Standing on the sidelines of the digital world can be daunting for businesses. You know you need to participate with a website, blog and content but for many the social web is seen as a necessary evil rather than an opportunity.
The doubt starts with the question, how do I stand out online when there are over 900 million websites, nearly 200 million blogs and 144 billion emails sent every day.
This torrent of data screams for attention. You feel insignificant.
Also many questions flood your mind, what technology do I use, how do I market my business online and where do I start? The list goes on and on.
Quite often these paralyzing perturbations stop you from making that first step. The seeming complexity and overwhelming noise is perceived as a distraction from the real job of running a business.
The challenges seem insurmountable.
The other challenges
The clamouring questions and the digital commotion often hide the other challenges. These include:
Where do I find the time to produce content, market it and optimize it for search engines? I have a business to run, proposals to write and emails to respond to. Who has time for this content creation.
Most of us were not born as a connected generation. The millennials, born into a world of web and smart phones seem to be able to text and Facebook while walking and even sleeping. Some of us feel like we are all thumbs. We are more comfortable with print, telephone and mass media than Google and Facebook advertising. We are also used to talking about our products and services rather than what our customers want to hear.
This means we need to “unlearn” old habits. Embracing the new often needs letting go of the old.
Many traditional businesses such as finance, insurance and health (to name a few) feel that marketing is too encumbered by rules of onerous regulation and disclosure. It can seem to be an annoying roadblock to advertising and promoting your business.
So are you frozen with inaction yet?
It doesn’t need to be complicated
In 2008 a small business was fighting for survival. The “Great Financial Crisis” had hit and sales had plummeted. The order book was slim and the inquiries had dried up.
It was traditional type of business and the term “content marketing” wasn’t in their lexicon.
Marcus Sheridan and his partner at River Pools decided to take action.
What did they do? Its not complicated.
- Listed all the questions their clients asked everyday
- Turned those questions and answers into articles on their blog
- Took those articles and made them into a free ebook
- Collected emails when people downloaded the ebook
- Kept answering questions (content) and informing and updating potential customers via email
They didn’t have a big social media presence, their website looks boring and I wouldn’t call it a cool industry. But it worked. They started writing content to save the company.
Today their website has more traffic than any other pool company in the world!
A closer look
Let’s take a deeper dive into what they did at River Pools and how they created an effective content marketing strategy in just 5 steps and how you can apply it to your business.
1. The questions
The questions were broken into 4 categories.
- How do I find the right pool shape?
- What options and accessories should I consider?
- Should I consider a DIY installation (self installation) or use a pool contractor?
- How do I find a reputable pool contractor?
- How can I ensure I am getting a fair price?
It may seem that these questions are a no-brainer but as experts in our industry we are often blinded by the “curse of knowledge”. This can stop us making sure we simplify the process and answer the “beginner 101” questions. So keep it simple and don’t use acronyms.
So if you are struggling for content that is where you start. When you are at a client meeting or on the telephone, start jotting down the questions and keep doing it.
2. The blog
They then decided to unlock the answers from their grey matter and make it public and put it online on their website blog. Many of us fall into the trap of keeping the information to ourselves. You need to make your content free and easy to share online. This is called “liquid content”. It needs to be free to flow and roam across the web.
So take those questions and publish the solutions on a blog. You are now a publisher and a “content marketer”
The blog looks very average and wouldn’t win a design award. It’s all about the content. Yes, you may have to work on your headline skills and discipline yourself to write a regular blog but the results will make it worthwhile.
3. Created an ebook
Their ebook is only 16 pages and 5,500 words. It’s not “War and Peace”. They created it from the blog posts that they created over time.
So plan ahead and write an outline of your ebook and then turn that into a series of blog posts. This is called re-purposing of content. It isn’t complicated it just requires a bit of planning. I am sure you have written longer essays at high school!
4. Built an email list
River Pools knew they had to build an email list in 2008 and today on this social web it is still as important. It is one of your most important digital assets. You own it. They collected an email address from every ebook download.
So start building your email list now. Get your web contractor to set up your email system today. There are a lot of simple to use email platforms including Aweber and Mailchimp.
5. Use your email list
They also used that list to keep communicating with those potential customers. So when they were ready to buy, the River Pools brand was top of mind. When you are creating educational content you can send emails every time you write a new blog post. You are not restricted to that “monthly” newsletter.
In many traditional and what can sometimes be seen as boring industries, you can stand out just by solving your customers questions and problems.
Remember, no one cares about you and your products… it is what your products and services can do for them.
What about you?
Have you started content marketing? Is it working for you? Remember that this type of organic marketing will take time and you may not start to see results for 6-12 months. But if you follow these simple steps you will be surprised by the results.
What’s stopping you?
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