Creating a Good Content Marketing Strategy for Your Business and Showing Empathy: How the Two Link Together, How to Do it, and Why You Need to Know About it
What is empathetic marketing?
In the not too distant past, ‘empathetic’ would probably have been among the last on a list of words you might use to describe the heady world of marketing. In recent years, however, ‘empathy’ has become something of a buzzword.
Modern man and woman have started wisening up to traditional marketing methods that were held to be effective in years gone by. A big, bright, colourful advert is obviously still great in principle, but, when your senses are assaulted by way of the internet with thousands of these adverts on a daily basis, those vibrant colours start to fade. A list of all the glorious features and benefits of your product is fine in theory, but the honest truth is that no one actually wants to be sold to nowadays. We are irritated by the millions of ad campaigns all squabbling mindlessly for just a few seconds of our attention on facebook, in magazines, on the tube. And that’s if we notice them at all.
So, how do you make your product stand out in a vast ocean that’s crawling with other, arguably very similar products? How do you sell to people who simply don’t want to be sold to?
Yup, that’s right. You use empathy. And one of the only truly effective methods of getting that empathy across is with bloody good content marketing.
“Empathy is… focusing on their problems – not yours.”
We can’t just expect to tell our customers how great our product or service is in the hope that they’ll do us a favour and buy it. Effective marketing is now a two-way street. We’ve got to show our customers that we understand their struggles, that we can earn their trust, and that we are the very best person to give them what they need. In an article entitled How to Do Effective Content Marketing: Use Empathy written for Forbes earlier this year, Josh Ritchie states that the answer to great marketing is simple: “Focus on their problems - not yours.” We don’t want to try to persuade people to help us by buying our products, we want to persuade them that they can trust us.
If you’re thinking that this all sounds a bit sinister - I agree. There’s nothing worse than the slimy individual who sucks up to you, committing acts of generosity, pretending to be your friend only for as long as it takes for them to wrangle whatever it is that they want out of you in return. Businesses who are doing the empathy bit wrong will come across that way. And the trick to not coming across that way? You have to actually be sincere. You have to genuinely care about your customers, want to help them solve their problems, and find a way to put that forward in the content you present them with. And, really, that’s the way that good business should be.
So, how can we use content marketing to win over our customers? How can we portray empathy in the content we create in order to get more people to buy our products? The best way to ascertain the answers to these questions is to realise that they are entirely the wrong type of questions to ask.
We shouldn’t be asking for the ways in which we can build content that will help us sell to our customers. We should be asking ourselves what value we can provide - how we can be of use to our customers, and how we can prove to them that we are the best people to help them solve their problems. If we focus more on engaging our customers as opposed to selling to them, we are more likely to attract their loyalty. Ultimately, what this means is that they will be much more likely to buy from us when the time comes than if we were simply to waggle an advert under their nose and run away.
So, What Exactly is Content Marketing, and Why Should I Bother With it?
The Content Marketing Institute states that, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience - and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
We can create and distribute content through many channels: blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts, quizzes and webinars, to name but a few.
Why should you bother with content marketing? Because it works.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B marketers surveyed said that they were creating more content in 2017 than in 2016. The results of their most recent survey found that nearly 65% of B2B marketers rate their content marketing programs as more successful than a year ago.
Even the biggest companies are finding in recent years that their traditional marketing techniques are becoming less effective, but it’s the companies who are adapting by implementing killer content marketing strategies that are racing ahead of the crowd.
“…but you have to appreciate the genius of playing the long-game.”
To give one example, IBM have been storming ahead in the past few years by producing enticing and varied content that people find both informative and entertaining. They are a great example of how companies that aren’t in typically glamorous or creative fields can still develop top-quality content. They actually won a Guinness World Record for creating the world’s smallest stop-motion movie, A Boy And His Atom, that demonstrated the importance of being able to move atoms. Now, are IBM actually selling any products or services in that film? No. Are they developing brand awareness and long-term customer loyalty by putting out valuable, entertaining and creative content? Yes they are. At last count, the film had almost 7 million views on YouTube. You may want to keep your aspirations a little more humble for now, but it just goes to show how very valuable decent content strategy can be to a business.
