Marketing”
For years search engine optimization specialists (SEOs) specialized in moving websites to the top of the search engine rankings. An entire industry formed around quickly built websites filled with advertising and affiliate links but little information of value. Traffic was the key to making money and the top spots in the search engine rankings paid off. SEOs knew all the tricks needed to gain that top spot on Google for their clients. There was little concern for the Google user seeking information.
Google caught on however and with the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates it got much harder to game the search returns. Websites that provided content but no value were quickly dropped from the rankings leaving thousands of “SEOs” desperately clinging to their sudden obsolescence.
Suddenly, the phrase “content is king” rang true but unlike the keyword stuffed “content” of old, content now needs to provide value to the intended audience.
The Problem with “Content Marketing”
As the old search engine tricks fall by the wayside and people are finally realizing that the content on a website actually can make a difference, everyone is flocking to the term “Content Marketing.” The problem however, is that for many “content marketing” is still solely about moving a website to the top of the search engines with no concern for the intended audience (if they even considered the target audience).
A recent discussion on Google+ captured the epitome of this thinking when the author said he once heard that “the difference between mediocrity and excellence is about 10%” and then went on to state that excellence in a guest post meant adding a couple of links (other than your own) uploading an image or two and correcting your spelling errors. Nowhere did he mention his intended audience or creating value for the reader.
To the author and others like him, “content marketing” is about nothing more than guest posting for back links and other methods of the sort designed only to move a website up the search engine rankings. Consideration for the intended audience (or potential client) doesn’t even rank the need for a mention in the world of these lost SEOs clinging to their dying ways.
Content Marketing is About Providing Value
True content marketing is about creating content that provides value for your target audience at all points of contact. From the external outreach of social media and search engine returns to bottom of the sales funnel offerings, content offerings must be based around the idea of providing value for your target audience. Even more specific, it’s about providing exactly what they need at any given stage of the process. This could be as simple as a blog post reviewing top tools to solve a problem or as advanced as a personalized strategy session designed to help a potential client solve a problem.
As Cyrus Sheapard, (a SEO who understands the importance of content) so clearly stated in a recent article on SEMoz:
“Content without value is spam.”
Provide Value, Not Content
Once you move beyond the search engine rankings, opportunities to provide value are everywhere. Helped a client work through a problem via email? Turn it into a blog post. Find yourself answering the same questions over and over? Turn it into a video or online slide presentation.
The point is that you are not creating content, you are creating value for your target audience. When you do, you not only create warm leads, you build valuable relationships with the people you need to reach.