What is content marketing to you and your company? Is it primarily a tool for generating leads? If you’re like most marketers, then this is the top priority of every content marketing campaign you build.
And that makes sense — it works amazingly well at driving leads from target audiences. But is that all it can do? Or, more importantly, should lead gen continue to be the main focus of your content marketing?
Now, let’s clarify this: content marketing is a lead generation tool. But making this the focus of your content’s purpose is an outdated method— it can backfire, causing you to lose leads at the gate.
Why? Because today is different — people are looking to connect with brands, not be marketed or advertised to. That approach can rub folks the wrong way, and you’re left delivering content to the virtual crickets.
So what can (and should) you do instead? Well, it’s simple — zone in on connections, not conversions. We’re going to discuss several ways you can do this.
Let’s jump right to it.
Get Back to the Basics with Conversations
There was a time when content marketing was the key to getting traffic, attention, and conversions. You created amazing content, optimized it, and clicked publish. And for a time, this worked like a charm. However, it didn’t take long for Google to become crowded with great content, making it harder to vie for your audience’s attention. So now, you’re dealing with an outdated method that no longer yields the results it once did.
And that’s because content marketing strategies that are solely about conversions negate one of the most critical foundational elements of marketing — connecting with your audience. If what you’re creating doesn’t speak to your audience, doesn’t add value, or generate conversations, then it’s not driving your campaigns anywhere.
To breathe life into your marketing, you need content your audience cares about. You can do this by going back to the basics and making connections with your audience and key members within your industry.
Here are four ways you can do that.
1. Educate Your Audience with Insights from Experts
We get it — it’s tough being a content marketer. Everything you do has to matter. Whether you’re crafting a blog post, podcast, or video, every piece of content needs to offer value to your audience. Otherwise, it’s just more dead weight for you to kick around your campaign. This is what makes educational content so effective.
It provides your audience with advice and insights they need, and it positions you as an industry thought leader. And you don’t even have to be an expert to make this work. Just team up with industry professionals and interview them to pull actionable tips for your audience to use.
This is what Lumavate did to build its brand up quickly.
“For me, it’s a pretty easy answer. I think other companies might struggle with it, but for me, it’s 100% brand building. It’s not demand gen; it’s not about getting leads to come in. We even had this conversation as a team earlier this week around: should we add a promotion about the company at the end of the episode, right, as a way to generate leads? And we’re not going to do it.
“And part of that reason is, the more and more I think about it, even if it’s at the end of the episode, it really does soil a little bit of what we say we’re about. We’re about commencing great marketers with other great marketers and giving you education. And the moment you start flipping that into any type of sales conversation, it feels a little bit of a bait and switch, and I think I want to be away from that. So for us, it’s the focus of brand building,” said Stephanie Cox, VP of Sales at Lumavate.
2. Or Better Yet, Edutain Your Audience
People love internet content. It’s been this way for quite some time, and it doesn’t look like it’ll end any time soon. However, we are seeing changes in content consumption habits.
Take, for example, the rise in interest in visual content. Blogs are great, but if you’re not repurposing them into videos or including visuals in your posts, then it’s going to be tougher to stand out.
According to HubSpot, people want to see more:
● Social media posts (45%)
● Videos (43%)
● Online classes (33%)
● Research content (31%)
● Blogs (29%)
● Podcasts (17%)
This tells us that people want more educational content and prioritize visual platforms, like social media networks. It’s the perfect time to create visually edutaining pieces on your social profiles, such as:
● Infographics with stats, tips, or steps
● Audiograms of podcast episodes
● Video tutorials
● Webinars with experts
You get the picture (pun intended).
Here’s how Misfit Media harnesses the power of industry experts to help its audience.
“So, I would say, podcasting I think is just great for building a network. And I think we’ve found that niche part of our industry, where we’re able to really hit home on that. Also, harnessing the voice of the experts on the show is something that really just excites me. We have found industry leaders that have really proven their place in the industry and can help. And I think for video and audio, where it’s going, and that intersection of the two where they both complement each other and drive new subscribers, new listeners, unique listeners, and ultimately how that will help grow our business,” shared Camberlyn Sparks, Marketing Coordinator at Misfit Media.
3. Inspire Your Audience to Action
It’s not enough to create content that speaks blandly on a topic. It needs to do more than present data. People want actionable ideas they can put into motion right away. This is why more people desire online courses. People are looking to improve things like themselves, their lifestyles, and their businesses.
By inspiring your audience to action, you’re giving them the okay, along with actionable advice to make it happen. What better way to deliver advice than in an entertaining story? But don’t just include success stories; highlight those who tried and failed and learned important lessons.
Inspiration is a powerful force that can start movements. And if you can start one within your community, you’ll become the thought leader everyone is thankful for having around to transform their worlds.
Then over time, they are more likely to be inspired to become a customer or client of yours. But again, the forefront of your mind should focus on making connections with your prospects and leaders in your industry.
4. Start Conversations that Matter
No, this doesn’t mean you have to get political with your content. Although mentioning certain political topics may be alright, you don’t have to go full-on civil rights leader to help promote change. It can start with a simple question about a trending topic or sharing your brand’s stance or POV (point of view) on the matter.
For instance, discuss topics on things they’re struggling with. See what they think or concerns they have that you can address and assist with. Not only does this fuel potentially viral conversations, but it also gives you plenty of feedback to enhance your content marketing.
Just think of all the topic ideas you’ll encounter once you hear what people are complaining or even boasting about. Highlight these areas and give your own insights on the matter in the form of social media posts, blog posts, videos, and podcasts.
Heck, do them all to get even more juice from your conversations.
Because It’s All About Connecting
When you take the time to sit back and really look at what makes brands succeed, especially today, you’ll see one common theme: relationship building. Brands are becoming more humanized, joining and starting meaningful conversations, and they’re building connections with their audience beyond a business-to-business relationship.
They’re speaking to the person behind the computer, job role, and industry and forming lasting bonds. And by doing this, they’re creating communities and building loyalty before folks even turn into customers.
So don’t be afraid to put connecting before lead gen. Because at the end of the day, one can greatly influence the other, yielding you better results in a time where people value humanized brands, stories, and genuine bonds.