Feel like marketing is a waste of money for your business? You’re not alone, and it’s easy to understand why you may feel that way.
Marketing can feel fluffy, especially content marketing. It’s hard to believe someone if they tell you a blog is going to make or break your business.
You can prove yourself right, too, by cranking out three blog posts and declaring content useless because the only people visiting your website are family members who are loyally trying to support your foray into this new blogging thing.
You feel silly talking into a void. Writing blog posts takes a lot of time and effort. You need to take care of other aspects of your business that immediately generate revenue.
What’s the point of trying content marketing if no one reads your blogs? It feels like such a waste (and can feel like a waste of money, too, if you try outsourcing the writing instead).
But here’s the thing: it’s 2017. And writing off blogging as kind of silly and pointless? People have been doing that for over a decade.
Seriously. Check out this post. It features the same naysaying that people believe in today — but it was written in 2005. People have been saying “there’s too much content” for over ten years… and yet there’s exponentially more content in myriad forms today.
Not only that, but content succeeds at converting people into business prospects and prospects into paying clients better than ever before. Just look at businesses like Smart Passive Income, Gen Y Planning, or Good Financial Cents.
They all invest heavily in content marketing and produce massive amounts of content to support their services, grow their influence, and attract new clients.
Create Compelling Content for Your Own Ecosystem
Writing a blog for your business is just one aspect of content marketing. It’s one type of content out of the countless possibilities that you could create.
If you only want to collect transactions and information, then no, there’s not much point to content marketing for you. If you want to write three blog posts over the course of the year and call your efforts enough, there’s not much point to content marketing. If you don’t want to explore all the ways to create compelling content that empowers you to share your story with your perfect client, forget about it.
Content marketing — or any kind of good inbound marketing — does not work like a vending machine. It’s not about insert dollar here, receive specific, itemized outcome there. You can’t order up some content marketing (whether you do the work or someone else does) and expect an immediate result.
Instead, think of it more like an ecosystem that you create. Your business sits at the heart of it. It’s the hub, the ultimate destination, for the people who consume your content in various forms.
You can’t track it as a linear, progression, either. Just like an ecosystem doesn’t work in straight lines with clearly defined inputs and outputs. It’s much more complex than that.
Within content marketing funnels, people rarely go from step 1 to step 2 to step 3. They don’t work down an assembly line. They take a journey with you instead.
Maybe one day they find you on social media. A few weeks later they read a blog post you wrote. Months after that they watch a video you create. Eventually they sign up for your newsletter — and slowly, they start coming back on their own. They start showing up to hear what you have to say.
Creating compelling content allows you to gather in people from a variety of locations and start bringing them back to a centralized location: website, or your business’ home on the web.
So What’s the Point of Content Marketing?
The point of content marketing is to build an audience. It’s not about getting emails, increasing traffic, or getting lots of Twitter followers.
These outcomes are involved, of course, and have their place in the ecosystem. But that isn’t the point. If you’re stuck on these kinds of numbers, it’s time to think bigger.
It’s also time to think about people, not about addresses or likes on a page. An audience is a group of people who come to you because they want to know what you have to share. These people like and admire you. They want to learn from you. They trust you.
And content — in whatever form you produce it and your audience consumes it — allows you to create a connection and build a relationship with each person.
That is that point. Content marketing is about human connections in a world where we increasingly have less and less of them. By sharing content and our stories in blog posts, articles, ebooks, whitepapers, videos, podcasts, tweets and photos, and more, we can connect with the people on the other side of the screen.
We can build trust as we display our expertise. We can build relationships as we reveal our desire to help others improve their lives through what we offer.
Not every member of your audience will become a client. That’s okay. They could become promoters of what you do instead, sharing your work or referring people to you.
Or maybe they don’t become a client the day after they read your blog post. Instead, they keep coming back. They read your weekly blog post for 6 months — then they decide to reach out and schedule a call with you.
The real point of content marketing is to create an ecosystem across multiple channels that pulls in people who resonate with the message you share. You create an ideal space, where people want to be and choose to be.
