Chances are, if you're running a business in the 21st century, it has some form of an online presence. You realize that with billions of people on the Internet, there are marketing opportunities out there and you shouldn't miss out.
So you set up a website with a few pages. You introduce yourself and your products or services. You include your contact information, perhaps an order form. Maybe you even set up an ecommerce store. You hit publish. You wait.
Um, where are your customers?
Maybe they're on Facebook! You start a Facebook business page. You ask your friends and family to like it. Some of them do, but they're about the only ones. You try buying a Facebook ad, but you're not sure what it should say, and you're worried you won't get a return on the investment. You put a tack in that.
Maybe you'll have better luck on Instagram! Or Pinterest -- people like Pinterest, right? Or could 140 characters be the key to your business's success? Could be; let's try Twitter!
Whoa, whoa, hold on, hold on. It's time to take a breath and get back to basics here, before you throw in the towel on this whole digital marketing circus.
When you're feeling stuck or your head is spinning, keep coming back to this:
Websites, social media platforms, and email services are simply tools in your marketing toolbox. You have to supply the materials.
Your ideal customers are savvy. They're being bombarded with online marketing day in and day out. They can see through the majority of it, and skim by it without a second look. You do the same thing, don't you?
But then, there are those certain business that catch your eye and brands that you happily follow. And you notice that some professionals have massive, dedicated followings. Sure, they have quality products...but so do you. What do they know that you're missing?
The most successful online businesses know what their customers crave, and they deliver that to them in creative, generous, and smart ways through authentic content marketing.
"Content marketing" may sound like the type of business lingo that many of us resist adopting. But it's actually a simple concept that can have a powerful impact on your relationship with your customers.
My soulful definition of content marketing:
Content marketing is the practice of creating and sharing written, visual, video, or audio material online, delivering substantive information that connects your ideal audience with your brand.
Here are a few examples:
- Diagnostic tools
- Video tutorials
- Informative updates
- Tips & tricks
- Personal stories with meaningful lessons
- Industry best practices
- Inspirational messages
- Amusing anecdotes
- Digital product downloads
- and of course, blogs!
Yes, content marketing is marketing. But marketing isn't a dirty word (I'll be blogging about that revolutionary idea very soon). If you believe in what your business offers the world, content marketing gives you the means to share yourself and your brand authentically, ethically, and effectively.
But content doesn't grow on trees. And we've all been inundated with our fair share of crappy, smarmy, vapid digital content. You don't want to do that to your ideal customers. You'll have to do better than that, and that's going to take care, thoughtfulness, and effort.
To be successful in marketing your creative or mission-driven business online, you need to produce high-quality content that speaks directly to your ideal customer and resonates with her needs.
In this corner of the 'net, we don't settle for half-hearted material or half-baked promises. That's why I'm in this business -- to push aside the sleazy and lazy traps that many content marketers fall into and to instead help soulful business owners connect with those who will benefit from their offerings. When these businesses rise to the top, the world is better off. Don't you agree?
It's no small thing, then, to find your unique version of success. You have so much to offer. The world needs your entrepreneurial spirit, your innovative mind, and your creative contributions. So it's time to cut to the heart of things and start asking yourself the big questions from which everything else will evolve:
As you go about your day, consider these three questions. Then take few minutes to sit down and write out your answers.
- What are the "whys" behind my business? Why am I in this line of work and why do I believe in it?
- What value do my products or services provide to my customers, and by extension, to the greater world?
- In what new ways might I communicate these ideas and values to my ideal audience?
Hang onto your answers; they're going to guide you on your content marketing journey, and we'll be coming back to these fundamental questions again and again in this forum.
Would you like to share your answers? We'd all love to hear them! Pop them in the comments below.
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