A Quick and Dirty Guide to Content Marketing

content marketing

Ever walk up to one of those booths at the mall to buy a new phone? Don’t you just hate the pressure that those people try to put on you?

I don’t know about you, but I hate these kinds of sales tactics and hate people who do it to me. I hate it not only because it annoys me…but because it doesn’t work.

So, what does work? Content marketing, which is simply giving people something valuable for free so that you can build a relationship with them that eventually leads to easy sales.

If you want easy sales, then you need to learn how to be a great content marketer. Here’s a crash course that will tell you everything you need to know.

The nuts and bolts of content marketing

Great content marketing does one thing very well: it attracts attention. Unless you’ve been online for ten years and are a minor social media celebrity, your main problem is that nobody knows who you are.

Good content delivered over time will change that. It will give you repeated, regular exposure that builds trust between you and your audience.

What kind of content marketing am I talking about? It includes:

  • Blogs – Probably the best known way to share content, blogs are really easy to operate these days. However, competition is stiff, and you need to learn how to be unconventional when it comes to blogging.
  • Podcast – If you like to talk, then why not start a podcast on a topic that you like and are really good at? And when you continually churn out great podcasts week after week, it won’t be long until you have the type of success podcasters like Duct Tape Marketing or Six Pixels of Separation have.
  • Video – Gary Vaynerchuk wasn’t the first, but he was definitely the best, growing his offline business with his successful Wine Library TV. Besides, YouTube is the second biggest search engine after Google. It’s a great way to grow your business.

Great content marketing can build your business to mythic proportions. When BlendTech founder Tom Dickinson dropped an iPhone into one of his blenders, video-taped the action and put it online, the video became famous on YouTube.

That single video started an entire series of now famous episodes of Tom dropping all sorts of items into his blenders. Customers quickly learned how much stronger Blendtech blenders were than the competitors’. Tom not only educated his customers, but he did it all in a simple and affordable way.

You have to have this before you can sell

How often do you buy from someone you don’t know, whether it’s a stranger at your door or a salesperson at a car lot?

If you’re like me, then probably not very often, if at all!

See, people only buy from people they trust, know and like. Content marketing will help you build that relationship with your readers, so when time comes to sell, it will be easy because people know, like and trust you.

The way you do that is by creating really clear and compelling content. You can break this content down into three pieces:

  • Cornerstone content – This is the content that will make up most of what you give your readers…it’s what defines you. If you’re an SEO, then you’ll write about SEO. If you’re a graphic designer, you’ll give content based on graphic design.
  • Personal content – Most of your readers will be around to learn what you have to say about your area of expertise. However, you should not neglect to share personal information whether separately or as part of your content. This is a great method to build relationships with readers.
  • Spicy content – Finally, you should occasionally write posts that are controversial and link-bait worthy. Write about a high-profile figure that you disagree with or create a list of 53 resources first-time SEOs need like I did.

What you don’t want your content to turn into is a high-pressured sales pitch. Nothing drives readers away faster! The techniques of content marketing won’t work for you if you don’t build trust. Only when you provide high-quality content that trains your audience to pay attention to what you have to say can you expect to have success when it’s time to sell.

How to make selling WAY easier

Listen, you’re not trying to land that deal the moment you meet your reader. You’re not some sleazy, snake-oil salesman who won’t be satisfied unless you buy today. Like Gary Vaynerchuk said, put a ring on it and stop looking for immediate monetization.

See, you’re building a net with your content, a net built on trust and permission that will support future sales. For example, your net will:

  • Answer objections – Your content can be designed to answer possible objections readers may raise about your service or product. This way you are removing purchase obstacles out of the way early.
  • Tell stories – People love stories and will read a story faster than they’ll read an explanation of your product or service. This is a safe way to build a relationship. Also, share stories about your customers who have had great success using your product. These include testimonials and reviews.
  • Solve problems – Any time you help a reader fix a problem that he or she is struggling with, you build trust. How do you find out what problems they are struggling with? Ask them.