Understanding the Value of Content Marketing
You can start seeing the value of creating content when you do so consistently, over time, in a way that feels good to you and in a way that people who hear what you have to say like to consume what you’re saying.
Let’s break down what each part of this really means.
Consistency: This means you create content in a way that is predictable and expected.
You publish a blog post every Wednesday at 8am. You produce a podcast every month. You post on Facebook each weekday. You share a new video on the first Friday of the month. You send out an email every other week.
You get the idea. (And no, you don’t need to do all of these things.)
Consistency also applies to not only when and where you share content, but what you share. If you always talk about how people can improve their financial lives, you break your consistent streak if you suddenly publish a blog post about how to train your dog to roll over.
Choose what’s important for you to share. What kind of value do you want to provide? What values, philosophies, and ideas for living your best life can you give to others?
Stay consistent over time, and people will start waiting for you to show up and share. This is when you start building an audience.
Your audience gets excited to open your emails or read your new blog post. They want to check out the content you share on social media or what you say in your newest podcast.
Over Time: It’s not enough to consistently share compelling content for a few months. Content marketing is a long-term commitment because you’re building a relationship with your audience.
You wouldn’t take someone out on a date three times and then ask them to marry you. (Well, most of us wouldn’t.) The same idea applies here.
You can’t provide someone with a few piece of content and then tell them to buy from you. It doesn’t work because there’s no relationship. That takes time, dedication, and commitment to the process over time.
So how long are we talking? Most small businesses can start seeing results within a year if they consistently produce compelling content that resonates with the people they want to reach.
It may not take that long, especially if you’re one of the first businesses in a particular space or niche. You could see results faster if you’re not starting completely from scratch.
Or it could take longer, especially if you’re entering a space where lots of people already produce content on common topics. It could also take longer if you only create content and never promote it.
There are other variables that impact how long it takes to see traction with content marketing, too. Understand that every business experiences something a little different, but a year gives you a good average timeline.
What Feels Good to You: This sounds a little weird, but it’s actually pretty simple.
If you hate writing, don’t force yourself to blog twice a week. If you hate hearing yourself talk, don’t try to podcast. If you have no interest in getting in front of a camera, don’t say you’re going to start a YouTube channel.
Creating content that you don’t actually enjoy creating isn’t compelling. People can sense when your heart isn’t in it, or it just isn’t your thing. Content you force yourself to create comes across stifled and stiff at best and inauthentic at worse.
So do something you enjoy creating. Blog if you enjoy using writing to express your ideas. If you’d rather tell a story verbally, consider starting a podcast or a video series.
Note that “enjoy creating” does not mean you love every single step and stage of the process. I love to write but sitting down and facing a blank page is one of the worst feelings in the world. But I have to do it before I write anything. It’s part of the process.
You’ll find steps you don’t enjoy, but don’t nitpick each and every task involved. Look at your content as a whole, and create what by and large makes you happy to create.
In a Way People Want to Consume: This isn’t all about you. (Sorry.) While it’s important to create content that you personally find compelling, it’s also important to consider the real stars of the show here — the people you create content for, or your audience.
If you know the people who resonate with your message don’t want to sit down a read a ton of words (or they simply don’t have time to because they’re busy and on the go), you might want to experiment with various types of short, bite-sized written pieces. Think Seth Godin and his incredibly short, pointed pieces.
Or skip writing altogether and create a podcast that your audience can consume on the go, as they commute to work or as they go for a run. Consider the time they have to devote to you to determine if you should create an hour-long show each time, or perhaps just a 10 minute snippet they can quickly get through.
If you can piece together these four important elements, you can start seeing the value in content marketing. Instead of paying money to interrupt people with advertising or force your way in front of them, you create compelling content that speaks to a specific group of people.
Over time, the group grows. You build an audience. People show up to hear you instead of you hunting them down so you can shout about your business even though they didn’t ask to hear about it.
You attract the people who do want to learn more and listen. You don’t have to flail around and shout to get their attention, because they chose to give it to you.
If you respect that by giving them valuable, useful, killer content they love, you’ll turn these people interested to hear what you have to say into people who are interested in supporting you, buying from you, and staying loyal to you and your business.