Michele Linn

Content marketing is the way to take your brand to the next level. Great content is awesome to read and can be super helpful. However, throughout the years, the amount of brands doing content marketing has increased intensively, and it can be difficult to navigate in the masses of content. If you are an eCommercer, it can be tricky to stand out from the others.

Michele Linn is from Content Marketing Institute, and the company’s mission is to help businesses excel at content marketing, achieving better results and having more fun while doing it. She has plenty of experience and has written several blog posts on the topic. She was willing to have a chat with me and explain how eCommercers can benefit and get better at content marketing.

To get things straight, Michele explained what content marketing actually is: It is using content to build trust with your audience.

You want to build an audience that wants your content and will come to you seeking advice and useful information. If you are great at creating content, your readers will see you as a valuable and trusted resource, enabling you to build better customer relations, and you can upsell once you have gained your audience’s trust. Content is a great way of retaining existing customers. What’s not to love?

Here are the major takeaways from the Michele Linn interview

  • Differentiate your content. No one wants to read a story they have read a thousand times before
  • Your content should answer whatever questions your customers might have – great content is informational, helpful and creative
  • Choose one platform and stick to it – focus on building a strong audience

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Where to even begin?

Michele mentioned her colleague Joe Pulizzi’s book, Content Inc, which goes through a model of the key points to consider when getting started on content.

First of all, you have to define what your sweet spot is; where and how do you differentiate from others in the market? Identify your passion; what you do has to be fun for you – otherwise, it will reflect on your content.

When deciding what platform to use, commit to one single platform, say videos, and stick to that one platform; focus on building an audience there – then you can move on to other platforms afterwards. How do you differentiate? Listen to Michele explain how to make sure you stand out from the others:

 

The most common mistakes – and what to avoid

Throughout Michele’s time with CMI, she has seen plenty of things that people mistakenly do, and the first major no-go thing is not differentiating. She said that the ecommerce space is crowded, and if you tell the same story as everybody else, you will not succeed. Secondly, people seem to fail at doing content if they don’t have a clear strategy.

You have to identify your audience and figure out what they want and create a strategy based on that. Major mistake number three is giving up and being impatient. Michele has seen several cases where people started on their content and then stopped again because there weren’t any fast results. Remember that it will take at least 16 months to succeed and you should pay to push your content.

Finding the perfect topic that your audience will love

None of Michele’s blog posts are ever the same. There are titles such as “Getting Started With Content Marketing” and “How to Make the Leap from Product Marketing to Content Marketing”, and it’s hard to understand where she gets all of her ideas from – especially if you don’t have any! Here’s her advice on how to figure out what to write about and what platform to use:

If you are going to build up an audience that will come to you for advice, you will have to know what your customers want to know more about. Find out what questions they frequently ask and what doubts they most commonly have and answer them through your content. An excellent way to find out what they are talking about is to join LinkedIn networks, discussion forums, and Facebook groups to understand what is important to your customers.

Michele told me, “Keep asking yourself: Do I want to read this?” If the answer is no, you probably have to rethink it.

When is the content great?

Turns out, there is a checklist with three easy things to tick off if you want to check if your content is great. Hear Michele explaining how to ensure that your content isn’t just another liana in the jungle of average content:

Michele also told me something very comforting: Everyone can create content if they are determined enough. However, it is important you stick to whatever platform or media you know best or do best. You might not be a natural at videos, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write excellent texts. Experiment and find out what your competencies are.

Creating that catchy headline

Headlines are tricky—you want them to catch the reader’s attention and you want them to cover the content’s main message. There are examples of great headlines and not-so-great headlines. How do you create a fantastic one? Is how-to’s or numbered headlines more effective? Michele explains what she thinks performs the best:

Michele proclaimed she has a love-hate relationship with numbered headlines as they perform really well even though most people tend to dislike them. CMI has done a post where it tested out which headlines perform better. Check it out here.

Getting help from a freelancer – tips and tricks

If you want to use a freelancer, you have to find out what particular set of skills you are looking for. Luckily, Michele has done blog post on this topic, which you can read here.

Michele says it’s best to look for someone who is a cultural fit — there is not one freelancer who can do it all, so you have to find out if you are looking for an inspirational writer, a how-to author, etc. When it comes to paying them, she recommends paid trials. That is to make sure it’s a great match for both of you.

She has always done that, and it has worked out really well. You should pay freelance writers per project, not by words or by hours, as some people work faster than others, and it should always be fair for everyone.

Interaction – the key to successful content

CMI has been doing content for over ten years, which means they are blessed with a very active audience – and they are very lucky with that, as interaction is the best way to communicate with the audience and gain popularity. Here’s Michele’s best advice on how to get people to interact with your post – getting likes, shares and comments – when starting from scratch.

 

Where is content marketing heading in the future?

The keyword here is the experience. Marketers are increasingly looking into the overall brand experience, meaning that they take a step back and see how the content surfaces on the site and focuses on the customer experience.

Michele hopes that marketers will begin to understand their customers’ needs more, by cooperating with their entire organisation.

The content has to support the page and improve every single customer’s experience when entering the site. As Michele said: The more brands that do that, the better. It will be time well spent.

Free Exclusive Bonus: Download Michele Linn’s list of most helpful tools in content marketing.

Wrap up

If you want to excel at content marketing, you have to stand out from the crowd. Even though content marketing is tricky, it is going to play an even bigger role than ever as it increases your customers’ trust in you and your brand. You want them to come to you for advice and spread the word of your expertise.

As an e-commerce manager, you can increase sales and loyal customers through content marketing – so you should really get started! Have you ever tried content marketing? If so, what have you learned? If you haven’t, why not? What challenges did you face? Michele has agreed to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to comment below.

Emil Kristensen
Emil is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote. When he’s not busy with writing awesome content and building the Sleeknote brand, he spends his time reading and watching vlogs on YouTube (big fan Gary V). Fun fact: between the co-founders he is the fencing champ.

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  1. Wonderful post! I did not know about Pomodoro, but that app actually seems pretty cool.

    Reply
  2. Hi, Michelle and Emil. Great tips, I’m gonna share this post with my colleagues.

    Reply
  3. This is the best content I have read today. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  4. Interesting article! Picked up quite a few things. Also couldn’t help but notice that DrumUp (https://drumup.io/) is missing from your list of content marketing tools. In my experience, it’s a really cool content marketing and social media management tool which helps you source fresh and relevant content and also includes content curation as one of its features. Give it a look and if you like it, please consider adding it to your future lists.

    Reply

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