Before anyone will buy from you, they need to know you, like you and trust you. Effective content marketing will do just that. Great content is what you give your readers and prospects in exchange for their attention and trust so they’ll eventually give you their money for your product.

Content marketing boils down to this

When it comes to creating and sharing your content, you should have one very straightforward goal: getting people’s permission so you can send them your content. The success or failure of your content marketing boils down to getting people to subscribe to your blog either by email or RSS reader. So, you need to make it easy.

Look at the following home page examples:

problogger

seomoz

Which one do you think does a better job of encouraging someone to subscribe? While both are pretty obvious, I have to go with the top one. What do you think about mine?

quick sprout

When it comes down to a successful content marketing campaign, regular and repeated exposure builds a relationship with your readers that allows you all kinds of chances to convert them. See, content marketing isn’t a one-shot deal like it is with a mobile phone salesman. It’s a long-term relationship.

Use the 89/11 rule to create content and promotions correctly

When you sit down to think about your content marketing plan, it’s important that you think about this: most of your time will be spent creating content your readers can use and want. The other little bit of time should be used to promote your product.

Think about it like an 89/11 rule. Eighty-nine percent of your time should be focused on creating content that builds trust, encourages people to like you and allows your readers to get to know you better. Then eleven percent of your time is spent crafting your promotions for your products. (If you’re curious why I used 89/11, it’s so that the ratio would stand out and you would not confuse it with the common 80/20 Pareto Rule.)

Let me tell you another reason why this content marketing ratio works really well. When you spend this much time with your readers, you will naturally get to know them and their needs. As you learn more and more about their needs, you will start thinking of products to offer them.

Use this often-neglected content marketing tool

Another very important feature of your content marketing plan is the email autoresponder. The email autoresponder allows you to create a tailored email sequence to readers who subscribe. In other words, the 1,000th subscriber has the same experience as the first.

What’s nice about the email autoresponder is that you can promote your very best stuff in a sequence of emails. It could be 7 or 30 emails long. And the nice part about the autoresponder is that it works even when you are not around. So, if you get sick or go on vacation, the email autoresponder is still working for you.

Here are 11 tips to creating killer autoresponders.

  1. Create great email autoresponder content – keep in mind, the autoresponder needs to be good. You are trying to create a great first impression with your readers, and if you want to build a relationship with them, then your first several messages need to provide useful and unique content in a way that reflects your personality.
  2. Introduce yourself and thank them for subscribing – after you’ve created your autoresponder series (after blogging consistently for six months, you probably will have enough content to make a 7-part email series), don’t forget to add a friendly introduction email to that list, which tells the subscribers that you are grateful they are there.
  3. Never trick your email readers – it’s bad to try to fool somebody by pretending that your email autoresponder is “fresh.” Some email providers provide special fields that allow you to keep the date current on each email. I personally don’t think that fools anyone. Remember, you’re trying to build relationships, and small little acts like that can break trust.
  4. Invite feedback – all your emails in the autoresponder should ask for questions and comments. Tell your readers that you’d love to hear from them.
  5. Ask them to white-list you – the best way to keep your emails from ending up in your readers’ spam folders is to ask them to white-list you.
  6. Personally monitor your email replies – when you are trying to create a relationship, you need to be quick on the reply, even if it’s short. Make sure your replies are thoughtful.
  7. Put your name in the “From” field – because you’re trying to create an intimate connection with your reader, it’s best to put your name in the “From” field.
  8. Ask directly for feedback – if you tell your email readers to click reply and ask you a question or leave you feedback, you’ll automatically start getting more emails. The more you interact with your readers, the better your rapport is with them.
  9. Don’t obsess over spam triggers – yes, you should try to do your best to avoid using the obvious words that spam filters will pick up on, but just like you are writing for people and not search engines, you are writing for subscribers and not spam filters. Here’s a fairly recent list of the top 20 spam words you should avoid.
  10. Lead people to a landing page – if your email is really long, then you should definitely send your readers to a landing page. Spam filters do not like long emails and will flag them.
  11. Use the rule of 7 – before you start selling anything to your readers, make sure you don’t do so until the 7th email. Typically, if you send a handful of good emails that contain a lot of useful information first, you’ll increase your conversion rate.

