And how to get started.
By Francis Hare
Some time in early 2011, I made a commitment to learning the fine art of effectively building and promoting my agency’s brand through content marketing.
Enter Michael Gass. A long-time ad agency vet specializing in new business development, Michael launched his own content marketing/social media consultancy in 2007. Since then, he’s taught the same fundamental system I learned to more than 200 ad-agency CEOs—including my friend Stephanie Holland (former owner of Holland & Holland Advertising), whose own experience convinced me to take the proverbial plunge with Michael.
Although the talents Michael helped me develop added an invaluable dimension to my arsenal, my investment took years to generate a positive return (at least in terms of new business)—whereas Stephanie began reaping the benefits of her efforts (and on a national scale, no less) within six months of launching her blog, and here’s why: Stephanie carved out a niche for herself in a market that was starving for content. The market I targeted, on the other hand, simply wasn’t.
Which brings us to an obvious question: Is a content marketing program worth the inordinate amount of time and effort it takes you to do it right? Answer: It depends on your market, and the niche you intend to establish in that market.
So let’s assume you sell to a market that’s ripe for content marketing. Now let’s assume you have the time needed to generate the kind of content that will effectively position you as an expert in that market. The next question: Do you have the talent or resources necessary to create great content?
And here’s the main thing that separates “good” content from “bad” content: the objective value it provides to readers. Yes, the primary reason you’d want to launch a blog is to increase your business. But if your posts are simply one overt sales pitch after another, your efforts are doomed. The point of content marketing is to position yourself as an expert by providing information people can use to benefit themselves, thereby creating the kind of goodwill for yourself that can literally pre-sell prospects on you before they ever pick up the phone to call you. And therein lies one of the great beauties of effective content marketing—and I speak from personal experience. By the time I picked up my phone to call Michael Gass in 2011, I’d already read enough of his material to convince myself that this was the guy I needed to hire.
So now, let’s assume you have an attractive market and you’ve developed a lot of effective content (I’d recommend writing at least 10 to 15 posts before publicly launching a blog; I personally wrote 50 before launching mine). How are you going to attract readers? By promoting it through social media and targeted emailing. Twitter was absolutely tailor-made for the markets Stephanie and Michael target. It was not the place to find my prospects—and still isn’t.
Which brings us back to my own experience: Having already landed a significant local client in the trucking industry, the niche I selected was truck driver recruiting. With annual turnover averaging nearly 100 percent industry-wide, larger companies spend millions every year in driver-recruitment advertising. Better still, trucking is one of friendliest industries of people I’ve ever served.
But despite the fact that I built a decent Twitter following myself (nearly 2,400) and faithfully promoted my posts once an hour, eight times a day, during the workweek, it just wasn’t the place to reach decision-makers in the recruiting business. That said, I’ve recently started re-publishing old posts on my LinkedIn feed—and while a typical article may generate only a few dozen impressions in a week’s time (compared with my 2011 daily Twitter total potential of more than 19,000), suddenly people are calling me. In fact, one of my articles recently generated a “Great Post!” comment from the CEO of Celadon, one of the industry’s largest companies, with annual revenues of roughly $850 million.
No word yet on whether he’s pre-sold on the idea of turning over his multi-million-dollar ad account to yours truly, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.