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If you’re having a hard time clearing your mind or working through a challenging problem, try taking a long walk in the woods. For me, there’s nothing better. My neighborhood sits next to a small lake with some great hiking trails, and weather permitting, I try to get out there at least once a day for an hour or two.
Sometimes my son Jack joins me. When he does, my “therapeutic” hikes become more of an intense question and answer session.
“Dad, are there bears in these woods?”
“Dad, is Big Foot real?”
“Dad, if you were going to be a creature, would you live on land or in the ocean?”
“Dad, why don’t you ever invite Mom to come hiking with us?”
No matter how hilly the terrain or how much I push the pace, Jack can fire off a question every 30 seconds for two hours without a single pause. Sometimes, when I’m on the verge of being annoyed, I remind myself that pretty soon he’ll be a teenager and he probably won’t ask me a single question EVER!
Most of the time Jack is the one asking the questions and I’m the one teaching; however, the other day, Jack said to me, “Dad, did you know that some coral reefs are inhabited by prehistoric creatures?” I’d never heard that before, so I responded, “You know, I’m not sure if I knew that, but it’s interesting. Did you learn that at summer camp?”
Jack replied, “Nope, I learned it watching Scooby-Doo. Dad, Scooby-Doo is mostly entertainment, but they do throw in some occasional learning. There are other shows that are all learning, but I think Scooby-Doo understands that a little learning combined with a lot of entertainment makes for more overall learning!”
My wife and I have always marveled that Jack is an old soul, but his insightful comment really struck a cord with me. In that instant, I thought, “that right there is what content marketing is all about.”
Jack’s Rules for Content Marketing Success
A few years ago when no one knew what content marketing was, companies investing in it were riding a wave of success unlike any in the history of marketing. Today, content marketing is more like swimming upstream against the current.
Here are Jack’s tips to maximize your ROI:
1. Blend Entertainment with Education
A few years ago, most company websites were digital brochures filled with sales copy and not much more. Hardly anyone knew what content marketing was and even fewer were actively engaging in it. Back then, creating educational (vs. sales) was enough to make your company unique.
Today, this is no longer the case. Content marketing is the new “in” thing. Everyone from energy drink manufacturers to business insurance companies are investing in it—big time.
In an increasing number of industries, if you want your content marketing to work, you have to blend educational content with entertainment. This is especially true if you’re using social media sites to distribute your content. People aren’t on Facebook to learn about your product, so you’ve got to find a way to connect your message to timely events and/or entertaining content.
2. Connect your message to what your audience cares about
This is easier for some companies than for others. At Blue Corona, we help other small-medium sized businesses use the web to grow faster, increase profitability, and create communities of raving fans and unofficial brand ambassadors. We’re a cost-effective, headache-free alternative to hiring and managing an in-house online marketing department.
Small business, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and business growth are hot topics. There are dozens of media companies—such as Inc. magazine—devoted to each of these topics, so it’s relatively easy to connect our core messages with our target audience. But, as you might imagine, doing this is a bit more difficult if you’re selling something like business insurance or payroll services.
If you’re trying to use content marketing to grow your business, but you’re not getting the response you’d like from your efforts, it might be that your messages don’t really resonate with your audience.
If you suspect this is the case (and, with the right tools, it’s possible to validate your suspicions), you’ve got two options: Hire a great story teller or figure out what your audience really cares about and connect your business to it. Here’s a great case study detailing how to use content marketing to grow a “boring” business.
3. Tell stories that are easy to tell forward
The other day I was listening to a talk radio show. The host, based in DC, had heard about a pizzeria in Philly that people were calling the best pizza on the planet. Considering that Philly is just a few hours from DC, the radio show host joked that they should take the show on the road and make a trip up there to see if this pizza was worth the hype.
In response to the segment, a slew of local callers phoned the show to advocate for their favorite pizza in the local MD/DC/VA area. The only restaurant cited by multiple people was a place called Gentleman Jim’s (to the owners of Gentleman Jim’s… .biz? Really? And you’ve got to improve your site’s load time).
Now, when it comes to pizza, I consider myself to be something of a connoisseur of connoisseurs. I’d never even heard of Gentleman Jim’s, and it’s located less than three miles from Blue Corona’s Maryland office!
Normally, I would have stopped listening right there, but the second caller told the radio host a story that I found fascinating and memorable.
In the 1940’s or 50’s, there was a restaurant in DC called The Cavalier Restaurant. Apparently, it was one of the first pizzerias in the Washington, DC area. People waited in line for hours for the famous “Cavalier Pizza.”
Then, in the 1970’s the restaurant moved from DC to Rockville, MD and was sold shortly thereafter to the Hance family (my mother’s last name, incidentally). The Hance family renamed the restaurant “Gentleman Jim’s” but kept the recipe for the Cavalier Pizza completely unchanged.
What’s remarkable about this story is not the story itself. What’s remarkable to me is the fact that I remembered all of this from a single caller to a radio show. How many commercials can you remember with such clarity?
If you want your content marketing to work, you’ve got to transform your message into a narrative. Pull into it details that make it easy for people to retell (aka “tell it forward”). Give them reasons to retell it (hint: content marketing should start with the heart). Do that and your content marketing success will take off like a rocket!
Content marketing is an exceptionally cost-effective way to grow your business, and it doesn’t matter what kind of business you have. And while some people think of content marketing as synonymous with blogging, there are plenty of other ways you can communicate your message to your audience: micro-blogging via social media, image storytelling on Houzz, web videos, scroller sites, online quizzes, Scooby-Doo episodes, etc.
Experiment with different messaging (or should I say stories?) and different content formats to find the one that works the best for your audience. If you need creative inspiration and don’t have a 7-year-old muse like Jack, my team and I are always here to help.
Drop us a line today or submit your website below and let us run a free analysis:
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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