There are a lot of different takes on content marketing and how to do it successfully. Unfortunately, there isn’t one guaranteed way to really engage with the audience, create great content and upsell, but there are people out there, who can give an interesting angle to the whole content marketing world.
One of them is Daniel Burstein, who is the director of editorial content at MECLABS Institute, where he has been for seven years. MECLABS is a research organisation dedicated to discovering how people make choices. It has done marketing experiments in cooperation with research partners, and it works with the University of Florida.
Then, he’s also involved with MarketingSherpa, which gathers data and publishes that data so that others can read inspirational case studies and learn from others in the industry. Really, he is an expert in content marketing, and he agreed to share his wisdom and tricks with you and demystify the many aspects of content marketing.
He started out by explaining how e-commercers can benefit from content marketing. At MECLABS, people are often being asked by their customers, “The customers want low prices—how can we fight that?” The answer is in the story. You can never undersell the major players on the market as they will always compete to have the lowest prices.
You should focus on the value instead of the cost, and you should do that by telling a story. Stories increase the value of your product, and it shows why customers should pay a bit more for your product. Take wine as an example. You can buy wine in various price ranges. In reality, wine is old grape juice with a story. The wine is only valuable because of the story that comes with it. Tell your customers a great story and make it worth the price.
Here are the major takeaways from the Daniel Burstein interview
- Identify your ideal customer or your niche audience and direct all of your content to them and their needs. Figure out what their needs are by doing surveys and using the knowledge you already have.
- Don’t compete on prices; compete on value. Tell the audience a great story, which will make your product worthwhile.
- Your content should help your audience to overcome a difficulty or to achieve a goal. Keep that in mind.
Want to succeed with your content marketing?
Content marketing can be a very time-consuming task, and it is easy to lose your sense of direction if you don’t have a clear strategy. With Daniel Burstein’s content marketing checklist, you’re one step closer to succeeding with your content marketing.
The possibilities of content marketing
Daniel says there has been a massive revolution, which means that anyone can directly connect with their customers. In some ways, it has removed the middleman for different producers, as anyone can tell the story directly to customers. You can benefit from content marketing on two separate levels; listen to how Daniel defines the benefits:
Become the content hero
First of all, you have to look at the base level: According to Daniel, people buy products for two reasons – because you help them overcome something, or because you assist them to achieve a goal or a dream. You should create content with that in mind – helping them overcome a hardship or fulfill a dream.
If you are selling convertibles, your audience most likely dreams of driving to the beach in beautiful weather. Assist them to fulfill that dream without directly selling your product.
Give them a playlist with great tunes for driving to the beach, a map that shows the best beaches and gas stations on the way.
If you are selling organic products, you know that people buy organic products to avoid chemicals. With your content, you can help people buy the right products without chemicals; tell them what to avoid and how to reuse plastic or avoid plastic. If they buy organic products to be healthy, give them exercise tips!
In Daniel’s eyes, marketers struggle when they think of content as a way to promote products. Think of content as a knowledge-sharing platform instead. So, once you have your customer’s goal in mind, there are ways to get inspiration for content easily. Find out how here:
How do I make my content pop?
You have to master content distribution. It is true that more and more companies do content marketing, but don’t try to compete with the major players. Understand your value and whom you are serving. You should identify your niche customer or ideal customer. Figure out what unique voice you have and what you are best at doing. Also, the content can be self-serving – don’t use company logic; use customer logic – it’s about what the customer gets.
How do I identify the ideal customer?
There is a huge range of ways to learn about your customers. The cheapest thing to do is to rely on your company knowledge, as you are already interacting with your clients through customer service, sales, suppliers, and so forth. Get your people together, and try to drop personas based on their experience.
Secondly, you can use social media platforms. Find out what forums or networks your customers are using, go there, and try to listen. See what types of conversations are happening there – maybe even ask them questions. However, don’t go straight to selling; ask them genuinely interested questions.
The high-level things are a lot more expensive, but you can use loads of fancy social listening tools or hire companies to do that for you. You can also interview customers or do surveys to gather knowledge. Based on that experience, draft some hypothesis on what might work, and test it out using A/B split tests.
Creating the perfect headline
There are two big things to understand when creating a headline. The first thing is that a headline should make the customers click, not more than that. So you don’t have to tell the reader about everything they are going to read. Hear Daniel on the second big thing you have to consider when creating a headline:
There has been a lot of theories on whether how-to and numbered headlines are more efficient than regular headlines. Daniel’s answer is simple – test it out! You should find your niche audience and investigate what turns them off and what they strongly dislike in a headline. Your email headlines are a good way to test headlines.
How to create engaging content
Making the audience engage is becoming more and more difficult, and there is no perfect answer. Social sharing can be a bit easier than commenting. But if you really want your readers to share your content, the content should make them look good or intelligent within their community.
Another way to get your readers to share is by giving them an “a-ha” moment by telling them: “You think it is like that, but it is really like this.” A more cheeky way is to give them an incentive in some way – actually offering them something if they share. “Like this and win” or “Share this and we’ll donate 1$ to….”
Comments are trickier to get, and more and more are turning off blog comments, as you get a lot of spam, and it’s tricky to moderate and get meaningful conversations. Commenting tends to happen a lot more on Facebook.
But if you really do get the commenting going, you should engage in that conversation and answer every question, thank people for their comments – that is an excellent way to build up an engaging audience.
The newest content marketing trends
Daniel has noticed how videos and visual content are growing. Instagram is being used a lot, vines are being used, short videos and images are effective ways to create content. Podcasts are also very popular, especially since the great podcast hit Serial – and podcasts are a great way to connect with your audience, as it is more personal and more one to one.
Invest your time and money wisely – but how?
When you are initiating the work with content marketing, you are going to invest a lot of your time and probably a lot of money as well. Here is Daniel on how you should do that:
The challenge with content will always be that it is more direct than sales as it is direct influence and branding, so you have to stay on top of how it is going for you.
Link building no-gos
Do not buy links, and don’t spam possible influencers. It is a lot harder than just writing a cheque. First, you must create something that is truly valuable and then identify the right influencers and publications you want links from. Find out how they can benefit from you and tell them why it matters to them and their audience to share your content. It is about creating a long-term mutually beneficial trust relationship.
If you are using a freelancer, choose a freelancer who is already influential or trusted among his/her audience.
Daniel is sure that it is going to be a fuzzy line where industries that used to be separate are all getting involved with each other’s turf. All is coming together, and it won’t be clear who is doing what anymore. That means it will be all about creating content that is adding value to the particular audience.
Have you ever tried identifying your audience? How did you do it, and how did it go? We would love to know – comment below, and share your wisdom. Daniel is also happy to answer any questions you might have, so don’t hesitate.