(This post originally appeared on the Newscred blog.)
By Dawn Papandrea, NewsCred Contributor
If you’ve ever been with a company and experienced push back from the higher ups or sales when you’ve tried to implement a content marketing plan, you know that it’s a tremendous obstacle to overcome. But when a whole company adopts a content marketing mindset, amazing things can happen.
Before he became known as “The Sales Lion,” Marcus Sheridan was the owner of a swimming pool company that was on the brink of going out of business. His last-ditch effort to ramp up the company’s website with some helpful articles not only helped the company stay afloat, but began generating sales that made quite the splash.
Today, Sheridan is a content consultant who shares his knowledge and stories — and those of many other businesses his firm helps with content marketing — to make the point that all types of companies in all industries can benefit from content marketing if it’s done the right way. Whether it’s B2B or B2C, the core of all great content strategy is simple: “They ask, you answer.”
Sheridan recently shared his philosophy of simplicity in a webinar co-hosted by NewsCred. We’ve compiled some of his best tips here:
The “Big 5”
Most companies are thinking too hard when it comes to content, says Sheridan, and as a result, they are overshooting. Simplicity is key, and it comes down to answering the questions and providing the solutions that your customers crave. Here are the five main topic types to get you started:
Cost issues/questions: Customers will always want to know how much your product or service costs, and they will search for that information online. Five years ago, the question, “how much does a swimming pool cost?” was simply not addressed on any website, says Sheridan. The reason companies don’t like to disclose pricing is that they’re afraid of competitors finding out our prices and are afraid to scare people away. You don’t have to divulge every single price that you have, but by offering the consumer a range and an idea of what different price points might get them, you are being honest and helpful.
Problems and questions: The number one keyword phrase that potential pool customers were searching was “fiberglass pool problems.” By creating some content that explained potential problems, pros and cons and solutions, Sheridan’s company was able to generate $500K in sales based on leads that came from those articles alone. “You need to be transparent, and you will win,” he says.
Versus or comparison-based questions: If you’ve ever been asked by your customers to compare products, you should be addressing that on your website. Stop leaving good content to third-party sites, says Sheridan.
The same goes for reviews or best-of type content (which round out Sheridan’s “Big 5”).
Become the authority in your industry, and people will find your content and come to you for answers.
Ready to Get Started?
Now that you know what type of content to write, the real challenge is learning how to implement it. Sheridan shares his eight critical steps for creating a culture of content marketing in your company.
1. Have buy-in from the top. The CEO and management need to be all in because you’ll need their support, assistance and some budget. If you’re constantly having to battle with the higher ups about the value of content, then your content implementation will always be fighting an uphill battle, which can affect consistency.
2. Everyone in the company needs to have the same shared vision. That allows for insourcing your content, or curating from the inside so you can use the intellectual property you have on staff already. It’s essential that if you’re going to develop a culture of content marketing in your company that everyone understands what it is, how to do it effectively and why. If you can explain what’s in it for each person in the company, all of the employees can help you produce content.
3. Come up with “the first 100.” Where will all of your content come from? Have a brainstorming session with your staff and write down all of the questions they get all the time from clients, customers or sales calls. You’ll be amazed at how many content ideas you’ll have right from the start.
4. Have a Chief Content Officer. Call him or her what you will, but you need a chief content officer or some sort of central catalyst who organizes all content efforts and motivates the staff. This role is completely necessary to content marketing success.
5. Use an editorial calendar. One of Sheridan’s clients, Segue, actually requires each staff member to produce content. It’s no wonder when the company gets about 90 percent of their leads via content marketing. A day is coming when it’s going to be on almost everyone’s job description to create content, says Sheridan. A content marketing platform like NewsCred can manage and streamline the process, especially with many team members involved.
6. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Employees should not be responsible for things like titles, subheads, links, photos, etc. You can get the core of a topic from them, but as a marketer, you add the rest and work with your teams to make things pretty.
7. Identify the 4 types of employees, and play to their personal strengths.
Writers: If you want them to write an article for you, they’re happy to do it, but only about 10-20 percent of staffers will fall into this category. Actors: You know that salesperson who can talk a dog off a meat truck but will never sit and write an article? Go have a conversation and capture it on video. A five-minute conversation is 500 words. One hour of video time a month with marketers can generate 6-10 blog articles, video clips, etc. Talkers: They might be shy to be on video, so just do audio. That can still help you render incredible content. Questioners: They are found in customer service or support and they’re the ones who get questions all day long. They don’t necessarily have the answers, but they are keeping track of the questions, and therefore can help fill your editorial calendar.
8. Keep the culture going. Creating a content culture requires an ongoing effort. You can try using a company newsletter to keep the team motivated, with reports like: “Jeffrey in sales wrote an article that generated three new leads.” Sales and marketing teams will feel united as one, working for the same goals.
- Find out how to get the most mileage from your content by Maximizing Your Publishing with Microcontent.
- Learn everything you need to know about visual content in The Ultimate Guide to Visual Content Marketing.
- Get the most eyes on your content by reading The Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution.