The event put me in front of some great prospects all over the country, and was successful enough that I’ve been asked to do more of them in the near future.
The really wild thing was how easy it was. I didn’t get paid for the article or the webinar, but I also didn’t have to pay a cent to get some of the best publicity money can’t buy. These two pieces alone literally put me in front of hundreds of potential clients, not as one copywriter among many, but as an expert. That’s pretty good compensation.
If I can attract this kind of attention with nothing more than a laptop in a coffeehouse, so can you.
The webinar and the article that inspired it are both great examples of content marketing, a soft-selling technique that encourages interest and loyalty from buyers by providing quality information without blatantly asking for anything in return. It takes many forms, from blog posts and email newsletters to podcasts, white papers, and speaking gigs.
(By the way, email marketing is one of four lessons in Ilise Benun's online course, Developing a Successful Online Marketing Plan -- the next one starts July 9.)
The key to successful content marketing is, of course, the content. The more interesting and timely it is to your target market, the more likely they are to read it, forward it to their colleagues, and ultimately send you new and repeat business. When you become a trusted source for the insights they crave, you become a partner who’s no longer competing with the rest of the world on price alone.
Many creative professionals would like to do more content marketing, but hold back because they’re not sure where to get great subject matter. The good news is if you know your audience well enough, they’ll effectively tell you what they want to read about.
Put yourself in the shoes of your best prospects and forget about yourself for a moment. Ask yourself:
- What do they need?
- What do they want?
- What challenges are they struggling with?
- What keeps them awake at night?
- What would make their lives easier?
The answers to these questions will point you in the right general direction. (And if you can’t answer them quickly, you probably need to get to know your readers a lot better).
Once you’ve identified a hot button, put yourself back into the mix by asking what news, insights, or expertise you can share that will create value for your readers. Don’t think of this as a sales pitch. Instead, write as if you’re giving advice to a close personal friend who will never hire you.
Here are a few specific places you can find great content ideas:
- Industry news and trends: What are people buzzing about in your niche? Is there something hot and new that’s working (or not working)? Is there a disruptive change that you can clarify? Can you create opportunities for your readers by sharing something important they may have missed?
- Regulation changes: This can be a common theme if your readers regularly have to deal with restrictions imposed by the government or other third parties. Even in less-regulated industries, game-changing legislation can create opportunities for you to share useful insights.
- Case studies and success stories: Here’s an opportunity for your business to shine as long as they’re more than just puff pieces. Make sure these stories provide value for your readers even if they never buy from you.
- Reader questions and problems: Some of my best topics come from specific frustrations my readers have mentioned to me (including the topic of this post). Listen.
- Be a curator: It’s not necessary to create new topics for your readers if you can filter out the key information they need. Can you interpret a current news topic in the context of your readers’ needs and interests?
Wherever you find inspiration, remember that content marketing isn’t about you. Think of it a tool for getting your foot in the door, not for closing the sale. While it’s okay to include a small shameless plug for your services somewhere, keep it separate from the content.
Always resist the urge to present yourself as the moral of the story by saying something like: “If you have this problem, call Bob the Freelancer!” If you’ve done your homework, you’ll be positioning yourself as the go-to person simply by demonstrating that you’re in tune with your readers.
Tom N. Tumbusch writes copy that creates action for creative agencies and Green businesses. He’s a regular contributor to the CFC blog and publishes a free writing tips newsletter each month. His tiny solar-powered corner of the Internet can be found at www.wordstreamcopy.com.
* Check out “How (and why) to publish an e-newsletter that works” and “Guest Blogging and the Unexpected” if you want to catch up on my continuing adventures in content marketing.