Today’s customers don’t want to be lectured. They don’t want to be told what to do, what to buy, or what to enjoy. No, today’s customers like to find these things out for themselves. They read blog posts and reviews, get stuck into online forums, and use all of this to form their own opinion. But how do you approach these customers? How can you reach them?
Let’s imagine that you own a gardening business and sell lawnmowers. What should you put on your website? The content should be as relevant as possible for visitors and – most importantly – it should offer them something useful. This works best if you provide practical information, such as tips and tricks, instructions, explanations or even entertainment. It is more indirect – think of it as the opposite to classic advertising that orders customers to buy the lawnmower. Your website or blog should offer articles and information about gardening in general and lawnmowers in particular. How can you keep your lawn looking fresh and green? Is it worth using fertilizers? How often should you mow your lawn? How do your company employees tend their own lawns? What kinds of lawns has your company already maintained and mowed?
People like to see the faces behind the brand, to get to know people’s stories, and to really see what your company is good at. It should be as authentic as possible. Use different angles to highlight how your product is made, who made it, and what it can do. And remember, you’re not talking to people in the artificial world of advertising, but to people in real life.
Take the time to develop your content and publicize it on your company blog or website. Use social media and your newsletter to make sure the content reaches its target audience.
So how does this help?
Classic advertising is one-way communication, normally phrased as something you have to do. Consumers no longer like that – they prefer to read up on blogs and forums, and exchange opinions with other users. This is the best place to position yourself. Maintain a blog, share content, reply to comments, talk to your customers and establish yourself as an expert in your field. Individual communication with customers is one of the goals of content marketing – real and authentic dialog. This is the easiest way to find out what your customers want: if you know their concerns, you will be able to offer them the best solutions. This also strengthens the customer’s emotional connection to your business, leading to increased trust and recognition.
Where to begin
The amount of work you’ll have to put in depends on where you are already positioned in the market and where you would like to go. First and foremost, though: before you get going and start filling up your website or blog with content, you need to make sure that you have a clear image of who you want to address. Once you’re sure of your target audience, you can start producing content. Otherwise you’re just wasting time, energy and money.
Looking for some concrete examples of content marketing? How about a hairdresser whose website shows how you can cut your own hair; or an optician who explains the best way to put in contact lenses; or a gardener who offers a newsletter explaining when to bring balcony plants inside before the frost gets them. You can use blog articles, newsletters, or even videos, which are especially useful for hairdressers and opticians. Babycenter.com is a particularly good example. If you’re pregnant, you can sign up to their newsletter to receive regular tips relating to whichever stage of pregnancy you’ve reached. This continues after the birth; the newsletter will let you know what is important for whichever phase your child is currently going through. At the same time, of course, it subtly recommends suitable products – ones which BabyCenter sells, of course. The opportunities are endless. It is easiest to start with a blog, as this doesn’t require too much attention from the customer and won’t take you too long to start up. So now you’ve prepared everything, and have a mountain of ideas but no time to implement them? That’s not a problem – let us do it for you.
Title image via Flickr: old friend – Andy / Andrew Fogg (CC BY 2.0)