Here’s a question. What is the difference between a content marketing piece and a long-form sales letter?
Both are made of the raw stuff of content, words, images, and video. They can inform, persuade, and entice readers.
But there is a difference, and it’s one that will transform your content marketing. Content marketing pieces are customer-centric, while sales letters are product-centric.
Product-centric writing hypes your product, service, or brand over the needs of the customer. It tries to convince someone to do something that’s in your interests.
Customer-centric writing puts the reader first. It’s a gift of information. Customer-centric writing provides readers with information they are curious about. It soothes their questions. It makes them feel like they gained value for the time they spent with your brand.
Product-centric Content Marketing
We’ve all read content pieces that felt like they were just ads. You learn nothing after reading it beyond that company’s CTA. It’s all about promoting the product or service over the customer’s needs.
Product-centric content marketing tries to force desire to arise in the reader. This kind of writing isn’t bad. You do have to make your sales pitch eventually, but it’s not what we consider content marketing. At this point, the lead has been moved into sales.
Does this mean you should never mention your products and services in a marketing piece? No, but they shouldn’t be the focus all the time. Some businesses put strong CTAs into every article and force mentions of their product even if it doesn’t align with the rest of the piece.
Done poorly, this feels like a bait-and-switch. The visitor may have come seeking an answer to the question, but instead got an ad. Yes, you may need some pieces that explain your offer for promotional purposes, but if your content piece says it’s going to answer a question, it must answer that question before your CTA.
In short, product-centric content marketing feels like a demand to the reader, not a sharing of information.
Customer-centric Content Marketing
Creating customer-centric content means that you need to know what your audience wants to know. Then it’s just a matter of answering those needs through your content.
It’s really that simple. The more you answer what your audience wants, the more clicks you’ll get. As you cover more topics and fill in content gaps, your site will gain topical authority and push you higher up the ranks.
But how do you know what your audience wants to read about? What’s the latest buzz? The simplest way is to ask them what they want to read about. Short surveys delivered through your social media or email marketing can deliver a wealth of information that your content writers will love.
Another way is to perform a content gap analysis between you and your competitors. The keywords to focus on are the ones that you’re missing and that have high search volume in Google. That will give you the best returns.
Finally, there are tools like Concured that are designed to answer this question in-depth and in real time, but the two techniques above are perfect for getting started.
Then it’s a matter of having something to say about the topic. How can your brand add to the existing information that’s out there about a topic? This isn’t always possible, but the more you can add your own perspective and ideas into your piece, the more you’ll set yourself apart from all the other content pieces out there about the same topic.
If your content marketing feels like a bunch of sales pitches and isn’t getting traction, it’s time to switch it up. Deliver value before the sale through customer-centric content marketing.