Conclusion

Content marketing is truly the new way of selling. It’s effective because it takes the time to give prospects something they want for free before it asks them to buy. It’s all about teaching people to know, love and trust you. When you master this way of doing business, you can easily make a small fortune.

Do you have any content marketing tips?

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Comments

  1. Do you have any content marketing tips?

    – The only thing I’d add to this (and it’s another great post, Neil) is that consistency in voice is important. That’s not to say that all content has to be from the same person, as companies can certainly have unique voices – but maintaining consistency is key to fostering the long term relationship.

  2. Actually, The same thing , I was thinking form past few weeks. Like, whats the reason behind sharing some valuable information on their blog? But One thing I missed that, In that valuable information they have mixed up own promotion. Actually It’s not dirty promotion it’s kind of getting own self exposed by proving authority about your field. Anyway, Good article neil.

    • It is very much about producing exposer. Sharing valuable information you know is a great way for others to see you as the expert you are. Then they will want to continue to follow because you are providing them with useful information.

  3. Thanks for another informative post.

    I would also mention that you should do keyword research before crafting a content marketing plan to ensure that you are integrating with SEO efforts. Although you want to write for humans, you also want to integrate keywords for enhanced search engine recognition and traffic.

  4. Lots to chew on as always, Neil. I really like your 11 tips to creating killer autoresponders. In the end, with content and e-mails, it is all about relationship building. And those few touches in our e-mails, can make a huge difference. I see so many marketers who never get around to implement these simple, but powerful ideas. It may take a bit of extra time, but it pays big dividends.

    • They certainly can make a difference. Showing that you care and are willing to help is huge to building success. I agree many people don’t take that extra bit of time and it is a shame.

  5. Hi Neil, another interesting post, I have been commenting a lot lately, I think you good way of connecting with your reader, your posts make people feel like your talking to them. How do I know when I can get into the list of top contributors?

  6. hey neil really your blogs are very important i always wait for your blogs because every time i got very interesting posts and as i got the e mail i click quickly to see whats new today..really awesome blog neil keep it up i am following you.

  7. Hi Neil,

    In your email sharing this, you asked “What do I think”? I think you are a gift. As someone who supports people to evolve into their level of excellence, I am always looking for content to share, to learn from and to help clients move forward. I get all and then some from every one of your thought provoking, stimulating and chalk full of fabulous information posts. And as someone who is swamped with emails, and piles of material to read for my work, I never miss one of your posts. Thank you!

  8. Thanks for the post Neil. Storytelling is definitely the way to go.

    Re subscription techniques, I’d say your homepage is the ‘cleanest’, hence the easiest for readers to deal with. But then, the main purpose of each of these pages is slightly different. I think your aim is to capture email addresses, while SEOMoz wants to get people hooked on their (admittedly great) SEO services and start paying. Hence the free trial offer comes first and overshadows the subscription to newsletter bit.

  9. Very good points, especially liked your 89/11 rule.

    • Thank you, it is certainly important to spend the majority of your time on content and knowing what your readers want. Without valuable content, the traffic you drive to your site won’t last because no one will want to stay or come back.

  10. Neil, thanks for yet another valuable post! I especially like what you said about sharing some personal information so that readers can feel a connection with you.

    I’d love to hear what you think about my blog! Do take a look when you have a moment, and feel free to leave a comment – or three!

    :-)
    Vinita

  11. Hey, thanks for the tips! What is this plugin you use for the subscribe thing before comments?

  12. Good post here Neli. And good advice -to disagree with a prominent figure. At one point I got almost perfect opportunity to disagree with you ( the wedding dresses post ) but I did not have the time to leverage the opportunity. :) Cheers

  13. It almost seems as if this post was written for me. I will definitely be using these tips to help sell my content. Thanks Neil!

  14. The autoresponder part was awesome and I felt the importance of Email promotions.
    Thanks Neil

  15. Another outstanding article, tons of usable info, and clearly you practice what you preach. Thanks from all of us for sharing so freely your time and knowledge. Best, Patricia

    • I definitely try to help. I find the best way is by using what I have experienced and learned over the years. So when I give advice or tips most of it is from what I am already doing myself, or have learned not to do.

  16. Hey Neil,

    Thanks for the 411 on Content Marketing.

    Question: When you setup the 7-30 etc. emails for your auto-responder sequence, do you write double that amount with different variations so you can test the “hit/response” rate or do you just write it as you please in a personal way and ignore all that metric tracking?

    Thanks
    Dilanka

  17. This bad boy was chock full. I really like the points of not trying to hard sell people. I started a travel blog about 2 months ago, and before I really focus on advertising, I’m just working on pumping out quality content that people come to read just because they like reading it, then I’ll try and monetize it.

  18. Nice post!
    Had never heard about 89/11 earlier.. Nice one indeed :) Thanks for sharing

  19. Thank you Neil, another useful and valuable post from you.
    I have learned a lot from it and will definitely use it as our own strategy.

  20. I have tried most of the things you have written and it is working perfectly for me, now it is time to give a try to Podcast. Can i use Podcast for my hotel business?

  21. Great thanks for sharing with exprerience of marketing reaching tools for us!

  22. Great blog post Neil. The underlying message is to build trust with your customers and others by way of offering them content. The internet and social media are great tools for businesses to use, but they also make barriers to personal contact. Video, blogging, and customer interaction can help solve these barrier problems. Respond to your customer’s emails. When we get customer reviews on the various registry sites, I always send a follow-up email thanking them for their review and asking if there are anyways we can improve our business to better help their needs. http://www.merchantcircle.com/merchant/biography After every sale or when a job is completed I always say, “Thank you so much for trusting us with your business.” We build relationships and communities around our businesses and without trust, the foundation cracks and you have the 21st century Death of a Salesman.

    Would love to chat with any of you who are starting new businesses or are located in Southern California as that is where my business is starting in.

    -Cheers!

    • You make some good points. You certainly want to find a way to be more personal. It is also important to ask for feedback or if there is anything else you can do Thank your for sharing your points and suggestions.

  23. Tips under killer auto responders is really valuable one, who want to attract their reader. All your articles are informative and worth to read. Where did you choose these topic ?

  24. JVL Web Solutions :

    Great information it will certainly help seo content writer and seo business owners as well

  25. I think the titles must be something that interests the reader, because the title is the first thing noticed by readers.

  26. I also think that superb content has also to be integrated and shared on social media sites. personally for my business information blog, NairaBrains I have noticed a very encouraging reaction when i share my good content on social media like Linkedin.

  27. The tricky part is attracting a healthy readership in the first place and getting enough people to opt in to your emails. Content marketing can be especially frustrating if the audience you’re targeting aren’t generally looking online for the sort of content you can offer.

    There are still lots of prospects out there who aren’t what we might call ‘web-savvy’, and are subsequently difficult to reach without going back to tried, tested and annoying marketing methods.

    I think it’s ultimately a matter of patience – not just in waiting for your readership to grow, but in waiting for a much broader audience to actively seek content in blog form.

    • That can be difficult indeed. If the audience you are targeting doesn’t regularly look online for the sort of content you are offering then find a way to draw attention so that they do.

      Take risk be unique and creative. If you yourself are less “web-savy” then look for people to help you that are and learn along the way.

      Patience is key. Some people grow impatient, or give up to easily. If you take your time and put in the hard work eventually it will pay off.

  28. I don’t try email list building yet… Thank you for the 11 tips to creating killer autoresponders.

  29. Thank you for the great tips – as a new sales employee at a young company I have started content marketing without thinking of the grand plan…just knew that it would be the first step to credibility.

    I have found that having great titles, engaging with questions helps. Also, personally, not to take myself too seriously…write with a sense of adventure & fun.

  30. Latief@Blogging Tips :

    Hi Neil, thank for sharing but I have one question, why you are not mentioned about social media as tools for content marketing?
    These days I try to monetize my blogging activities, but I still have no idea how to start. Will my readers hate me because I’m not “pure” sharing any more? And I have trouble with what I want to sale :(

    • Good point, social media is important in content marketing. I have talked on the importance of different social media sites before on previous post and didn’t want to be to repetitive. I think your readers will keep reading as long as your content remains valuable to them. If your content proves to be useful then there shouldn’t be a problem. What you sell will be strictly based of the market you are selling to and your ability to provide an insightful and unique way to present it. Also you want to make sure whatever it is you do decide on is something you enjoy or know a lot about.

  31. Hi Neil.
    Very informative post. I just have one question. Content marketing has been the way most marketers adopted, but recently the changes that Google has made in their algorithms has affected many article directories. what do you suggest marketers should do?

  32. Neil , thank you so much . Your last few blog post have had so much actionable content in it. I have my evernote file full of your blog post. This will greatly curve my learning curve for my own project!

    • Yep, no problem. I am happy to hear they have been helpful to you. That is great, also if you have any questions as you go I will be more then happy to help answer them.

  33. Great job as usual in treating your headline, and backing it with a truly well-written article. To that I would also add: “avoid being a people pleaser”. Too many content writers and bloggers start out with an original voice, and as time goes by, they tend to be part of the chorus, and lose their voice.

    • Interesting, point of view. I agree it is important to make sure you have something unique or original about your blog and writing style. Thanks for sharing your additional input.

  34. Hey Neil,

    Great stuff here, I have actually read it twice :-D

    I have tried to sell from my blog before and it doesn’t really work for me. Building relationships and providing info is the way forward. I do promote via email and also mail out when I have a blog post ready, so I provide a good balance of free content and promotions.

    Love the 89/11 rule.

    Dan

    • Thanks, happy to hear it.

      It may not be possible for everyone to sell their blog. I would say you are heading in the right directions though. Keep promoting yourself and producing valuable content.

      Best of luck.

  35. Great stuff Neil! I love the idea of the 89/11 rule, what a differentiator ;)

    I am in the online marketing consulting business, but this article helped me to remember that I need to keep this strategy in place for MY business also :)

    • It is definitely a rule I highly recommend sticking to.

      Cool, I am glad my article was able to help you. I agree, like you said having a strategy is important not only for work but for yourself as well.

  36. What about engaging on Twitter and Facebook, works well there as well.

  37. Hi Niel

    Great blog article. I like the 89/11 trick. :). Yes I agree good content takes time but it very useful in long run.

  38. I think podcast and video marketing are more beneficial especially for the people who have full time job, they prefer to listen rather than read.One day integration of podcast will become necessary into your blog.

    • Interesting point of view, I think that is definitely a possibility. It is all about what works best fro you and your readers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter.

  39. Great advice as usual! Very similar tenets to Social Media Optimization too. Contribute something of value to the community, build a relationship, and find opportunities to exchange goods, services, and cold hard cash. :)

  40. Hi Neil,

    If I’m about to start our corporate blog should I sign as the company or as my name? and how can I know what my users what to hear, I mean what kind of contet? do you start posting and then you know trhough their feed back or you just ask them before start blogging?

    • It depends on if you are trying to build your name up or the companies. If it is for the com pay then it might be a better choice to use the company name.

      What you write about also depends on your company. What are you trying to accomplish or sell. You have to write information that will appeal to your companies targeted market. Then you have to make sure the information is useful and well written.

      Feedback is always the best way to see what is working and what isn’t. Listen to what your readers have to say and then improve from there.

  41. Thanks to you neil. Got lot of advises once again.

    ellen

  42. This post is a great example of content markeing – lots of value that educates the reader. You have packed so much value into this one post. I like the 89/11 rule – (that heading really caught my eye.)

    Cheers

    • Cool, good to know you found it useful. It really can be helpful to find a way to make your content stick out. Either by coming up with some unique tips and ideas, or with something catchy like the heading as you pointed out.

  43. content marketing is a very effective way of educating people about your products and services. It helps you in building trust with your customers. I also like your point of including story and reviews, as it is much better way of striking a chord with the readers.

