There are three main types of content that you need to create over time in order to perform effective content marketing – cornerstone, connection, and conversion. Copywriting follows, because you’ve earned the right to make an offer to your audience.
First, however, you need to provide the initial, crucial “C” – context. Without it, none of the content “types” will be effective in meeting your business objectives.
Let’s take a closer look at what I call the “5 Cs” of effective content marketing.
The critical first step of any successful content marketing strategy is the context within which content is developed and delivered to the intended audience. Mess this up, and you’re going to waste a lot of time and effort for not much, if any, return.
Sales and marketing 101 says that you focus on the problems and desires of the prospects, and match those up with your product or service. Content marketing is no different, except you’re delivering independent value with content before you attempt to make the sale.
The Internet has disrupted the traditional sales process, allowing the prospective customer or client to begin on their own terms via search and social media. This means savvy marketers must adapt to the information empowered prospect in a fashion that more resembles courting than it does selling.
When someone has a problem or desire, what they’re really contemplating is a journey of transformation, whether large or small in scope. The job of the content marketer is to mentor – or coach – the prospect through this journey, and at some point your product or service becomes a necessary and desirable way to complete the journey.
Thinking of the content you produce as coaching advice is especially apt. The word “coach” derives from kocsi, which is Hungarian for “carriage.” Your content is the vehicle which carries the prospect on their journey of transformation.
Content marketing starts the sales process in a way that doesn’t leave the prospect with the feeling she’s been sold to. Further, great content differentiates you from the competition in ways that traditional features and benefits fail to in a cluttered marketplace.
As the name implies, cornerstone content is the foundational topic(s) of your website, as well as your overall content marketing strategy. A cornerstone is something that is basic, essential, indispensable, and the chief foundation upon which something is constructed or developed.
These topics are what people need to know to make use of your website and do business with you. Once developed, these beginner, or “101-level” tutorials can be cross-referenced from your other content, which provides exceptional usability for your site visitors and new subscribers.
These are also the topics you want to rank well in search engines for. And when approached in a strategic fashion, this content can do very well with Google, et al.
The key is creating compelling content that’s worth linking to and sharing, then finding a way to get the word out. It also means aggregating lots of high-value content on one page that is both compelling to people and easily understood by Google.
The benefit of cornerstone content is twofold:
• Fantastic foundational content that site visitors and subscribers can learn from, refer to, share in social media, and link to from their own sites; and
• High search engine rankings resulting from real people “voting” on the quality of the resource thanks to social sharing and linking.
Cornerstone content demonstrates that SEO is not about tricking an algorithm. It’s about creating content resources so valuable that people want to share them and cite them as authoritative on the topic.
Connection content is all about teaching aspects of your cornerstone topics in a highly engaging way.
Instructional design experts will tell you that the key to higher comprehension and retention is engagement by the learner, and with content marketing, we’re educating people so that they’re able to do business with us.
What makes for engaging content? Think of connection content as a combination of meaning and fascination.
Meaning: This is the informational aspect of your content that your regular readers, listeners, or viewers look to you for. This is also a topic that matters to the prospective audience you’re trying to reach through social media sharing.
Another way to think of this important aspect of your content is relevance. Content must be highly relevant to your existing and prospective audience, but I prefer meaning, as it implies an extra level of value that makes people treasure you.
Fascination: The fascinating element of your content is where your creativity shines. It’s the fun, shocking, or entertaining aspect of your content that makes people pay attention and share with their friends and colleagues.
Often you’re using an analogy, metaphor, or simile to make an associated connection between something cool and an important topic that might otherwise be pretty boring. Not only does this attract and hold attention, it also aids in comprehension and retention for your audience, which in turn increases your subject-matter authority with them (because they actually learned something).
You can spot the mix from smart headlines alone (meaning in italics, fascination in bold) using musical, cinematic, and philosophical references among many other approaches:
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Many marketers have trouble with connection content out of fear of indifference from a part of the audience who won’t “get” or appreciate the angle. The result is content intended to appeal to everyone, which is turn appeals to no one.
The point of connection content is to bond strongly with some rather than boring everyone. You can please another segment of your audience with the next piece of content, and so on.
When it comes to conversion content, we’re not talking conversion in the traditional sales or lead generation context. Rather, it’s more like in the evangelical sense.
What do people need to believe to do business with you?
You’re not trying to alter people’s larger worldview here – that shouldn’t be necessary if you identified context correctly from the beginning. What you’re doing is framing the problems and desires of your audience so they match up with your products and services.
One scenario is your direct competition in the marketplace. Most consumers report an inability to differentiate between various offerings, and immediately resort to price comparisons. Conversion content allows you to differentiate on philosophy, worldview, and belief in a way that product or service features and benefits cannot.
You can satisfy desires and solve problems with your content day in and out. But if your audience doesn’t believe what’s necessary to do business with you, they’re not really prospects after all.
In the traditional advertising and direct marketing worlds, copywriting is what powers the entire message. In other words, an attempt to “push” products and services in a way that amounts to proposing marriage before the first date.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is more of a seduction. A strategy that courts and coaches prospects in a way that’s agreeable to them, much more like dating actually works.
The irony is that the subtle “pull” approach is much more persuasive than the in-your-face “push” approach – again, much like dating.
Elements of direct response copywriting applied to content work exceptionally well for gaining attention, increasing engagement, and prompting action. That’s why great headlines, compelling openings, riveting storytelling, and well-formatted text are hallmarks of great online journalism, as well.
With content marketing, you’re accomplishing the bulk of the sales process without overtly “selling” – getting people to know, like, and trust you, and educating them so they can do business with you. By accomplishing that, you’ve effectively earned the right to “pop the question,” by making an offer.
At this point, traditional copywriting techniques are alive and well. You’ve got to craft an irresistible offer, communicate benefits, creatively overcome lingering objections, reverse risk, and other tried-and-true copy fundamentals.
Great copy still matters, but you don’t have to hit people over the head to get them to buy. That is, if your contextual content marketing strategy was on target to begin with.
Stated another way, your content is like a mentor who take the prospect on a buyer’s journey. What you’re really doing is telling a story over time, with the prospect in the role of the hero.
That is all for today folks!
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