You may remember that content is the third pillar of the Internet Marketing for Smart People model.
And we forgive you if you roll your eyes a little at that, since “content” has become one of the most overused buzzwords of 21st-century business.
As is so often the case with buzzwords, a lot of people who use it don’t quite know what they mean by it.
What do you mean when you say “content marketing”?
Some people think “content marketing” describes the use of valuable content to attract attention and build a solid reputation with prospects.
Others think it’s the use of content and high-quality information to actually market the product, in what Jeff Walker calls a “sideways sales letter” that takes the place of the usual sales pitch.
And still others think it’s about creating a business around paid content, like ebooks, home study courses, and membership sites.
Actually, just like those multiple choice tests from sixth grade, the correct answer is D, all of the above.
Content marketing is about taking your knowledge and expertise (or borrowing someone else’s) and using it to support business goals. There are probably a thousand ways you could do that, but let’s look at the three most significant.
Build your reputation
If you have a product or service that people actually want, the single biggest factor that keeps them from buying is lack of trust.
We live in a low-trust environment, especially online. Everywhere we look, someone is trying to infect us with a virus, phish the password to our checking account, or sell us pictures we probably shouldn’t be looking at in the first place.
Given the general environment of slime, it’s surprising how
quickly you can create a solid reputation by
providing useful content.
People actually want someone to trust. They want reliable answers to their questions, and good solutions for their problems.
Creating solid content that benefits the reader doesn’t just tell your prospects you’re trustworthy, it shows them. And that’s always more powerful.
Sideways sales letter
Content is also a terrific way to deliver a sales message.
The long-form sales letter isn’t dead, and it never will be. The work of enticing a prospect and overcoming her objections takes some time.
But attention spans are short these days, and only the most desperate buyer is willing to read the traditional long (often tacky and heavy-handed) sales letters you usually associate with internet marketing.
Enter the sideways sales letter. Jeff Walker pioneered this term, and although he wasn’t the first to use the technique, he uses it particularly well.
A sideways sales letter uses strong, interesting content and
storytelling to deliver each step of your sales sequence
over time, without ever feeling “salesy.”
You can attract attention, demonstrate features and benefits, elicit desire for the product, show the product in action, overcome objections, deliver a stirring call to action, and every other copywriting function just as effectively in content as you can in a traditional sales message.
In fact, it’s much more effective, because the content is, to use master copywriter Gary Bencivenga’s phrase, “advertising that’s too valuable to throw away.”
Not every business can benefit from producing paid content, but most can.
Once you become a content ninja, there’s nearly always
a way to create a “platinum” version of your content
that’s worth paying for.
The simplest version is the ebook.
The upside to ebooks is that they’re relatively quick to produce. The downside is that most readers won’t pay much for them. Ebooks can be a great way to quickly test a market and make sure there’s an interest in paying for information in your topic.
Digitally-delivered courses (sometimes called home study courses) are the ebook’s more valuable cousin. These typically include audio, transcripts, and worksheets or a workbook. If you’ve got a good ebook but you’d like to do more with it, consider using a free program like Audacity to re-create and expand the content in audio format, then package it as a course instead. Courses command more money, more respect, and gain you a greater reputation. They’re a little more work to produce, but they’re generally worth it.
The granddaddy of the family is the Interactive Learning Environment, or ILE. (Some people refer to these simply as “membership sites,” but a true ILE adds solid instructional design to present the information in an exceptionally powerful and effective way.)
(As you may know, we offer an extensive course on how to create these called Teaching Sells, but in order to deliver the best possible quality to our students, enrollment is extremely limited. Click the link and add your name if you want us to let you know when we’ll be accepting students again.)
Content marketing is a huge topic and there are hundreds of ways to use it. I came up with 49 of them recently.
Pick one or two you haven’t tried before, and start making more of this powerful tool. I think you’ll get a lot out of it.