Probably the main thing still holding business owners back from dedicating more time and resources to content marketing - especially smaller businesses - is the fact that it takes a reasonably large amount of time to produce and to be effective. This is a false economy. Of course you want to see maximum results in the minimum amount of time it takes to get them - that’s understandable - but you have to appreciate the genius of playing the long-game. Yes, creating and delivering top-quality content takes time and effort, but doing so will bring you better, higher-value customers in the long run. Futhermore, good content production is also one of the most cost-effective marketing methods there is, due to the fact that it is such a reliable and near-infinite source of traffic to your website. You have to make room for content marketing in your business if you’re not going to get left trailing at the back of the pack.
How Do I Go About Developing a Content Marketing Strategy For my Business?
Before you race into making lists of content ideas for your customers, the key thing is to make sure you know exactly who your customers are. That may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many people overlook this.
Create Your Buyer Persona(s)
If you’ve not done so already, this is where you need to come up with your ideal buyer persona. Who is your ideal customer? What industry do they work in? What are their wants and needs - both personally and professionally? Hubspot (who, by the way, are masters of content marketing done well) go into more detail on this in their Blog Post, ‘How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas For Your Business’. It can be tempting to skip this step because - of course we think we already know what kind of people our customers are - but we really can’t stress enough how important it is to get a genuinely detailed overview of exactly who it is that you want to be buying your product. After all, how are you supposed to show someone empathy if you don’t know who they are?
Map Out Some Initial Ideas
Once you’ve created your buyer persona(s), it’s time to start work on creating your content marketing strategy.
Start by reviewing any content you’ve already put out or that you’ve got in the pipeline. Analyse the response it’s been given, and try to establish the value that your ideal customer will have found in it. Use this research to consider how you can alter any of your current content to make it more valuable to your ideal customer, as well as what content you can develop in future that helps to solve some of your potential clients’ problems.
Next, start mapping out some content ideas. Think about what kind of content is most likely to appeal to your customer - videos, podcasts, online quizzes? Chances are, you’ll want to deliver a broad range of content online to ensure that you keep things interesting.
Figure Out What Questions Your Customers Want Answers To
Once you’ve considered what type of content your potential customers might find useful on a broader basis, start to think about some more specific questions that your customer might want answered. Can you think of any short-term problems they could have that you might be able to provide a solution for? Perhaps you could offer templates to make some aspects of their job easier, or maybe you could create an infographic that gives them useful information in an attractive, easy to digest format.
It’s a useful idea to research the content that other businesses in your industry are distributing - what questions are they answering? What value are they providing? How can you do it better?
Another method is to conduct some keyword research in order to find out what questions people are answering on search engines. If you can answer those questions using the right keywords, you’ll be well on your way to becoming one of the most valued content creators in your industry. This blog from Hubspot tells you everything you need to know to get started on conducting keyword research.
Creating an Editorial Calendar and Getting to Work on Your Strategy
Once you’ve got some initial ideas mapped out, you’re going to want to create your editorial calendar. This will help you and your team to plan and delegate content month-by-month, and ensure that you’re regularly delivering high-value content to your buyer persona(s). Leadfreak uses a template by Bluewire Media to plan its content, but there are loads of other template options for editorial calendars available on the web - take a look at this article from Curata to determine which one works best for you.
It can only be up to you to decide how to orchestrate your content marketing strategy. Perhaps you already have a content marketer who you can ask to take a fresh approach using the tools above, or maybe you need to look at hiring someone in for the job. If you’re newly starting out on your business venture, you may need to go it alone for awhile. Try not to let that prospect daunt you - there’s really no problem if you don’t have the time to be putting out a new 2000 word blog post or video every day. Effective content is much more about quality than quantity. It doesn’t really matter how much content you deliver - if your customers aren’t finding value in it, they won’t be coming back for more. Before you write, film or create anything, make sure you’ve asked yourself what value you’re delivering to your potential customers. How are you showing that you identify with their needs? How are you conveying empathy towards their problems, and how are you demonstrating that you are the right person to solve them?