If you really want to sell your product or services online, you can't rely on traditional sales and marketing/branding efforts alone. The sale often goes not to the business with the best marketing or even the/ best offering, but instead to the business who has won the market's trust and appreciation via useful content.
Even direct marketers and other businesspeople who thrive on hard-sell tactics know that this is true. No matter how well-written your sales material may be, it doesn't mean anything if your audience doesn't trust and appreciate you.
Content marketing is the primary way to gain that trust and appreciation online. In fact, it's just about the only way to gain trust and appreciation online. So how can you leverage content for your business? Here are three ways.
Blogging and Social Media
Blogging and social media, while two distinct strategies, are often paired together as two parts of one strategy these days. And whether you view them as two separate things or two parts of one whole, they're both necessary for success in today's Web environment.
Blogging can build credibility, trust, and authority for your brand—the same credibility and trust that make your customers feel safe buying from you. It can also build relationships, brand visibility, and backlinks. The same is also true about smart social media usage.
The important part to keep in mind is that blogging and social media are essential parts of any online strategy. They're not optional. Doing a good job with blog content is no longer enough to put you ahead of the curve—it's simply what is required in order to keep pace.
If you want to stand out from similar businesses, you've got to use blogging and social media, and then go even further with your content.
How-To Content: Not Just for Blogs
It doesn't matter if you're in the B2B or B2C market: People love content that tells them how to solve a problem, get what they want, or that they can otherwise take quick action on.
Your steady stream of blog posts should include plenty of how-to content. You'll double the effect by publishing guest posts on other business's blogs from time to time. But you shouldn't stop there. There are plenty of other ways to put your how-to content out there.
One of the most popular formats for this is the downloadable short report. It's popular because it gives your audience deeper insight into a problem that they are experiencing. This kind of how-to content goes more into depth than a standard blog or social media post.
It's important to have not one, but two or more strategically placed downloadable how-to reports that will help your market. You should have at least one on your website, one that you give to readers immediately upon signing up for your email list, and another one as a gift to give loyal readers of your email list.
Address Current Issues with Authoritative Content
Another approach to content is the “Current Issue” approach, useful for a variety of formats (blogs, reports, slideshows, infographics, etc.). Take a current issue that is of concern to your market and authoritatively show them how to deal with it.
One example of the above would be a report, video, or even email series that advises homeowners how to use today's lackluster real estate market to their benefit—it's an excellent time for many homeowners to refinance, for example. This will identify you not only as an authority, but as an authority who provides high value for your market.