Leigh asks, “What is your best advice for building connections with audiences through content marketing?”
Make content that’s valuable to them.
Look, nothing makes a connection to someone else like saying, hey, I made you this thing that’s helpful and useful to you, and I made it thinking about what you need. It’s a gift. Please enjoy.
Of course, it sounds simpler than it is, right? Well, it is simple – but not necessarily easy. Why? Because as marketers, we are professionally selfish people. We are constantly trying to serve the interests of the organization we work for, constantly trying to take – with or without giving.
So what does it take to create content marketing that’s valuable to customers without making it selfish?
You need two powerful forces: courage and faith.
Effective content marketing requires courage – yours and your stakeholders – to buck the trend, to act in ways that are not immediately obviously beneficial to your company, to eliminate the quid pro quo. When you propose a change, you will meet resistance. Perhaps it will be in your own head and heart, fearing that you’ll miss your lead gen numbers or your other marketing KPIs.
Effective content marketing requires faith, faith in the people you call or want to call customers that if you do legitimate good in the world, it comes back to you somehow. It will not be immediate, and it may take unexpected forms, but it requires a belief that good begets good.
Why is this so difficult? Because our companies and our business culture is antithetical to these two traits. We live in and promulgate a culture of fear. We create fear, we share fear, we drown in fear. Managers are taught to manage with fear. Social media algorithms and machine learning models reward creating fear-based content because fear keeps us engaged.
Fear begets selfishness. If I give something away, I lose something, I have less. Never mind that since most content marketing is digital, we literally lose nothing when we give something away freely.
And fear suffocates faith. When you’re constantly in a state of conflict, in a state of survival, you can’t take a leap of faith. You can’t believe in anything or anyone. When you’re afraid, friends become strangers, and strangers become enemies. You can’t give away anything, because your situation is so dire, your fear so strong that you have no faith. Instead of cooperation and collaboration, everyone is competition.
How do you take the first step away towards courage and faith? Start small. Give away something – not something big, not something you bet the company on, but something that’s still valuable to customers. Start with something like a completely free download or a livestream on YouTube that’s useful, helpful, or entertaining – and lacking a sales pitch beyond your branding.
When you see that the world doesn’t end, that your numbers don’t crater, and that you create some positive goodwill among your audience, it will be easier for your next experiment, and the one after that. You don’t have to jump out of the plane on the first try.
If the company you work for is absolutely against it, then create something on your own time and give it away. Invest in your personal brand instead, and see where that leads you. You may find that while your current company is selfish, you may attract the attention of others who think and feel similarly to you, and that opens the doors to entirely new adventures.
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