  44. I love the Title of this blog Post..well Thanks for sharing Online Marketing Strategy with us!

  45. Hey Neil, thanks for sharing such a great points over here. Content marketing is the best way to establish the solid relationship with the customers online. So every online marketer should give more importance to quality content which will helpful to the online users.

  46. Neil this site is a great example of everything you went through in this post. You provide quality content, tips, you tell great stories, and occasionally you mention CrazyEgg or KISS –

    Thanks for the info as always, keep it up!

  47. Autoresponders are best way to welcome the readers. Also personal replies impact more than the autoresponders

  48. Neil,
    very informative post. I just need one clarification regarding a doubt that someone created. Google has reduced PageRank to twice a year from monthly update. Should PageRank matter to a blogger?

  49. Well the use of 89/11 rule to create content and promotions is quite useful and easy to understand. Thanks for the info Niel.

  50. Neil,
    Do you agree that replying to comments on a blog is more important than the blog post itself?

    • I believe they are of equal importance. The blog post is what generates the comments, so you need well developed and useful content in order to receive comments. Then by following up and responding to your readers questions and suggestions, you are able to connect and network. Which will ultimately create a more successful blog and build up your reader base.

  51. I needed this advice. So timely. I’ve been working with clients who don’t have an email marketing system yet, don’t use autoresponders, and yet want to throw tons of money and time into an elaborate website. This post so helpful in terms of both email marketing and how an elegantly simple website is effective. Thanks, Neil.

  52. Psychologists say that stories and narrations have a great impact on the thinking process. Stories also make great content and have a natural attraction for the readers. I think making story based content with the hero using your product to ultimately win can have a great impact.

    • That is very true. I also like your idea of using the “hero” to promote your product. That is the kind of unique and creative thinking that will help you stand out.

  53. How to study effectively :

    Pretty interesting, ’cause I never knew that email lists played that big of a role. My opt in form’s a bit shabby, gotta work on that for sure… Thanks!

  54. Interesting read. Love the 89/11 rule!

  55. Neil,

    Super, super post!

    Really well thought out, thanks so much for sharing…..

    Totally agree with your point about “people buying people”, as an ex sales manager I was forever telling my team to forget about the product and sell themselves, the ones that “got it” really did the business.

    The key message is that the world is full of similar products, of course some are better than others and many times cost factors can intervene, however the one constant is that we are all different and that the “connection” is the key to doing smart business.

    Impart your own personality into your blogging framework and your onto a winner!!!

    Thanks again,
    Glenn

  56. What do you think email marketing works anymore?

  57. Thank you so much for this info Neil, I really enjoyed this article especially the part about what I need to have before I can sell, I have shared this link to IM beginners like me.

  58. I got a good laugh from your introduction on this one, Neil — my bosses once told me pressure is part of the job and the paycheck. Enjoyed this article and looking forward to more. Thanks.

  59. Great tips Neil! Have you experimented with marketing automation to intelligently send different types of email marketing content to users who take certain actions in a previous set of emails? For example, if you had a tagged link in an email that was related to SEO, you could send more SEO related content to the subscriber, rather than sending them content they weren’t interested in. A couple of companies like Infusionsoft, Marketo, and even Office Autopilot at the SMB level are doing this.

  60. writing “spicy posts” can be a tough one, and has been my biggest goal lately. linkbait is something i havent really tried, mainly because I’ lazy when it comes to thinking of clever link-worthy content

  61. hey neil,
    you wrote this post with great perfection, i must say. i actually enjoyed this post. good to read.

    thanks.

    Matt

  62. Hi!,,,,,,,Thank you Neil, another useful and valuable post from you.
    I have learned a lot from it and will definitely use it as our own strategy.

    Thanks!,,,,,,,

  63. After 1.5 years, this list is still great. Now, we need to add social media to the umbrella to supplement content, SEO and email.

  64. Neil,

    These posts are so valuable, what would be a great content strategy for a brand that sells at the consumer level, do you have any post on that.

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