(This is an installment in the Content Marketing 101 series.)
Your business needs help, fast. Your site isnít getting the traffic you need. You arenít converting that traffic to sales. The tactics you used to rely on arenít working. And the lousy economy means you wonít be able to even give up in disgust and just keep (or go get) a day job.
You want to find your own village of loyal customers, but you canít seem to capture their attention. And when you do get it, you arenít closing as many sales as you need to.
You need to know what works today to find customers and persuade them to buy. And the answer to that question is content marketing.
But it takes more than ďcontent is kingĒ to work in this tricky environment. You need to focus your attention on these three key elements to make content marketing work for you.
Give your readers a cookie
Whatís the smartest way to train a puppy to sit on command? Give him a cookie and a nice pat on the head every time he does what you want.
Enough cookies and enough pats on the head and he starts to think that sitting on command was his idea. He likes you, he trusts you, and he sits when you say sit because itís in his best interest to do that.
Your content needs to work the same way. High-quality content trains your readers and listeners to keep opening your stuff. It rewards them for doing what you want them to do.
That means that every piece of content you write has to either solve a problem your audience cares about or it has to entertain them. Preferably both.
Everything they receive from you should make them feel good. Each piece of content is a cookie that rewards your audience for consuming it.
When you do this consistently, your content becomes an appealing habit for your readers. When they see your name in their email box or a Twitter retweet, they know there will be something they like on the other side. And theyíll click through.
Fortunately for us, most people who try content marketing get this wrong. They train their readers to look away, by producing content that doesnít benefit readers, by putting out too much irrelevant fluff, or by overselling. (More about selling in just a few minutes.)
Position yourself for success
Remember your mom telling you that you had to be a good friend to get lots of friends?
Well if you want to find more customers, you need to be someone worth doing business with.
Yes, itís about authority, but not about being a pontificating guru who can never admit any weakness.
Some personas work much better than others for content marketing. Your audience wants a smart, cool friend who understands how stuff works. They want someone to share experiences and lead by example. They want a trustworthy person whose word means something.
When in doubt, remember Paul Newmanís axiom. Always take your work seriously; never take yourself seriously. You definitely want to show that you know your stuff, but that doesnít mean your readers want a college lecture.
Remember, youíre not trying to land a sale in a single shot, like some desperate used-car dealer who wants to put you into a 1994 Pontiac Bonneville TODAY.
Instead, youíre building a content net that supports this sale and many sales after this one.
Use your content to address underlying objections that might keep someone from buying. Use it to tell interesting stories about how others have benefited from your offering. Use proven persuasion techniques to show your reader just how much she needs your product or service.
Successful salespeople will tell you that your customer needs to know, like, and trust you before sheíll buy. Thatís exactly why content marketing is so effective. Great content buys you the time to build that trusting relationship. So use that time wisely.
Yes, you still want to ask for the order with a strong call to action. But keep the balance right. Use your content to build desire for your product, and to create an unshakeable relationship with your audience, then ask for the sale.
And keep reading Copybloggeróthis is just the first post in a five-part series on how to use content marketing to create or grow a business. You can get free updates in an RSS reader or by email so youíll never miss a post.
Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.