Hannah Bauer

John F. Kennedy famously said, “Ask not what your customers can do for you, but what you can do for your customers.” So maybe it wasn’t exactly that, but I say it’s not a great quote until someone twists it to suit their own marketing needs.

The point he/I am trying to make is that the best way to sell isn’t telling people to throw their hard-earned money at you—it’s proving to them that your product or service is actually worth throwing their hard-earned money at. A great way to do this is through content marketing.

What is content marketing? Here’s what our pals at Dictionary.com have to say:

Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.

Here’s my definition:

Content marketing is a non-annoying way to show your audience the relevance of whatever you’re peddlin.’

Content marketing applies to all types of products and services in every industry known to man. Ben & Jerry’s does it. Credit Karma does it. So does General Electric. And SoulCycle. If all of those brands can ultimately increase their bottom line by providing value to their users, yours can too.

Still not sold? Julia McCoy from the Content Marketing Institute has compiled some incredibly convincing stats, but for the TL;DR crowd, here’s an overview:

  • Content marketing has lower upfront costs and more long-term benefits. It boasts six times the conversion rate of traditional marketing.
  • Half of people under 50 are now getting most of their news and general information online. Fake news or not, the interwebz is where it’s at.
  • People are sick of seeing ads. We see about 5,000 per day. (Holy. Shit.) That’s why AdBlock is doing so well.
  • More than 61% of people will make a purchase after reading a recommendation on a blog.
  • It’s the best SEO technique.

Okay, okay—I’ve sold you on the value of content marketing, but how do you go about actually doing the thing?

Step #1: Contact Firespring and enlist the help of one of their talented and attractive copywriters.

Step #2: ???

Step #3: Profit.

Kidding, kidding.* You came here for insider knowledge, and I’m gonna deliver. While I can’t cover everything you’d ever need to know about content marketing in a single post, here are some of the first questions you need to ask yourself when beginning the content creation process:

What do people actually give a shit about?

We all think X or Y trait of our product and A or C aspect of our solution is the bestest, innovatingest thing ever, but at least 9 times out of 10, that thing is actually really boring to the average person. Susie Q don’t care how the sausage gets made, she just cares that it won’t raise her cholesterol five million percent. Focus on the impact your product or service has on the consumer (the benefit), not how it works (the feature).

What’s the most engaging format for this content?

Okay, so now you have an idea for content that stands a good chance of not sucking. Concept is half the battle, but execution makes or breaks it. Consider: Would this read well as a blog post? Does it need visuals? Other sources? Would it be more effective as a video? Would this somehow work as a quiz? What about an infographic? As anyone with Facebook knows, recipes, while boring in text, are mesmerizing in video format (damn you, Tasty). Give careful thought to the best way to display your precious content, and if you get strapped for ideas, just look around for inspiration. While you may not have the staff skills or the budget to compete with bigger brands, the great thing about content marketing is that it’s scalable. Don’t let an all-or-nothing mentality hold you back.  

How can this content be shared?

Once you’ve executed flawlessly on your great concept, you will have created a piece of gold-star content. And that doesn’t matter at all if no one ever sees it. Sadly, building it does not guarantee they will come, but there is more than one way to lead a horse to water. I know the post has gone on too long when I start mixing metaphors, so I’ll just list a few:

  • Share via your brand’s social media profiles.
  • Encourage individual sharing on team members’ accounts.
  • Share via email.
  • Use paid social media to reach more users.
  • Get promo from an industry influencer.
  • Submit your content to relevant content hubs.
  • Speak about your topic at a conference and share your content IRL.

Now that you know what content marketing is, understand why you should do it and have a roadmap to getting started, go forth and create!

*Only sort of kidding. If you want to start playing the content marketing game (or if you need help upping it), we live for this kind of thing, so don’t be a stranger.