The essential difference between content marketing and typical advertising can be summed up in a few words: showing vs. telling.
It’s no surprise that consumers tend to ignore traditional advertising tactics. After all, who wants a brand telling them what to buy?
Solve Media goes as far as to say, “You are more likely to complete Navy SEAL training than click on a banner ad.” Some tools like AdBlock and AdDetector even help people snub advertising more efficiently.
So, if consumers hate blatant ads and even seek out tools to avoid them, marketers are obviously rising to meet this growing ad aversion, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
According to one study by the Economist Group, 75 percent of marketers report that product mentions are a regular component of their content strategies. They likely acknowledge “banner blindness” and have taken the plunge with content marketing. But by flooding the online world with promotion-heavy content, they’re contributing to content blindness.
Consumers have been inundated with horror stories of native advertising and overly promotional content. As a result, they’re starting to see some branded content as manipulative and deceiving, when in reality, many of these brands have powerful stories to tell.
The key is to tell great stories first and sell great products second. Hard sells tend to turn off consumers, so instead of going straight for the sale, focus on building trust, credibility, and customer loyalty through educational content that’s truly valuable to your audience.
Before you publish any article or blog post, ask yourself the following questions:
If you answered, “Yes,” to these two questions, you can confidently click publish.
Now, I hope most of you are asking, “OK, but once we’ve worked hard to purposefully not sell to our customers, how do we use content to make a sale?”
The surprising fact is that your least “salesy” content will likely drive the most sales — when done correctly. That’s because it will educate, engage, and ultimately help convert the most qualified customers.
To discover the secrets of driving ROI and converting qualified leads with your content, download “The Science Behind Getting 100+ Leads From One Piece of Content.”
To put content’s sales potential in perspective, let’s look at an example of actual software we use.
As my startup scaled, I realized we needed a better system for frequent employee feedback and communication. So, I started Googling best practices for employee communication, hoping to find some good tips and tricks other founders have succeeded with.
I found this Forbes article from the founder of 15Five, David Hassell, that gives four steps for building a culture of open communication. It provided great insight into my specific situation and questions I should ask. Because I was interested in David’s perspective on company culture and communication, I checked out his bio and clicked on his company, 15Five.
That’s when the light bulb went off: 15Five solves the exact problem I was encountering. I didn’t know software like this existed, and based on the article I read, I trusted David’s knowledge, so I was more inclined to try out the software.
If David would’ve simply touted how great his product is, I probably would’ve perceived the article as an ad and never would’ve ventured further to discover his product’s potential.
You can create the same journey for your prospects and guide them to the obvious solution: your product or service. But you have to let them arrive at that conclusion on their own.
By addressing problems your audience faces, you’re also planting a seed that will make prospects realize they need your product.
Sticking to press releases or in-depth product descriptions creates a barrier between you and your audience. Readers will immediately tune out if they aren’t primed and educated before you go for the sale.
B2B consumers are constantly researching ways to improve their companies, which presents a viable opportunity for marketers. However, B2B marketers consistently seem to miss the mark.
In fact, the CMO Council and NetLine studied how consumers view content from B2B marketers. This quote says it all: “BtoB buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped, and overly technical content.”
Too many B2B marketers think they’re “doing content marketing” by publishing detailed product descriptions masked as content. Or they take out a native ad in a trade publication and use 80 percent of the space to talk up their product. But readers aren’t ready to be sold the moment they see your content. They need to understand the problem and potential solutions first.
When publishing content in niche publications or on your own company blog, keep these best practices in mind:
As you start course-correcting your content efforts, remember to put your audience’s interests first. Content will only continue to overpopulate the web, and the only way to combat content blindness is to avoid sales pitches disguised as articles, share your unique expertise, and write to benefit the reader. When readers spot your genuine approach to sales, they won’t be able to help but take notice.