Commissioner Gordon may have succeeded with content marketing in another lifetime…
Gordon once told his son that Batman was the hero Gotham deserved but not the one it needed right now. What Gordon didn’t know was how on-point that statement is for online content. You need to be the hero that your online audience deserves, even if they don’t think they need you right away. Sound weird? Put it this way, nothing is harder to gain trust from than an online audience and for good reason (i.e. spam and scams). To gain their trust, you must treat them like you would treat a romantic relationship. You probably wouldn’t ask someone for their hand in marriage after learning their name. That potential life-time partner needs to see how much value you can give them before they commit anything to you (even if it’s only for a second date). The same thing applies to content marketing.
The Paradox of why content that always tries to sell won’t actually sell.
Gone are the days when you could write content that was 100% designed to sell a product or service you were promoting. Unless a company established a tremendous product with an already huge culture (and we’re talking big companies like Apple, Pepsi, Microsoft, etc.) then you can’t succeed with that type of content. Content nowadays needs to give online users perceived VALUE. Gary Vaynerchuk, the author of “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” talks about it in the title of his book. Providing your audience with value (while asking for nothing in return) is described by Gary Vee as a “jab”. The “right hook” is content designed to ask your audience for something. He uses three jabs before a right hook for a reason. You must provide tons of value to your online audience with no strings attached initially, at least explicitly, before they will trust you enough to commit money or even an email subscription to you.
How offering “free” value gets exposure that can eventually lead to commitment in the long run.
Creating an amazing blog post with highly actionable advice is hard to do especially when you aren’t charging a dime for it. If you’ve ever created an awesome piece of content before, you understand what it takes. Time, money, research, and quality is invested into it. Using the relationship analogy again, this is like buying movie tickets for your second date. You had to pay for it, but it shows your commitment to him/her. If the experience (content) was good, they will likely try a third date. Your online audience is most engaged when they feel like they are getting value from what you are offering. However, to build their trust you have to give, give, give before you can sell.
That’s not to say you have to give them something you normally would charge a ton of money for. The key is to consistently give them pieces of value in exchange for micro-commitments. These are small commitments a customer makes to your business that are less likely to make them feel threatened. It can be in the form of time spent, short surveys, email subscriptions, social media engagement (likes, shares, comments), and reviews as opposed to asking them to buy something. As the customer travels further into your website’s sales funnel, you can make the micro-commitments progressively larger. In other words, you can ask your sweetheart out to the prom or vacation now after taking them out for 10 dates. These micro-commitments continue to improve your exposure to the point that asking them buy your product/service will no longer be perceived as threatening since they trust you because of all you’ve done for them. If they buy the product, they are essentially saying “I do”. If not, then don’t lose hope – it may have been the wrong time to ask and you can adjust accordingly.
Doing what actually works vs what you think may work.
Website owners generally have their opinion about how they want their site to look and feel. Sometimes, they get stuck on it even if it negatively affects their engagement. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your content is amazing if your engagement is crap, and that the audience is just ignorant. The biggest lesson we learned during the early stages of AGC media is that the audience is always right. If your engagement sucks, it can be for one of two reasons. First, you may not have published your content in the right platforms (i.e. SEO, social media, podcasts, etc.). Second and usually the most common reason, the content was simply not good enough.
You need to really look at failing content constructively to pick apart why it may not have engaged anyone. It can sometimes be as simple as a title change! We have posted articles of similar quality where all that was different was the method for title development. We studied the analytics for each post and determined which strategy worked best, and stuck with it. Same things apply for any other aspect of your content. Understand what your audience prefers, and tailor your content to meet THEIR needs.