By David H. Martin
September’s Creative Marketing column What are You Doing for Content? seems to have resonated with dealers planning new websites. So much so, I decided to write this follow-up piece on how to support websites, old and new, with more information and tips on content creation and distribution strategies.
The term ‘content marketing’ means creating and sharing valuable, free content to attract and convert prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is, of course, closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like and trust you enough to do business with you. Your primary goal is to obtain opt-in permission to deliver content over time, preferably by email. Consider a regular e-newsletter, reinforced by blogs, linked videos, plus posts on FaceBook and other social sites. Repeated and regular exposure builds a relevant relationship that provides multiple opportunities for conversion, rather than a one-shot, all-or-nothing sales approach.
While copywriting techniques are often applied to content created for marketing purposes, we’re not talking about advertising in the traditional sense. In contrast to ‘interruption’ marketing, such as television commercials or direct mail, content marketing involves delivering requested information with independent value that creates trust, credibility and authority for the business that provides that value. Remember, content drives the Internet and consumers are looking for information that solves a problem, not sales pitches. The trust, credibility and authority that content marketing creates knocks down sales resistance, all while providing a baseline introduction to the benefits of a particular product or service. Good content can be original or borrowed (with permission). One great thing we all share with each other and our customers is an unquenchable interest in water. Consider making your website a font of ready information about water.
As a water treatment professional, you have a wealth of valuable information to share on water issues. That’s informed content. Show people who you are and, ultimately, give them a reason to care about your business. The success of your business is often tied to your ability to craft a compelling message and deliver it in a way that inspires customers to act. It doesn’t matter if you fancy yourself a writer or not—in today’s market, you have to be. The individuals and businesses that are having the most success online tend to take an approach that involves a high ratio of valuable content that seemingly has no sales agenda, mixed with periodic promotional messages.
Coming up with topics is primarily up to you. When you begin to think of the possibilities, you’ll soon come up with a steady stream of e-news, testimonials and enticing offers. Here are few ideas to help you get started:
- A brief company history
- Employee of the month
- Project profiles
- Product profiles
- Customer testimonials
- Home water-saving tips
- Special sales incentives
- Limited-time-offer coupons
- Contests and sweepstakes
- Surveys and survey results
- Local water issues
- News of community events
Assign one person to be primarily responsible for gathering content. But everyone should be asked to contribute on a regular basis. Take only digital photos, which can be easily uploaded to your newsletter. Remember, the writing style of e-newsletters is lean and brief compared with printed newsletters. Most stories should be under 100 words. But longer stories can be offered in installments on your website. (If you have a website, you can tease readers with a brief paragraph that allows them to click to get the full story on your site.) Keep your content brief enough to fit on one webpage.
Encourage interaction with your readers. Ask them to contribute ideas on how to improve your service. The interaction that potential clients have with you through your newsletter allows them to get a feel for doing business with you; how responsive, knowledgeable and friendly you are. It reduces their perceived risk, making it easier for them to buy from you. How can you facilitate interaction? Make sure you include a highly visible ‘Reply’ button on the page.
Everyone loves a good story
There are few tools stronger than testimonials or case studies that chronicle how customers are using your products to create solutions. By quantifying results, such as efficiency, cost savings or superior outcomes, you are providing proof to back your benefit claims. Once your piece appears, you can then re-purpose the content in printed flyers, on your website and in other social media forums. Tell stories. People remember them and they will help you stand out.
Support a cause
Cause marketing or cause-related marketing refers to promoting the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. It also makes for especially good content. You might have thought women were the only supporters of cause marketing. Surprise! Men actually care about causes nearly as much as women do, according to a recent survey from PR Week. Check out these stats:
- 88 percent of men say it’s important for a brand to support a cause (compared to the 91 percent of women who responded the same way in last year’s study).
- 61 percent have purchased a brand because it supported a cause.
- 67 percent would try a brand because it supported a cause.
Fifty-five percent would pay more for a brand that supported a cause. Younger men are even more civic-minded. A majority of them believe that companies have a responsibility to make the world a better place. So, what types of causes are men more likely to support? Here are their top three:
- Causes that affect children
- General health-related causes
- Poverty-related causes
One especially appropriate cause for water treatment companies is Wishing Well International Foundation (www.wishingwellintl.org), which is, incidentally, supported by WC&P International.
Create content with ‘style’
Add pictures, infographics, slide shows and artwork to your written pieces. Images not only break up the text portion of your article but also make the entire article more visually interesting. People are attracted to visuals. Make sure that the visuals you use are your own creations. If not, make sure you get permission to use them from the original owners of the graphics and give credit where it’s due.
Spice up paragraphs with lists
People love lists almost as much as they love numbers. And lists are great because they’re not only easy to read but also scannable, which means they’re a search engine’s BFF. Lists will also help you keep your post succinct and keep your content and thoughts neat and organized. Most blog posts aren’t meant to be long-form essays, so keeping your ideas short and to the point not only appeals to your readers but also keeps your content on point so you can focus on the topic (and keywords) at hand without going off on a tangent. Many people will tell you that they loathe list posts, but everything annoys some people. I’m not suggesting that every post you write be a list post, but using them on a regular basis should be a part of your overall content strategy. They work, despite what the haters say.
Use keywords strategically
Know your keywords and your keyword research. Go into the process knowing what people are searching for in relation to your content, and then use that input to guide the creation of key content areas, such as your headline, first paragraph, meta tags and meta description. But be careful not to overdo it! Today more than ever, quality content is a really big deal. Using too many keywords, or repeating the same ones over and over because you’re lazy, compromises the quality of your content and it can get you in trouble with search engines, too.
If your article is longer than 250 to 400 words, using subheads is a good idea. Subheads will entice your visitors to continue reading your article and easily find sections of most interest to them. Plus, subheads add more fuel for search engines, so use keywords to help craft your subheads. And don’t forget to break up text into short paragraphs to make it more readable on a computer monitor.
Make your content easily sharable
So you’ve written a piece that’s thoughtful, informative and optimized for search engines. Yet, if your content isn’t being shared, it’s not nearly as effective. Make sure your website includes social sharing buttons for all of the major social media channels. And if you’re crafting a piece such as a press release, include links so people can easily access images and more information. Remember: we’re busy, we’re lazy and we don’t want to work for information. Give the people what they want!
Some resources to help you get started
Since there’s a lot more to discover about effective content marketing, be sure to sign up for free updates from the Copyblogger online newsletter at www.copyblogger.com to learn more. For some basics on writing for the web: www.copyblogger.com/copywriting-101/. For (SEO) Search Engine Optimization copy basics: www.copybloggers.com/SEO-copywriting/.
About the author
David H. Martin is President of Lenzi Martin Marketing, Oak Park, IL, a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404 or by email at [email protected]